GMAT Quant: Question of the Day!

Try Picking Numbers with the GMAT practice problem of the day!

Last year the price per share of Stock X increased by k percent and the earnings per share of Stock X increased by m percent, where k is greater than m. By what percent did the ratio of price per share to earnings per share increase, in terms of k and m?

A. k/m
B. (k – m)
C. [100 (k – m)]/ (100 + k)
D. [100 (k – m)]/(100 + m)
E. [100 (k – m)]/ (100 + k + m)

If the original price per share of Stock X = 100
Let’s say k = 20
New price per share = 120

Original earnings per share of Stock X = 100
Let’s say m = 5 (since k > m)
New earnings per share = 105

Old ratio of price/earnings = 100/100 = 1
New ratio of price/earnings = 120/105 = approx 1.14

The percent increase is approx 14%.

Plug in our numbers into the answer choices, and look for the choice that also yields 14%:

A. k/m = 20/5 = 4 too small

B. (k – m) = 20 – 5 = 15 too big

C. 100 (15) / 100 + 20 = 1500 / 120 = 12.5 too small

D. 100 (15) / 100 + 5 = 1500/105 = approx 14. CORRECT!

E. 100 (15) / 100 + 20 + 5 = 1500/125 = 12

The answer is (D).

SAT Identifying Sentence Errors: the Ultimate Strategy

Did you know that there are only 18 Identifying Sentence Errors on the SAT Writing section? They count for the largest percentage of your Writing score out of the Writing question-types, and if you rock the grammar skills you already have, and practice a few hundred ISE’s, you’ll easily get most of these questions correct!

Step 1 –Identify the part of speech. What part of speech is underlined? Is it a verb, preposition, adjective, adverb, pronoun, etc? The SAT loves to test the same errors over and over, and we know that each part of speech comes with some predictable errors.
Is the underlined section a Verb? Double-check that it agrees with its subject in number and plurality and that the verb tense is logical with the timeline of the sentence.

Is the underlined section a Pronoun? Make sure it has a clear Antecedent, and that the Pronoun agrees with the antecedent in number. Make sure as well that the personal pronouns (“who” and “whom”, for example) are only being used to refer to people, not things.

Is the underlined section a Preposition? The preposition could be part of an Idiom – does the preposition make sense with the word that immediately precedes it?

For example, we can’t say “afraid from,” only “afraid of.” Is the transition appropriate? Make a flashcard of the most common Idioms and learn them like you would vocabulary words. Idioms alone account for approximately 10% of your SAT Writing score!

Is the underlined section an Adverb or Adjective? Adjectives can only describe nouns, while adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Is there a word that is modifying a verb that needs an –ly suffix?

Step 2 – Check for Parallelism errors. Once you’ve examined each of the underlined portions, identified the parts of speech, and double-checked for the most-likely errors associated with that part of speech, re-read the sentence as a whole and look for any Parallelism. Items in a list (separated by commas), comparisons, and (in general) multiple verbs must be in the same format! For comparisons, remember that only “like” things can be compared to each other: people to people and things to things.

Step 3 – Still no error? Choose (E). Remember to trust yourself. After you’ve worked through each underlined part of speech and checked for Parallelism in the sentence as a whole, you still may not be able to find an error. Don’t worry — 5-8 of the ISE’s on Test Day will have “No Error”. That is approximately one-third of all ISE’s!

As you prep for your SAT, if you find yourself choosing (E) too often, it’s likely you’ll need to spend more time studying the most common types of grammatical SAT errors: idioms, run-on sentences, fragments, parallelism, subject-verb agreement, etc. If you find yourself hardly ever correctly choosing (E), then you need to relax and trust yourself. Don’t look for errors that aren’t there!

GMAT: SC “Modification” Question of the Day!

“Modification” on the GMAT refers to words, phrases, or clauses that function as descriptors. Some modifiers include adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc. Try this Sentence Correction question on your own, then review the correct answer below!

No matter how patiently they explain their reasons for confiscating certain items, travelers often treat customs inspectors like wanton poachers rather than government employees.

(A) travelers often treat customs inspectors like wanton poachers rather than government employees
(B) travelers often treat customs inspectors as wanton poachers instead of government employees
(C) travelers often treat customs inspectors as if they were not government employees but wanton poachers
(D) customs inspectors are often treated by travelers as if they were wanton poachers rather than government employees
(E) customs inspectors are often treated not like government employees but wanton poachers by travelers

The main error here is one of modification. An opening clause describing an action with a comma at the end of it must be immediately followed by the person or thing DOING the action.

“No matter how patiently they explain their reasons for confiscating certain items,” is the opening clause here. We can ask, who is logically doing the “confiscating”? It wouldn’t be the travelers, since it’s illogical that they would confiscate their own belongings.

Based on this logic alone, we can eliminate A, B, and C.

For E, there are several issues. “By travelers” is far from its verb “treated” and has faulty parallelism. Since the first part of the idiom begins with “like”, we would want “like” to follow the word “but” as well.

That is why the correct answer is (D).

10 Tips for Non-Native Speakers on the GMAT

Even if English isn’t your first language, you can still achieve an excellent score on the GMAT Verbal section. Here are a few tips to get you started!

1. Build your grammar skills first. You can ignore most of the challenging vocabulary on sentence corrections as long as you identify what part of speech each word is, and how it functions within the sentence. To do this, you’ll need to spend some time with a solid English grammar review book. I recommend pairing a heavy-duty review book, like the Oxford Guide or those published by McGraw-Hill or Longman, with a “fun” book like Writer’s Express or English Grammar for Dummies. Start identifying the subject and the verb of every sentence correction, as well as any dependent clauses. Strategy alone won’t get you the Verbal score you want. Start your Verbal studying with grammar.

2. Keep a vocabulary journal. Write down any words you don’t know as you encounter them. You’ll start to notice that certain words appear over and over again. Make flashcards for the ones that have tricky definitions or mean the opposite of what you’d expect. (For example, the word “noisome” does not mean “noisy.” It means having an offensive odor or bad smell.)

3. Apply your idioms. Yes, you absolutely need to memorize English idioms, but don’t just be an idiom robot. Start applying them in your everyday speech, emails, and English compositions. The more you can incorporate them into your English writing, the more confident you’ll become.

4. Think like a thesaurus. It is much easier to memorize synonyms for words than their full definitions. Start grouping words together mentally (and on paper) according to their meaning. For example, words like “pusillanimous,” “poltroonish,” and “timorous” would go on the “shy” list.

5. Read and listen to high-quality English publications. My recommendations include The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or any scholarly journal that you find interesting. Listen to NPR or audio books of English-language classics. Set a regular schedule for your reading and stick to it. Even twenty minutes a day will help you conquer Reading Comprehension.

6. Create a study group. Whether in real life or online, connect with other native and non-native speakers who are prepping for the GMAT. Check out your local library and schools and set up a weekly coffee shop meet-up to discuss your progress. Create a Yahoo group. Join Grockit (of course!). This will not only help you stick to your goals, but also help you learn about new resources from other non-native speakers and gain insight from those who have more advanced English skills.

7. Consider the difference between British and American English. Many English-language schools outside of the United States focus on British English, while the GMAT is an American-administered test. There are subtle differences in word choice and spelling between the two. While British spellings are officially acceptable in the AWA section, I would suggest familiarizing yourself with their American counterparts and using them to be safe.

8. Challenge yourself with CR. Aiming for a 700+ score? Once you’ve practiced identifying the conclusion, evidence, and assumptions and are confident with the Critical Reasoning question types on the GMAT, consider buying an LSAT practice guide like the LSAT LR Bible. The LSAT has significantly more challenging CR questions and the format is the same as those found on the GMAT. Don’t neglect your GMAT practice, but if you can master the LSAT CR, then the GMAT questions will start to feel easier.

9. Spend more time on Word Problems. Though Data Sufficiency certainly requires a significant amount of Quantitative study, remember to save extra time for Word Problems. Practice translating these questions from English keywords to Math equations. Be patient at first – these questions may be especially frustrating. Luckily, the common phrases such as “less than,” “is the same as,” and “product of” are easily memorized.

10. Look at your situation as an advantage! Many native speakers are confused by answer choices that include have slang, contain popular (though incorrect) grammatical phrases, or just “sound right.” Non-native speakers learn the exact same question types and strategies as native speakers, but can apply them without any prejudice. It really is an advantage!

700+ GMAT: Rock Set Theory

Venn diagrams and matrices getting you down? No clue what “elements” are? Sets on the GMAT have a reputation for being tough, but that’s just because most students are less familiar with them. This GMAT board will fill you in on the basics!

The “Intersection” is an upside-down U symbol, and is the OVERLAP of the sets. That is, the intersection contains all the elements that are in BOTH sets. Notice the Venn diagram is used to show the Intersection.

It makes sense that the symbol for “Union” would be a “U” shape. The Union is always the total combined elements. If an element is in EITHER of the sets, then it’s in the Union.

Sometimes Sets questions will be combined with other concepts, such as percentages. They often will not require fancy Venn diagrams or the ability to use a matrix to solve. Watch this Grockit video to see an example of this. You probably didn’t even know this could be considered a “sets” question! 🙂

Like a Venn diagram, a Sets Table (or matrix) is a great way to systematically organize a lot of information, especially for a Sets word problem. Read through this blog on how to set one up! Notice how the table is set up 3 x 3.


GMAT CR: “Strengthen” Question of the Day!

A broken shard of glass found in the laboratory of the famed physicist Alhazen has a polished surface that separates out the green and blue spectrums of white light, a key characteristic of a dispersive prism, which separates white light into all its constituent spectral components. Scientific historians, based on this finding, are revising their histories in order to give Alhazen, the “father of modern optics,” credit for the discovery of the dispersive prism, which was thought to have been discovered many years later.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the historians’ decision to revise the history of optics?

A. Dispersive prisms were the only type of prism that was theorized about in the scientific era in which Alhazen lived.

B. The piece of glass from which the shard broke, if unbroken, would have been just large enough to separate out the entire spectrum of white light into its spectral components.

C. The piece of glass was a combination of flint glass, which was known to have been used by Alhazen to craft lenses in his laboratory, and crown glass, another popular type of glass throughout history.

D. Dispersive prisms are the simplest and most common objects that are able to divide white light into its constituent spectral components.

E. Several glass objects that are known to have some properties of a dispersive prism have been found to be older than the glass piece in Alhazen’s laboratory.


Conclusion: Historians give A credit for prism.

Evidence: Glass found that has characteristic of prism.

Assumption: Glass not there by accident; glass definitely means A “discovered” prism.

Question: What STRENGTHENS?

Prediction: Anything that links this glass to the prism, removes coincidence.

A – Other prisms out of scope.
B – This connects the glass to the prism.
C – The type of glass is irrelevant.
D – This is just a fact about the prism.
E – This would weaken, since it makes the glass/prism link less strong.

The answer is (B).

GMAT CR: “Resolve the Argument” Practice Question

In September of last year, the number of people attending movies in theatres dropped precipitously. During the next few weeks after this initial drop the number of film-goers remained well below what had been the weekly average for the preceding year. However, the total number of film-goers for the entire year was not appreciably different from the preceding year’s volume.

Which of the following , if true, resolves the apparent contradiction presented in the passage above ?

A) People under the age of 25 usually attend films in groups,rather than singly.
B) The gross income from box office receipts reamined about the same as it had been the preceding year.
C) For some portion of last year , the number of people attending movies in theaters was higher than it had been during the previous year .
D) The number of people attending movies in theaters rises and falls in predictable cycles .
E) The quality of films released in September and October of last year was particularly poor.


– In Sept, # of attendees dropped
– In Oct, # of attendees stayed below previous year’s weekly avg
– TOTAL number of filmgoers was not different from previous year

Question: How come?

Prediction: The months outside of Sept/Oct made up for the drop & allowed the year to remain consistent

A – irrelevant
B – irrelevant, we’re talking filmgoers not $$
C – boom, matches our prediction!
D – potentially, but more vague than C
E – irrelevant, we’re talking # of people not quality

Clearly it comes down to C and D. C is my choice since it most closely matches our prediction.

Tough GMAT: “Idiom” Sentence Correction – Problem of the Day!

Try this Idiom question from the Official Guide!

That educators have not anticipated the impact of microcomputer technology can hardly be said that it is their fault: Alvin Toffler, one of the most prominent students of the future, did not even mention microcomputers in Future Shock, published in 1970.

(A) That educators have not anticipated the impact of microcomputer technology can hardly be said that it is their fault
(B) That educators have not anticipated the impact of microcomputer technology can hardly be said to be at fault
(C) It can hardly be said that it is the fault of educators who have not anticipated the impact of microcomputer technology
(D) It can hardly be said that educators are at fault for not anticipating the impact of microcomputer technology
(E) The fact that educators are at fault for not anticipating the impact of microcomputer technology can hardly be said

Think of “that educators have not anticipated the impact of microcomputers technology” as one long noun. We could replace it with something like “This fact….” If we did that the original sentence would read:

This fact can hardly be said that it is their fault.

“that it is their fault” is incorrect. Something is “said TO BE” something, idiomatically. It would need to read, “can hardly be said TO BE their fault.”

Thus, A is eliminated.

E takes a different approach. If we replaced the full noun again with “this fact,” the sentence would read: “This fact can hardly be said.” This meaning is unclear. The focus is not that this fact literally can’t be said; the focus is that there are no grounds for saying the educators are at fault.

Looking at D, it makes it very clear what “can hardly be said” by neatly putting the noun-verb “educators are” after the “that.” Everything starting with “for…” is a long prepositional phrase that we could eliminate.

D would then read: “It can hardly be said that it is the fault of educators.” Clear, concise, logical. The correct answer is (D).

GMAT Problem of the Day: Drawing Conclusions on CR

This harder critical reasoning question requires us to draw our own conclusion based on information provided in the question-stem. Set a timer for 2 minutes, then dive in! Scroll down to check your work against my explanation!

At Legal Services, LLC last year, the average annual salary for attorneys was $75,000, while the average salary for paralegals was $50,000. The average annual salary for all Legal Services, LLC employees was $45,000.

If the information above is correct, which one of the following conclusions can properly be drawn on the basis of it?

A) There were twice as many attorneys at Legal Services, LLC as there were paralegals last year.
B) There were more paralegals than attorneys at Legal Services, LLC last year.
C) There were two attorneys and three paralegals at Legal Services, LLC last year.
D) There was at least one Legal Services, LLC employee who earned less than the average paralegal earned last year.
E) At least one paralegal made less than $50,000 last year.

Here’s how I broke it down:

Conclusion: Avg. annual salary for ALL employees was $45,000

Evidence: avg sal attorneys is $75,000, and avg. sal paralegals is $50,000

Assumptions: Average = Total Sum / # of terms, so the average of the attorneys and the paralegals together would be $60,000. Since the average salary is less than that, then there must be significant # of employees who are making less than $45,000.

Question Rephrase: What is TRUE based on the evidence?

Prediction: There must be some more poorly-paid employees.

The answer is (D).

(B) is incorrect because it does not HAVE to be true that there were more paralegals than attorneys. There could be the exact same number of paralegals as attorneys. What is weighting the average down to $45,000 is the fact that there is an unaccounted for number of employees making LESS than what the paralegals make.

How to Conquer Long Passages on the SAT

I’ll admit it- even I don’t love long SAT passages. These passages are no one’s favorite since it can be easy to get bored and confused by them, so let’s focus on some important strategies that will help you better understand the passages and get more questions correct!

When faced with one long SAT reading comp passage, it is especially important to take notes as you read. Make sure you underline the main idea of the paragraph and circle any important details. When you finish reading one paragraph, make sure you write down what the function of that paragraph was before moving on. The function should answer the question: why did the author write this paragraph? How does it fit into the whole passage? What’s its purpose?

Some common functions include: to introduce the topic, to support the topic, to introduce a new viewpoint, to bring in a counterargument, to provide an example, to describe a hypothesis, to offer an explanation, etc. A passage is simply the sum of its parts (in this case, its paragraphs). If you understand the parts, you’ll understand the whole. Think of each paragraph in terms of a verb and you’ll be on your way to answering those tough “The third paragraph serves primarily to…” questions. The key rule here: Don’t keep reading if you don’t understand why the author wrote the paragraph.

Another important tip to remember is to read the blurb! Many students overlook those few sentences and just dive right into the first paragraph, but it’s important to read the blurb first so you can understand the context of the passage. Often the blurb will tell you the purpose of the passage – the reason why the author wrote it. Is the passage a book review? Part of a novel or short story? An explanation of a scientific phenomena? Make sure you write down the purpose of the entire passage when you are done, before you answer questions!

A final tip to help you with the longest passages, besides noting the function/purpose and reading the blurb, is to pay attention to the author’s point of view and places where the author reveals opinion. How does the author feel about the topic? If this is a prose passage, how does the author feel about the characters? I like to write either a happy face or a sad face next to words that reveal opinion. For example, if the author described a character as “charming” and “clever,” I would put a smiley face next to those words. A quick glance to that paragraph later would remind me of the author’s opinion.

Let’s say we had a science-themed passage about hurricanes. Here is how our notes might look on this passage:

Para. 1: to introduce the topic of hurricanes – describe how powerful they are
Para. 2: to describe how a hurricane forms (☺- author v. interested in them)
Para. 3: to explain the history of hurricanes (where recorded; notable hurricanes)
Para. 4: to summarize how Hurricane Katrina happened
Para. 5: to recommend how hurricanes can be better detected/damage prevented
Para. 6: to explain how politics prevents this (low funding, etc.)

Overall Purpose: to describe how hurricanes form, their history & advocate more funding for their research

Ask yourself questions as you read and think critically to prevent even the most confusing and boring passages from distracting you from your goal!