How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 17 (result: 760)

A 760 on today’s practice test. I think that’s called a ‘result': comfortably past the 99th percentile (i.e. beating 99% of the people who take this test). 108 questions, 52Q and 56V, with 11 errors giving me corrected raw scores of 44Q/50V, despite getting 5 wrong near the end of one section. Analysis tomorrow; here are the essays…

What this suggests is I’m starting to internalise the underlying formats and structures of many GMAT questions, hardwiring my brain to recognise which methods I need to use to solve each question.


Time—30 minutes
Directions: In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented below. You are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject. Read the argument and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response.

The following appeared in a memorandum to the planning department of an investment firm.

“Costs have begun dropping for several types of equipment currently used to convert solar energy into electricity. Moreover, some exciting new technologies for converting solar energy are now being researched and developed. Hence we can expect that solar energy will soon become more cost efficient and attractive than coal or oil as a source of electrical power. We should, therefore, encourage investment in Solario, a new manufacturer of solar-powered products. After all, Solario’s chief executive was once on the financial planning team for Ready-to-Ware, a software engineering firm that has shown remarkable growth since its recent incorporation.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The writer makes a reasonable business case for investing in Sontario, given the space limits of a memo. But – as with any investment – the planning department would need to conduct further research to confirm the validity of the proposal.

The writer reasons that the positive trends in the solar energy sector – falling equipment costs, exciting new technology – demonstrate the attractiveness of the sector as a whole. This broad-brush claim needs analysing first. Are equipment costs falling because of improved business methods and better process engineering, or something not driven by the industry itself, such as a short-term drop in the price of raw materials? Without a clear causal link with the ingenuity of the industry, the falling costs alone don’t constitute a reason to invest.

In addition, the memo uses the attractiveness of the solar energy industry as a whole to support investing in Solario in particular. Is this justified? Solario doesn’t make solar panels; it makes products powered by solar energy, which isn’t the same activity. This suggests that Solario’s success will be dependent on the success of the solar industry, rather than Solario itself being a key driver of the industry. Solario appears to be a second-tier player rather than a prime mover, and the investment team needs to look closely at how dependent the company is on the success of others.

Furthermore, the investment team needs to look beyond the solar energy industry and to the energy sector in general. Do the falling costs driving adoption of solar energy over fossil fuels represent a trend or a blip? If oil prices have been rising and are likely to continue doing so, then solar energy companies (and perhaps Solario in particular) may well be a good investment. Investment is about good timing, and if one major oil discovery is the difference between an investment’s success and failure, the investors may benefit from a cautious approach.

Narrowing down, the Chief Executive’s former role in a software company is not as negative as it first appears. Environmentally friendly firms have a reputation for being run on philosophical lines rather than sound financial sense, and Ready-to-Ware’s success in the market may well be a plus point for the competence of the CEO. His experience, albeit in a different industry, is on balance a plus point for the argument – with the caveat that his involvement with Ready-to-Ware ended some time ago.

In summary, the memo’s argument presents a reasonable case for investing in the solar industry – but not necessarily in Solario itself. The memo’s author conflates the potential of an entire industry with the potential of a single player within it… and this weakens the argument. The investment team parks its money not in industries, but in individual companies. It must make its decision based on Solario’s balance sheet and market potential, not on the basis of a good idea.

FAULTS: pleased with this one, finished just seconds before the 30min limit. But a monster typos – why did I write ‘Sontario’??? At least I picked up on something many GMAT takers will miss: Solario makes products, not panels. And I shouldn’t have repeated ‘reasonable business case’ at the beginning and end, especially since I don’t use them to make the same point. Probably a 5 for this essay.


Time—30 minutes
Directions: In this section, you will need to analyze the issue presented below and explain your views on it. The question has no “correct” answer. Instead, you should consider various perspectives as you develop your own position on the issue. Read the statement and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response.

“The best strategy for managing a business, or any enterprise, is to find the most capable people and give them as much authority as possible.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

In business, people are everything, and capable people are the biggest asset any business can have. That’s why I agree strongly with the statement – with a single caveat: giving out authority in such measure must be accompanied by some fundamental ground rules.

To function as a coherent unit, an organisation’s people must work together. (However capable they are!) If Fred in R&D reasons that ten new hires would add £1m to billings, but Rebecca in HR needs to lose 20% of headcount – each having full authority to act – then the net result may not be positive for the company. Authority should be given out in well-defined chunks, and reporting lines made clear. Authority within each employee’s departmental function is a terrific idea; authority across-the-board, with overlapping opinions, leads to conflict and wasted resources.

In addition, a company’s board must remember that competency in one area doesn’t reflect expertise in another. For example, many world-class programmers are extremely poor at managing people; an expert coder given authority over hiring and firing may not have the skills to recognise the right balance of technical skills and team spirit needed for any large project. When giving people authority, it should be on the basis of what they’re best at, so they can wield that authority with confidence and gravitas.

Furthermore, with authority must go responsibility. If people are given the authority to take decisions, they must be aware that they are responsible for the consequences. An organisation where everyone takes responsibility for their actions is a strong organisation, because its people know they can trust each other not to ‘pass the buck’.

Finally, when granting authority, it’s important to remember that power is of little use without direction. People with authority to act still need leaders; the handing out of authority does not lessen the importance of managers and the CEO. Employees need to know what goals their authority is supposed to support, and the setting of those goals (company strategy) is a job for leaders.

Despite these points, giving people as much authority as possible remains an excellent idea which I fully agree with. Because my points above don’t diminish the power of authority; they enhance it. People will, I believe, be much happier accepting their authoritative powers if the rules are made clear first. Even when constrained by functional competency and departmental reach, there’s plenty of authority to go around.

FAULTS: finished this one early, but it’s no worse for it. I feel I’m getting stronger at ‘focussing on the question’, without going off on tangents. Can I award myself a 6 for this?

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 16 (analysing day 15)

Okay, time to analyse my first 700 score. (Or 90th percentile, which means I’m beating 9 out of 10 people who take the GMAT.) 107 questions, corrected raw scores of 50V/40Q: 3 sentence correction, 1 critical reasoning, and 0 reading comprehension errors, and 7 problem solving quants, and 3 data sufficiency questions wrong. I’m getting the hang of those data sufficiency things.


Harry started a 6-mile hike with a full 10-cup canteen of water and finished the hike in 2 hours with 1 cup of water remaining in the canteen. If the canteen leaked at the rate of 1 cup per hour and Harry drank 3 cups of water during the last mile, how many cups did he drink per mile during the first 5 miles of the hike?

(A) 4/5
(B) 5/6
(C) 1
(D) 6/5
(E) 5/4

I chose C. Well, if Harry started with 10c, spilled 2c, and drank 3c we know of, then there are 5 cups left in the flask to last 5 miles… which is where my mistake occurred. He doesn’t drink it all; there’s a cupful left, so he only drank 4 cups in 5 miles. Answer: A.

If y is an integer, then the least possible value of | 23-5y | is

(A) 1
(B) 2
(C) 3
(D) 4
(E) 5

I chose C. (This is a |range| question: number of values that satisfy, not the value any y produces.) To produce a minimum value for range 23-5y of 5 you’d need y to equal 18/5 – not an integer, so discount E; the value can’t be 5. D doesn’t work either (y would have to be 19/5, again not an integer). Why not C? y=4 works, so C is possible. Is it the lowest? Let’s try substituting y=3; the value of 23-5y would be 8, higher than B, and for lower values of y the numbers get bigger. There can only be 2 possible values of the range |23-5y|, so it’s B.

The volume of a sphere with radius r is 4/3 ∏r^3 and the surface area is 4 ∏r^3. If a spherical balloon has a volume of 972∏ cubic centimeters, what is the surface area of the balloon in square centimeters?

(A) 324
(B) 729
(C) 243∏
(D) 324∏
(E) 729∏

I guessed A. Close, but not close enough. The question contains a very subtle misdirection. Did you think it was being kind telling you the formulae for calculating volume and surface area of a sphere? It’s not. Those expressions represent the surface and volume of this specific sphere, not as general formulae. Clever.

If the general expressions for surface area and volume were 4 ∏r^3 and 4/3 ∏r^3, that means the figure for surface area (in square cm) would always be several times bigger than the figure for volume (in cubic cm). This is wrong: the formula for finding surface area of a sphere is 4/3 ∏r^2, not 4/3 ∏r^3. Which means the surface area figure in square cm is a lot smaller than the volume in cubic cm. The answer is a third of the figure amount (to turn 4 into 4/3, i.e reducing it to the third of its value) and dividing by r (to compensate the r^3 value that ‘should’ be r^2). It’s around 300∏ , which is D.

If the perimeter of square region S and the perimeter of circular region C are equal, then the ratio of the area of S to the area of C is closest to

(A) 3/2
(B) 4/3
(C) 3/4
(D) 2/3
(E) 1/2

I chose B. First off, we need to confirm which of them has the bigger area, so do a quick substitution, assuming r is one unit in length. If the perimeter of the circle is 2∏r, then the perimeter of the square is 4 x 1/4 (2∏r) . (Because a square has four equal sides, each a quarter of 2∏r long.) The area of the square will be 1/2 ∏r times 1/2 ∏r, roughly 1.6 times 1.6, which is 2.6 or so.

The area of the circle is ∏r^2, roughly 3.14. So the circle’s area is bigger, ratio S to C must be small to big, so the answer is C, D, or E. The ratio 2.6 : 3.14 is about 5:6, which is closest to answer C.

If n and k are integers whose product is 400, which of the following statements must be true?

(A) n + k > 0
(B) n ≠ k
(C) Either n or k is a multiple of 10.
(D) If n is even, then k is odd.
(E) If n is odd, then k is even.

Oooooh, sneaky! I chose A after some thought, but it’s wrong. n and k could both be -20, which would give 400. B’s wrong too, since we’ve just realised n and k can be equal. D’s wrong, because n and k could be 16 and 25 for example, neither divisible by 10. But D and E seem to be saying the same thing. Hmmm.

D can’t work, because we know both numbers can be even. (20 * 20.) So the answer’s E. When you’ve eliminated the possible, what remains, however impossible, must be true.

If x < 12, then it must be true that

(A) –x < -12
(B) –x – 2 < 14
(C) –x + 2 < – 10
(D) x + 2 < 10
(E) x – 2 < 11

D was my answer. A is wrong, because x could be -20 for example, and 20 is more than -12. B and C have the same problem. D is less wrong, but still wrong, since x could be 10, and 12 is more than 10. It must be E.

What is the difference between the sixth and the fifth terms of the sequence 2, 4, 7, … whose nth term is n + 2n-1 ?

(A) 2
(B) 3
(C) 6
(D) 16
(E) 17

Great question. I chose D, having spent too long on the sequence. Let’s see… every n’th number is n+2 to the power of n-1, and the power of n-1 means the number preceding it in the sequence.

Applying this to the bit of the sequence we know we get: 4 equals 2 plus 2 to the power 1 (correct), 7 equals 3 plus 2 to the power 2 (correct), so the 4th number equals 4 plus 2 to the power 3, i.e. 12, the 5th number equals 5 plus 2 to the power 4, i.e 21, and the 6th number equals 6 plus 2 to the power 5, i.e. 38. So the difference between the 5th and 6th is 17, or E.

Which of the following could be the sum of the reciprocals of two different prime numbers?

(A) 7/13
(B) 10/21
(C) 11/30
(D) 23/50
(E) 19/77

I chose E. Let’s substitute a few reciprocals. 1/3 and 1/7? Sum to 10/21; well, that’s in the list, so I didn’t need to look far. Stop at B.


Selling several hundred thousand copies in six months, the publication of “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 was an instant hit, helping to establish Scott Joplin as the preeminent ragtime composer.

(A) Selling several hundred thousand copies in six months, the publication of “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 was an instant hit, helping to establish Scott Joplin as the preeminent ragtime composer.
(B) The publication in 1899 of “Maple Leaf Rag” was an instant hit; in six months they sold several hundred thousand copies and it helped establish Scott Joplin as the preeminent ragtime composer.
(C) Helping to establish Scott Joplin as the preeminent ragtime composer was the publication of “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899, which was an instant hit; it sold several hundred thousand copies in six months.
(D) “Maple Leaf Rag” was an instant hit; it helped establish Scott Joplin as the preeminent ragtime composer, published in 1899 and selling several hundred thousand copies in six months.
(E) Published in 1899, “Maple Leaf Rag” was an instant hit, selling several hundred thousand copies in six months; it helped establish Scott Joplin as the preeminent ragtime composer.

I chose C. Well A’s wrong, because it suggests the publication date was a hit, not the song. B’s wrong too, since ‘they’ is used without specifying who ‘they’ are. C is okay grammatically, just clumsily constructed. D is a complete dog, ‘published in 1999′ floating aimlessly in the middle of the sentence. E must be correct, and is.

Migraine, the most debilitating common form of headache, afflicts perhaps 18 million Americans, who collectively lose 64 million workdays a year, and they cost the nation $50 billion in medical expenses and lost work time.

(A) year, and they cost the nation $50 billion in medical expenses and lost
(B) year and thus cost the nation $50 billion in medical expenses and lost
(C) year, so as to cost the nation $50 billion in medical expenses and lost
(D) year that costs the nation $50 billion in lost medical expenses and
(E) year, which thus cost the nation $50 billion in lost medical expenses and

I chose E, unsure. A’s wrong because ‘they cost’ would refer to the workdays rather than the migraines or the Americans. C suggests the migraines are doing it deliberately. D and E sort of work, but the ‘lost’ should refer to work time, not medical expenses. B is correct.

Sales of United States manufactured goods to nonindustrialized countries rose to $167 billion in 1992, which is 14 percent more than the previous year and largely offsets weak demand from Europe and Japan.

(A) which is 14 percent more than the previous year
(B) which is 14 percent higher than it was the previous year
(C) 14 percent higher than the previous year’s figure
(D) an amount that is 14 percent more than the previous year was
(E) an amount that is 14 percent higher than the previous year’s figure

I chose C, because it’s grammatically correct. We can get rid of those ‘more’ ones first (A and D) since $167bn and 14% are countable numbers, where we should use ‘higher’. B is subtly wrong: we’re talking many years from 1992, and the ‘is 14 percent higher’ should be ‘was 14 percent higher’. C doesn’t work since it destroys the agreement with ‘offsets’ later on. E is left over, which is grammatically correct and gets the sense right, so it must be E.

Local residents claim that San Antonio, Texas, has more good Mexican American restaurants than any city does in the United States.

(A) any city does
(B) does any other city
(C) other cities do
(D) any city
(E) other cities

I chose D. Deceptively hard question. A and C add an extra ‘do’, so do not work. E would mean San Antonio’s stuffed so full of burrito joints that the total’s higher than all other US cities added together, so is wrong. D is written usage but not standard written; we all know what it means, but there should be an ‘other’ or equivalent in there to complete the comparative sentence. B is left over, and must be correct.

Unlike other arachnids, which have their nerve cells evenly distributed along their bodies, the scorpion’s nerve cells are clustered in its head, like a mammal’s

(A) bodies, the scorpion’s nerve cells are clustered in its head, like a mammal’s
(B) bodies, the scorpion’s head has a cluster of nerve cells, as a mammal does
(C) body, the scorpion has a cluster of nerve cells in its head, as a mammal does
(D) body, nerve cells are clustered in the scorpion’s head, like a mammal’s
(E) body, a cluster of nerve cells is in the scorpion’s head, like a mammal’s

A looks ok, which is why I chose it. B doesn’t complete the comparison, since it implies mammals could have body clusters, too; D and E have similar issues. So it’s A or C. C pins down where the nerve cells are, uses ‘clustered’ to balance ‘distributed’, and uses ‘body’ to denote the use of a singular (arachnid the species) although the usage is plural (arachnids the individual creepy crawlies). It’s C, but this is a hard one.

Over the last century, paleontologists have used small differences between fossil specimens to classify triceratops into sixteen species. This classification is unjustified, however, since the specimens used to distinguish eleven of the species come from animals that lived in the same area at the same time.

Which of the following, if true, would enable the conclusion of the argument to be properly drawn?

(A) Not every species that lived in a given area is preserved as a fossil.
(B) At least one individual of every true species of triceratops has been discovered as a fossil specimen.
(C) No geographical area ever supports more than three similar species at the same time.
(D) In many species, individuals display quite marked variation.
(E) Differences between fossil specimens of triceratops that came from the same area are no less distinctive than differences between specimens that came from different areas.

I chose E after much thought (a luxury, having several minutes at the end to ponder.) So: we’re looking for something that makes classifying fossils from the same area a valid technique. A, B, and D are irrelevant, since we’re talking specifically about different known species of a single type of creature. It’s C or E. But E doesn’t specify what kind of differences or whether they’re important. C, however, gives us a hard fact, and if eleven Triceratop ‘species’ came from one area, the established fact that no one area can support more than three would allow the right conclusion (those eleven can’t all be different species) to be drawn. It’s C.

Lessons learned today: I need to concentrate more on elimination for ‘hard’ verbal questions; most of these aren’t a simple right or wrong, just whatever the best choice is. Eliminate, eliminate.

Now it’s a bloody water main exploding

What in blazes is happening to my ‘hood? The embers are barely cold in the smoking hole in the ground that used to be a nearby industrial site, and today a water main does a Yosemite, shooting ten metres of water up through the tarmac… RIGHT AT THE GATE TO MY MEWS, which means this morning I had to run past a flippin’ geyser just to get onto the street. An IM friend raises a spooky possibility: my inner turmoil these last few weeks is responsible, the Black Dog somehow getting loose and negatively affecting the local environment. Hmmmm, wonder if there’s a business in this?

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 15 (result: 700)

ALmost back on track: 700/800. Should have hit 710 today to be fully on track. But from here on in it’s going to get really hard. 107 practice questions, with raw scores of 51/55V and 42/52Q, correcting to 50 and 40 for a total corrected raw score of 90. Here are the essays…


Directions: In this section, you will need to analyze the issue presented below and explain your views on it. The question has no “correct” answer. Instead, you should consider various perspectives as you develop your own position on the issue. Read the statement and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response.

“Employees should keep their private lives and personal activities as separate as possible from the workplace.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Every boss must have moments where he wishes his employees were faceless robots with no existence beyond the cubicle wall. They’d be easier to deal with. But the tasks of real business – messy, ill-defined, nuanced – need human skills. That’s why I disagree with the opinion above: the most effective companies are staffed by real people with real lives, and if you want an effective business, you need to take the messiness of real people into account.

To take one example, Internet search engine Google has staff laundries, an onsite medical clinic, play areas and free food for its staff. By making such ‘non-work’ facilities available at the office, it’s explicitly recognising that it can get the best out of its people by letting them bring their home lives into the office. As a result Google, along with many companies in Silicon Valley, is widely regarded as a buzzy and vibrant place to work: each of its employees contributes, on average, over $1m to the bottom line.

Conversely, look at any organisation that tries to deny the realities of human life. Banning personal relationships between employees, infantilising adults with speech codes and behaviour guides, trying to drive a wedge between the working day and the rest of life with endless red tape and rules. The best example comes easily to mind: any government office. And government offices, as anyone who deals regularly with one knows, tend to be staffed by unhelpful, one-dimensional, more-than-my-jobs-worth worker drones. By denying people lives, they attract employees who have no lives. Organisations that deny there’s a life beyond 6pm are unhappy, dysfunctional places.

By recognising that people have private lives, full of ideas and dreams, any manager will find that the hardest job of all – finding great people – becomes easier. Because with this understanding he can attract talent from a deep and varied pool. People who aren’t willing to check their private lives at the office door have ambition and drive and intellect, valuable qualities to any employer. And by letting them bring those lives into work – at least partially – they’ll start to treat the company as part of their lives, too. And people who share that sense of ownership are the best employees any manager can have.

FAULTS: Whew, harder than it looks: such an interesting and emotive topic brings the problem of too many ideas, so I was struggling to pare them down to the few points I could make in 30 minutes. And argh! That ‘and government offices’ in the third para; why is the ‘and’ there? And there’s And there again, starting the last two sentences of the last para! I think this is a great essay; but if I’d only had one more minute to tidy up that last bit. I’ll score myself a 5.


Directions: In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented below. You are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject. Read the argument and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response.

The following appeared as part of a recommendation by one of the directors of the Beta Company.

“The Alpha Company has just reduced its workforce by laying off fifteen percent of its employees in all divisions and at all levels, and it is encouraging early retirement for other employees. As you know, the Beta Company manufactures some products similar to Alpha’s, but our profits have fallen over the last few years. To improve Beta’s competitive position, we should try to hire a significant number of Alpha’s former workers, since these experienced workers can provide valuable information about Alpha’s successful methods, will require little training, and will be particularly motivated to compete against Alpha.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The director’s plan will bring some motivated and knowledgeable staff into the Beta company. So the argument may put forward a reasonable strategy for Beta – but further research would be useful before putting it into action.

First, what market are the two companies in? ‘In all divisions and at all levels’ suggest Alpha’s problem is not localised, and that its entire market may be shrinking. If Beta Company is in the same sector, then adding headcount may not be a good idea: rather than improve Beta’s competitive position it may make it worse, since the Beta directors would be increasing their costs at the same time as the Alpha directors are cutting theirs! To support his argument, the director needs to demonstrate reasonable growth potential in the market space where his company competes with Alpha.

Second, how much commonality is there between the two companies’ product lines? ‘Some products’ does not mean ‘all products’. The director needs to state which products in Beta Company’s portfolio would become more profitable with the input of ex-Alpha employees, and whether the market potential justifies the new hiring costs. If the products in this category are not a major part of Beta’s revenues – or worse, are lossmakers – the director’s argument is weakened.

Third, is there some deeper problem in Company Alpha causing these layoffs – perhaps a general attitude problem on the part of its workers? When starting at a new company, employees often bring their emotional baggage with them; the director cannot assume ex-Alpha workers with a grudge will become star performers at Beta. And as for their ‘successful methods’ – Alpha’s plan to cut 15% out of its workforce hardly suggests its ‘success’ is unquestioned.

Finally, since Beta Company’s profits have been declining too, indulging in a hiring frenzy is hardly likely to help these profits recover in time for the next earnings report. The director assumes that people will bring profits – which can’t be assumed. Even the most motivated employees won’t add to Beta’s bottom line unless the products they create are profitable.

To sum up, the director’s argument contains too much hope and not enough evidence. He needs to demonstrate a clear business case for hiring ex-Alpha workers, based on the market potential, the product portfolio, and Beta’s own financial position. Beta Company may well be looking at a great opportunity – but the best-run businesses look at the numbers first.

FAULTS: Seemed an easier essay to write, but I keep repeating myself; I’m not sure this is more than a 5/6. At least I got the structure quickly, which left me six minutes at the end to proof read and cut a bit.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 14 (analysing day 13)

OK, my scraped 690 includes five questions I really should have got WRONG (i.e. I wasn’t at all sure about) in the Verbal section, so more ‘wrong’ ones analysed today than I really need to. To get off this plateau I need a different approach, so today I’m writing a list of all the different sections with notes on how to approach each type of question (sort of like writing my own ‘Dummies’ book) which I’ll blog later.

Okay, let’s see if I can break my 690 deadlock. Six lucky guesses were all that stood between me and a slide backwards to 660; I’ve included the lucky guesses (all in sentence correction) here. Corrected raw scores of 35Q / 48V give me 83, scored at 690 on this practice test’s scale.


A couple of problem solving questions first.

A breakfast that consists of 1 ounce of corn puffs and 8 ounces of fruit X provides 257 calories. When 8 ounces of fruit Y is substituted for the 8 ounces of fruit X , the total number of calories is reduced to 185. If fruit X provides 1.8 times as many calories as fruit Y, how many calories does 8 ounces of fruit Y alone provide?

(A) 11.25
(B) 72
(C) 90
(D) 95
(E) 129.6

I chose E, unsure. Hmmm, this ought to be solvable, even in two minutes. Let corn puffs be c. 1c + 8X = 257, and 1c + 8Y = 185. Also, X = 1.8Y. That’s plenty of info. So 8X = = 1.8(8Y) = 8Y + 72.

Obviously Y is more than 72, so answers A and B are out. 8X = 14.4Y = 257-c. 72 is 0.8 of 8Y, which means 8Y is 90. The answer is C.

If the sum of the first n positive integers is S, what is the sum of the first n positive even integers, in terms of S ?

(A) S/2
(B) S
(C) 2S
(D) 2S + 2
(E) 4S

A was my choice. Ha ha. What a mistake to make: thinking n was the range of numbers rather than the number of numbers. Obviously the first 10 even integers (2, 4, 6, 8…) sum to more than the first 10 integers (0,1,2,3…) Careless, careless, but even the answer here is harder than it looks unless you substitute for a few values, using up precious minutes. It’s C.

On to data sufficiency:

A if statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
B if statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
C if BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient;
D if EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked;
E if statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed.

Are all of the numbers in a certain list of 15 numbers equal?

(1) The sum of all the numbers in the list is 60.
(2) The sum of any 3 numbers in the list is 12.

Another careless error; I chose C. But the sum of all the numbers means nothing; I was thinking too much about its reliance on statement 2. The answer is B, since if you pick any three, they must all be 4; even one value different to 4 screws it up. B is correct: Statement 2 alone is sufficient.

The table above shows the morning schedule for train X. If Juan took train X on Monday morning, did he arrive at station T on schedule?

(1) Juan arrived at station T on Monday morning 1 hour and 2 minutes after he left station S.
(2) Juan arrived at his office at 8:30 (EST) on Monday morning, which was 20 minutes after he
arrived at station T.

The same old error. I chose E, since Juan’s arrival time doesn’t mean he arrived ON time; the train may have left station S late. But statement 2 is sufficient, since we can work out he arrived at 8:10, exactly on time.

So: in Quant, only one question really foxed me (the fruit one); if I’d just been concentrating the other two are easy. Got to focus.


I got many of these right, but I’m putting them here because I was unsure. And if you’re unsure of anything on the real GMAT, assume you’ll get it wrong.

Very popular from 1900 until the 1920’s, the renewed interest in ceiling fans began when the energy crisis in 1974 forced homeowners to look for alternative methods of heating and cooling.

(A) Very popular from 1900 until the 1920’s, the renewed interest in ceiling fans began
(B) The renewed interest in ceiling fans, which were very popular from 1900 until the 1920’s began
(C) After they were very popular from 1900 until the 1920’s, the renewed interest in ceiling fans was beginning
(D) Ceiling fans were very popular from 1900 until the 1920’s, with renewed interest beginning in them
(E) From 1900 until the 1920’s ceiling fans were very popular, and now the renewed interest in them has begun

I chose A. C, D, and E sound clumsy, with dodgy word order and fuzzy grammar; the only other choice is B, the correct answer. The reason for A being wrong? It’s the object: ‘1900 until the 1920s’ in A refers to ‘renewed interest’, when it should refer to ceiling fans.

Many writers of modern English have acquired careless habits that damage the clarity of their prose, but these habits can be broken if they are willing to take the necessary trouble.

(A) but these habits can be broken
(B) but these habits are breakable
(C) but they can break these habits
(D) which can be broken
(E) except that can be broken

I got this right, but wanted to record why. It’s C, because of the ‘they': we need the article to refer back to the ‘writers of modern English’, which is the subject of the sentence. A good approach to these questions is work out what the subject of the sentence is and base your answer on that.

While the base salary for the top five officers of the company did not change from 1990 to 1991, cuts were made in nonsalary compensation, as in allowances for overseas assignments and club memberships.

(A) cuts were made in nonsalary compensation, as in
(B) cuts were made in such nonsalary compensation as
(C) cuts were made in such nonsalary compensation as those in
(D) cuts in nonsaIary compensation were made in areas like
(E) there were cuts made in nonsalary compensation, in areas like

I chose B. I got this right, but it was hard. D and E can be thrown out straightaway: ‘areas like’ is fuzzy, suggesting that the cuts were perhaps not in allowances or memberships, just in areas like them. A is wrong for a subtle error: ‘cuts… as in…’ separates the sense of it all, implying that nonsalary compensation, allowances, and memberships are three different and equivalent things, when they’re not (the first applies to the second and third; it’s not another thing in the same class.) C is just ungrammatical. The answer is B.

It is an oversimplified view of cattle raising to say that all one has to do with cattle is leave them alone while they feed themselves, corral them and to drive them to market when the time is ripe.

(A) all one has to do with cattle is leave them alone while they feed themselves, corral them, and to
(B) all one has to do with cattle is to leave them alone to feed themselves, to corral them, and
(C) all one has to do with cattle is leave them alone while they feed themselves and then corral them and
(D) the only thing that has to be done with cattle is leave them alone while they feed themselves, corral them, and
(E) the only thing that has to be done with cattle is to leave them alone while they feed themselves, to corral them, and

I chose B. But we don’t need the ‘to’ in ‘to leave them’ because we’ve already introduced the verb with ‘to do with’ earlier, which also eliminates A and E. D is wrong because it says ‘the only thing’ and then gives several things. While C sounds wrong at first because it’s changing the sense of the sentence, turning the actions into a sequence rather than disparate events, the elimination of the others means it must be C.

Although dozens of New York’s small museums are either devoted to local history of various ethnic groups, there are many one-of-a-kind museums from Manhattan to the Bronx that are open for exploration on summer weekends.

(A) Although dozens of New York’s small museums are either devoted to local history or various ethnic groups, there are
(B) Although dozens of New York’s small museums are devoted to local history or various ethnic groups,
(C) Dozens of New York’s small museums are devoted to local history or various ethnic groups, but there are
(D) Dozens of New York’s small museums are devoted to local history or various ethnic groups, and there are also
(E) Devoted to local history or various ethnic groups, dozens of New York’s small museums and also

A was my slip, but it’s missing a ‘to’ in between the words of ‘or various’, as is C. B and E don’t make sense grammatically. It must be D, which also corrects the unwarranted conflict in the sentence: dozens of history and ethnic museums don’t preclude the existence of one-of-a-kind museums.

Oberlin College in Ohio was a renegade institution at its 1833 founding for deciding to accept both men and women as students.

(A) at its 1833 founding for deciding to accept
(B) for the decision at its 1833 founding to accept
(C) when it was founded in 1833 for its decision to accept
(D) in deciding at its founding in 1833 to accept
(E) by deciding at its founding in 1833 on the acceptance of

C. Ah, the sense of time. A and C suggest it was already renegade before it was founded, which is nonsense. E ‘by’ doesn’t work grammatically. B and D both work, but D pins down when the decision was made, which makes the sentence clearer. The answer is D.

After the Colonial period’s 50 percent mortality rate, life expectancy improved for children, but as late as the nineteenth century about one child in three died before reaching the age of six.

(A) After the Colonial period’s 50 percent mortality rate, life expectancy improved for children, but
(B) Even though children’s life expectancy, which improved over the Colonial period’s 50 percent mortality rate,
(C) Although life expectancy for children improved after the Colonial period, during which the mortality rate was 50 percent,
(D) While there was an improvement in life expectancy for children after the 50 percent mortality rate of the Colonial period, still
(E) Despite children’s life expectancy improvement from the Colonial period’s 50 percent mortality rate.

I chose A. But the key here is there’s a difference between ‘mortality’ and ‘life expectancy’ which the correct answer should make clear. Only the correct answer – C – draws it clearly.

Just as a writer trying to understand shtetl life might read Shalom Aleichem or Isaac Bashevis Singer, in the same way writers trying to understand Black life in the American South might well listen to records by the Mississippi Delta bluesman Charlie Patton.

(A) in the same way writers trying to understand Black life in the American South might well listen to records
(B) in the same way writers who try and understand Black life in the American South might well listen to a record
(C) so a writer trying to understand Black life in the American South might well listen to records
(D) so do writers try and understand Black life in the American South and might well listen to a record
(E) then writers trying to understand Black life in the American South could well listen to records

I chose A. But ‘just as’ and ‘in the same way’ form a redundancy. So does B. D and E are also wrong, because they make the sentence unbalanced, referring to ‘a writer’ at first, then ‘writers’ later. C gets it right.

The pattern of whisker spots on the face of a male lion, like human fingerprints, are a lifelong means of identification, since they are both unique and unchanging.

(A) like human fingerprints, are a lifelong means of identification, since they are both unique and unchanging
(B) like human fingerprints, is a lifelong means of identification, since it is both unique and unchanging
(C) like human fingerprints, is a means of identification for life, being both unique and unchanging
(D) since they are both unique and unchanging, like human fingerprints, are a means of identification for life
(E) both unique and unchanging, are, like human fingerprints, a lifelong means of identification

I chose C. It can’t be A, D, or E, since the pluralised ‘the pattern… are’ is ungrammatical. It’s a toss-up between B and C. On balance, ‘lifelong’ in B suggests the lion itself uses it as a means of identification, which puts C in front.

Even though the state has spent ten years and seven million dollars planning a reservoir along the Ubi River, the project will have to be abandoned as a result of the river becoming so heavily polluted.

(A) will have to be abandoned as a result of the river becoming so heavily polluted
(B) is to be abandoned on account of the heavy pollution which the river received
(C) had to be abandoned because the river had received such heavy pollution
(D) has to be abandoned because of the river and its heavy pollution
(E) must be abandoned because the river has become so heavily polluted

I chose A. But the precision of ‘ten years’ and ‘seven million’ suggests the decision to stop work has been taken already, not at some indeterminate future date. B gets its tenses wrong, ‘received’ suggesting a single polluting event rather than a gradual build-up, and so does C, ‘has spent’ and ‘had to be’ not agreeing. D doesn’t work either, since it states that the river itself (and not the pollution) is to blame. It’s E.

Consumers in California seeking personal loans have fewer banks to turn to than do consumers elsewhere in the United States. This shortage of competition among banks explains why interest rates on personal loans in California are higher than in any other region of the United States.

Which of the following, if true, most substantially weakens the conclusion above?

(A) Because of the comparatively high wages they must pay to attract qualified workers, California banks charge depositors more than banks elsewhere do for many of me services they offer.
(B) Personal loans are riskier than other types of loans, such as home mortgage loans, that banks make.
(C) Since bank deposits in California are covered by the same type of insurance that guarantees bank deposits in other parts of the United States, they are no less secure than deposits elsewhere.
(D) The proportion of consumers who default on their personal loans is lower in California than in any other region of the United States.
(E) Interest rates paid by California banks to depositors are lower than those paid by banks in other parts of the United States because in California there is less competition to attract depositors.

I chose D. Lower defaults would weaken the theory, but only peripherally, since it’s the shortage of banks the author posits, not the quality of customers. B and C draw no difference between California and the rest of the USA, so can’t strengthen or weaken the argument. And E supports the argument. It’s A, and I got my sense wrong: the high wages referred to are earned by bank staff, not bank customers, and this is why they charge higher rates, throwing doubt on the argument it’s about bank scarcity.

Canadians now increasingly engage in “out shopping,” which is shopping across the national border, where prices are lower. Prices are lower outside of Canada in large part because the goods-and-services tax that pays for Canadian social services is not applied.

Which one of the following is best supported on the basis of the information above?

(A) If the upward trend in out-shopping continues at a significant level and the amounts paid by the government for Canadian social services are maintained, the Canadian goods-and-services tax will be assessed at a higher rate.
(B) If Canada imposes a substantial tariff on the goods bought across the border, a reciprocal tariff on cross-border shopping in the other direction will be imposed, thereby harming Canadian businesses.
(C) The amounts the Canadian government pays out to those who provide social services to Canadians are increasing.
(D) The same brands of goods are available to Canadian shoppers across the border as are available in Canada.
(E) Out-shopping purchases are subject to Canadian taxes when the purchaser crosses the border to bring them into Canada.

I chose D, because it makes sure the playing field is level, but that’s got nothing to do with supporting the argument. Tricky one. B and C are irrelevant, and E is plain wrong. It’s A, because the implication is that the GST is levied to pay for social services, and if the trend of outshopping is ‘increasing’ then the amount collected as GST will fall, necessitating a rise in GST rate.

So: big problems with harder questions: I need to get hold of some humdingers to raise my game any further. Starting tomorrow.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 13 (result: 690)

OK, I’ve hit the hump. Officially. Three 690s in a row, but I think I know why, and I’ve decided once again: those GMAT people are clever bastards.

Practice tests contain questions mixed in difficulty. To simulate the Computer Adaptive nature of the real GMAT – where questions get harder as you get more right in a row – many practice tests are split into sections in a way the real GMAT isn’t: six sections of reading comprehension, critical reasoning, sentence correction, two kinds of problem solving, and data sufficiency. One of these sections will be VERY HARD.

What this does is simulate your actual GMAT score rather accurately. Here’s why:

If all the questions in a section are above your ability, you’ll get a large number in that section wrong, and the method of working out your simulated score out of 800 – which involves ‘corrected raw scores’ – drives your score for that section down by a disproportionate amount. (To get a corrected raw score you take the number of questions you got wrong for Q or V in total, divide it by 4, subtract that figure from your total right, add 0.5, and ignore anything on the right of the decimal point. That’s your corrected raw score, at least for these on-paper practice tests.)

If all the sections were of equal toughness, then once your abilities reached a certain level you’d score basically 100% on every question, and the which means that figure divided by 4 plus 0.5 will decrease your corrected raw score by a higher amount… leading to greater GMAT accuracy. I think.

Today’s sentence correction questions were hard, and it shows: 3 wrong and a further 5 (which I’ll review tomorrow) I was very doubtful about, in just 22 questions.

Today’s essays…


Directions: In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented below. Note that you are not being asked to present your own views on the subject. Instead, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking, what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion, or what sort of evidence could help strengthen or refute the argument. Time—30 minutes

The following appeared in a magazine article on trends and lifestyles.

“In general, people are not as concerned as they were a decade ago about regulating their intake of red meat and fatty cheeses. Walk into the Heart’s Delight, a store that started selling organic fruits and vegetables and wholegrain flours in the 1960’s, and you will also find a wide selection of cheeses made with high butterfat content. Next door, the owners of the Good Earth Café, an old vegetarian restaurant, are still making a modest living, but the owners of the new House of Beef across the street are millionaires.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. You can also discuss what, if anything, would make the argument more sound and persuasive or would help you to better evaluate its conclusion.

The merits of wholegrains over animal fats are worthy of crunchy debate, but the author fails to put his case convincingly. His position is that a snapshot of local retailers suggests consumers are not concerned about the health risks of cheese and meat – but economics may not correlate with attitudes.

Questioning his first point: how long has the Heart’s Delight been selling cheese? Perhaps longer than ten years? The store’s opening focus on wholegrains and organic produce may have coalesced out of the hippy movement, rather than the health boom; in this case, the store’s marketing strategy is about novelty, not health, and the varieties of cheese on its shelves may simply be a response to a fad.

Similarly, his second source, the success of a steakhouse, also looks at the matter from a questionable perspective. The economic success of one restaurant is no guide to the popularity of a cuisine; the House of Beef may be managed by professional managers and the Good Earth Cafe by well-meaning but confused bohemians. Or perhaps prime beef carries a much higher profit margin at retail. Comparing the two restaurants is comparing oranges and apples. (Or in this case, lentil soup and Porterhouse steaks.)

Finally, have people EVER been concerned about their ‘intake’ of red meat and fatty cheeses? Decades back, the West’s economy was weaker than today; for many people cheese and meat were expensive luxuries. (In 1960s Britain, ‘A chicken in every pot’ was the proud election slogan of a Prime Minister!) If consumers previously showed a preference for carrots and beans over Roquefort and fillet mignon, the decision may have been made by their pockets rather than their stomachs.

To sum up, a long economic boom in the West has led to higher disposable incomes and greater consumer choice. (Outside France and Italy, how many varieties of cheese were even obtainable on any 1960s High Street?) This increased choice may well have led to higher consumption of animal fats; it may even be attributable to a decline in concerns over health. But the pieces of evidence the author presents do not add weight to his argument. Correlation is not causation.

FAULTS: Quite a good essay; it uses more concrete language (naming cheeses and meats rather than using generic nouns, to add colour) and each point adds weight to the case against. But am I more concerned with beating the author up, rather than examining his evidence? Something to watch. I’ll give myself a 5.


Directions: In this section, you will need to analyze the issue presented below and explain your views on it. The question has no “correct” answer. Instead, you should consider various perspectives as you develop your own position on the issue. Read the statement and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response.

“The rise of multinational corporations is leading to global homogeneity*. People everywhere are beginning to want the same products and services, and regional differences are rapidly disappearing.” *homogeneity: sameness, similarity

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above. Support your point of view with reasons and/or examples based on your own experiences, your observations, or your reading.

It’s true that many High Streets look remarkably similar these days: a Gap, a Starbucks, a Barclays. And the business pages contain the same global names: Microsoft, Nike, CNN. But these world-girdling corporations are also driving economic expansion – and in a growing economy, variety and freshness can thrive.

Global names expand opportunities for smaller businesses, by creating an environment in which the niche and the customised can find markets. When Howard Schultz opened the first Starbucks, the idea of paying $3 for a coffee – let alone choosing from six bean-growing nations or an extra shot of espresso – seemed absurd. Yet a billion consumers have since been educated to appreciate great coffee. And the number of specialist coffee houses has grown massively on the back of this trend.

Similarly, would the world’s £67bn software industry exist without Microsoft? Like it or hate it, Windows provides a standard platform on which innovation can grow. If the market for a software application runs to 400 million people – rather than a hodgepodge bunch of enthusiasts all running different operating systems – that software application becomes a viable business, with a greater chance of attracting venture capital funding and motivated people.

And global corporations aren’t just about products; they’re about people, too. Global businesses create worldwide standards for jobs, professional qualifications, languages. Go to China for hardware engineers, India for software developers – they’ll all speak English, but none of them have lost their knowledge of Mandarin and Hindi to do so. Global corporations don’t necessarily crowd out local skills; in many cases they add to them, by providing people with economic opportunities their parents never had. The world’s middle class is growing rapidly, and that means more customers… for businesses of all sizes.

In summary: I believe the influence of global business is far from homogenising. They may take a large share of the pie, but in doing so, they grow the pie itself, providing a slice for the local, the fresh, and the new. Innovation thrives at the edges, and global corporations provide the platform without which that edge wouldn’t exist.

FAULTS: Ouch, ‘without which’ in the last para – should have fixed that. But using plenty of brand names makes this essay nice and concrete. I’m pretty sure this’d get a 6.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 12 (analysing day 11)

Another 690. Lesson learned today: a bottle of red the night before, followed by doing the test at 5am since I’ve got no other slot available, does not contribute to a higher GMAT score. 108 questions, 52 quant and 56 verbal, and 11 wrong maths and 5 English errors giving with corrected raws of 38Q/50V.


A Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient.
B Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient.
C BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
D EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.
E Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.

If √d is a positive integer, is d greater than 15?

(1) d is divisible by 25.
(2) d is divisible by 40.

I chose B, but it’s a silly mistake. Statement 1 means d could be anything: 25, 50, 75, 100… and Statement 2 says basically the same thing, but that d could be 40, 80, 120, 160 and so on, some of which root to less than 15. Rattled I got this wrong, especially when a 700 GMAT was only a point away.

What is the value of 2x^2 + 4y?

(1) x = 3
(2) x^2 + 2y = 17

I got it wrong with D, despite discounting Statement 1, knowing x alone doesn’t say much about y. But statement 2 actually restates 2x^2 + 4y (just halved in value) and gives the solution: 17, meaning the equation in the question must equal 34. B is the answer. Silly mistake again.

Is | x + 2 | < 3?

(1) x < 1
(2) x > -5

Another silly error. I chose A. Thinking that x must be less than 1 ( x -5, there are three possible positions, -4, -3, -2, which is a range of 3.) Grrr, another daft mistake. The answer is C.

If n is a positive integer, what is the tens digit of n?

(1) The hundreds digit of 10n is 6.
(2) The tens digit of n + 1 is 7.

I chose E. How many more daft mistakes am I going to make today? This is a real danger: on the computer-adaptive GMAT, where the difficulty (and therefore scoring potential) of a question depends on what you got right before it, it’s vital to get the easy ones right or the sequence of 37 questions thrown up will contain too many easy ones, lowering your potential for acing it dramatically.

Statement 1 tells us the number 10n is something like 6xx. So n must be between 60 and 69 and the tens digit must be 6. Statement 1 is enough alone. Knowing the tens digit of n+1 is 7 doesn’t help much except in conjunction with statement 1(it means n must be 69, since adding one pushes n into the seventies.) Statement 1 alone can tell us the tens digit of n must be 6. The answer is A.

If y = 3x + 2 and y = – 4 – 6x what is the value of y?

(A) -2/3
(B) 0
(C) 2
(D) 8
(E) 16

Finally a maths question I’m not kicking myself for getting wrong. I chose D and wasn’t sure about it. This pair of simultaneous equations (I need to brush up on sim eqs, but for now let’s substitute) has a trap or two. Would solving the sim eq be faster than substituting, in the heat of the exam?

-2/3 = 3x + 2 so 3x = -2 2/3 and -2/3 = -4 – 6x

If y is -2/3, then 3x = -2 2/3 and -6x = 3 1/3, so A’s out. If y is 0, then 3x = -2 and 6x = -4, so B’s in with a chance. Let’s try C: 3x = 2 and 6x = -4, again a negative making it wrong. D results in 3x = 6 and 6x = -12, negative again. E results in 3x = 14 and 6x = -20, clearly wrong. The answer is B.

How many different groups of 3 people can be formed from a group of 5 people?

(A) 5
(B) 6
(C) 8
(D) 9
(E) 10

I guessed C; too close to the time limit to worry about permutations and combinations. Number of combos of n things taken r at a time is n!/r!(n-r)! That’s 5*4*3*2*1 / 3*2*1(2*1), which is 120 / 6(2), which is 120/12. The answer is E.

In a certain sequence, the term xn is given by the formula xn =2xn-1 – 1/2(xn-2) for all n ≥ 2. If x0=3 and x1=2, what is the value of x3?

(A) 2.5
(B) 3.125
(C) 4
(D) 5
(E) 6.75

I guessed A. Sequences are unfamiliar animals in the GMAT. Let’s see… substituting x3, we get 2 x2 minus a half of x1… so we need to find x2… which, substituting x2, gives 2*1 minus a half of x0 … which is 4 minus 1.5 … 2.5.

Substituting this value of x2 back into the first equation to find out x3, we get 2 x 2.5 – 1.2(2), which is 4. The answer is C, which I didn’t need to look up, but took me more than four minutes to solve.

Fox jeans regularly sell for $15 a pair and Pony jeans regularly sell for $18 a pair. During a sale these regular unit prices are discounted at different rates so that a total of $9 is saved by purchasing 5 pairs of jeans: 3 pairs of Fox jeans and 2 pairs of Pony jeans. If the sum of the two discounts rates is 22 percent, what is the discount rate on Pony jeans?

(A) 9%
(B) 10%
(C) 11%
(D) 12%
(E) 15%

Ran out of time at the end of this section. I chose E. But it’s simple arithmetic: let Fox jeans be f and Pony jeans be p, which means three pairs of Foxes and two pairs of Ponys are 3*15 and 2*18. 3f + 2p = $81 at normal prices. $9 was saved from this $45 and $36, each by discounting less than 22%.

Use my head first: Ponys are a smaller proportion of the total price, so needed a higher discount that Foxs. That suggests A, B, and maybe C won’t work. Let’s see what E would have got: Ponys at 15% off would mean Foxs at 7% off. 7% of $45 + 15% of $36: $3something and $5something, not enough. On to D: 10% off Foxs and 12% off Ponys: $4.50 + $4.32 = still not exact. Can’t be C since they’d never make it a straight 11:11 split, so try B: 12% off Foxes and 10% off Ponys = $5.40 $3.60 = $9. The answer is B after all.

For all integers a, b, c, and d, *(a, b, c, d) is defined as a – b + c – d. What is the value of *(1, 3, 8, 5)?

(A) – 1
(B) 0
(C) 1
(D) 2
(E) 3

I chose D. Of course it’s C: (1-3 + 8-5) = 1. Simple. Another silly mistake.

If x – 3y = – 20, then 2x – 6y =

(A) – 40
(B) – 10
(C) 0
(D) 10
(E) 40

I chose E. The second simple equation just doubles the first, so the answer will double too. It’s A.

If 5 – 6/x = x then x has how many possible values?

(A) None
(B) One
(C) Two
(D) A finite number greater than two
(E) An infinite number

I put E, thinking that x could be anything fractional or decimal and not thinking to move the divisor x across to the other side of the equation. If you rearrange to 5-6 = x^2 then x can only be -1 or 1. It’s C.

That’s a total of EIGHT problems I really should have got right in the quantitative section. Lesson learned: this practice test could so easily have been a 720, just with a slightly higher level of care and a slightly lower level of residual blood/alcohol.


New observations about the age of some globular clusters in our Milky Way galaxy have cast doubt on a long-held theory about how the galaxy was formed. The Milky Way contains about 125 globular clusters (compact groups of anywhere from several tens of thousands to perhaps a million stars) distributed in a roughly spherical halo around the galactic nucleus. The stars in these clusters are believed to have been born during the formation of the galaxy, and so may be considered relics of the original galactic nebula, holding vital clues to the way the formation took place.
The conventional theory of the formation of the galaxy contends that roughly 12 to 13 billion years ago the Milky Way formed over a relatively short time (about 200 million years) when a spherical cloud of gas collapsed under the pressure of its own gravity into a disc surrounded by a halo. Such a rapid formation of the galaxy would mean that all stars in the halo should be very nearly the same age.
However, the astronomer Michael Bolte has found considerable variation in the ages of globular clusters. One of the clusters studied by Bolte is 2 billion years older than most other clusters in the galaxy, while another is 2 billion years younger. A colleague of Bolte contends that the cluster called Palomar 12 is 5 billion years younger than most other globular clusters.
To explain the age differences among the globular clusters, astronomers are taking a second look at “renegade” theories. One such newly fashionable theory, first put forward by Richard Larson in the early 1970’s, argues that the halo of the Milky Way formed over a period of a billion or more years as hundreds of small gas clouds drifted about, collided, lost orbital energy, and finally collapsed into a centrally condensed elliptical system. Larson’s conception of a “lumpy and turbulent” protogalaxy is complemented by computer modeling done in the 1970’s by mathematician Alan Toomre, which suggests that closely interacting spiral galaxies could lose enough orbital energy to merge into a single galaxy.

The passage suggests that Toomre’s work complements Larson’s theory because it

(A) specifies more precisely the time frame proposed by Larson
(B) subtly alters Larson’s theory to make it more plausible
(C) supplements Larson’s hypothesis with direct astronomical observations
(D) provides theoretical support for the ideas suggested by Larson
(E) expands Larson’s theory to make it more widely applicable

I chose E. But Toomre’s 1970’s mathematical modelling doesn’t expand Larson’s theories; Larson may not even have been around at the time, so the timeline doesn’t work. The clue’s in that only one answer relates Larson to Toomre without suggesting the two men had anything to do with each other; it’s not causation, it’s coincidental correlation. It’s D.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the primary economic development strategy of local governments in the United States was to attract manufacturing industries. Unfortunately, this strategy was usually implemented at another community’s expense: many manufacturing facilities were lured away from their moorings elsewhere through tax incentives and slick promotional efforts. Through the transfer of jobs and related revenues that resulted from this practice, one town’s triumph could become another town’s tragedy.
In the 1980’s the strategy shifted from this zero-sum game to one called “high-technology development,” in which local governments competed to attract newly formed high-technology manufacturing firms. Although this approach was preferable to victimizing other geographical areas by taking their jobs, it also had its shortcomings: high-tech manufacturing firms employ only a specially trained fraction of the manufacturing workforce, and there simply are not enough high-tech firms to satisfy all geographic areas.
Recently, local governments have increasingly come to recognize the advantages of yet a third strategy: the promotion of homegrown small businesses. Small indigenous businesses are created by a nearly ubiquitous resource, local entrepreneurs. With roots in their communities, these individuals are less likely to be enticed away by incentives offered by another community. Indigenous industry and talent are kept at home, creating an environment that both provides jobs and fosters further entrepreneurship.

The passage suggests which of the following about the majority of United States manufacturing industries before the high-technology development era of the 1980’s?

(A) They lost many of their most innovative personnel to small entrepreneurial enterprises.
(B) They experienced a major decline in profits during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
(C) They could provide real economic benefits to the areas in which they were located.
(D) They employed workers who had no specialized skills.
(E) They actively interfered with local entrepreneurial ventures.

D was my reluctant choice. With fresh eyes, I see it’s C: that’s the whole point of the passage. A and B and E aren’t backed up, D is only hinted at. It’s C.

In many upper-class Egyptian homes, French was spoken within the family, just as it had once been among the Russian aristocracy.

(A) just as it had once been among the Russian aristocracy
(B) just like it once had been among the Russian aristocracy
(C) just as the Russian aristocracy had once done
(D) similar to what the Russian aristocracy had done once
(E) like what had once been done by the Russian aristocracy

One of those sentence correction questions I hate: a thicket of tortuous verbiage to hack through for sense. I chose B, looking for the agreement of ‘once had been’. But the ‘like’ in B looks clumsy. It’s A.

The failing of the book lies not in a lack of attention to scientific detail but in the depiction of scenes of life and death in the marine world with emotional overtones that reduce the credibility of the work.

(A) depiction of scenes of life and death in the marine world with emotional overtones that
(B) fact that it depicts marine world scenes of life and death as having emotional overtones that
(C) depiction of scenes of life and death in the marine world, whose emotional overtones
(D) depiction of marine world scenes of life and death, which have emotional overtones and thus
(E) fact that it depicts scenes of life and death in the marine world, whose emotional overtones amount of new jobs to be created during the reporting period and the amount of hours to be worked.

My choice: D. More wordy brambles. All the answers are either overly verbose or use pronouns incorrectly: whenever a pronoun could refer to more than one antecedent it’s wrong (as in C and E). Once again it’s unchanged with A.

Four generations of Americans have developed the habit of reading the daily newspapers due to the comic strips being appealing.

(A) due to the comic strips being appealing
(B) because of the appeal of the comic strips
(C) for the fact of the comic strips’ appeal
(D) as a result of the comic strips having appeal
(E) since the comic strips were appealing

I chose A. But that doesn’t link comic strip strongly enough to newspapers. C and D sound okay, but both add in extra words (fact, result) that aren’t needed or used in the original. And E changes the sense of the sentence to make the comic strips sound incidental rather than central. It’s B.

So: lots of silly mistakes this test, when I should have scored into the 700s. Must. Concentrate. More.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 11 (result: 690)

Another 690! That shows what rushing your review of wrong answers gets you. In other words, it’s time to knuckle down and study some algebra instead of winging it. (OK, I haven’t really hit the books yet, trying to ‘learn’ by going over questions instead.) Here are the essays; analysis of wrong ‘uns tomorrow.

Analysis of an issue

Directions: In this section, you will need to analyze the issue presented below and explain your views on it. The question has no “correct” answer. Instead, you should consider various perspectives as you develop your own position on the issue. Read the statement and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response. Begin writing your response on the separate answer document. Make sure that you use the answer document that goes with this writing task.

“Everywhere, it seems, there are clear and positive signs that people are becoming more respectful of one another’s differences.” In your opinion, how accurate is the view expressed above? Use reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading to develop your position.

Race relations legislation. Religious hatred laws. Company diversity policies. It’s certainly true that people are more aware than ever of race, faith, and gender differences. But does this increased awareness really equal increased respect? I’d like to think so – but I fear the opposite’s the case.

Take the thicket of race relations bills that occupies so much legislative energy. In Britain, fewer than two hundred ‘racially motivated attacks’ are reported to police each year – most of them relating to minor jostling or namecalling. Does such a thankfully small problem really warrant the thousands of hours spent each year on ‘diversity issues’ by politicians, public servants, and business people? Even small companies spend thousands of pounds on ‘diversity training’. In my opinion, this does not signify increased respect for differences – rather, it signifies the fear of being perceived as politically incorrect. Such legislative overkill may reduce respect between people of different races in the long run.

In a similar vein, religious hatred laws often seem to close down debate and limit freedom of speech, rather than make life safer for religious people. If someone’s religious faith is secure, doesn’t that mean it’s capable of taking the odd bit of criticism? Many people who don’t follow a faith are regularly made to feel intimidated by those demanding ‘respect’ for whatever private beliefs they hold – people emboldened by well-meant but misguided laws. Again, the ‘clear and positive signs’ seem to signal awareness of differences, not respect for them.

Finally, this raised awareness can all too often be interpreted as favouritism, rather than equality. The vast ‘diversity industry’ that styles itself as the arbiter of all that’s correct tends to be quick to take offence, to see insult in everything in order to justify its own existence (and frequently public funding.) Again, this drives resentment among non-prejudiced people who are constantly being told their actions ‘might be seen as discriminatory’ by some undefined person, somewhere.

In summary, I believe that diversity isn’t best served by constantly drawing attention to our differences. Respect could better be built by fostering an awareness of what we have in common, not what keeps us apart. I’m interested in you as an individual, and don’t particularly care about your race/colour/religion. Stop trying to MAKE me care!

UPDATE 29 May 2007: This essay prompt, by a 1-in-15 or so chance (there are a total of 285 essay prompts in the GMAT pool, and I’ve done about 10 in practice) actually appeared as one of my essays in the real GMAT! Where it showed, incidentally, that there’s no point in learning the list of essay subjects; for me, having tackled this prompt before actually proved a handicap, since I was trying to remember what I’d written in practice rather than apply my reasoning in real time. At least I still aced it.

FAULTS: Hmmm, am I on a soapbox here? I think I tackle the point okay, but trying to recontextualise the point as about awareness rather than respect may be going a bit far. I’ll score myself a 5.

Analysis of an argument

Directions: In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented below. You are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject. Read the argument and the instructions that follow it, and then make any notes in your test booklet that will help you plan your response. Begin writing your response on the separate answer document. Make sure that you use the answer document that goes with this writing task.

The following is from a campaign by Big Boards, Inc., to convince companies in River City that their sales will increase if they use Big Boards billboards for advertising their locally manufactured products. “The potential of Big Boards to increase sales of your products can be seen from an experiment we conducted last year. We increased public awareness of the name of the current national women’s marathon champion by publishing her picture and her name on billboards in River City for a period of three months. Before this time, although the champion had just won her title and was receiving extensive national publicity, only five percent of the 15,000 randomly surveyed residents of River City could correctly name the champion when shown her picture; after the three-month advertising experiment, 35 percent of respondents from a second survey could supply her name.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more sound and persuasive, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

Does the choice of an outdoor advertising medium increase public awareness of the product being advertised? Big Boards’ case is reasonable, but far from watertight. The example given – a mediagenic marathon runner, rather than a non-glamorous manufactured product – suggests any local manufacturer interested in advertising should scrutinise Big Boards’ figures further.

Firstly, the runner was in the news anyway. If the ‘extensive national publicity’ surrounding her remained strong during the campaign’s three-month lifetime, it may have boosted public awareness of her name; the 35% of River City residents who recalled it may have been prompted by newspapers or TV reports, not a face plastered across the town’s billboards. Celebrities have higher name recognition than many manufactured products!

Secondly, the quote doesn’t confirm whether the respondents for both surveys were in the same demographic group. Gender, average age, even the time of day a survey was conducted can influence results. A first survey of bored grandparents and a second survey of sports-mad teenagers might have produced the same impressive-looking percentage hike – but would have been completely invalid.

Finally, different media choices work for different classes of product. (And classes of people!) $15m spent on billboards in Australia by a phone company famously got a major advertising agency the sack a few years ago. Further research would be useful on whether any locally manufactured products have ever been advertised on billboards… and what the results were.

However, despite these factors, Big Boards makes a fair claim about billboard advertising being a worthwhile media choice. Correlation is not causation, but nor is advertising an exact science; and for many advertisers, such a strong correlation between a campaign and subsequent awareness of its content would be enough.

FAULTS: Despite the dream subject (my home turf, advertising) I was struggling to find things to say here; is it a bit repetitive? I’ve nailed the main point against the argument, but it was an easy one which won’t excite any examiner. No typos, though, so the computer will probably give it a 6 for variety; I’m guessing the human marker would give me a 5.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 10 (analysing day 9)

My fifth GMAT practice, and I’m still on target. A total of 106 questions, 61 verbal (with one ‘not scored’) and 52 quantitative. 5 wrong in sentence correction (oops), 1 wrong in reading comprehension, and 1 wrong in critical reasoning. 11 wrong in maths, of which 4 were data sufficiency and 7 problem solving. Which means proportionately my data sufficiency has improved, suggesting the practice with these questions has paid off. Corrected raw scores of 51V and 38Q lead to my highest simulated score yet, 690.

Problems: I still keep running out of time, having to rush the last few q’s in all sections. But I feel a definite improvement in ‘test taking abilities'; I’m now approaching each question on the basis of the list of answers, rather than ‘working it out’ and seeing if the answer I get is in the list. I’m also resisting my natural urge to complete each problem and get a final result, rather than stopping the moment I have enough info to answer the question. So some good progress yesterday.


If x+y / xy = 1, then y =

(A) x / x-1
(B) x / x+1
(C) x-1 / x
(D) x+1 / x
(E) x

I chose D. I missed a trick: x+y must equal xy, since anything divided by the same thing is 1. So y must equal x+y / x. But that’s not among the answers. The only answer that suggests something ‘taken away’ from x, leaving behind y, is A.

I keep getting algebraic rearrangement questions wrong – need to study these this afternoon, since they should be simple. There must be patterns to these sorts of questions; I’ve tripped up so many times on not knowing what to do with this precise situation of evaluating xy and x+y.

How many integers n are there such that 1 < 5n + 5 < 25 ?

(A) Five
(B) Four
(C) Three
(D) Two
(E) One

I chose C, falling into a trap. Getting rid of the 5, 5n must be less than 20, so n must be less than 4. And 5n must also be greater than -4 (1-5). So the range of integers must be at most 6: -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3. Nothing less than 1 works, since negative integers for n produce results less than 1 when 5 is added. So n can only be 1, 2, 3. Or – my mistake – zero. B is the answer. Lesson learned: 0 is an integer.

In 1985 a company sold a brand of shoes to retailers for a fixed price per pair. In 1986 the number of pairs of the shoes that the company sold to retailers decreased by 20 percent, while the price per pair increased by 20 percent. If the company’s revenue from the sale of the shoes in 1986 was $3.0 million, what was the approximate revenue from the sale of the shoes in 1985?

(A) $2.4 million
(B) $2.9 million
(C) $3.0 million
(D) $3.1 million
(E) $3.6 million

I chose B, with seconds to spare before the time limit. Let’s see: a figure that if decreased by 20% units, each selling at 20% more, equals $3m. That’s $3m = 0.8 x 1.2, which is 0.96. So the 1986 total is 96% of the 1985 total… we’re looking for a figure a bit higher than $3m. The answer is D.

With these questions, it’s necessary to grok precisely what the question’s asking and focus on the sums that’ll get that answer. It’s too easy to tie your brain in knots with these. Need practice; on a GMAT exam today I wouldn’t have got it in time.

What is the value of the two-digit integer x ?

(1) The sum of the two digits is 3.
(2) x is divisible by 3.

I chose C. Statement 1 alone could mean x is 21 or 12, so not enough. Statement 2 alone could mean x is 3, 6, 9, 12…. 21… so even both statements aren’t enough. The answer is E. Should have got this.

Is y = 6 ?

(1) = y^2 = 36
(2) y^2 – 7y + 6 = 0

I chose D. But statement 1 alone isn’t enough; y could be 6 or -6. Statement 2 suggests y is less than 7, since 7y is more than y times y (if y is positive – which it must be, since y^2 must be positive and if y were negative it’d make -7y positive. Three positive terms added together equalling 0? Not likely). So Statement 2 confirms y is positive, making y = 6. C is the answer. Again, should have got this one.

The figure above represents the floor plan of an art gallery that has a lobby and 18 rooms. If Lisa goes from the lobby into room A at the same time that Paul goes from lobby into room R, and each goes through all of the rooms in succession, entering by one door and exiting by the other, which room will they be in at the same time?

(1) Lisa spends 2x minutes in each room and Paul spends 3x minutes in each room.
(2) Lisa spends 10 minutes less time in each room than Paul.

I chose D. You get the same result regardless of whether Lisa and Paul linger for 2 and 3 minutes, or 20 and 30, or days on end, since both quantities are increasing at a linear rate. But in statement 2, we have no idea of how long either is lingering, save that Lisa’s moving faster – a non-linear relationship, so they’ll end up in different rooms depending on how long Paul mooches around. A is the answer.

Remember, there’s no need to work it out; I just needed to establish that the rate at which they move rooms is constant for all values of x. Simple – but I wouldn’t have got this, nor would I have recognised how to solve it in two minutes. Another one for the books this afternoon.

If xy = – 6, what is the value of xy ( x + y )?

(1) x – y = 5
(2) xy^2 = 18

I chose A. Another rearranging algebra question wrong. (Note to self: xy^2 is x times y^2, not the square of xy.) Knowing x-y is 5 and xy = -6 doesn’t tell us what x and y are; just that one of them is negative (because only a minus times a plus is negative). We don’t even know if they’re both integers, so can’t assume they’re 2 and 3. Statement 1 is out.

Is statement 2 alone sufficient? It does tell us y is the negative one, since 18 is positive, which means x and y^2 are positive and y is the only one that could be negative. Knowing 18/x equals y^2 and the original xy = -6 gives us enough. The answer is B. Slow at these, but they’re solvable. Simultaneous equations are my weak point.

If the average (arithmetic mean) of the four numbers K, 2K + 3, 3K – 5 and 5K + 1 is 63, what is the value of K ?

(A) 11
(B) 15 3/4
(C) 22
(D) 23
(E) 25 3/10

I chose B, but should have got this right. K + 2K + 3 + 3K – 5 + 5K + 1 / 5 is 11K-1 = 63 x 4 = 252. Shifting the -1 across, 11K = 253…. quick bit of division… K = 23. The answer is D.

If x + y = a and x – y = b, then 2xy =

(A) (a^2 – b^2) / 2
(B) (b^2 – a^2) / 2
(C) a-b / 2
(D) ab / 2
(E) (a^2 + b^2) / 2

I guessed E. Surprise, another wrong algebra one. It’s a case of expressing 2xy in terms of a and b. First, what does xy equal? That’ll give us the top line of the answer.

Well, we know (x+y)(x-y) must equal ab. Which is the same as x^2 -xy +yx -y^2 = ab. So x^2 -y^2 = ab. That looks just like a^2 – b^2 = xy, so a guess of A would be correct. But I need to learn these properly.

A rectangular circuit board is designed to have width w inches, perimeter p inches, and area k square inches. Which of the following equations must be true?

(A) w^2 + pw + k = 0
(B) w^2 – pw + 2k = 0
(C) 2w^2 + pw + 2k = 0
(D) 2w^2 – pw – 2k = 0
(E) 2w^2 – pw + 2k = 0

More algebra! I chose D, since the width squared minus the perimeter times the width seemed to cancel out. But it was a guess; barely knew how to start on this one, and made the mistake of not substituting numbers. Let’s fix that: say the board is 4 x 6 inches, which makes w = 4, p = 20, and k = 24. Does (A) 16 + 80 + 24 = 0 work? No – and nor can any answer that involves all adding, so C’s out too. (B) gives 16 – 80 + 48, which doesn’t equal zero either; nor does D, 32 – 80 – 48. It must be E, which gives 32 – 80 + 48.

On a certain road 10 percent of the motorists exceed the posted speed limit and receive speeding tickets, but 20 percent of the motorists who exceed the posted speed limit do not receive speeding tickets. What percent of the motorists on the road exceed the posted speed limit?

(A) 10 1/2 %
(B) 12 1/2 %
(C) 15 %
(D) 22 %
(E) 30 %

I chose E, outatime. This question’s badly phrased, so read carefully. The 20% isn’t 20% of all motorists, or even 20% of the 10%; the question means how many drivers broke the speed limit, if 10% of the total got tickets and that 10% is 80% of those who broke it? The answer is 12.5%, which is B. Should have got this one.


In 1527 King Henry VIII sought to have his marriage to Queen Catherine annulled so as to marry Anne Boleyn.

(A) so as to marry
(B) and so could be married to
(C) to be married to
(D) so that he could marry
(E) in order that he would marry

I chose A, but this one’s borderline: strict grammar is the answer, not everyday usage. The sentence raises a conditional, which is only answered by making the second half dependent on the first half, which means D.

Two new studies indicate that many people become obese more due to the fact that their bodies burn calories too slowly than overeating.

(A) due to the fact that their bodies burn calories too slowly than overeating
(B) due to their bodies burning calories too slowly than to eating too much
(C) because their bodies burn calories too slowly than that they are overeaters
(D) because their bodies burn calories too slowly than because they eat too much
(E) because of their bodies burning calories too slowly than because of their eating too much

I chose B. But that implies it’s the body doing the eating, which is slightly wrong: it’s the person. E is too wordy. D satisfies: ‘their’ and ‘they’ make it correct by referring to the same thing, the fat individual.

Because of the enormous research and development expenditures required to survive in the electronics industry, an industry marked by rapid innovation and volatile demand, such firms tend to be very large.

(A) to survive
(B) of firms to survive
(C) for surviving
(D) for survival
(E) for firms’ survival
(E) in order to keep from

I chose A, but it misses an important point: introducing the firm as the subject. B is the answer.

Consumers may not think of household cleaning products to be hazardous substances, but many of them can be harmful to health, especially if they are used improperly.

(A) Consumers may not think of household cleaning products to be
(B) Consumers may not think of household cleaning products being
(C) A consumer may not think of their household cleaning products being
(D) A consumer may not think of household cleaning products as
(E) Household cleaning products may not be thought of, by consumers, as

I got E. ‘Think of … to be’ isn’t a grammatically correct construction, so eliminate A. B creates ambiguity over whether it’s the substances or consumers that are hazardous. C is wrong too, since it lacks agreement between the singular ‘consumer’ and the plural possessive ‘their’. D is left over, and must be correct.

Manifestations of Islamic political militancy in the first period of religious reformism were the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in the Sudan, and the victory of the Usuli “mujtahids” in Shiite Iran and Iraq.

(A) Manifestations of Islamic political militancy in the first period of religious reformism were the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in the Sudan, and
(B) Manifestations of Islamic political militancy in the first period of religious reformism were shown in the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in the Sudan, and also
(C) In the first period of religious reformism, manifestations of Islamic political militancy were the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, of the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in the Sudan, and
(D) In the first period of religious reformism, manifestations of Islamic political militancy were shown in the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in the Sudan, and
(E) In the first period of religious reformism, Islamic political militancy was manifested in the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, and the Mahdi in the Sudan, and in

Bloody hell, what a question! I chose A. All the choices sound wrong to me; it’s a case of picking the least worst. E is clumsy, but it’s the only one that makes clear distinctions between the terms separated by commas, by using ‘and in’ at the end. The (hard) answer is E.

It was once assumed that all living things could be divided into two fundamental and exhaustive categories. Multicellular plants and animals, as well as many unicellular organisms, are eukaryotic – their large, complex cells have a well-formed nucleus and many organelles. On the other hand, the true bacteria are prokaryotic cells, which are simple and lack a nucleus. The distinction between eukaryotes and bacteria, initially defined in terms of subcellular structures visible with a microscope, was ultimately carried to the molecular level. Here prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells have many features in common. For instance, they translate genetic information into proteins according to the same type of genetic coding. But even where the molecular processes are the same, the details in the two forms are different and characteristic of the respective forms. For example, the amino acid sequences of various enzymes tend to be typically prokaryotic or eukaryotic. The differences between the groups and the similarities within each group made it seem certain to most biologists that the tree of life had only two stems. Moreover, arguments pointing out the extent of both structural and functional differences between eukaryotes and true bacteria convinced many biologists that the precursors of the eukaryotes must have diverged from the common ancestor before the bacteria arose.
Although much of this picture has been sustained by more recent research, it seems fundamentally wrong in one respect. Among the bacteria, there are arganisms that are significantly different both form the cells of eukaryotes and from the true bacteria, and it now appears that there are three stems in the tree of life. New techniques for determining the molecular sequence of the RNA of organisms have produced evolutionary information about the degree to which organisms are related, the time since they diverged from a common ancestor, and the reconstruction of ancestral versions of genes. These techniques have strongly suggested that altough the true bacteria indeed from a large coherent group, certain other bacteria, the archaebacteria, which are also prokaryotes and which resemble true bacteria, represent a distinct evolutionary branch that far antedates the common ancestor of all true bacteria.

The author’s attitude toward the view that living things are divided into three categories is best described as one of

(A) tentative acceptance
(B) mild skepticism
(C) limited denial
(D) studious criticism
(E) wholehearted endorsement

I chose E. It can’t be B, C, or D, since he’s clearly supporting the point of three categories; A or E are the only options. He’s not roaring with support – this is a scientific passage, not a lawyer’s advocacy – so it’s A.

Roland: The alarming fact is that 90 percent of the people in this country now report that they know someone who is unemployed.
Sharon: But a normal, moderate level of unemployment is 5 percent, with 1 out of 20 workers unemployed. So at any given time if a person knows approximately 50 workers, 1 or more will very likely be unemployed.

Sharon’s argument relies on the assumption that

(A) normal levels of unemployment are rarely exceeded
(B) unemployment is not normally concentrated in geographically isolated segments of the
(C) the number of people who each know someone who is unemployed is always higher than 90% of the population
(D) Roland is not consciously distorting the statistics he presents
(E) Knowledge that a personal acquaintance is unemployed generates more fear of losing one’s job than does knowledge of unemployment statistics

I chose D. But in fact Sharon’s assertion doesn’t rely at all on whether Roland’s got his facts right: her stated principle exists independently. A and E are irrelevant, and C tries to tie her down to a 90% number, which she’s not asserting. B is left over, and does have a bearing on Sharon’s argument: if unemployment were only high in a few geographical areas, there’s a high chance that many people wouldn’t know anyone without a job.

So: learnt some new things, on this test. If I hadn’t made silly mistakes and wasn’t so poor at algebraic stuff, there are at least nine questions here I could have scored, which would have put me up to 730. Got to hit GMAT for Dummies – hard.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 9 (result: 690)

Whew, that was close. By one raw-adjusted point, I hit 690, maintaining my target of rising 10 points each practice test. I’m making fewer maths errors – my critical eye for question types is starting to become experienced – but dropped a few on the verbals. This test seemed more difficult than the last.

Today’s essay practice:

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared as part of an article in the business section of a local newspaper.

‘Motorcycle X has been manufactured in the United States for over 70 years. Although one foreign company has copied the motorcycle and is selling it for less, the company has failed to attract motorcycle X customers – some say because its product lacks the exceptionally loud noise made by motorcycle X. But there must be some other explanation. After all, foreign cars tend to be quieter that similar American-made cars, but they sell at least as well. Also, television advertisements for motorcycle X highlight its durability and sleek lines, not its noisiness, and the ads typically have voice-overs or rock music rather than engine-roar on the sound track.’

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In explaining your point of view, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. Also discuss what, if anything, would make the argument more sound and persuasive, or would help you to better evaluate its conclusion.

The argument as presented is incomplete – and therefore poorly reasoned. The author implies that engineering is the only factor affecting a motorcycle buyer’s decision. Yet the decision to buy a motorcycle – indeed, any consumer product – depends at least in part on something else: its brand image.

Motorcycle X has been around for seven decades; it has weathered wars, recessions, and cheaper Asian imports. Its buyers may value their machines at least partly for the romance of this story. Even if the copy is of equal engineering excellence, the copy will find it hard to compete with the original; perhaps a bike can be duplicated, but a fascinating company history can’t. Yet the author fails to take this into account.

Similarly, engine noise alone is attractive only in the context of brand personality. The USA’s Harley-Davidson, for example, has patented its machines’ exhaust roar, so obviously a distinctive engine note has value. However, even if a copy could reproduce the Harley engine note exactly, it would be unlikely to attract true Harley buyers – because a strong brand image builds customer loyalty. Customer are buying the lifestyle evoked by the engine note, not how loud it is.

Nor is the author’s argument advanced by the reference to quieter cars. Cars are not motorcycles, and car buyers aren’t motorcycle buyers; a motorcycle buyer isn’t thinking about his bike’s practicality for shopping or the school run. The buying decision for a motorcycle is highly emotional. (If the author narrowed his argument to refer to sports cars only – also an emotionally-led decision – it might have more validity.) Perhaps advertisements for Motorcycle X concentrate on sleek lines and a rock soundtrack, but both these things also contribute to emotionality, not practicality.

In summary: this argument neglects the importance of brand. In any buying decision where emotion plays a part, brand image cannot be ignored, and so the author’s argument needs to take account of further factors to be valid.

FAULTS: I’d seen this question before, so felt out of sorts writing another essay on the same thing… but it’s not bad for that. But did I not concentrate enough on the core point of the prompt, about engine noise? This should have been an essay about why engine noise means nothing, rather than brand image I think. The last para feels clumsy, but I can’t see any typos. I’ll score myself a 5.

Analysis of an issue

Some employers who recruit recent college graduates for entry-level jobs evaluate applicants only on their performance in business courses such as accounting, marketing, and economics. However, other employers also expect applicants to have a broad background in such courses as history, literature, and philosophy.

Do you think that, in the application process, employers should emphasize one type of background –either specialization in business courses or a more varied academic preparation – over the other? Why or why not? Develop your position by using reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

For a specialised job such as civil engineering or database programming, employers may well benefit from recruiting people with a narrow range of qualifications. But for an entry-level post, where the candidate is expected to develop fresh skills and knowledge on the job, I believe the opposite is true of his background: the broader the better.

This is because the employer is recruiting a person, not a set of qualifications. A candidate’s performance at work is only partly due to her functional competency; results are also dictated by her ability to work with colleagues, to absorb new information, and to make decisions. My view is that a candidate with a broad education – including, perhaps, knowledge of the great ideas of philosophy and literature – is more likely to function effectively in a team than someone with great technical ability but little experience of the world’s rich patterns. Knowledge is one thing; the ability to apply it is another.

Furthermore, my belief here is not limited to entry-level jobs, nor jobs exclusively in the business world. A medical doctor, for example, obviously needs specialist training – but think of the larger part of his job: interacting with patients, reassuring them, understanding their fears. A broad knowledge of the world will allow the doctor to empathise with patients of various cultures and backgrounds. If a patient feels his doctor is taking an interest in him as a human being (rather than as an abstract case study) the patient is likely to feel more positive about his treatment and recovery.

Finally, aside from any employer goal, the job seeker himself should value a broad education for the perspective it gives; a broad education results in flexible, well-rounded people. If he’s interested in a range of subjects, he will grow old well-rounded and interesting. And in the intervening decades, his performance at work will be well-rounded and interesting too.

FAULTS: A good essay, I think. I’d have changed the last sentence of the first para though, to ‘I believe the opposite is true: the broader his background, the better’. Taking the ‘entry level’ as my first point, it segues into the broader point about recruitment in general, and ends on a warm note. Can’t see any typos; I’ll score myself a 6 here.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 8 (analysing Day 7)

So, that 680. I’m on target – actually slightly ahead of target. No questions wrong in reading comprehension and critical reasoning; not bad on verbal, just 2 wrong in 56. But I keep running out of time on the maths sections: 16 wrong of 52, and at least 8 of those due to cramming the last few on each section.

Correcting the raw scores (take the number you got wrong, divide by 4, subtract that from the number you got right, then add 0.5 and ignore anything on the right of the decimal point) gives 54V/32Q.(The practice papers I’m doing allow slightly less time than in the real test, and there are more of them, but I hope they’re not easier; I need to practice the difficult ones.)


Is 7 < √n < 8 ?
(1) n > 50
(2) n < 60

Once again, the standard set for data sufficiency is:

A Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient.
B Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient.
C BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
D EACH Statement ALONE is sufficient.
E Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.

I chose E. On a basic misunderstanding: in a sense, this is a critical reasoning question! I thought it was asking the value of n, and it’s not: it’s asking whether 7 is less than the square root of n. We can answer that if we know (from both statements) that n is between 50 and 60. The answer is C.

If a total of 84 students are enrolled in two sections of a calculus course, how many of the 84 students are female?

(1) 2/3 of the students in Section 1 are female.
(2) 1/2 of the students in Section 2 are male.

I chose C here. Again, I missed the sense of the question. Knowing something about each section doesn’t compensate for not knowing how many students were enrolled in each section. It’s E.

The figure above shows the shape of a flower bed. If arc QR is a semicircle and PQRS is a rectangle with QR > RS, What is the perimeter of the flower bed?

(1) The perimeter of rectangle PQRS is 28 feet.
(2) Each diagonal of rectangle PQRS is 10 feet long.

I chose D. But Statement 1 isn’t sufficient, because the perimeter doesn’t give the length and breadth of the rectangle; it’s not square. Nor, despite appearances, does knowing the diagonal. But both together give the answer: the rectangle is a pair of 3:4:5 triangles. C is the answer.

What is the value of y ?
(1) y^2 – 7y +12 = 0
(2) y > 0

I chose A. because statement 1 looks like a solvable equation. But there’s no x term or other equation to make a pair of simultaneous equations, so it’s unsolvable. Which knowing y is positive doesn’t solve. The answer is E, but I’d have got this wrong; my tendency in such cases is to guess things are solvable.

Which of the following procedures is always equivalent to adding 5 given numbers and then dividing the sum by 5?

I. Multiplying the 5 numbers and then finding the 5 th root of the product.
II. Adding the 5 numbers, doubling the sum, and then moving the decimal point one place to the left.
III. Ordering the 5 numbers numerically and then selecting the middle number.

(A) None
(B) I only
(C) II only
(D) III only
(E) I and III

These variants of data sufficiency are HARD. I chose A. Looking again, III can’t be true, since we don’t know if the numbers are sequential or evenly spaced (or even integers.) As for I though – that sounds promising… on second thoughts, no it isn’t; the 5th root of anything is really, really small. That leaves II. Let’s test: 2,3,4,5,6… 20… 40… 4. II is deceptively complex-looking; it’s actually finding a fifth of the total, just like adding them all and dividing by 5. (Doubling anything then moving the decimal point one place left is the same as dividing by 5.) The answer is C.

If a 3-digit integer is selected at random from the integers 100 through 199, inclusive, what is the probability that the first digit and the last digit of the integer are each equal to one more than the middle digit?

(A) 2/225
(B) 1/111
(C) 1/110
(D 1/100
(E) 1/50

Aha, probability. I guessed B. Let’s choose a random number: 136. The first digit has a 1 in 10 chance of being higher than the middle digit; so does the last. It can’t be that simple, surely? Isn’t there some matrix problem here, where the probability of the middle digit being high decreases the probability of the first and last digits beating it? No there isn’t; the clue is that would take too much calculation for a two-minute question. It’s D.

Mr. Kramer, the losing candidate in a two-candidate election, received 942,568 votes, which was exactly 40 percent of all the votes cast. Approximately what percent of the remaining votes would he need to have received in order to have won at least 50 percent of all the votes cast?

(A) 10%
(B) 12%
(C) 15%
(D) 17%
(E) 20%

I chose E, thinking if he needs another 10% of 100%, he needs 20% of 50%, tying myself in needless (and wrong) knots. But of course it’s D. Of the 60% remaining votes, he needs to gain 10 percentage points or 10/60, which is 1/6 or approximately 17%. The clues: ‘approximately’ and the awkward 942,568, which suggests there’s no calculation involved here.

– 2 < x < 4 ?

(A) x – 2 < 4
(B) x – 1 < 3
(C) x + 1 < 3
(D) x + 2 < 4
(E) None of the above

I chose D. But simple substitution works. If -2 is less than x, then x+2 is more than 0 and less than 6. Which rules out A and D. x – 1 must be one less than 4. It’s B. Again, simple stuff – but I slipped up.

If the average (arithmetic mean) of 5 positive temperatures is x degrees Fahrenheit, then the sum of the 3 greatest of these temperatures, in degrees Fahrenheit, could be

(A) 6x
(B) 4x
(C) 5x/3
(D) 3x/2
(E) 3x/5

I chose E. Clue: what the temp ‘could be’, not ‘what it is’. Again, an easy question if you spot the twist. The sum of 3 average temps will be 3x, but that’s not an answer. It does, however, rule out C, D, and E for being too small. A or B? Well it can’t be 6x, since we only had 5 temps to add. It’s B.

In a marketing survey for products A, B, and C, 1,000 people were asked which of the products, if any, they use. The three circular regions in the diagram above represent the numbers of people who use products A, B, and C, according to the survey results. Of the people surveyed, a total of 400 use A, a total of 400 use B, and a total of 450 use C.

What percent of the people surveyed use product A or product B or both, but not product C ?

(A) 12.5%
(B) 17.5%
(C) 30%
(D) 40%
(E) 60%

I chose E. Because with 400 people in set A and another 400 in set B, with 200 common (125+75) leaves 600 of the 1000. But 125 + 75 + 100 of those are in set C (with the 75 previously included), so that’s wrong.

75 people (400 – 125+125+75) use A exclusively. 100 people (400 – 125+75+100) use B exclusively. A further 125 use A and B. That’s all we need; everyone else uses C. 300 people. The answer is C.

The equation M+6 / 36 = P-7 / 21 relates two temperature scales. Where M is the number of degrees on one scale and P is the number of degrees on the other scale. Which of the following equations can be used to convert temperatures from the P scale to the M scale?

(A) M = 7/12 P + 13
(B) M = 7/12 P + 21
(C) M = 12/7 P -12
(D) M = 12/7 P – 13
(E) M = 12/7 P -18

OK, a hard one. I chose A. So what do I do to isolate M? Get rid of the 36 first… 36(p-7)/21… equals (36p-252) / 21… which cancels down to 36/21 p – 252/21, ending up with 12/7p – 12. Now add in the -6 to the -12, giving -18. The answer is E.

The incomplete table above shows a distribution of scores for a class of 20 students. If the average (arithmetic mean) score for the class is 78, what score is missing from the table?

(A) 73
(B) 75
(C) 77
(D) 79
(E) 81

I chose E. Haha. Great ‘trap’ question. They want you to forget about the weighting effect of the number of students scoring each number. E would be correct if only one student scored each number. This question tests speed of mental arithmetic. Let’s see if I can do it in under two minutes:

First, work out the total aggregate scores: 415, 420, 276, x, 64. Add them together: 1175. Now work out the total aggregrate: 78 x 5, which is 1560. Subtract: leaving 385 (whoops, easy to make the mistake it’s 375.) Which of the answers divides neatly into 385? It’s 77, which is C. This calculation took me under a minute – so if I’d just paced the test, I’d have been fine.

Here’s where I started to run out of time; the next 4 questions, all of which I got wrong, are largely guesses.

Carl drove from his home to the beach at an average speed of 80 kilometers per hour and returned home by the same route at an average speed of 70 kilometers per hour. If the trip home took 1/2 hour longer than the trip to the beach, how many kilometers did Carl drive each way?

(A) 350
(B) 345
(C) 320
(D) 280
(E) 240

I guessed B. Let’s do this by substituting numbers, taking the middle value first. 320km at 80km/h will take 4 hours. How far does 4.5 hours at 70 take Carl? 315km. Not far enough. Try D. He’ll travel 280km in 3.5 hours at 80, and in 4 hours at 70. Bingo. The answer is D.

If 5x = 6y and xy ≠ 0, what is the ratio of 1/5x to 1/6y?

(A) 25/6
(B) 36/25
(C) 6/5
(D) 5/6
(E) 25/36

Another brilliant question to tie your brain in knots. I chose C after a vague guess the ratio would be a higher to a lower, ruling out D and E. Put in some numbers instead: x= 6, making y = 5. So x is 6/5y. A fifth of x (1 1/5) to a sixth of y (5/6). Get the same denominator: 6/5 and 5/6 = 36/30 to 25/30, which is 36 to 25. Answer B.

The figure above shows a cord around two circular disks. If the radii of the two disks are 80 centimeters and 60 centimeters, respectively, what is the total length, in centimeters, of the cord?

(A) 210 ∏
(B) 210 ∏ + 280
(C) 280 ∏
(D) 280 ∏ + 80
(E) 280 ∏ + 280

More fun. 2 x Pi’ing both radii to get the perimeters of the circles then adding 2 lengths of 80cm and 2 lengths of 60 cm to account for the connecting bits, I hurriedly chose E. Which if I’d had time to think, assumes there’s a length of cord around the entire circumference of the discs, which is wrong: the cord clearly lifts away in the centre. And because it lifts away at a tangent, the amount of perimeter uncovered on each disc is precisely a quarter, making it not 280∏ + 280, but 210∏ + 280. B is correct.

If x, y, and z are positive integers and 3x = 4y = 7z, then the least possible value of x + y + z is

(A) 33
(B) 40
(C) 49
(D) 61
(E) 84

Straightforward, but out of time I chose A. Instantly, you need the lowest common denominator of 3, 4, and 7, which is 84. 3 x 28 = 4 x 21 = 7 x 12. Lowest possible value of these three: 61. It’s D.


Two sentence correction errors:

Like the color-discriminating apparatus of the human eye, insects’ eyes depend on recording and comparing light intensities in three regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

(A) insects’ eyes depend on
(B) an insect eye depends on
(C) that of insects depend on the
(D) that of an insect’s eye depends on
(E) that of an insect’s is dependent on the

I chose B. The pedantic reason is that you’re not comparing eyes with eyes; you’re comparing eye apparatus to eye apparatus, so we need to make clear that insects’ eyes aren’t being compared with the machinery within human eyes: it’s the machinery within both being compared. C, D, and E would work – the ‘that’ is the clue – but C doesn’t provide the article being talked about (eye) and E makes it passive voice, always a bad idea on the GMAT. The answer is D.

The computer software being designed for a project studying Native American access to higher education will not only meet the needs of that study, but also has the versatility and power of facilitating similar research endeavors.

(A) but also has the versatility and power of facilitating
(B) but also have the versatility and power to facilitate
(C) but it also has the versatility and power to facilitate
(D) and also have the versatility and power of facilitating
(E) and it also has such versatility and power that it can facilitate

I chose A. Don’t know why: B jumps out at you. ‘Versatility of facilitating’ isn’t good English, so it isn’t A or D; C and E adds an unneeded article ‘it’ and E is too wordy anyway. Initially I rejected B for the ‘have’ – but it needs to be ‘have’ not ‘has’, since it follows on from ‘will’ earlier. B is the answer.

2 sentence correction… but no reading comp or critical reasoning errors! Got to concentrate on maths. One big lesson learned today: I’ve got to start substituting numbers more instead of working things out on the maths section. After all, the answer is there in A-E; multiple choice is about eliminating wrong answers as much as finding right ones.

So, 20 days and 10 practice tests to go. I’m on the way, but from here it gets harder.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 7 (result: 680)

My fourth practice test gave me 680. Also, I scored my first ‘perfect’ sections – reading comprehension and critical reasoning – so I’m up to snuff on 2 of the 5 basic question types (reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning for verbal; problem solving and data sufficiency in quant.)

Here are the essay practices; wrong questions post-mortem’d tommorow.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared in a memorandum from the directors of a security and safety consulting service.

‘Our research indicates that over the past six years no incidents of employee theft have been reported within ten of the companies that have been our clients. In analyzing the security practices of these ten companies, we have further learned that each of them requires its employees to wear photo identification badges while at work. In the future, therefore, we should recommend the use of such identification badges to all of our clients.’

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. You can also discuss what, if anything, would make the argument more sound and persuasive or would help you to better evaluate its conclusion.

This argument confuses correlation with causation. The policy recommendation itself may be sound, but additional research would strengthen the directors’ case. So to properly evaluate the argument’s validity, the following questions should be answered.

First, we need to review the context of that zero-theft-in-six-years statistic. Are all the company’s clients in the same market sector, with broadly similar business models? It’s relatively easy to control theft in a coded-entry office building, but much harder in an open warehouse employing casual workers. (Even if those workers are issued with ID badges.) The argument gains validity if the security firm’s clients share common characteristics, so like can be compared with like.

Second, identification badges alone may not prevent theft; they identify, but they don’t necessarily prohibit anything. Companies mandating the use of badges may well use them as part of a broader security strategy, in conjunction with coded entry doors, CCTV cameras, and plain locks and keys. Without the rest of the infrastructure, badges alone may be useless, and the directors needs to ascertain whether such infrastructure is important.

Third, just how big a problem is employee theft? Company A recording two thefts a month may have twice the problem of Company B, with a single theft each month. But if Company A has four times as many employees, its problem may be negligible. For the recommendation to be valid, it needs to take account of whether the cure is really better than the disease. The cost of an ID badge initiative – in staff unease, administrative overhead, and actual money – may be much higher than dealing with the occasional light-fingered worker. Sour as it may sound to an honest director, many businesses treat a low level of employee theft as a tolerable expense. (The retail sector even has a term for it: ‘shrinkage’, the unexplained difference between stock loaded onto a delivery vehicle and stock placed onto the shelves, often as high as 10%.)

In conclusion: this argument lacks solidity. Statistics without context cannot be used as the basis for a business recommendation, since without such support they’re meaningless. The directors of the security service will need to do more research to present a sound policy recommendation – and so will their clients.

FAULTS: I timed and paced myself well here, having the structure of the essay in place within five minutes and leaving five for proofreading. I can’t see any typos, and there’s a nice flow to it. I think this deserves a 6.

Analysis of an issue

‘As technologies and the demand for certain services change, many workers will lose their jobs. The responsibility for those people to adjust to such change should belong to the individual worker, not to government or to business.’

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your position with specific reasons and/or examples drawn from your reading, your observations, or your own experience.

I agree with the author’s opinion, on the basis it shows a pragmatic attitude towards the realities of today’s global economy. A hundred years ago, when there were only a few industrial powers and most jobs had changed little in generations, government guarantees or laws may have protected workers; in today’s fast-changing world, they often do the opposite.

For the individual worker, a government guarantee fosters complacency; why work hard, if your salary’s secure no matter what? Such beliefs, multiplied by millions of workers, drain businesses of dynamism. In a global economy, where jobs can be exported to the countries that want them most, such an attitude would reduce the worker’s job security, not protect it. In the UK during the 1980s, coal workers tried to force the British goverment to guarantee their jobs: the outcome was that Britain now buys much of its energy overseas, and the mining towns of the Northeast lie in poverty. This is the fundamental reason for workers to take personal responsibility for their livelihoods: nobody else can.

Government guarantees also reduce the number of jobs available, again making the ‘protected’ worker less secure than he might think. One example is France, with jobs so thickly protected there is no incentive for companies to create them. This brake on entrepreneurial expansion has held France’s economy back: for over 25 years its unemployment rate has been above 10%, among the highest in Europe.

Finally, if a worker knows his job is open to competitive pressures and carries no guarantee, he is more likely to develop an individual sense of responsibility – valuable qualities in any citizen. Look across Africa and Asia, the developing world: in every country are millions of hard-working, entrepreneurial people earning enough to feed their families despite great hardships. They work as hard as they can, because there’s no safety net; such people make fewer demands on the public purse, and are genuine contributors to the economy, not parasites on its back.

In conclusion, government guarantees tend to weaken national economies; therefore the individual worker has not only a responsibility, but an obligation to provide for himself, including retraining or relocating if necessary. In doing so, the national economy will grow and provide more opportunities – making it less likely he will ever need a government guarantee. As in other areas of life, taking personal responsibility is the best guarantee of all.

FAULTS: not a bad essay, but for some reason I felt panicky writing it. Is it weak on why the worker should take responsibility, and too heavy on his attitude’s effect on the broader economy? Hmmm. Not sure about this one. I’ll score myself a 5.

Wither the Government?

With John Reid jumping before he gets pushed by Brown, it’s easy to forget that Blair hasn’t actually set a date yet… although it’s all over bar the shouting. This is more good news, setting the scene for a Conservative comeback in two years.

First, Brown hasn’t got many friends with the balls to handle a Cabinet post – actually, Ed Balls is one of the few. And there’s a growing realisation in Labour ranks that they won’t actually be in power much longer. Brown’s Cabinet will be incompetent.

Which brings us to the second problem. Not being a team player, Brown’s decisions will be made by a tiny cabal of (mostly Scottish) people close to him, the same way he co-opted countless government policies by commissioning ‘independent spending reviews’ of other departments’ plans whenever someone had a policy he didn’t like. This will alienate whatever Cabinet he puts together. No Cabinet Minster in a Brown government will be in the job for long.

With last week’s local elections handing another 12 councils to the Tories (and handing Scotland to the SCOTS, what a concept!) he won’t have the power base in town halls that Blair could always rely on. The countrywide network of people able to push things through no longer exists; his decisions won’t have the authority to be carried through or bedded down.

Britain’s hard-pressed middle class – the group of voters that gave New Labour a chance – has now HAD ENOUGH, and won’t fall for the same line again. Taxes are too high, public services offer too little value, and EVERYONE knows it. But with massive spending pledges still in effect from Brown’s Chancellor years, there’s no room to cut taxes to appease us. Brown is trapped.

Finally, with New Labour’s support in freefall, Brown’s favourite tricks – disappearing whenever the heat’s on, sneaking new policies in through the backdoor – will be used even more often, and become even more obvious to the electorate. Making it even less likely that he’ll win a term on his own mandate.

Altogether, a good week for European politics. Conservatism is taking its rightful place as the natural party of government once more.

Sarkozy wins!

Well done Nick! Now France, that most amazing of countries culturally and geographically, will retake its rightful place as a forward-looking economy. At last, Britain will have some competition in Europe, after decades of France on its knees thanks to decades of feckless socialism.

What happens next? Well, the right-wing, American-admiring Sarkozy will abolish the ridiculous web of thickly layered social contracts that stifle employment and act as a disincentive for companies to grow. Then, he’ll attack the spending ministries, and get France’s budget down to something less than suicidal levels. After that he’ll rebuild France’s relations with the USA, and break the backs of the unions. And on Friday, he’ll leave early and relax with a glass of wine. He’s still French, after all.

France today looks a lot like Britain in 1979, with somewhat better food. Assuming Cameron can wing it through the next two horrible years of Gordon Brown, there’s space for an incredible France-UK partnership between Sarkozy and Cameron. The next ten years are going to be interesting…

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 6 (analysing Day 5)

OK, so 670 was a decent score, but numerically I got the most wrong yet – 23 out of 113, 13 out of 52 quant and 10 out of 61 verbal. 1 cr, 4 rc, 5 sentence correction. At least there’s not a ‘bias’ any more: the mistakes are more evenly spread.


A certain college has a student-to-teacher ratio of 11 to 1. The average (arithmetic mean) annual salary for teachers is $26,000. If the college pays a total of $3,380,000 in annual salaries to its teachers, how many students does the college have?

(A) 130
(B) 169
(C) 1,300
(D) 1,430
(E) 1,560

I chose E, and I think it’s a simple arithmetic error. Getting rid of some zeroes, the college’s wage bill is 3380 and salaries 26; 3380/26 = 130. Multiply by 11 = 1430. Should have got this.

If the operation . is defined for all a and b by the equation a . b = a^2 b / 3, then 2 . (3 . -1) =

(A) 4
(B) 2
(C) -4/3
(D) – 2
(E) – 4

I chose A. Can any of the four operators, + * / -, make 2 . (3 . -1) equal to any of the answers? If it’s ‘add’, then 2 . (3 . -1) gives 4, answer A. If it’s ‘subtract’, ‘multiply’, or ‘divide’, 2 . (3 . -1) equals -2, -6, or -2/3. So it’s A or D. A’s not bad for a guess – but wrong nonetheless. The correct answer is E. Why? Because the question asks you to look at the letters, not the numbers. You can’t assume the symbol is any of the basic operators.

I see no way of solving this, and I’d definitely have got the question wrong. Add ‘missing operator questions’ to my list of conundrums.

A factory that employs 1000 assembly line workers pays each of these workers $5 per hour for the first 40 hours worked during a week and 1½ times that rate for hours worked in excess of 40. What was the total payroll for the assembly-line workers for a week in which 30 percent of them worked 20 hours, 50 percent worked 40 hours, and the rest worked 50 hours?

(A) $180,000
(B) $185,000
(C) $190,000
(D) $200,000
(E) $205,000

I chose E, probably still in a whirl from the previous question. But it should be easy. All 1000 of them worked 20 hours ($5 x 20 x 1000 = $100,000), 70 percent worked a further 20 hours up to the 40 limit ($5 x 20 x 700 = $70,000) and 20 percent worked another 10 hours on top at 1.5 times rate ($7.5 x 10 x 200 = $15,000). The answer is B.

If x ≠ 2, then 3x^2(x-2)-x+2 / x-2 =

(A) 3x^2 – x + 2
(B) 3x^2 + 1
(C) 3x^2
(D) 3x^2 – 1
(E) 3x^2 – 2

I chose E. But there’s a clue in those (x-2) terms. Dividing 3x^2(x-2) by (x-2) gives plain 3x^2. I forgot to do the same to the other term and divide -x+2 by x-2, which gives -1 (x divided by x) and -1 (+2 divided by -2). -1-1 = -2. There’ll be a -2 at the end of our answer. Which is E.

1/2 / 1/4 + 1/6 =

(A) 6/5
(B) 5/6
(C) 5/24
(D) 1/5
(E) 1/12

Why did I get this wrong with C? It’s simple converting bases: to 6/12 / 3/12 + 2/12, which is 6/12 / 5/12. The answer’s easy: it must be greater than 1, since 6/12 is greater than the number we’re dividing it by. The only answer fitting that description is A.

Machines A and B always operate independently and at their respective constant rates. When working alone, machine A can fill a production lot in 5 hours, and machine B can fill the same lot in x hours. When the two machines operate simultaneously to fill the production lot, it takes them 2 hours to complete the job. What is the value of x ?

(A) 3 1/3
(B) 3
(C) 2 1/2
(D) 2 1/3
(E) 1 1/2

I got B. But the maths is simple: A fills at 1/5 every hour, B fills at x every hour, and A+B together fill at 1/2 every hour. So A = 0.2, B = x, and A+B = 0.5. B = 0.3, which means B will take 3 1/3 hours to fill working alone. The answer is A.

I got the next 2 questions correct, but I don’t know why, so I’m reviewing them here.

What is the units digit of (13)^4 (17)^2 (29)^3 ?

(A) 9
(B) 7
(C) 5
(D) 3
(E) 1

I guessed E, which is correct, but what is a ‘units digit’? Basic stuff: it’s the figure on the immediate left of the decimal point. Aha – all those numbers are primes, so it doesn’t matter about the exponents; all the results will be divisible only by 13, 17, and 29. But if I cheat with a calc, the actual number doesn’t have a 1 next to the decimal point. This question’s a rogue.

The shaded region in the figure above represents a rectangular frame with length 18 inches and width 15 inches. The frame encloses a rectangular picture that has the same area as the frame itself. If the length and width of the picture have the same ratio as the length and width of the frame, what is the length of the picture, in inches?

(A) 9√2
(B) 3/2
(C) 9/√2
(D) 15(1- 1/√2)
(E) 9/2

I chose A, and here’s why. The exposed part of the frame has the same area as the smaller rectangle; in other words, the backing rectangle has twice the area of the fronting rectangle. 18 x 15 is 270, so half that is the smaller rectangle’s area, 135. What number multipled by a bit less than itself gets close to that?

Not B, which is 1.5; not C, which is about 40; not D, which is tiny (5 or so.) or E. A is the only possible option.

OK, now back to the ones I got wrong…

Pat will walk from intersection X to intersection Y along a route that is confined to the square grid of four streets and three avenues shown in the map above. How many routes from X to Y can Pat take that have the minimum possible length ?

(A) Six
(B) Eight
(C) Ten
(D) Fourteen
(E) Sixteen

I chose A, having run out of time on this one, but it’s about domains and ranges. The minimum walk is 5 blocks (check a couple and see); so the question is: how many walks of 5 blocks are in the set of all walks between 4 streets and 3 avenues?

It isn’t A, because I can count eight without doing any maths. But I’m not sure how to apply the equations to this problem, so I need more work on this general area. The correct answer is C.

A retailer purchased a television set for x percent less than its list price, and then sold it for y percent less than the list price. What was the list price of the
television set?

(1) x = 15
(2) x – y = 5

I chose C. Reasonable guess, but wrong. 1 alone certainly isn’t enough, because it tells us nothing about y (eliminating A) and Statement 2 tells us nothing about x (eliminating B.) But C – that ought to work? x makes a TV listed at $100 bought for $85 and sold at $90?

Wrong – because the $100 I inserted is arbitrary. Nothing here tells us anything about what the list price was, just its percentages. So the answer is E. Kicking myself over this one.

If Sara’s age is exactly twice Bill’s age, what is Sara’s age?

(1) Four years ago, Sara’s age was exactly 3 times Bill’s age.
(2) Eight years from now, Sara’s age will be exactly 1.5 times Bill’s age.

I chose C, missing the fact that Sara is twice as old as Bill today. But in fact there’s another clue this is wrong: both statements are essentially saying the same thing; neither has more info than the other.

Can we work it out? We know s = 2b. Four years ago, s-4 = 3(b-4), which is 3b-12. So s = 3b-8. Since s also equals 2b, 2b = 3b-8. b must be 8, Bill must be 8 and Sara 16 today. (Four years ago, Bill was 4 and Sara 8; all on the level.)

It works for Statement 2 as well. s = 2b and s+8 = 1.5(b+8). So s = 1.5b+12-8. Since s still equals 2b, 2b = 1.5b+4, meaning 4 must be a half of b. 2b = 16, so in eight years Bill will be 16 and Sara 24. Either statement lets us work it out alone, so the answer is D. But remember: you don’t need to work it out. If I can recognise this type of question, and that both statements are saying essentially the same thing, I can mark it D straight away and save precious minutes.

An infinite sequence of positive integers is called an “alpha sequence” if the number of even integers in the sequence is finite. If S is an infinite sequence of positive integers, is S an alpha sequence?

(1) The first ten integers in S are even.
(2) An infinite number of integers in S are odd.

I guessed B. If there are ten even integers in the sequence, there might be an infinite number more, so we don’t know whether there’s a finite number of even integers from 1 alone. Nor can we tell from 2, since the presence of an infinite number of odd integers doesn’t preclude there being an infinite number of evens, too. You can’t tell from this, so it’s E.

If xy > 0, does (x – 1)(y – 1) = 1?
(1) x + y = xy
(2) x = y

I chose C. But FOILing it out gives you xy -x -y + 1 = 1, which is the same as saying xy – x – y = 0, which is the same as xy = x + y, so statement 1 provides no additional info. But knowing x = y adds something – it’d mean x^2 – 2x +1 must equal 1, which is what the question asks. The correct answer is C: with both statements we can solve it.

I got the thinking on this totally wrong: again, not paying attention to the question – it’s not asking what x or y is; it’s asking if that equation is equal to 1.

I chose C here, thinking we needed both those digits. But the total’s only 4, so the other two signs can only be 1,2, or 3. They can’t both be 2 (different symbols) so the boat-shape must be 1 and the triangle-shape 3. Statement 1 is enough.

Statement 2, however, tells us nothing about the triangle-shape or the star-shape, and isn’t enough alone. The answer is A.

The table above shows the cancellation fee schedule that a travel agency uses to determine the fee charged to a tourist who cancels a trip prior to departure. If a tourist canceled a trip with a package price of $1,700 and a departure date of September 4, on what day was the trip canceled?

(1) The cancellation fee was $595.
(2) If the trip had been canceled one day later, the cancellation fee would have been $255 more.

I chose B, daftly enough. We don’t need to do any working out here. Statement 1 gives us a range of dates but not the exact date. Statement 2 narrows it down to a single day, adding enough info to let us work out the exact date (but not enough that we could work it out based on statement 2 alone, since more than one range of dates goes up in 15% increments.) The answer is C.


A report on acid rain concluded, ‘Most forests in Canada are not being damaged by acid rain.’ Critics of the report insist the conclusion be changed to, ‘Most forests in Canada do not show visible symptoms of damage by acid rain, such as abnormal loss of leaves, slower rates of growth, or higher mortality.’ Which of the following, if true, provides the best logical justification for the critics’ insistence that the report’s conclusion be changed?

(A) Some forests in Canada are being damaged by acid rain.
(B) Acid rain could be causing damage for which symptoms have not yet become visible.
(C) The report does not compare acid rain damage to Canadian forests with acid rain damage to forests in other countries.
(D) All forests in Canada have received acid rain during the past fifteen years.
(E) The severity of damage by acid rain differs from forest to forest.

I chose D. It’s a reasonable choice, but wrong. At least it’s not A – ‘some’ could mean ‘minimal’ – nor is it C, since this is about Canada only. D hardly supports the critic’s case, since it implies acid rain has caused no damage. And E is wrong; this isn’t about severity. The best choice is B.

Historians of women’s labor in the United States at first largely disregarded the story of female service workers — women earning wages in occupations such as salesclerk, domestic servant, and office secretary. These historians focused instead on factory work, primarily because it seemed so different from traditional, unpaid “women’s work” in the home, and because the underlying economic forces of industrialism were presumed to be gender-blind and hence emancipatory in effect. Unfortunately, emancipation has been less profound than expected, for not even industrial wage labor has escaped continued sex segregation in the workplace.
To explain this unfinished revolution in the status of women, historians have recently begun to emphasize the way a prevailing definition of femininity often determines the kinds of work allocated to women, even when such allocation is inappropriate to new conditions. For instance, early textile-mill entrepreneurs in justifying women’s employment in wage labor, made much of the assumption that women were by nature skillful at detailed tasks and patient in carrying out repetitive chores; the mill owners thus imported into the new industrial order hoary stereotypes associated with the homemaking activities they presumed to have been the purview of women. Because women accepted the more unattractive new industrial tasks more readily than did men, such jobs came to be regarded as female jobs. And employers, who assumed that women’s “real” aspirations were for marriage and family life, declined to pay women wages commensurate with those of men. Thus many lower-skilled, lower-paid, less secure jobs came to be perceived as ‘female.’
More remarkable than the origin has been the persistence of such sex segregation in twentieth-century industry. Once an occupation came to be perceived as ‘female,’ employers showed surprisingly little interest in changing that perception, even when higher profits beckoned. And despite the urgent need of the United States during the Second World War to mobilize its human resources fully, job segregation by sex characterized even the most important war industries. Moreover, once the war ended, employers quickly returned to men most of the ‘male’ jobs that women had been permitted to master.

Which of the following best describes the relationship of the final paragraph to the passage as a whole?

(A) The central idea is reinforced by the citation of evidence drawn from twentieth-century history
(B) The central idea is restated in such a way as to form a transition to a new topic for discussion.
(C) The central idea is restated and juxtaposed with evidence that might appear to contradict it.
(D) A partial exception to the generalizations of the central idea is dismissed as unimportant.
(E) Recent history is cited to suggest that the central idea’s validity is gradually diminishing.

I chose D. Because I didn’t read the question properly: it asks not what the final paragraph does, but about its relationship to the rest of the passage! Well, it’s not B or E – there’s no new topic in sight, nor does it diminish the central idea about women’s gains not being as obvious as you might think – leaving C and A. Nothing’s juxtaposed here, so it’s not C. The answer must be A.

According to a recent theory, Archean-age gold-quartz vein systems were formed over two billion years ago from magmatic fluids that originated from molten granitelike bodies deep beneath the surface of the Earth. This theory is contrary to the widely held view that the systems were deposited from metamorphic fluids, that is, from fluids that formed during the dehydration of wet sedimentary rocks.
The recently developed theory has considerable practical importance. Most of the gold deposits discovered during the original gold rushes were exposed at the Earth’s surface and were found because they had shed trails of alluvial gold that were easily traced by simple prospecting methods.
Although these same methods still lead to an occasional discovery, most deposits not yet discovered have gone undetected because they are buried and have no surface expression.
The challenge in exploration is therefore to unravel the subsurface geology of an area and pinpoint the position of buried minerals. Methods widely used today include analysis of aerial images that yield a broad geological overview; geophysical techniques that provide date on the magnetic, electrical, and mineralogical properties of the rocks being investigated; and sensitive chemical tests that are able to detect the subtle chemical halos that often envelop mineralization. However, none of these high-technology methods are of any value if the sites to which they are applied have never mineralized, and to maximize the chances of discovery the explorer must therefore pay particular attention to selecting the ground formations most likely to be mineralized. Such ground selection relies to varying degrees on conceptual models, which take into account theoretical studies of relevant factors.
These models are constructed primarily from empirical observations of known mineral deposits and from theories of ore-forming processes. The explorer uses the models to identify those geological features that are critical to the formation of the mineralization being modeled, and then tries to select areas for exploration that exhibit as many of the critical features as possible.

According to the passage, the widely held view of Archean-age gold-quartz vein systems is that such systems

(A) were formed from metamorphic fluids
(B) originated in molten granitelike bodies
(C) were formed from alluvial deposits
(D) generally have surface expression
(E) are not discoverable through chemical tests

I chose D, since the whole passage is about the old view of the systems being visible at the surface. Yet the passage clearly states that the widely-held view is that they were deposited from metamorphic fluids. A is correct.

While there is no blueprint for transforming a largely government-controlled economy into a free one, the experience of the United Kingdom since 1979 clearly shows one approach that works: privatization, in which state-owned industries are sold to private companies. By 1979, the total borrowings and losses of state-owned industries were running at about £3 billion a year. By selling many of these industries, the government has decreased these borrowings and losses, gained over £34 billion from the sales, and now receives tax revenues from the newly privatized companies. Along with a dramatically improved overall economy, the government has been able to repay 12.5 percent of the net national debt over a two-year period.
In fact, privatization has not only rescued individual industries and a whole economy headed for disaster, but has also raised the level of performance in every area. At British Airways and British Gas, for example, productivity per employee has risen by 20 percent. At Associated British Ports, labor disruptions common in the 1970’s and early 1980’s have now virtually disappeared. At British Telecom, there is no longer a waiting list –as there always was before privatization –to have a telephone installed.
Part of this improved productivity has come about because the employees of privatized industries were given the opportunity to buy shares in their own companies. They responded enthusiastically to the offer of shares: at British Aerospace, 89 percent of the eligible work force bought shares; at Associated British Ports, 90 percent; and at British Telecom, 92 percent. When people have a personal stake in something, they think about it, care about it, work to make it prosper. At the National Freight Consortium, the new employee-owners grew so concerned about their company’s profits that during wage negotiations they actually pressed their union to lower its wage demands.
Some economists have suggested that giving away free shares would provide a needed acceleration of the privatization process. Yet they miss Thomas Paine’s point that “what we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly.” In order for the far-ranging benefits of individual ownership to be achieved by owners, companies, and countries, employees and other individuals must make their own decisions to buy, and they must commit some of their own resources to the choice.

It can be inferred from the passage that the author considers labor disruptions to be

(A) an inevitable problem in a weak national economy
(B) a positive sign of employee concern about a company
(C) a predictor of employee reactions to a company’s offer to sell shares to them
(D) a phenomenon found more often in state-owned industries than in private companies
(E) a deterrence to high performance levels in an industry

I chose D. Well, he does consider labor disruptions a problem, but doesn’t single out nationalised industries for this treatment. Definitely not B or C – there’s no evidence there – and A is too broad. He does, however, link performance levels clearly to reduced labor disruption, so the answer is E.

Which of the following can be inferred from the passage about the privatization process in the United Kingdom?

(A) It depends to a potentially dangerous degree on individual ownership of shares.
(B) It conforms in its most general outlines to Thomas Paine’s prescription for business ownership.
(C) It was originally conceived to include some giving away of free shares.
(D) It has been successful, even though privatization has failed in other countries.
(E) It is taking place more slowly than some economists suggest is necessary.

I chose B here. A is clearly wrong; there’s no inference about share ownership being risky. So is C; share giveaways aren’t mentioned until the final para. D is wrong, since the passage says nothing about other countries. Between B and E, it seems B infers too much; there’s no suggestion the UK is following Paine’s rules. And although it’s not stated outright, some economists talk about a ‘needed acceleration’, implying they indeed think it’s all going too slowly. E is correct.

Unlike the United States, where farmers can usually depend on rain or snow all year long, the rains in most parts of Sri Lanka are concentrated in the monsoon months, June to September, and the skies are generally clear for the rest of the year.

(A) Unlike the United States, where farmers usually depend on rain or snow all year long, the rains in most parts of Sri Lanka
(B) Unlike the United States farmers who can usually depend on rain or snow all year long, the rains in most parts of Sri Lanka
(C) Unlike those of the United States, where farmers can usually depend on rain or snow all year long, most parts of Sri Lanka’s rains
(D) In comparison with the United States, whose farmers can usually depend on rain or snow all year long, the rains in most parts of Sri Lanka
(E) In the United States, farmers can usually depend on rain or snow all year long, but in most parts of Sri Lanka the rains

I chose A, missing ‘where farmers usually depend on rain or snow’ – implying the Sri Lankans depend on something else. Wrong. In B there are too many the’s. C is just clumsy. D comes close, but implies the rains in some parts of Sri Lanka don’t depend on the monsoons, changing the sense of the sentence. E is correct.

In recent years cattle breeders have increasingly used crossbreeding, in part that their steers should acquire certain characteristics and partly because crossbreeding is said to provide hybrid vigor.

(A) in part that their steers should acquire certain characteristics
(B) in part for the acquisition of certain characteristics in their steers
(C) partly because of their steers acquiring certain characteristics
(D) partly because certain characteristics should be acquired by their steers
(E) partly to acquire certain characteristics in their steers

I chose D. The answer’s got to start with ‘partly’ to agree with the rest of the sentence, so it’s C, D, or E. But C suggests the farmers are being forced to use crossbreeding because their steers are acquiring characteristics (no causal relationship between the two) and D suggests they’re not sure about whether it’ll produce certain characteristics and are just trying it on. E gets the sense right, but this is a hard question – about sense, not strict balance of grammar.

Teratomas are unusual forms of cancer because they are composed of tissues such as tooth and bone not normally found in the organ in which the tumor appears.

(A) because they are composed of tissues such as tooth and bone
(B) because they are composed of tissues like tooth and bone that are
(C) because they are composed of tissues, like tooth and bone, tissues
(D) in that their composition, tissues such as tooth and bone, is
(E) in that they are composed of tissues such tooth and bone, tissues

I chose B. But they’re not composed of tissues ‘like’ tooth and bone; they’re composed of tissues that are tooth and bone. C broadens the definition to all kinds of tissues. D does the same, implying the composition isn’t limited to tooth and bone. E is too wordy, using ’tissues’ twice. A is correct.

Scientists have recently discovered what could be the largest and oldest living organism on Earth, a giant fungus that is an interwoven filigree of mushrooms and rootlike tentacles spawned by a single fertilized spore some 10,000 years ago and extending for more than 30 acres in the soil of a Michigan forest.

(A) extending
(B) extends
(C) extended
(D) it extended
(E) is extending

I chose B, misreading the para. It’s talking in the present continuous, C suggests a passive voice use of ‘to extend’ that isn’t supported in the text. D puts it into past tense; E sounds clumsy by adding that unnecessary ‘is’. It’s A.

The period when the great painted caves at Lascaux and Altamira were occupied by Upper Paleolithic people has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are the reason for their decoration, the use to which primitive people put the caves, and the meaning of the magnificently depicted animals.

(A) has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
(B) has been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is
(C) have been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine is
(D) have been established by carbon-14 dating, but what is much more difficult to determine are
(E) are established by carbon-14 dating, but that which is much more difficult to determine is

I put A. Silly mistake: ‘the reason’ must be followed by ‘is’ not ‘are’. C, D, and E lack subject-verb agreement (‘The period… have’, ‘The period… are’) so it must be B.

Conclusions: whoa, this test is where my lack of methodical maths really made itself evident. I need to hit the books on learning:

- Rote-learn some more rules about proportions of shapes
- Practice adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying algebraic terms
- Practice dividing and multiplying fractions
- Learn where you can cancel algebraic terms and where you can’t
- Learn how to calculate domains and ranges in sets
- Practice more permutations and combinations questions
- Learn how to handle ‘missing operation’ questions
- Properties of prime numbers

Next test tomorrow, and some study before then.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 5 (result: 670)

Time for my third practice test. 113 questions, 52 quant and 61 verbal. 13 wrong quants and 10 wrong verbals – whoooo, slipped up on my English there, although there were more questions in the test. Corrected raw scores of 36 and 49 lead to a combined 85, equalling 670/800. Still on target!

Here’s the pair of essays:

Analysis of an issue

“None of the major problems confronting the world can be contained within the borders of a single country, and no country can, through its own efforts, be protected from these threats. Therefore the United State must work, on an equal basis, with all other countries of the world to try to lessen the impact of the many global threats that confront us in the twenty-first century.”

Discuss whether you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Provide supporting evidence for your views and use reasons and/or examples from your own experiences, observations, or reading.

While I agree with the author’s premise – that global threats need international responses – I disagree with his conclusion: that the USA should work on an ‘equal basis’ with all other countries from Britain to Bhutan. Because solving any complex issue requires leadership as well as collaboration … and for all its faults, the USA is well placed to provide that leadership.

Climate change is one such issue. A six degree rise in average temperature would destroy all plant and animal life on Earth – and on some projections, it’s less than three decades away. Surely the most global issue of all. Americans may be the world’s biggest polluters per head of population, yet this air-conditioner loving, gas-guzzling nation is a leading developer of biofuels and has given birth to the Tesla, an all-electric sports car which can be charged from a normal power socket. By bringing innovative technology to the world, the USA is positioned to offer practical solutions rather than endless talk and hand-wringing.

Islamic terrorism is another such issue. With 500m people educated principally in religious matters rather than the practical subjects that build better economies (over 80% of the curriculum in Saudi Arabia is religious!) the Middle East is a box of dynamite too close to the fire. The European Union, composed of 27 nations with differing beliefs, has been unable to assimilate its large Muslim population – unlike the USA, where most people think of themselves as Americans first. Despite the horrendous mistakes made in recent years – which were, after all, made by a relatively small and now falling number of neoconservatives – the USA can still provide leadership in fighting terrorism, wherever it happens.

In conclusion, I believe that while the USA must work (and think of itself) as part of a team comprising all nations, within that team, it’s the best candidate for the leader’s role.

FAULTS: Too rushed at the end – finished with only 2sec to spare – so not a great last para; the sentences are too clumsy. Climate change and terrorism are the obvious global issues, so no time wasted dreaming up examples. In the third para, I should have explained why Muslims thinking of themselves as ‘Americans first’ is important: i.e. demonstrated that this ability to assimilate is a quality providing useful leadership.

The paragraphs are unusually big by my standards. But I can’t see any typos, and the grammar’s varied and correct. So it’s a reasonable essay that I’d score myself a 4 or 5 for.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared as part of an editorial in a business magazine:

“Studies show that Americans with PhDs in the humanities and social sciences earn less than Americans with MBA degrees. The average amount of time that it takes to earn a PhD in one of these fields is five years after college graduation, while an MBA can be earned in just two or three years. It is, therefore, a waste of time and resources to have some of America’s brightest young people studying subjects such as literature and philosophy when they are destined to earn less money and pay less in taxes than a person with an MBA. The government should discontinue all funds directed towards students pursuing PhDs in the social sciences and humanities since this is a waste of taxpayer money.”

Examine this argument and present your judgement on how well reasoned it is. In your discussion, analyse the author’s position and and how well the author uses evidence to support the argument. For example, you may need to question the author’s underlying assumptions or consider alternative explanations that may weaken the conclusion. You can also provide additional support for or arguments against the author’s position, describe how stating the argument differently makes it more reasonable, and discuss what provisions may better equip you to evaluate its thesis.

This argument is exceptionally poorly reasoned. The author’s position is that money is everything – that the amount of tax a graduate pays over his lifetime is the sole indicator by which the value of a postgraduate degree should be judged. The author completely neglects the non-monetary value of the humanities and those who study them – most notably their contribution to the vibrancy and intellectual culture of the USA, without which MBA programmes would find it much harder to thrive.

The author’s argument fails first at the individual level. For those taking a doctorate in literature or social science, postgraduate salary is less important than the chance to develop great intellectual concepts. Graduates will create and disseminate new insights into the great ideas that underpin civilisations … adding fresh contours to the USA’s intellectual landscape. This is a valuable contribution to the nation – but it is not measured in a tax return form.

The argument also fails at a higher level: that of the US economy as a whole. A broad and diverse aspect to a country’s intellectual life will attract fee-paying students, economy-strengthening businesses, and a high quality of immigrant. In addition, it will equip US citizens (PhDs or not) with the cultural and social knowledge that makes them more effective at their jobs (and hence better able to achieve high salaries and pay high taxes.) All increasing the amount of revenue going to the US government in total.

A country’s intellectual diversity is critical in one final sense: it adds to that country’s standing in the world. The USA’s universities are admired worldwide, and some 40 of the world’s top 50 business schools are within its borders. It can be inferred that top MBA programmes can only exist in parallel with a broad and diverse intellectual life – of which the social sciences and humanities are a part.

The author’s case is poorly reasoned, and does not make the case for abolishing PhD programmes in the softer sciences. MBAs are not everything!

FAULTS: Another one rushed at the end, but I think I get away with it. However, am I banging on about ‘intellectual diversity’ too much and missing other points? I hope not. My fourth para isn’t quite complete; there should be something about how this ‘standing in the world’ creates more money for the US Treasury. The point would have been easy to make: about humanities creating the bedrock for further economic activity.

I don’t see any typos, and I’ve used varied grammar in my sentences. Can I dare to think this would be a 6?

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 4 (analysing Day 3)

Yesterday’s test was under test conditions, so it was good to score 650; shows actual conditions aren’t a big factor for me. 13 wrong quant questions and 3 wrong verbals – pleased with that verbal; more practice means I’m capable of a perfect score there.

But while I hit the 85th percentile on verbal, I’m only beating 55% of test takers on maths: not good. With 14 of the 37 quant questions on data sufficiency (less than might be expected; they’re often about half) and me getting 50% of them wrong, I need to concentrate hard on data sufficiency. It’s symptomatic of the broader personality fault that’s prompting me to try the GMAT in the first place: a tendency to ‘wing it’, trying to get by on native intelligence rather than applied methodology.


Since this was a Kaplan test, I got a nice little report card showing how many questions there were of each type. 23 problem solving, 14 data sufficiency; within this 37 were 2 arithmetic (both of which I got right), 14 algebra (8 right, 6 wrong), 9 on number properties (3 wrong), 5 on proportions (2 wrong), 3 on sets (1 wrong), and 4 on geometry (1 wrong.) So my weak area within data sufficiency is algebra. Here are the data sufficiency options:

(A) if statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(B) if statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(C) if BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient;
(D) if EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked;
(E) if statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed.

And my catalog of errors.

If a > 0, b > 0, and b+y ≠ 0, is a + y / b + y < a / b ?

(1) a < b
(2) y < 0

I chose B. Substituting 1 for a and b gives you the real question, which is can we be sure y is less than 1? (1) doesn’t tell us much – substituting a = 1 and b = 2 gives us whether 1/2y is less than 1/2, the same question. So take (2) and substitute y = -1. Is 0/-1 less than 1/2? It is, and I went no further.

But if you do – substituting a=1, b=2, and y=-3, you get whether -2/-1 is less than 1/2 … which it isn’t, despite the negative signs: it’s 2. (A negative divided by a negative is a positive.) So both statements together aren’t enough. The answer is E.

The operation ** is defined for all a and b by a**b = (a^2 + b)^2. If 2**c = 81 and c>0, then c= :

(a) 1
(b) 2
(c) 3
(d) 4
(e) 5

It asks what you can do to 2 to make it 81. I chose C, since if ** meant ‘raise the next term by the power of the previous digit plus 2′, previous digit to this power’ were the exponent sign, 81 is 3 to the power of 4. Guesswork.

Substituting some numbers, a=2 and b=3, you get a**b = 49. What can you do to 2 and 3 that equals 49? Wild idea: you can square each and put the results side by side, 4 and 9. 2 something 5 is 81. Foxed so far! Need some help on solving this one.

What is the value of st / u ?

(1) s = 3t/4 and u = 2t
(2) s = u-10 and u = s+t+2

I chose E, which is totally wrong. Substituting a few numbers:

Switching around: 4s = 3t. That means 4s also equals 1.5u, since u=2t. So substituting in the question, it asks the value of 3t/4 * t / 2t, which is 3/4 divided by 2. (1) is sufficient.

Looking at (2), the question can be rephrased as (u-10) * (u-s-2) divided by u, which multiplies out to u^2-10u * u^2 * u^2-10u -2u… or something. It’s data sufficiency, you don’t need to work it out – all you need to do is notice that the expression’s reduced to one with a single term in it which cancels itself out. Either statement alone is sufficient. D is correct. I need to practice these.

A local restaurant recently renovated its dining space, purchasing new tables and chairs to use in addition to the originals. The new tables seat 6 customers, while the original tables seat 4 customers. Altogether, the restaurant now has 40 tables and is capable of seating 220 customers. How many more new tables than original tables does the restaurant have?

(a) 10
(b) 20
(c) 30
(d) 34
(e) 36

My choice – C. Wrong-o. But I should have got it: careless, careless. Substituting from the middle value: 30 new tables (all seating 6) would seat 180 people. which would leave 10 old tables, which seat 40. That makes 220. How’s that wrong?

Kaplan gives the answer as B. That’d mean 20 new tables (seating 120 people) and 20 old tables (seating 80.) That’s 200 people. But wait: the question asks for the difference between the number of old and new tables, which is 20! So B is correct. Brilliant question – an instant trap.

If x and y are positive integers, is 2x/y an integer?

(1) All factors of x are also factors of y.
(2) All prime factors of x are also prime factors of y.

My choice was D. Quick test: x is 12 and y is 24, with factors 3, 4, 6, and 12. The result, 1, is an integer.

But prime factors? Let’s try x = 21 (prime factors 3 and 7) and y = 231 (prime factors 3, 7, and 11.) I don’t know what 42/231 is, but it doesn’t sound like an integer, even when reduced to 2/11. Statement 2 can’t hold. A guess of A would have been correct.

The positive integer x has how many different positive factors?

(1) x is a multiple of the same number of positive integers that 7^5 is.
(2) x = a^2 b where a and b are different prime numbers.

I answered E, and it was a guess. Let’s see what I could have done better. I’m not sure what statement 1 is saying; is it saying x is equal to 7^5? It doesn’t seem so. I assume there’s a rule I’m unaware of: where two numbers are multiples of the same number of positive integers, they have the same number of positive factors. Doesn’t sound right, but I’ll check it.

Statement 2 looks no easier. Those two primes could be big; the only rule is that any prime squared is od, so x must be odd. The correct answer is D: either statement is sufficient. But I don’t know how to get there. Another odd one.

An exam is given in a certain class. The average (arithmetic mean) of the highest score and the lowest score is equal to x. If the average score for the entire class is equal to y and there are z students in the class, where z > 5, then in terms of x, y, and z, what is the average score for the class excluding the highest and lowest scorers?

(a) zy – 2x / z
(b) zy – 2 / z
(c) zx – y / z – 2
(d) zy – 2x / z -2
(e) zy – x / z + 2

I chose C. But this question should be straightforward. y = x / z (arithmetic mean) which means zy = x. And we want y(z-2) to equal… 2x less than y – 2. Well, there’s z-2 in several answers, so I’ll narrow it down to C and D. My guess of C was wrong because 2x equals the total of both the lowest and highest scorers, so D must be correct. Damn.

A salesperson received N dollars commission for selling a radio. What is the value of N?

(1) The salesperson’s commission was equal to 20 percent of the radio’s price.
(2) The radio’s price was $40 more than the salesperson’s commission.

I chose B, thinking statement 2 alone was sufficient. It isn’t since we don’t know the commission amount, and nor is 1: we have no idea of the radio’s price. Let’s see if both together work, with p as the price and N. p = N + 40 and N = 0.2p. Definitely enough info there (p = 5N and p = N+40, which means 5N = N + 40 therefore 4N = 40, making the commission $10, which you don’t need to work out) so it’s answer C.

In the figure above, the length of line segment CD is twice the length of line segment BC. The ratio of the area of triangle ABC to the area of triangle ABD is

(a) 1:4
(b) 1:3
(c) 1:2
(d) 1:√3
(e) 1: √2

I chose C, making an obvious error: the ‘base’ (horizontal length) of ABD is three times as long as ABC, not two times (call BC x and BD 3x, with common height AB y.) A triangle’s area is 1/2base x height, so ABC is area 0.5xy and ABD is 1.5xy. It’s a 1:3 ratio, which is B.

A train travelled 960 miles from Town A to Town B. What was the train’s average speed during that journey?

(1) If the train had travelled from A to B at an average speed that was 12 miles per hour slower, it would have taken 20 hours.
(2) If the train had travelled from A to B at an average speed that was 60 percent faster, it would have taken 6 fewer hours.

I chose A. Statement 1 is certainly sufficient: 960 / (s -12) = 20, therefore 20(s-12) 20s-240 = 960 and s is 60mph. (I’m taking the time to work it out; I shouldn’t, I need to get out of the habit.) Statement 2 seems to be missing something.

If it were 60% faster, it’d travel 960/1.6 miles in time t. 600 miles. So if it can travel 600 miles in time t-6 (i.e. at the slower speed) and 960 miles in time t-6 at the higher speed, it travels 360 miles in those 6 hours, i.e. 60mph, and at 60% faster (96mph) it travels 960 miles in 10 hours, which would take 16 hours (960/60) at the slower speed. Bingo. Either statement is sufficient; the answer is D.

I’m seeing a pattern to this type of question, where it seems one statement doesn’t have enough info. with practice, I should get better at them.

If x is a number in digital representation, and y is the tenths digit of x, such that x = 1.y5, what is the value of x, rounded to the nearest integer?

(1) 2x > 3
(2) x < y

Hardly know where to start on this, so I guessed E. Let’s look again: if 2x > 3, then x is greater than 1.5, which means y must be equal to or greater than 5. Any value of y that satisfies this gives a rounded-up integer of 2, so (1) alone is sufficient.

Looking at (2), for the smallest value of y, x would be 1.05, and 1.05 isn’t less than 0. 1.15 isn’t less than 1, but 1.25 is less than 2, so x can be less than y. But a rounded-up x can’t be greater than 2, and if y is 9, x rounds up to 2, so rounded x could be 1 or 2 depending on y. (2) isn’t enough to answer, so the answer is A.

If x = (3z)^2 / y, by what number will x be multiplied if z is multipled by 2 and y is divided by 3?

(a) 2
(b) 4
(c) 6
(d) 8
(e) 12

I chose B. Multiplying z by 2 and dividing y by 3, we get 36z^2 / 1/3y. Slap in some numbers: 1 for z and y. 36 over 1/3 = x= 108. In the original equation, x = 9. x must be multiplied by 12, which is E, the correct answer.

A local museum is setting up a new exhibit. 5 oil paintings and 6 watercolours are available for the exhibit. The museum director must choose 3 oil paintings and 4 watercolours. How many different combinations of paintings for the exhibit are possible?

(a) 12
(b) 30
(c) 90
(d) 120
(e) 150

I chose A. The question is asking how many different subsets of 3 are possible in a set of 5 oil paintings and how many sets of 4 are in a set of 6 watercolours.

This is a permutations and combinations question, so I need the factorial n!. 5 oil paintings can be arranged in 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 ways – but we’re looking for arrangements of 3, not all 5. The number of permutations of n objects taken r at a time is n!/(n-r). Which here is 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1/5-3. Which is 120/2, or 60. For the watercolours, it’s 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 / 6-4, which is 240/2, or 120.

But it’s a second-order effect; this doesn’t give us the total combinations of both types of painting together. We don’t need to work it out though; it’s got to be more than 120, so E is the answer.


Three questions wrong here: a good result. And none of them were on reading comprehension, my weakness to date – even better. The wrong ‘uns were:

According to the National Institutes of Health, much of the sleep deprived people would benefit from a short nap during the day.

(a) much of the sleep-deprived people
(b) much sleep-deprived people
(c) many people who are sleep-deprived
(d) many sleep-deprived people
(e) most of the sleep-deprived people

A sentence correction error. My mistake (choosing C) – trying to keep to the beat of the original paragraph, when there’s a shorter option that omits no information. D is correct.

A worthwhile reason to become a skilled user of the Internet is because Internet skills are increasingly valued in today’s workplace.

(a) A worthwhile reason to become a skilled user of the Internet is because Internet skills
(b) A worthwhile reason to acquire Internet skills is that they
(c) Internet skills are worthwhile for acquiring because they
(d) It is worthwhile to become a skilled user of the Internet because Internet skills
(e) Internet skills are worthwhile for the reason that said skills

I chose D. Wrong, because it sounds slightly off base: it doesn’t link the activity of becoming a skilled user with the benefit of those skills in the workplace as strong as B. Discount A, C, and E immediately for being verbose. B is the answer.

So: my tips tonight will be on the permutations and combinations equations, n!/(n-r) and n!/r!(n-r), for discovering the number of ways n things taken r at a time can be put together.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 3 (result: 650)

An ‘official’ practice test today, at London’s Kaplan Centre.

It’s a ‘real’ test of 78 questions, 37 quant and 41 verbal, done in the correct order (quant then verbal). I get raw scores of 24 and 38, corrected to 36 and 42. The combined corrected 78 gives me a projected GMAT of 650, 10 above two days ago. I’m on course – although only at the 85th percentile (i.e. beating 85% of test-takers) due to the weak math score. Here are the essays I did to make this a ‘complete’ test; analysis of multiple choice tomorrow.

Analysis of an issue

The following appeared in the editorial section of a corporate newsletter:

In matching job candidates to openings, managers must consider not only such variables as previous work experience and educational background but also personality traits and work habits, which are more difficult to judge.

What do you consider essential in an employee or colleague? Explain, using reasons and/or examples from your work or worklife experiences, or from your observations of others.

Any manager interviewing a prospective employee will look first for great school grades and a sterling work record. But too many managers stop there – and make their decision based solely on education and experience. I believe that’s a mistake. In my opinion a third attribute surpasses both school and work in importance. That attribute is attitude.

If Sam has a good degree, he’s proven his ability to think and communicate clearly. If Jane has a sterling work record, she’s demonstrated her ability to take responsibility. That gives either candidate a great base. But it’s attitude that will show whether they’re a snug fit for their new roles.

The right attitude can solve almost any problem. A positive mental outlook will create bonds of friendship within a team. A strong sense of personal responsibility will lead to an atmosphere of trust. A desire to do a great job will drive an employee to perform at his peak. With the right attitude, any missing skills can be learned and any knowledge gaps can be closed.

Conversely, a negative attitude can turn the air to poison. Fred’s first-class degree from Oxford means nothing if he’s arrogant beyond words. Claire’s ten years of service add no value if her negativity rubs off on her colleagues. Having the right attitude matters – more than most employers seem to believe.

So when I’m working with a new employee or colleague, what matters most is attitude. If the attitude’s right, the aptitude will follow.

FAULTS: I was quite pleased with this essay. But why did I use ‘sterling’ twice? And given the American preference in the GMAT for longer paragraphs, I should probably have glued the last two together. I like to think this is a 5 though.

Analysis of an argument

The following appeared in the editorial section of a corporate newsletter:

“The common notion that workers are generally apathetic about management issues is false, or at least outdated: a recently published survey indicates that 79% of the nearly 1,200 workers who responded to survey questionnaires expressed a high level of interest in the topics of corporate restructuring and redesign of benefits programmes.”

Discuss how logically convincing you find this argument. In explaining your point of view, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. Also discuss what, if anything, would make the argument more sound and persuasive, or would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The arguments presents workers as keenly interested in high-level business issues, including corporate restructuring and benefits programs. But both these topics affect the worker directly – hitting both his job security and his bank balance. As a result, the argument fails to convince.

‘Corporate restructuring’ is often a euphemism for sacking people. In a firm of 1,200 people, a restructuring program may involve several hundred workers losing their jobs; it’s natural to expect employee interest when they believe they’re about to be laid off! This doesn’t demonstrate workforce fascination with business strategy: rather, it suggests that people worry when they hear talk of layoffs.

Similarly, ‘redesigned benefits programs’ is another (deceptively upbeat) scrap of jargon. With the costs of healthcare, pensions, and perks already sky-high for many companies, few business owners would approve any program that handed out further costly benefits; a ‘redesign’ is all too likely to involve cuts. When a ‘redesigned benefits program’ may mean a poverty-stricken retirement racked by poor health, it’s hardly surprising to find the factory floor is interested.

Finally, the argument is based on weak methodology – a survey of 1,200 workers ‘who responded to questionnaires’. Those most likely to complete a questionnaire are those most interested in the subjects it covers; the sample is self-selecting.

Wishful thinking – such as workers being genuinely interested in the concerns of their company above themselves – can lead to fanciful interpretations of evidence, of which this argument is an example. Since the only evidence presented relates to the likelihood of being sacked and the chance of a benefits cut, the only surprise is that the 79% figure for worker interest is not 100%!

FAULTS: I made a typo in the first sentence – AARGH! But apart from that this isn’t a bad essay. But I need to read the question more carefully. It asks what would make it more persuasive, which I don’t think I answered. I’ll score myself 4.

How to ace the GMAT in 28 days: Day 2 (analysing Day 1)

Yesterday’s 640 was cheering, since I got so many wrong – 23 out of 113. In other words, plenty of opportunity to STOP making those errors and raise my game. (Remember, all I need is to get one less question wrong every practice test.) It’s time to check what I got wrong on the first practice test. This is where I find out where my weak areas are.


The GMAT maths sections contain 2 types of question: data sufficiency and problem solving. On this practice, I got 4 out of 32 problem-solving questions wrong; in data sufficiency, 7 out of 20 wrong. So data sufficiency is my big issue. But first, let’s review the problem solving gaffes.

root463 is between

(A) 21 and 22
(B) 22 and 23
(C) 23 and 24
(D) 24 and 25
(E) 25 and 26

Looks simple. But with two minutes per question, you don’t have time to evaluate root463. I chose B after frantically trying to find the square root of 463 in my head. (Note how the answers are close together? Makes it unguessable.)

The method here is to pick the middle value. What’s 23 x 23? Hmmm, 20 x 23 is 460.. plus 3 x 23 = 529. Too big. The answer’s got to be smaller, so it’s A or B. Attack from the other end: what’s 22 x 22? 440+44.. 484… still too big… but there are no answers before A. The answer must be under 484, so the answer must be A.

The ratio of two quantities is 3 to 4. If each of the quantities is increased by 5, what is the ratio of these two new quantities?

(A) 3/4
(B) 8/9
(C) 18/19
(D) 23/24
(E) It cannot be determined from the information given.

It can’t be A, so I chose B. Surprise surprise, it looks a bit like a data sufficiency question – my weak area! B is wrong: we don’t know how many of each quantity we had to begin with, only their ratios, so adding 5 to each quantity doesn’t work. If I’d learned the method for this, I could have dealt with this question in three seconds, not four minutes.

The answer’s in algebra. 3x + 5 : 4y + 5 = the ratio we want. OK, but we have no other information: the equation’s unsolvable; it doesn’t even equal 0. So it must be E. E is correct.

My next error’s about co-ordinates.

The figure: an x-y plane, marked into quadrants I, II, III, and IV. (Quadrants are always anticlockwise from top right. So the quadrant containing positive numbers is always I, the quadrant to the left where y is positive and x negative is II, the quadrant below that where x and y are both negative is III, and the quadrant at bottom right where x is positive and y negative is IV.

In the rectangular coordinate system shown above, which quadrant, if any, contains no point ( x, y ) that satisfies the inequality 2x – 3y <= -6?

(A) None
(B) I
(C) II
(E) IV

This stuff ties my head in knots, so I guessed B and moved on. Bad idea.

If 2x minus 3y can less than or equal to -6, let’s see which quadrants it MUST appear in. Put in some numbers, using that 6 as the clue. Let x = 3 and y = 4. 6 minus 12 is -6, which satisfies the inequality. This point can definitely appear in quadrant I, so the answer isn’t B.

Let’s go negative, with x and y equal to -3 and -4. -6 minus -12 is +6, which doesn’t satisfy the inequality. But that doesn’t make the answer C; it just means my randomly chosen values for x and y don’t work. Let’s change y to positive: x=-3 and y=4. -6 minus 12 = -18. Yes, that’s less than -6, so quadrant II is back in the game. The answer isn’t C.

if the answer’s there, it’s in the lower two quadrants, which means y must be negative. Try our negative y again, but with a positive x: x=3, y=-4. 6 minus -12 = +18. Quadrant IV may be the loser. Can we rule it out? Let x=4 and y=-3 for a change. 8 minus -9. Still more than -6. In fact, there can’t be any values of positive x where minusing a negative y would work, since minusing a negative simply adds it. Without needing to check quadrant III, it must be quadrant IV. The answer is E.

Whoa, I think guessing was a reasonable strategy. Next question.

The size of a television screen is given as the length of the screen’s diagonal. If the screens were flat, then the area of a square 21-inch screen would be how many square inches greater than the area of a square 19-inch screen?

(A) 2
(B) 4
(C) 16
(D) 38
(E) 40

I chose D. It looks do-able by breaking it down into triangles: two squares, each of two similar right-angled triangles with hypotenuse 21 and 19 inches. Easy. Whoops, no it isn’t – to find the areas I’d have to square 21 and 19, then find two perfect squares in each of the resulting numbers, then square root them to find the lengths of the other two sides. There must be a better way.

Or is there? 19 squared is 361; 21 squared is 441. But we don’t have to find the roots: 361 is the sum of the squares of the sides of the smaller screen, and 441 is the sum of the squares of the larger screen. (Both sides of the triangle also being sides of the screens.) Since each screen is square, all the sides are the same length, so each squared side is 180.5 for the smaller screen and 220.5 for the larger screen.

So far so headachey. But it’s an area question, so we don’t need to ‘unsquare’ it: as the squares of sides, we already have the areas of each screen, 180.5 and 220.5. The question asks how many square inches differentiate the squares, and here’s our answer: 40. The answer is E.

Let’s look at my data sufficiency errors. These are fun but hard: instead of solving the mathematical problem, you get two statements 1 and 2, and have to decide if there’s enough info in them (individually or together) to answer the question without assumptions. Your answer A-E is chosen from this set for every question:

(A) if statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(B) if statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(C) if BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient;
(D) if EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked;
(E) if statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed.


In the figure above, is CD>BC?

(1) AD=20
(2) AB=CD

Like this one, data sufficiency questions often look simple. I chose C: both statements together give us enough info. Which was a very silly mistake: I know better than this.

We know AD. We know that the segment AB is the same as CD. What we don’t know (and shouldn’t assume) is that BC also equals AB and CD just because it looks the same on the diagram. We don’t know BC, so we can’t answer the question even if we know the length of the whole line. The answer is E: both statements together are NOT sufficient.

Next crushing failure:

A jar contains 30 marbles, of which 20 are red and 10 are blue. If 9 of the marbles are removed, how many of the marbles left in the jar are red?

(1) Of the marbles removed, the ratio of the number of red ones to the number of blue ones is 2 : 1.
(2) Of the first 6 marbles removed, 4 are red.

I chose D. Stupid, stupid. I’m starting to see a pattern here: I keep assuming info I haven’t got.

OK, so we’ve taken out twice as many reds as blues. No half marbles, so we must have 6 reds and 3 blues, the only 2:1 ratio in 9 marbles. 1 is sufficient, so the answer’s A or D.

As for statement 2, we’ve got 4 reds in the first 6 – but we took 9 out of the jar. Not enough info in 2 alone, ruling out B and D. The answer is A.


What is the value of the integer x ?

(1) x is a prime number.
(2) 31 <= x <= 37

I chose C. Stupid again. Even both of them together don’t cut it. Even if x is prime, there are two prime numbers between or equal to 31 and 37. The answer is E.

What is the number of female employees in Company X ?

(1) If Company X were to hire 14 more people and all of these people were females, the ratio of the number of male employees to the number of female employees would then be 16 to 9.
(2) Company X has 105 more male employees than female employees.

I chose A. Like the ‘ratio’ question earlier, I’ve blindly assumed . The algebra is 16m + 9f = number of employees + 14 … but there’s no base to work out the ratio without the 14 extra girls, so 1 isn’t sufficient. You need the concrete number in 2 to work it out. Answer: C.

What is the value of a – b?

(1) a = b + 4
(2) (a-b)^2 = 16

I chose E. Close but not close enough. I thought I’d dodged the trap, in that (a-b)^2 could be 4 or -4… a negative number squared is a positive, so 2 alone isn’t enough. but combined with 1, which rearranges to a – b = 4, 1 alone is sufficient. This was an EASY question, and I’m annoyed I looked too deeply into it.

Is rst = 1 ?

(1) rs = 1
(2) st = 1

I guessed C, since if rs and st both equal 1, rst must equal 1 … which isn’t true. One of the terms could be -1, which would make rst negative. Both these statements are insufficient to answer the question, which means E is correct.

And lastly:

In a certain office, 50 percent of the employees are college graduates and 60 percent of the employees are over 40 years old. If 30 percent of those over 40 have master’s degrees, how many of the employees have masters’ degrees?

(1) Exactly 100 of the employees are college graduates
(2) Of the employees forty years old or less, 25% have masters’ degrees

I guessed E, outatime. If I’d had another minute, I’d have seen that 50% of the company are graduates, which means 200 employees in total. So 120 of them will be over 40, and 30% of that 120 is 36… but that only gives the number of oldies. Statement 1 is not sufficient on its own.

Checking out statement 2, it’s easy to see 25% of 60% of the company have degrees… but there’s no base figure allowing us to work out how many people work for the company. So 2 alone won’t work. Making the answer C – we need both. Which I really should have got right. (NOTE: this question was edited on 21 Jan 2009 after an email pointing out an earlier error of my own!)


On this practice test, I got 1 of 16 critical reasoning questions, 3 of 23 reading comprehension questions, and 1 of 22 sentence correction questions wrong. So straight off the bat, it’s obvious I’m okay at critical reasoning and sentence correction. Which means I have to work on reading comprehension. But first: why did I get a single question wrong in the other two sections?

The critical reasoning blooper was this question:

Manufacturers sometimes discount the price of a product to retailers for a promotion period when the product is advertised to consumers. Such promotions often result in a dramatic increase in the amount of product sold by the manufacturers to retailers. Nevertheless, the manufacturers could often make more profit by not holding the promotions.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the claim above about the manufacturer’s profit?

(A) The amount of discount offered by manufacturers to retailers is carefully calculated to represent the minimum needed to draw consumers’ attention to the product.
(B) For many consumer products the period of advertising discounted prices to consumers is about a week, not sufficiently long enough for consumers to become used to the sale price.
(C) For products that are not newly introduced, the purpose of such promotions is to keep the products in the minds of consumers and to attract consumers who are currently using competitive products.
(D) During such a promotion retailers tend to accumulate in their warehouses inventory bought at discount; they then sell much of it later at their regular price.
(E) If a manufacturer fails to offer such promotions but its competitor offers them, that competitor will tend to attract consumers away from the manufacturer’s product.

It’s a reasonably hard one. And I made a stupid mistake. Because it’s about marketing – my field – I rushed into what pricing means within consumer markets, and skated over the most important part of the passage: it’s not about discounts to consumers, it’s about discounts offered to retailers who then sell to consumers.

My answer, E, was as wrong as it gets. E implies that promotions are essential, or your competitors will grab your customers. Well, maybe they will, but that has nothing to do with consumers, who buy from retailers. It tries to draws a link between manufacturers and consumers, without involving the middleman retailer. And so is wrong.

My first guess – crossed out before I chose E – was D. The argument requires that consumers will buy the product at regular price, regardless of what price the retailer bought it at. D supports the assertion that consumers will buy at regular price. D is correct.

Now the sentence correction blooper:

The prime lending rate is a key rate in the economy: not only are the interest rates on most loans to small and medium-sized businesses tied to the prime, but also on a growing number of consumer loans, including home equity loans.

(A) not only are the interest rates on most loans to small and medium-sized businesses tied to the prime, but also on
(B) tied to the prime are the interest rates not only on most loans to small and medium-sized businesses, but also on
(C) the interest rates not only on most loans to small and medium-sized businesses are tied to the prime, but also
(D) not only the interest rates on most loans to small and medium-sized businesses are tied to the prime, but also on
(E) the interest rates are tied to the prime, not only on most loans to small and medium-sized businesses, but also

It’s a grammar issue. The problem’s in the last underlined ‘on': it doesn’t agree with the rest of the sentence. I chose E, which is again the ‘wrongest’ of the five. Blast. It’s at the end of the section, so I may have been rushing. Not sure why I got this wrong; it’s not hard.

The correct answer will pay off the first half of the sentence before the colon, so ‘tied to the prime’ is instantly the best candidate. Does B deal with the ‘on’? … not only on… but also on… yes it does. B is correct. Blast.

OK, now those reading comprehension issues.

Two recent publications offer different assessments of the career of the famous British nurse Florence Nightingale. A book by Anne Summers seeks to debunk the idealizations and present a reality at odds with Nightingale’s heroic reputation. According to Summers Nightingale’s importance during the Crimean War has been exaggerated: not until near the war’s end did she become supervisor of the female nurses. Additionally, Summers writes that the contribution of the nurses to the relief of the wounded was at best marginal. The prevailing problems of military medicine were caused by army organizational practices, and the addition of a few nurses to the medical staff could be no more than
symbolic. Nightingale’s place in the national pantheon, Summers asserts, is largely due to the propagandistic efforts of contemporary newspaper reporters.

By contrast, the editors of a new volume of Nightingale’s letters view Nightingale as a person who significantly influenced not only her own age but also subsequent generations. They highlight her ongoing efforts to reform sanitary conditions after the war. For example, when she learned that peacetime living conditions in British barracks were so horrible that the death rate of enlisted men far exceeded that of neighboring civilian populations, she succeeded in persuading the government to establish a Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. She used sums raised through public contributions to found a nurses’ training hospital in London. Even in administrative matters, the editors assert her practical intelligence was formidable: as recently as 1947 the British Army’s medical services were still using the cost-accounting system she had devised in the 1860’s.

I believe that the evidence of her letters supports continued respect for Nightingale’s brilliance and creativity. When counseling a village schoolmaster to encourage children to use their faculties of observation she sounds like a modern educator. Her insistence on classifying the problems of the needy in order to devise appropriate treatments is similar to
the approach of modern social workers. In sum, although Nightingale may not have achieved all other goals during the Crimean War, her breadth of vision and ability to realize ambitious projects have earned her an eminent place among the ranks of social pioneers.

1. The passage is primarily concerned with evaluating
(A) the importance of Florence Nightingale’s innovations in the field of nursing
(B) contrasting approaches to the writing of historical biography
(C) contradictory accounts of Florence Nightingale’s historical significance
(D) the quality of health care in nineteenth-century England
(E) the effect of the Crimean War on developments in the field of health care

I chose A. Wrong, because it’s emotive: the author is obviously in the Florence fan club, and I took that to mean making Florence look important was his goal. This is totally wrong.

The passage is all about contrasting Summer’s approach with the editors’ approach. Two approaches set against each other, and the fact the author favours one side doesn’t matter. C is correct.

My next mistake was on the same passage:

With which of the following statements regarding the differing interpretations of Nightingale’s importance would the author most likely agree?

(A) Summers misunderstood both the importance of Nightingale’s achievements during the Crimean War and her subsequent influence on British policy.
(B) The editors of Nightingale’s letters made some valid points about her practical achievements but they still exaggerated her influence on subsequent generations.
(C) Although Summers’ account of Nightingale’s role in the Crimean War may be accurate, she ignored evidence of Nightingale’s subsequent achievement that suggests that her reputation as an eminent social reformer is well deserved.
(D) The editors of Nightingale’s letters mistakenly propagated the outdated idealization of Nightingale that only impedes attempts to arrive at a balanced assessment of her true role.
(E) The evidence of Nightingale’s letters supports Summers’ conclusions both about Nightingale’s activities and about her influence.

I chose A. The trap: Summers does (in the author’s opinion) misunderstand Nightingale’s achievements, but there’s nothing attributed to her about subsequent influence. A looks right, but is wrong. Not as wrong as D though, which is 180 degrees away from the author’s opinion.

At first C looks totally wrong – because there’s no praise for Summers in the passage, and this is giving her a stroke. But here’s the catch: the author doesn’t denigrate Summers’ work, only comments on how Nightingale’s ideas later captivated British policy, and it was these policy decisions that made Nightingale a significant figure. C is correct.

Last reading comprehension mistake:

Most large corporations in the United States were once run by individual capitalists who owned enough stock to dominate the board of directors and dictate company policy. Because putting such large amounts of stock on the market would only depress its value, they could not sell out for a quick profit and instead had to concentrate on improving the long-term productivity of their companies. Today, with few exceptions, the stock of large United States corporations is held by large institutions—pension funds, for example—and because these institutions are prohibited by antitrust laws from owning a majority of a company’s stock and from actively influencing a company’s decision-making, they can enhance their wealth only by buying and selling stock in anticipation of fluctuations in its value. A minority shareholder is necessarily a short-term trader. As a result, United States productivity is unlikely to improve unless shareholders and the managers of the companies in which they invest are encouraged to enhance long-term productivity (and hence long-term profitability), rather than simply to maximize short-term profits.

Since the return of the old-style capitalist is unlikely, today’s short-term traders must be remade into tomorrow’s long-term capitalistic investors. The legal limits that now prevent financial institutions from acquiring a dominant shareholding position in a corporation should be removed, and such institutions encouraged to take a more active role in the operations of the companies in which they invest. In addition, any institution that holds twenty percent or more of a company’s stock should be forced to give the public one day’s notice of the intent to sell those shares. Unless the announced sale could be explained to the public on grounds other than anticipated future losses, the value of the stock would plummet and, like the old-time capitalists, major investors could cut their losses only by helping to restore their companies’ productivity. Such measures would force financial institutions to become capitalists whose success depends not on trading shares at the propitious moment, but on increasing the productivity of the companies in which they

It can be inferred from the passage that which of the following is true of majority shareholders in a corporation?

(A) They make the corporation’s operational management decisions.
(B) They are not allowed to own more than fifty percent of the corporation’s stock.
(C) They cannot make quick profits by selling off large amounts of their stock in the corporation.
(D) They are more interested in profits than in productivity.
(E) They cannot sell any of their stock in the corporation without giving the public advance notice.

I chose A. Why the FUCK did I do that? Majority shareholders can own the company AND work for it; not ALL the stock is owned by pension funds.

But the other answers don’t leap out either. B and E are factually wrong; D can’t be inferred. C is left. It’s a weak inference – you COULD make quick profits, if you managed to sell all your stock higher than you bought it for, even in a falling market – but it’s the only one left. C wins.

So after one test, I’m getting three times as many reading comprehension questions wrong as either sentence correction or critical reasoning. Reading comp’s what I need to work on.

Tomorrow: I’ll apply these learnings to another practice test, and aim to score a bit higher.