GMAT Tip of the Week

There Must Be An Easier Way

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

If you’ve been a loyal reader of this space for a year or so, you may have read something similar to this post back in the fall of 2008, but it bears repeating. Business schools aren’t particularly interested in “human calculators,” but they do express a direct preference for problem solvers — those who can efficiently make good decisions. As such, the quantitative side of the GMAT is skewed toward that kind of thinking, and rewards test-takers who can efficiently and accurately analyze numbers.

Because of that, Veritas Prep GMAT tutors have long encouraged their students to become adept at using fractions to simplify calculations on the exam. Simply put, GMAT problems are much more efficiently solved using fractions than using long division or decimals. Recently, your author had a chance to put this practice in to real-world use when he had to confront the daunting…. metric system!

While driving through France to personally investigate the topic of last week’s blog post, the Tour de France bicycle race, I encountered road signs that all expressed distances in terms of kilometers, a unit of measure that doesn’t quite satisfy my American appetite for knowledge of “are we there yet?”. However, driving a foreign car while navigating roundabouts with signs posted in French didn’t leave me with much mental capacity to calculate mileage using the 1 kilometer = 0.62 miles conversion… until I decided that 0.62 is almost exactly 3/5.

Using a fraction like 3/5, instead of a decimal like 0.62 (or even 0.6) allowed me to quickly convert kilometers to miles to satisfy my desire to know how far it would be to the next gas station, restaurant, or exit. 150 km? Simply divide by 5 and multiply by 3, and I could quickly determine that it was approximately 90 miles.

On the GMAT, just like while driving, you will want to avoid tedious calculations. Using fractions will allow you to make quick calculations and decisions without the mess or stress (rhyme unintentional) of handwritten calculations.

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