GMAT Tip of the Week: Pacman, Google, and Geometry

GMAT prepIf you’re reading this, then obviously you’re on a computer or smartphone with internet access. And if you have internet access, you’ve been to Google today. If Isaac Newton were alive today, he’d add that as a fourth law of physics: “Every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, and every internet browser will land on the Google homepage at least once per hour of use.” So, given the laws of internet physics, you already know the news: Today is the 30th anniversary of the iconic video game Pac-Man.

A blogger in his early 30s could spend hours talking about the impact that Pac-Man had on his life. Playing the arcade version at Pizza Hut as a reward for the pizzeria’s Book-It reading program; firing up his first Atari game system on Christmas morning; competing for the high score in his dormitory freshman year instead of studying for final exams…


From the look of it, Sergey, Larry, and the rest of the gang at Google have similar stories, but the way that they chose to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man is G-Mattingly ingenious. Taking the typical Google logo, they created an interactive Pac-Man board, encouraging web surfers to take a moment before their searches to navigate Pac-Man around the G-o-o-g-l-e letters, racking up points and chasing ghosts along the way. Simply put, the Google graphic engineers took a unique shape — the outline of the word “Google” — and linked it to a familiar shape, the Pac-Man gameplay board.

On the GMAT, you’ll be asked to do this on a fairly high percentage of Geometry-themed questions, on which:

  • The area of a ring can be calculated by taking the difference between the areas of the two circles that create it (outer – inner)
  • The area of a sidewalk or picture frame can be calculated by taking the difference between the areas of the rectangles that create it
  • An awkward-looking shape can be deconstructed into the sum or difference of multiple basic geometric shapes (squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, and quadrilaterals)
  • Any time you can break a shape apart to create a right triangle or two, you probably should, as right triangles have a greater number of GMAT-useful rules than do any other shape (Pythagorean Theorem, 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 side ratios, a build-in base/height perpendicularity for use in calculating area, etc.)
  • The greatest distance between points in a three-dimensional figure can always be calculated by drawing a right triangle between those points and calculating the straight-line, short-side distances that create the hypotenuse

It’s no secret that the admissions officers at top business schools would love to add the next Sergey Brin or Larry Page to their entering class (and alumni donor roster), and they accordingly reward the types of thought process that have made Google such an innovative, iconic company. To be successful on GMAT geometry questions, learn to see familiar shapes when you’re confronted with seemingly-unique geometry. On the GMAT, as in Pac-Man, the quest for the high score is competitive, but the rewards are worth it.

If you can tear yourself away from Google’s Pac-Man for five minutes, take a look at Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep courses. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter to keep receiving these GMAT tips!

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