GMAT Tip of the Week: Guess Who's Back

GMAT PrepGreetings, readers, and welcome back to a second round of Hip Hop Month in the Veritas Prep Blog’s Tip of the Week space.  Yes, 11 months have passed since we ended March 2010, and although we’ve included the occasional Lil Wayne or Eminem reference over that time it’s been a while since we made the indisputable link between hip hop and the GMAT a priority.  As Jay-Z or Snoop Dogg might say, guess who’s back!

Calling back old hip hop classics is the name of the game on many radio stations and in many clubs these days, particularly when DJs show off their skills with mixes and mash-ups.  Here in Los Angeles, we anxiously await Power 106′s “Twelve Days of Mix-mas” in December and listen to the Mickey Fickey Mix all year long.  But here’s the problem with the radio hip hop mix (apologies to E-Man, Eric D-Lux, and the gang), and it’s a problem that can plague you on the GMAT as well: mixes inevitably cut off songs before they get to the ever-important crescendo. 

Think about some of the all-time great rap tracks or your current favorites.  More often than not, the best verse comes last (note: 112′s “Only You” featuring Biggie is the most notorious counterexample…the big man just kills it at the beginning of the song, and then you have to listen to about 4 minutes of whining to ultimately find out…that was it!  No more Biggie.  That song should offer a single-within-a-single in which you can just purchase the Biggie verse on iTunes for like 39 cents.  Steve Jobs – you hear me?).

But so often nowadays on tracks like Eminem’s “No Love,” Drake’s “Forever,” Lil Wayne’s “Right Above It,” Bad Boy Records’ “All About The Benjamins” (mediocre song… great Biggie finish), and others, the DJ is in such a hurry to get to the next track in the mix that he cuts off the current track just as it’s getting good.  Who wants to listen to Mase and Puffy only to be let down just before Biggie takes it to the next level?  Or to have Weezy build the tension so that Em can drive it home?  Why don’t these DJs realize that their haste of trying to move from track to track leaves these epic songs unfinished?  Why have we as the MTV generation been deprived of that Heinz Ketchup-inspired proverb that the best things come to those who wait?

Such haste can be your ultimate downfall on the GMAT, in which the final 15 seconds you spend on each question are often the most important of all.  The GMAT knows that you’re in a hurry to get to the next question, but it also knows that business rewards those who see a project all the way through its completion.  Accordingly, the GMAT is written much like a Lil Wayne and Eminem collaboration – expertly, cleverly, full of subtlety, and with a huge reward for those who see it through to the finish.  If you rush through the last few steps, you’ll more often than not miss a crucial component.  Consider the question:

Uncle Bruce is (mickey fixey) mixing chocolate chip cookie batter.  He has 36 ounces of dough (with no chocolate) and 15 ounces of chocolate.  How many ounces of chocolate are left over if he uses all the dough but only wants the cookies to consist of 20% chocolate?

(A)   3
(B)    6
(C)    7.2
(D)    7.8
(E)    9

The tendency in this question is to want to solve for the amount of chocolate used.  After all, if you can note that the 36 ounces of dough must equal 4/5 of the total weight, that means that you’ll need 9 ounces of chocolate to make up the remaining fifth.  And 9 is, indeed, a visible and compelling answer choice.  But it’s incorrect.  In your haste to move past this mixing cookies question onto the next one – your own version of the hip hop mix – you’re quite liable to forget that the question asks for the amount of chocolate LEFT OVER, and not for that used.  If we started with 15 and used 9, there are 6 ounces remaining, and the answer is B.

The GMAT does this quite often, allowing the rushed examinee a great opportunity to leave the question a step short.  But as DJs need to learn, the quality of what you do over the first 90% of a track (or a question) can’t make up for botching the finish; in many ways,  these are the worst questions to miss – you had all the elements there for success, but you rushed through that crucial ending and failed at your mission.

Whether it’s hip hop or the GMAT, a job isn’t well done until it’s done thoroughly to the finish.  Resist the temptation to turn your attention to the next question before you’ve finished the one you’re on, and you’ll get full credit for the work that you do. After all, “Guess Who’s Back” is a fantastic lyric for a Jay-Z record, but it’s a lousy thing to have to say to the proctor at the Pearson/VUE GMAT test center…

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