I recently responded to a student who said that he was “not convinced” by the official answer to an official critical reasoning question. Here is my response:
“I am glad that you brought this up! This is an official question, and the answer choice is the official answer. I do not understand why you need to be “convinced.” You can trust the official answer to an official question!
In fact, when you saw that your answer was not the correct answer you started looking for ways that you could be right and the official answer wrong. This is not a particularly helpful mindset.
Let’s compare the verbal and the quantitative sections. What do you do when you see that the official answer to a Quant problem is 27 and you thought it was 42? Be honest. You know what you do, you say “27, huh, I must have made a mistake. How did I end up with 42, let me see what I did wrong here so that I do not do it again.”
You do NOT you say, “I bet it is really is 42 and I am going to think of reasons why it is 42 and not 27.” That would seem strange right? I mean a Quant problem only has one correct answer and if you get a different answer you made a mistake and need to figure out why you missed it right?
Okay well here is something that it takes students a long time to learn – A verbal question only has one correct answer as well. And if you got a different answer you need to say “what did I do wrong and how can I not make this mistake in the future.” Just as you would on a Quant problem.
I have had tutoring students who wanted to argue the answers on verbal questions, particularly CR and RC, but SC sometimes as well. Eventually I say something along the lines of “This is not the kind of test where you should be debating against the answer key. If you want to get a high GMAT score you need to focus on why you did not get the correct answer and how you can get it right next time.”
Now unofficial questions can often be improved. In fact, when I write original questions of my own I welcome it when students debate the merits of each question. I then edit it to make it better. Every edit makes it a question better. Yet even most unofficial questions are well written and really do have just one correct answer.
What I am saying is that your mind set should be “Why did I get this wrong?” “What can I do better next time?” Rather than “I am not convinced with this official answer to this official question.”
It may seem like a slight difference, but it is the difference between a 600 and a 700.
David Newland has been teaching for Veritas Prep since 2006, and he won the Veritas Prep Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Students’ friends often call in asking when he will be teaching next because he really is a Veritas Prep and a GMAT rock star! Read more of his articles here.