1) How high can I get? (Snoop’s general state of mind)

2) How low can I go? (Because you know Snoop’s in it to win it)

And that mindset is absolutely crucial in a Data Sufficiency number-picking situation. On these problems, the GMAT Testmaker knows your tendencies well: you’re predisposed to picking numbers that are easy to work with. Consider an example like:

If x is a positive integer less than 30, what is the value of x?

(1) When x is divided by 3 the remainder is 2.

(2) When x is divided by 5 the remainder is 2

On this problem, most can quite quickly eliminate statement 1, as x could be 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, or 29. Typically your quick-thinking methodology will have you look at 3, then add the remainder of 2 (producing 5), then start looking at other multiples of 3 and doing the same (6 + 2 gives you 8, 9 + 2 gives you 11, and so on).

And similarly you can apply that logic to statement 2 and eliminate that pretty quickly. The obvious first candidate is 7 (add the remainder of 2 to 5), and then you should see the pattern: 7, 12, 17, 22, and 27 are your options.

So when you look at these quick lists and see that the only place they overlap is 17 (17/5 is 3 remainder 2 and 17/3 is 5 remainder 2), you might opt for C.

But where does Snoop Dogg’s Limbo Contest come in? Look at the range they gave you: a POSITIVE INTEGER (so anything > 0) LESS THAN 30 (so anything <30). So when you combine those, your range is 0 < x < 30. Then ask yourself:

*How high can you get? Well, on either list you’ve gotten as close to 30 as possible. The next possible number on the first list (5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29…) is 32, but they tell you that x is less than 30 so you can’t get that high. And the next possible number on the second list (7, 12, 17, 22, 27…) is also 32, but again you’re not allowed to get that high. So you’ve definitely answered that question well.

*How low can you go? On this one, you haven’t yet exhausted the lower limit. Look at the patterns on those lists – on the first one, all numbers are 3 apart but you started at 5. If you move down 3, you get to 2 (2, 5, 8…). And 2/3 is 0 remainder 2, so 2 is a legitimate number on that list, a positive integer that leaves a remainder of 2 when divided by 3. And on the second list, you started at 7 and kept adding 5s. Move 5 spots to the left and you’re again at 2, which does leave a remainder of 2 when divided by 5. So upon closer examination, this problem has two solutions: 2 and 17.

The GMAT does a masterful job of setting ranges that test-takers don’t exhaust, and that’s where the Snoop Limbo mentality comes into play. If you’re always asking yourself “how high can I get and how low can I go?” you’ll force yourself to consider all available options. So for example, if the test were to tell you that:

x^2 < 25 –> This doesn’t just mean that x is less than 5 (how high can you get) it also means that x is greater than -5 (how low can you go)

x is a positive three-digit integer –> make sure you try 100 (how low can you go) and 999 (how high can you get)

x > 0 –> You might want to start with 1, but make sure you consider fractions like 1/2 and 1/8, too (how low can you go? all the way to 0.00000….0001), and try a number in the thousands or millions too (how high can you get?) since most people will just test easy-reference numbers like 1, 2, 5, and 10. A massive number might react differently.

In triangle ABC, angle ABC measures greater than 90 degrees –> remember that “how high can you get” is capped by the fact that the three angles have to add to 180, but this obtuse angle can get up even above 179 (how high can you get?)

x is a nonnegative integer –> the smallest integer that’s not negative is 0, not 1! How low can you go? You’d better check 0.

3 < x < 5 –> it doesn’t have to be 4, as x could be 3.0000000001 or 4.99999999

So keep Snoop’s Limbo Contest in mind when you pick numbers on Data Sufficiency problems. Don’t just pick the easiest numbers to plug in or the first few numbers that come to mind. The GMAT often plays to the edge cases, so always ask yourself how high you can get and how low you can go.

(and for our readers who prefer East Coast rap to West Coast rap, feel free to substitute this with the “Biggie (how big a number can you use) Smalls (how small a number can you use)” method and you can end up with a notoriously big score).

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Brian Galvin*

Making fewer mistakes.

On an adaptive test like the GMAT, making silly mistakes on problems that you should get right can be devastating to your score. Not only do you get that question wrong, but now you’re being served easier questions subsequent to that, with an even more heightened necessity of avoiding silly mistakes there. So you should make a point to notice the mistakes you make on practice tests so that you’re careful not to make them again. Particularly under timed pressure in a high-stress environment we’re all susceptible to making mistakes. Here are 5 of the most common so that you can focus on making fewer of these:

**1) Forgetting about “unique” numbers.**

If someone asked you to pick a number 1-10, you might pick 5 or 6, or maybe you’d shoot high and pick 9 or low and pick 2. But you probably wouldn’t respond with 9.99 or 3 and 1/3. We tend to think in terms of integers unless told otherwise. Similarly, if someone asked “what number, squared, gives you 25″ you’d immediately think of 5, but it might take a second to think of -5. We tend to think in terms of positive numbers unless told otherwise.

On the GMAT, a major concept you’ll be tested on is your ability to consider all relevant options (an important skill in business). So before you lock in your answer, ask yourself whether you considered: positive numbers (which you naturally will), negative numbers, fractions/nonintegers, zero, the biggest number they’d let you use, and the smallest number they’d let you use.

**2) Answering the wrong question.**

An easy way for the GMAT testmaker to chalk up a few more incorrect answers on the problem is to include an extra valuable or an extra step. For example, if a problem asked:

Given that x + y = 8 and that x – y = 2, what is the value of y?

You might quickly use the elimination method for systems of equations, stacking the equations and adding them together:

x + y = 8

x – y = 2

2x = 10

x = 5

But before you pick “5” as your answer, reconsider the question – they made it convenient to solve for x, but then asked about y. And in doing so, they baited several test-takers into picking 5 when the answer is 2. Make sure you always ask yourself whether you’ve answered the right question!

**3) Multiplying/dividing variables across inequalities.**

By the time you take the test you should realize that if you multiply or divide both sides of an inequality by a NEGATIVE number, you have to flip the sign. -x > 5 would then become x < -5. But the testmakers also know that you’re often trained mentally to only employ that rule when you see the negative sign, –

To exploit that, they may get you with a Data Sufficiency question like:

Is a > 5b?

(1) a/b > 5

And many people will simply multiply both sides of statement 1’s equation by b and get to an ‘exact’ answer: a > 5b. But wait! Since you don’t know whether b is positive or negative, you cannot perform that operation because you don’t know whether you have to flip the sign. When you see variables and inequalities, make sure you know whether the variables are negative or positive!

**4) Falling in love with the figure.**

On geometry questions, you can only rely on the figure’s dimensions as fairly-reliable measurements if: One, it’s a Problem Solving question (you can never bring in anything not explicitly provided on a DS problem); and, two, if the figure does not say “not drawn to scale”. But if it’s a Data Sufficiency problem *or* if the figure says not drawn to scale, you have to consider various ways that the angles and shapes could be drawn. Often times people will see a “standard” triangle with all angles relatively similar in measure (around 60 degrees, give or take a few), and then base all of their assumptions on their scratchwork triangle of the same dimensions. But wait – if you’re not told that one of the angles could be, say, 175 degrees, you could be dealing with a triangle that’s very different from the one on the screen or the one on your scratchwork. Don’t get too beholden to the first figure you see or draw – consider all the options that aren’t prohibited by the problem.

**5) Forgetting that a definitive “no” answer to a Data Sufficiency question means “sufficient.”**

Say you saw the Data Sufficiency prompt:

Is x a prime number?

1) x = 10! + y, where y is an integer such that 1 < y < 10

Mathematically, you should see that since every possible value of y is a number that’s already contained within 10 * 9 * 8 * 7 * 6 * 5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1, whatever y is the new number x will continue to be divisible by. For example, if y = 7, then you’re taking 10!, a multiple of 7, and adding another 7 to it, so the new number will be a multiple of 7.

Therefore, x is not a prime number, so the answer is “no.” But here’s where your mind can play tricks on you. If you see that “NO” and in your mind associate that with “Statement 1 — NO”, you might eliminate statement 1 when really statement 1 *is* sufficient. You can guarantee that answer that x is not prime, so even though the answer to the question is “no” the statement itself is “positive” in that it’s sufficient.

So be careful here – if you get a definitive “NO” answer to a statement, don’t cross it out or eliminate it!

Remember, a crucial part of your GMAT study plan should be making fewer mistakes. While you’re right to seek out more information, more practice problems, and more skills, “fewer” is just as important on a test like this. Make fewer of the mistakes above, and your score will take you more places.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Brian Galvin*

In his classic routine from The Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric the Entertainer talks about the way that two different types of people view confrontation.

Some people *hope* that there’s no confrontation, worrying all the while that there might be.

Others – including Cedric himself – “*wish* a would” start some conflict. (Note: Kanye West borrowed this sentiment years later in a lyric for “The Good Life”)

On the GMAT, you want to be on Cedric’s team. Many test-takers go into the reasoning-based exam *hoping* that they don’t see too much Testmaker trickery, but those poised to score 700+ – the Original Kings of Calm on the test – wish the testmaker would. They’ve prepared to check negative numbers and nonintegers on Data Sufficiency. They’ve prepared to double-check their inferences on Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions to make sure they “must be true” (correct) and not just “probably true.” They’ve prepared to go back to the question on Problem Solving to make sure that the variable they solved for is the one that the question asked about. They’ve tracked the silly and recurring mistakes that they made in practice and they *wish* the test tries to sneak that by them on test day.

Why?

A few reasons. For one, any mistake you’ve made more than once in practice is something that you know is going to be difficult for people. By being ready for it, you’re poised to get “cheap” difficulty points (so to speak) when it’s really not that hard. If a question asks:

Starting with a full 12-gallon tank of gas, D.L. drove 225 miles getting 45 miles per gallon of gas burned. How much gas was left in D.L.’s tank at the end of the trip?”

You WANT them to ask about the gas that’s LEFT OVER (7 gallons) and include the amount of gas that was USED (5 gallons) as a trap answer. The math is pretty pedestrian, but that little twist – that you’ll solve for the amount used and then have to take just one more step to finish the problem, subtracting that 5 gallons used from the 12 you started with – will ensure that at least 20% more people get that problem wrong for just not reading carefully or from being in a hurry to finish the math and move on. You want to see those silly little trap answers there because they add difficulty (and therefore points) to your test without being truly “hard.”

Another reason is that there’s nothing more confidence-building than catching the GMAT trying to beat you with a silly trick that you’re more than prepared for. That’s Cedric’s point about concert tickets; sometimes it’s not sitting in great seats that makes you feel truly big-time, it’s being able to prove to someone else that you’ve earned the right to sit in them. That’s why Cedric wishes a would sit in his seats; he wants that pure satisfaction that comes from being justified in kicking them out! That adds happiness and satisfaction to the whole show. Similarly, when you catch the GMAT trying to trick you with a trap you saw coming from a mile away, that’s a huge confidence boost for the rest of the test. And that’s the ultimate point of this post – you can’t go into the test fearful of falling for traps. If that’s your mindset – “I really hope the GMAT doesn’t trick me into forgetting about zero” – then even if you catch that and save your answer, it can breed more stress. In a Data Sufficiency format, that could look like:

What is the value of x?

(1) 8x = x^2

(2) x is not a positive number

But on Cedric’s team – I wish the GMAT would try to sneak numbers like negatives, fractions, and zero past me – that same discussion looks like this (in **bold** because, well, it’s a bolder way of thinking):

What is the value of x?

(1) 8x = 8^2

<Cedric’s discussion with self: **Man I know you want me to say 8 but that’s easy. I think x has to be 8 but I think you may be trying to trick me, GMAT. I’m too quick for that; I’m a grown-ass man dawg. We ain’t through here, you hear me?.**>

(2) x is not a positive number

<Cedric’s discussion with self: **There you go, always talking in code like that. x is not a positive number…you didn’t say it was negative so what’s the difference there. It’s zero; you don’t think I know that? So I see what you’re doing…I knew you’d try to throw zero at me. 8x = x^2 above? Anything times 0 is 0 so 0 is that second answer up top; I knew it wouldn’t be that easy. Statement 1 isn’t sufficient because of 0 and 8 and statement 2 says it can’t be 8. That’s C, dawg, as in you can’t C me easy like that. What do you have up next there Einstein?**>

The real difference? Cedric’s mindset uses his knowledge that the GMAT will hit you with common traps as confidence. He knows it’s coming and he’s happy when he does see it, and catching those traps just breeds more confidence since he knows he’s better than the test and handling at least some of it’s difficulty with ease. The other mindset – even if it leads to a right answer on a particular question – breeds fear and anxiety, and those qualities can take a toll on future questions. By the time you take the GMAT you know what common traps it’s setting for you, so be confident when you see and avoid them! Like in this example:

x and y are consecutive integers such that x > y. What is the absolute value of y?

(1) The product xy is 20.

(2) x is a prime number.

Have you summoned your inner Cedric? Statement 1 begs you to say “oh, well if x is greater than y and they’re consecutive integers that multiply to 20, it’s 4 and 5 and x is the big one so y = 4. But wait – don’t you wish they’d try to throw a trick at you? Are you ready for it when it comes?

Statement 2 looks to just confirm what you saw before. Yep, x = 5 in statement 1, and if you take statement 2 alone it’s nowhere near sufficient. So what’s Cedric thinking? He *wishes* that the test would try to hit him with some of the low-level trickery it so often does. The test likes nonintegers? No, those don’t apply since the question says that x and y are indeed integers. The test likes 0? That doesn’t really apply either for statement 1 since 0 times anything can’t equal 20. But the GMAT also likes negative numbers, and you were wishing they’d try to get you with those. What other consecutive integers multiply to 20? -4 and -5. And in that case which is the smaller one (again, x > y)? That’s right, -5. So while the amateur might pick A thinking that the absolute value of y has to be 4, you can answer confidently like Cedric in the clip above:

“That’s right. Fo *and* five.”

Statement 1 is not sufficient alone, but statement 2 guarantees that the numbers have to be positive, so the answer is C. And since you wished the GMAT would try to get you with that positive/negative trick, you were looking for it, you answered correctly, and you confidently moved on to the next problem knowing that you’re on a roll.

On the GMAT, don’t hope they don’t try to make it difficult with those tricks that got you in practice. Wish they would make it difficult with those tricks because you’re confident you won’t fall for them again. They hope; you wish.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Brian Galvin*

The beat itself, with the steady bass line followed by the singsongy “You know…,” is a positive affirmation in and of itself. You DO know. You know how to solve these problems. You know that if you can’t make sense of the question you can often find clues in the answer choices. You know that just getting started and writing down what “you know…” is often the key to lessening anxiety and getting the prompt into an actionable format. You know.

But the master message in this track is the way that the three most prominent rappers in the game start each verse:

“Thinking out loud…”

Why is that important to you, the GMAT test-taker? Because that’s the way that the greatest test-takers start GMAT problems, too.

“Thinking out loud…”

Thinking out loud on the GMAT means having a conversation with yourself about the problem. It means staying relaxed and getting your thoughts together before you panic about the challenge of the problem. It means understanding that many problems won’t have an obvious set of steps that you can begin right away; they’ll require you to start loose and take account of your assets and the strategies in your toolkit. One of the keys to success on the GMAT is thinking out loud.

Check the rapgenius.com annotation for why Drizzy/Nicki/Weezy start each verse that way: *All three MCs start their verses with some variation of “I’m thinkin’ out loud,” lending the song a breezy, friends-in-the-booth feeling. The recording was probably not a casual meeting, at all, but they’re good at sounding relaxed.*

For that reason alone, thinking out loud is important for you. Their recording wasn’t a casual meeting – as they go on to say in all their lyrics they’re some of the wealthiest and most sought-after people on the planet, so that meeting was a big deal – but they were able to approach it like it was. Similarly your GMAT is, indeed, a big deal, but casual, calm problem solving is the name of the game. Teaching yourself to think out loud – “so I know that x and y must be positive but z could be either positive or negative…” – is a great way to get your mind thinking calmly and proactively as opposed to the all-too-commmon reactive mode of “I don’t even know where to start.”

But thinking out loud isn’t just a psychological tool, it’s also a tactical tool. Tricky GMAT problems are notorious for forcing you to see your assets from different angles before you can package them in a way to solve the problem. Too often students are looking for “the way” to do a problem when really they should be looking for “a way”. Which seems like a trivial difference but going in with the mindset that there may be several ways to solve the problem allows you to be flexible and see assets, not liabilities. Consider the example:

If side AB measures 3 and side BC measures 4, what is the length of line segment BD?

(A) 7/5

(B) 9/5

(C) 12/5

(D) 18/5

(E) 23/5

While many will rush into an abyss of Pythagorean Theorem, thinking out loud can show you a calm, proactive way to do this.

“Thinking out loud…I know that it’s a right triangle so if AB = 3 and BC = 4, it’s a 3-4-5 and side AC is 5. And as much as I want side AC to be cut in half by point D I don’t think I can do that. There are three different right triangles so I could go nuts with Pythagorean Theorem but that’s a lot of work. Thinking out loud, I also know that the perimeter is 3 + 4 + 5 and the area is 1/2(base)(height) so that’s 1/2 (3)(4) = 6. But what can I do with that?

Thinking out loud…the answer choices are all divided by 5…why do they all look like that? The only 5 in the problem so far is the 5 that’s side AC. Why would I multiply or divide by that?

Thinking out loud…BD is definitely going to be smaller than 4 because there’s no way it’s longer than side BC. So it can’t be E. But what else do I know about BD? It’s perpendicular to side AC, and AC is 5 and that’s that 5 in the denominator. Thinking out loud…what if I drew the triangle so that AC was on the bottom and not on the side? Then BD would be the height of triangle ABC and AC would be the base…but wait, I already know the area is 6, so that area 1/2 (side BD)(5) has to be 6, which means that side BD has to be 12/5, answer choice C.”

The takeaway here is that almost no one sees the area relationship with side BD right away, and that’s okay. The key to working on problems like these is staying loose and filling in unknowns. You can’t simply do math on paper and follow a set of steps…you need to do some thinking out loud and talk to yourself as you solve. For each of Drake, Nicki, and Wayne the phrase “thinking out loud” is followed by a wild description of how much money they have. Follow that “thinking out loud” philosophy and you’ll be on a similar pace with the help of an elite MBA.

*By Brian Galvin*

*30 minutes is not a lot of time, many say, and because an effective essay needs to be well-organized and well-written it is therefore impossible to write a 30-minute essay.*

Let’s discuss the extent to which we disagree with that conclusion, in classic AWA style.

In the first line of a recent blog post, the author claimed that writing an effective AWA essay in 30 minutes was impossible. That argument certainly has at least some merit; after all, an effective essay needs to show the reader that it’s well-written and well-organized. But this argument is fundamentally flawed, most notably because the essay doesn’t need to “be” well-written as much as it needs to “appear” well-written. In the paragraphs that follow, I will demonstrate that the conclusion is flawed, and that it’s perfectly possible to write an effective AWA essay in 30 minutes or less.

Most conspicuously, the author leans on the 30-minute limit for writing the AWA essay, when in fact the 30 minutes only applies to the amount of time that the examinee spends actually typing at the test center. In fact, much of the writing can be accomplished well beforehand if the examinee chooses paragraph and sentence structures ahead of time. For this paragraph, as an example, the transition “most conspicuously” and the decision to refute that claim with “in fact” were made long before I ever stopped to type. So while the argument has merit that you only have 30 minutes to TYPE the essay, you actually have weeks and months to have the general outline written in your mind so that you don’t have to write it all from scratch.

Furthermore, the author claims that the essay has to be well-written. While that’s an ideal, it’s not a necessity; if you’ve followed this post thus far you’ve undoubtedly seen a number of organizational cues beginning and then transitioning within each paragraph. However, once a paragraph’s point has been established the reader is likely to follow the point even if it’s a hair out of scope. Does this sentence add value? Maybe not, but since the essay is so well-organized the reader will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, while the author is correct that 30 minutes isn’t a lot of time, he assumes that it’s not sufficient time to write something actually well-written. Since the AWA is a formulaic essay – like this one, you’ll be criticizing an argument that simply isn’t sound – you can be well-prepared for the format even if you don’t see the prompt ahead of time. Knowing that you’ll spend 2-3 minutes finding three flaws in the argument, then plug those flaws into a template like this, you have the blueprint already in place for how to spend that time effectively. Therefore, it really is possible to write a well-written AWA in under 30 minutes.

As discussed above, the author’s insistence that 30 minutes is not enough time to write an effective AWA essay lacks the proper logical structure to be true. The AWA isn’t limited to 30 minutes overall, and if you’ve prepared ahead of time the 30 minutes you do have can go to very, very good use. How do I know? This blog post here took just under 17 minutes…

*By Brian Galvin*

We’re still firmly entrenched in the first third of the year, and if 2015 is the year that you plan to conquer the GMAT you’re in luck. Why?

Because your GMAT study plan should include three phases:

**1) Learn**

One of the most common mistakes that GMAT studiers make is that they forget that they need to learn before they can execute. Are you keeping an eye on the stopwatch on every question you complete? Are you taking multiple practice tests in your first month of GMAT prep? Have you uttered the phrase “how could I ever do this in two minutes???”? If so, you’re probably not paying nearly enough attention to the learning phase. In the learning phase you should:

- Review core skills related to the GMAT by DOING them and not just by trying to memorize them. You were once a master of (or maybe a B-student at) factoring quadratics and identifying misplaced modifiers and completing long division. Retrain your mind to do those things well again by practicing those skills.
- Learn about the GMAT question types and the strategies that will help you attack them efficiently. For this you might consider a prep course or self-study program, or you can always start by reviewing prep books and free online resources.
- Take as much time as you need to complete and learn from problems. You’ll learn a lot more from struggling through a problem in six minutes than you will from taking two minutes, giving up, and then reading the typewritten solution in the back of the book. Let yourself learn! Again, it’s critical to learn by doing – by actively engaging with problems and talking yourself into understanding – than it is to try to memorize your way to success. The stopwatch is not your friend in the first third of your preparation!
- Embrace mistakes and keep a positive attitude. The GMAT is a hard test; most people struggle with unfamiliar question formats (Data Sufficiency, anyone?) and challenging concepts (without a calculator, too). Recognize that it will take some time to learn/re-learn these skills, and that making mistakes and thinking about them is one of the best ways to learn.

**2) Practice**

Regardless of how you’ve studied, you’ll need to complete plenty of practice to make sure you’re comfortable implementing those strategies and using those skills on test day. Once you’ve developed a good sense of what the GMAT is testing and how you need to approach it, it’s time to spend a few weeks devouring practice problems. Among the best sources include:

- The Official Guide for GMAT Review series
- The GMATPrep Question Pack
- The Veritas Prep Question Bank

In this phase, you can start concerning yourself with the stopwatch a little and you’ll want to identify weaknesses and common mistakes so that you can emphasize those. Particularly with GMAT verbal, the more official problems you see the more you develop a feel for the style of them, so it’s important to emphasize practice not just for the conscious skills but also for those subconscious feelings you’ll get on test day from having seen so many ways they’ll ask you a question.

**3) Execute**

Before you take the GMAT you should have taken several practice tests. Practice tests will help you:

- Work on pacing and develop a sense for how much time you’ll need to complete each section. From there you can develop a pacing plan.
- Determine which “silly” mistakes you tend to make under timed pressure and exam conditions, and be hyperaware of them on test day.
- Develop the kind of mental stamina you’ll need to hold up under a 4-hour test day. Verbal strategies can be much easier to employ in a 60-minute study session than at the end of a several-hour test! Make sure that at least a few times you take the entire test including AWA and IR for the first hour.
- Continue to see new problems and hone your skills.

While it’s not a terrible idea to take a practice test early in your study regimen and another partway through the Practice phase, most of your tests should come toward the end of your study process. Why? Because the learning and practice phases are so important. You can’t execute until you’ve developed the skills and strategies necessary to do so, and you won’t do nearly as effective a job of gaining and practicing those if you’re not allowing yourself the time and subject-by-subject focus to learn with an open mind.

So be certain to let yourself learn with a natural progression via the GMAT Study Rule of Thirds. Learn first; then focus on practice; then emphasize execution via practice tests. Studying in thirds is the best way to ensure that you get into a school that’s your first choice.

*By Brian Galvin*

Yep, we’re down with Naughty by Nature’s OPP, particularly as it applies to Reading Comprehension. What do we mean by that?

Well…

OPP, how should we explain it. Let’s take it frame by frame it…the way you should be reading GMAT RC passages.

O is for Organization

P is for Primary

the last P? Well it’s quite simple. It’s Purpose.

That’s what you should be looking for when you read each paragraph – frame by frame, so to speak – of an RC passage. Organization refers to words that signal the author’s intent. Details are rarely important on Reading Comp questions, and when they are you can always go back to them. What you’re looking for are signals to tell you why the author is presenting those details. Organization words come in a few varieties;

Transition words like “however,” “but,” “conversely,” etc. let you know that the author is changing directions.

Continuation words like “also,” “furthermore,” etc. tell you that the author is continuing along the same point.

Concluding words (“therefore,” “thus,” etc.) help you identify clear conclusions.

And overall, looking for signals of the author’s purpose is the way to approach your first read. You likely won’t remember the details – the quant section is long and grueling as it is – and you don’t have to. But you’ll always get a “What is the primary purpose?” style question and on those you can’t go back to a particular detail – you have to have understood the general intent of the author. So as you read, remember that “Why” – the author’s purpose or intent in writing about the topic – is more important than “What” the author was writing about, largely because you can always go back to find the “What.” Furthermore (there’s one of those words…), if you’ve followed the author’s intent you’ll have a better sense of where to look for particular details.

Let’s consider an example using, why not, the lyrics to OPP themselves. If you follow Treach’s first few lines of each verse (which serve musically as paragraphs), you should see what’s going on:

**Verse 1 begins:**

OPP, how can I explain it. I’ll take it frame by frame it. To have y’all jumping, shouting, singing it. O is for Other, P is for People scratching a temple. The last P, well, that’s not that simple. It’s sort of like…

**Verse two begins:**

For the ladies, OPP means something different. The first two letters are the same but the last means something different…

And if you don’t read much past those two sections – each of which contains familiar symptoms of organization – you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. What’s the author Treach’s main point? If you see an answer choice that suggests something like:

“To explain the meaning of OPP and how it differs for men and women”

or

“To demonstrate the challenge of the last P in OPP because of how it differs for men and women.”

You’re in great shape – just from paying attention you know that paragraph one introduces the concept of OPP and begins to explain the ever-challenging last initial, P, and that paragraph two deals with the difference in OPP for men and women. From the organization and a focus on Treach’s intent with each paragraph, you should have a reasonable time with the Obligatory Primary Purpose question.

But what about the details, you might ask?

Detail-oriented questions are most easily answered by noting clues as to where to look for a particular detail. Detail questions on this topic might include:

“Why does the author feel that explaining the last P can be so challenging?”

For that, you’d want to look in the first paragraph where he first notes that “the last P, well, that’s not that simple.”

“What does the author suggest is the primary difference in OPP between men and women?”

There you’re likely looking at the second paragraph, because you know it deals specifically with the difference.

The important concept – looking at OPP, Organization and Primary Purpose – not only helps you read at the right level to answer the general questions, but also helps you efficiently get a mental roadmap of the passage so that you know where to look for the specifics. And you should ALWAYS go back to the passage for specifics.

So if you want to get your GMAT verbal score to the 99th percentile by nature, get down with OPP: Organization and Primary Purpose. The details will be there when you need them but your primary purpose is to get through the passage efficiently and to understand the broader picture. Why did Treach, himself, gloss over some of the more particular details, namely the last P? According to rapgenius.com it was to get more radio airplay and, yes, to allow the song to be played for the youth at school dances. And so heed the same advice: in order to get into more schools, don’t worry so much about the specific details (at least not at first). But make sure you’re down with OPP.

*By Brian Galvin*

Few are living the good life better than the author/performer of “The Good Life,” Kanye West-Kardashian. And while it may seem ironic for “The College Dropout” to provide the best advice for getting into a top graduate school, the way Kanye describes the Good Life provides you with critical advice for obtaining the good life via a high quant score on the GMAT. When you’re practicing Data Sufficiency, pay attention to Yeezy as he says:

“So I roll through good. Y’all pop the trunk; I pop the hood. (Ferrari)

If she got the goods, and she got that ass, I got to look. (Sorry)”

How does this lyric relate to Data Sufficiency? We’ll translate.

As you’re rolling through a standard Data Sufficiency problem, it’s quite common to make your decision on statement 1 alone (pop the trunk) and then on statement 2 alone (pop the hood). And since time is of the essence, you do so quickly (Ferrari). For example, you might see the problem:

Is yz > x?

(1) y > x/z

And then quickly think to yourself “if I take the given statement and multiply both sides by z, I get a direct answer: yz > x, so that’s sufficient. Now let’s look at statement 2 alone because the answer must be A or D.”

But if you’re on your way to the Good Life, you need to play the Data Sufficiency game at a higher level, and that level may be a little different from the status quo. (“50 told me go ‘head switch the style up…”) So read on:

“If she got the goods” refers to the other statement. If “the other statement” seems fairly obvious on its own, most of us will see that as very, very good. We can quickly make our determination, eliminate the last answer choice or two, and move on. But wait:

“And she got that ass, I got to look,” of course, refers to statements having “that assistance.” For example, if statement 2 in this problem were to say:

(2) z < 0

Knowing that z is negative is “that ass(istance)”. It’s clearly insufficient on its own (what about y and x?), but in giving you the goods that z is negative it’s assisting you in avoiding a catastrophic mistake. In statement 1, you multiplied both sides of an INEQUALITY by a variable, z. But statement 2 tells you that the variable is negative, which means that simply multiplying by z without flipping the sign – or at least considering that the sign might need to be flipped – was a mistake. You had to consider negative/positive there – if z were positive, you just multiply; if it were negative, you’d multiply and flip. And since you didn’t know what sign z took when you assessed statement 1 alone, statement 1 actually was not sufficient. You need statement 2’s ass(istance), so the answer is C.

And that’s where Kanye’s lyric is so important. “IF she got that ass(istance), I got to look (Sorry)” means that, while the standard operating procedure for Data Sufficiency is to adhere strictly to: 1 alone, then forget; 2 alone, then forget; if nether was sufficient alone then try them together, that strategy leaves some valuable points on the table. If statement 2 gives you information that you hadn’t considered when you assessed statement 1, you’ve **got to look** at how that new piece of information would have impacted your decision. Did you need to know that or not? And although this new strategic element may contradict the easy process-of-elimination that helped you learn Data Sufficiency in the first place (Sorry), it’s critical if you’re going to live the 700+ good life – difficult Data Sufficiency is structured to reward those who see the potential for clues in the question stem and in the “other” statement, those who leverage assets that may not be readily apparent to the average test taker.

Note that sometimes that new piece of information is unnecessary. For example, if the question were instead:

Is yz = x?

(1) y > x/z

(2) z < 0

You actually don’t need to know the sign. When you use statement 1 alone and multiply both sides by z, you either get yz > x (if z is positive) or yz < x (if z is negative). It’s either greater than or less than with no room for equals, so you don’t need the sign. So statement 2 isn’t always necessary, but if it appears to give assistance you’ve got to look – you have to at least consider whether it’s important, because that’s where the GMAT has set up the difficulty. On the most difficult problems, the GMAT will tend to reward those who can leverage all available information to think critically and make a good decision, so it pays to at least take a fairly-obvious-on-its-own statement and look at it in the context of the other statement, just in case.

So learn from Yeezy (who in classic yz > x form is a much greater instructor than Xzibit) and remember – the easier statement’s always got the goods, so on the chance that it’s got that ass(istance), you’ve got to look. The good life: it feels like Palo Alto, it feels like Cambridge, it feels like Fontainebleu. If you’ve got a passion for flashing that acceptance letter, when a Data Sufficiency statement looks too obvious on your own, ask yourself what would Yeezus do.

*By Brian Galvin*

Now, while you’re in the thick of the quant section looking for an un-Common-ly high score, the only Common lyric in your head is probably “Go!”. But particularly when you get to dense word problems, you’ll likely have more success if you heed his advice from the beginning and the refrain from “The Food“:

**Slow motion better than no motion.**

What’s Common trying to tell you about how to approach the quant section? Essentially this: most examinees hurry through their initial read of a problem, taking ~20 seconds to read the entire paragraph prompt, only to get to the question mark, sigh, and go back to the top to get started. That’s “no motion” on your first 20 seconds – which, if you’re holding to an average of 2 minutes per problem, is almost 17% of the time you have to get it done.

What should you do? Slow motion, which is better than no motion. What does that mean? Start writing and thinking while you read. For example, consider this problem:

*Working in a South Side studio at a constant rate, Kanye can drop a full-length platinum LP in 5 weeks. Working at his own constant rate, Common can drop a full-length platinum LP in x weeks. If the two emcees work together at their independent rates, they can drop a full-length platinum compilation LP in 2 weeks. Assuming no efficiency is lost or gained from working together, how many weeks would it take Common, working alone, to drop a full-length platinum LP?*

(A) 3 and 1/3 weeks

(B) 3 weeks

(C) 2 and 1/2 weeks

(D) 2 and 1/3 weeks

(E) 2 weeks

Now, while your instinct may be to Go! and speed through your initial read of this rate problem, remember: slow motion (is) better than no motion. As you read each sentence, you should start jotting down variables and relationships so that by the time you get to the question mark you have actionable math on your noteboard and you don’t have to read the question all over again to get started. You should be thinking:

*Working in a South Side studio at a constant rate, Kanye can drop a full-length platinum LP in 5 weeks.*

Rate (K) = 1 album / 5 weeks

*Working at his own constant rate, Common can drop a full-length platinum LP in x weeks.*

Rate (C) = 1 album / x weeks

*If the two emcees work together…*

I’m adding these rates, so their combined rate is 1/5 + 1/x

*…they can drop a full-length platinum compilation LP in 2 weeks.*

And they’re giving me the combined rate of 1 album / 2 weeks, so 1/5 + 1/x = 1/2

*Assuming no efficiency is lost or gained from working together, how many weeks would it take Common, working alone, to drop a full-length platinum LP?*

I’m using that equation to solve for Common’s time, so I’m solving for x.

Now by this point, that slow motion has paid off – your equation is set, your variable is assigned, and you know what you’ve solving for. Your job is to solve for x, so:

1/5 + 1/x = 1/2, so let’s get the x term on its own:

1/x = 1/2 – 1/5. and we can combine the two numeric terms by finding a common denominator of 10:

1/x = 5/10 – 2/10

1/x = 3/10, and from here you have options but let’s cross multiply:

10 = 3x, so divide both sides by 3 to get x alone:

10/3 = x, and that doesn’t look like the answer choices so let’s convert to a mixed number: 3 and 1/3 (there’s that number again), for answer choice A.

What’s the real lesson? It’s like Common says: slow motion (is) better than no motion, so you should read just a little slower but have some scratchwork to show for your initial read of the prompt. If you can:

-assign variables

-jot down relationships or equations

-write down which variable the answer wants

You’ll have a lot more to show for your initial 30 seconds with each problem, and you’ll find that you solve problems much more quickly this way because you have less wasted time. So heed Common’s uncommon wisdom (which is really just common sense): the best way to Go is to remember that slow motion > no motion.

*By Brian Galvin*

1) You can’t trust what people say on the internet.

2) Your five major senses can deceive you, so you can’t rely on them when approaching GMAT Sentence Correction problems.

If you want to avoid leaving the GMAT test center black-and-blue, beaten up by tricky Sentence Correction problems, make sure you do better than trusting your ear. Much like the powers that launched The Dress on us, the GMAT testmakers know that our senses don’t always hold true to logic and reason, and so they mine Sentence Correction problems with opportunities to be misled by your ear. Consider the example:

While Jackie Robinson was a Brooklyn Dodger, his courage in the face of physical threats and verbal attacks was not unlike that of Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

(A) not unlike that of Rosa Parks, who refused

(B) not unlike Rosa Parks, who refused

(C) like Rosa Parks and her refusal

(D) like that of Rosa Parks for refusing

(E) as that of Rosa Parks, who refused

For many, the phrase “not unlike” is a red (or black-and-blue) flag right away. Your ear may very well abhor that language, and if so you’ll quickly eliminate the white-and-gold answer A and answer B right away. But A is actually correct, as this sentence requires:

-“that of” (to compare Jackie Robinson’s courage with Rosa Parks’s courage)

-“who refused” (to make it clear that Rosa Parks was the one who refused to the back of the bus; with “for refusing” in D it’s unclear who that last portion of the sentence belongs to)

And only choice A includes both, so it has to be right. What makes this problem tricky? The GMAT testmakers know that:

1) You read left to right and top to bottom

2) Your ear likely won’t take kindly to “not unlike” even though it’s not wrong. “Not unlike” is saying “it’s not totally different from, even though it’s not the same thing,” whereas “like” indicates a much closer relationship. There’s a continuum there, and the phrase “not unlike” has a valid meaning on that continuum of similarity.

And so what do the testmakers do? They:

1) Make “not unlike” vs. “like” the first difference between answer choices, daring you to use your ear before you use your Sentence Correction strategy (look for modifiers, verbs, pronouns, and comparisons first)

2) Put the answer you won’t like (but should pick) first at answer choice A, making it easy for you to eliminate the right answer right away before you start considering the core skills listed in the parentheses above

And the lesson?

Don’t trust your ear as your primary deciding factor on Sentence Correction problems. Your senses – as The Dress shows – are prone to deceiving you, and what’s more the testmakers know that and will use it against you! They want to reward critical thinking, the use of logic and reason, the adherence to proven systems and processes. So they give you the opportunity to use your not-always-reliable senses, and reward you for learning the lesson of The Dress. Your senses can fool you, so on important decisions like The Dress and Sentence Correction, don’t simply rely on your senses: they may just leave you black and blue.

*By Brian Galvin*