In writing a weekly column for Veritas Prep, I try to cover topics and subjects that will help you avoid common pitfalls on the GMAT. The exam uses certain common traps and therefore it is better to review them routinely in order to be prepared to deal with such adversity on test day. Every type of question on the exam can have pitfalls and I’d like to cover the major ones in every question type. Today, we’ll take a look at Reading Comprehension.
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Frustrated by Parallel Reasoning questions, even after lots of practice? I don’t blame you! It’s tough to tackle 6 arguments instead of 1, especially if pacing on the Verbal section is challenging for you. In Part I of this series, we looked at how to define parallel reasoning questions on the GMAT. Today let’s take a look at 3 steps to take in order to get these questions correct!
Springtime has always been a reason to celebrate – we’re recently through Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, and on to “Dads and Grads” and wedding season. Oh, and next week the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section turns one year old. So grab your party hats and noisemakers and get ready for some sloppy cake eating…let’s celebrate the Integrated Reasoning section’s first birthday with 8 strategies to help you get a perfect 8 on that section.
In the quant section of the GMAT, there are a fair number of formulae to know in order to answer the ensemble of questions that may be asked of you. Most of them are covered in any basic test prep material, but a formula is always just a short hand version of a much longer manual process.
There is an anecdote about a primary school teacher who wanted to keep a misbehaved child busy for a period, so she asked him to sum up all the numbers from 1 to 100. To her dismay, the child answered the question in a matter of seconds, and the answer was correct. The child explained to his teacher that, instead of simply adding 1+2+3…, you could create a pairwise addition that would always yield the same number. If you added 1 to 100, you would get 101. If you added 2 to 99, you would still get 101. If you added 3 to 98, you’d still get 101, and so on. Thus the addition of 100 different numbers could be turned into a multiplication of two simple numbers: 101 x 50. The student in question was mathematical prodigy Carl Friedrich Gauss.
Word Problems tend to intimidate newcomers to the GMAT. Don’t be scared! The math on most word problems is actually easier and less troublesome than the math on a straightforward arithmetic or algebra problem.
The reason the math is easier on these problems is because the problem is made hard in other ways. Word problems are considered hard because you have to convert a word problem into a math question. This involves good reading skills and good critical reasoning skills.
Without descriptive words, phrases or clauses, sentences lack color. A misstep of many is not paying close enough attention to the proper placement of modifiers. The makers of the GMAT are aware of this shortsightedness of many test-takers. As a result, they do test your ability to recognize illogical modifiers.
Parallel Reasoning questions on the Critical Reasoning section of the GMAT are a type of “method of reasoning” question-type. These questions require you to focus on the author’s logic. Parallel reasoning questions ask you to look for the answer choice that has the closest logical structure as the argument in the question stem. Ask yourself: which choice best matches the WAY the author moves from the evidence to his conclusion?
Critical reasoning questions on the GMAT tend to follow the same structure over and over again. This means that they can be answered the same way over and over again (like the movie Groundhog Day, but with words!). The first step is to determine which type of question you’re dealing with, which is why identifying the category is the first step towards successfully answering the question. The four major categories can be remembered with the mnemonic SWIM:
Any worthwhile MBA program is bound to cause some stress in the life of a student. Remember: if your MBA program didn’t challenge you at the highest level, it wouldn’t be worth it. That said, sometimes we make it hard on ourselves to de-stress in our GMAT study plan. Procrastination, lack of sleep, and taking on too much work are the most often-blamed culprits. If you find yourself “burning the candle at both ends,” try these techniques to bring a little relief!
On GMAT Test Day, you will likely see at least a few quadrilaterals tested. Quadrilaterals, like other shapes in Geometry, usually appear in Geometry questions that involve basic properties of quadrilaterals, perimeter, or area. Like most Geometry, all it takes is some memorization and a little practice!
I, for one, am very excited about the new Baz Luhrmann adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatbsy.” Re-reading the book in anticipation of today’s opening, I was struck by the differences in character between Jay Gatsby and the protagonist Nick Carraway, especially evinced by this exchange from Chapter 6:
Even if you know the basic rules for questions involving powers and roots, it’s still common to feel some intimidation towards harder-looking GMAT questions.
The “” symbol is called the “radical” symbol. You may know the square root, but how comfortable are you with cube roots? For instance:
A common complaint I hear from students is: “I’m not good at algebra”. Full disclosure, algebra isn’t my favorite topic either. Although algebra is a powerful tool for solving many questions on the GMAT, it is rarely the only means available to solve a given math problem.
There are so many types of Critical Reasoning questions that sometimes it’s confusing to tell your Method of Reasoning from your Argument Structure! Students are always instructed to read the question stems first and discern the specific category of CR question from them, but there’s another more important reason to hone in on the specific wording of the question stem: it gives away the answer!
You’ve probably read about or seen CR questions that confuse “causation” with “correlation,” but what does it mean in the real world? And why does it matter?
In statistics, let’s say we have data from two variables: x and y. They have a direct relationship. As one increases, the other increases. This could lead scientists to draw a conclusion that one variable causes the change in the other variable. But this isn’t necessary true! In fact, some third variable may be affecting both x and y! In order to prove causation and validate that one variable is indeed directly influencing the other and is the reason behind the detected correlation, further studies would need to be conducted, altering parameters, and recording outcomes.
Not sure how to make adjustments in your GMAT study plan? Take this short quiz to find out what kind of student you are! Once you determine your study style, you can make small adjustments in your study plan to help you become more efficient in your GMAT prep!
Preparing to take the GMAT exam is a journey that requires patience, dedication and the ability to maintain focus over a long period. Taking the exam is the culmination of a long journey that may have lasted months if not years. The approaching test day has caused a few sleepless nights for many as that circled date on the calendar loomed ever closer. This entire experience might remind you of another similar rite of passage that many of us have gone through: The prom. (Unsubstantiated rumor: new American Pie movie will revolve around taking the GMAT)
The Argument Essay definitely allows for some flexibility, but it helps if you have a memorized template going in, because then there’s no risk of being “stuck.” Below is a sample outline. If you are an adept writer, you may wish to place your “How to Strengthen” paragraph on its own right before the Conclusion, and then have a separate shorter Conclusion. Click here for tips on writing your essay.
Word problems on the GMAT often do not require particularly difficult algebra to solve. Most of the time, solving simple linear equations or using a formula is all that is required. The key is to not be intimidated by the length of the description and to be able to pull out the relevant information and set up the correct equation/s. These 4 tips will help you tackle any Problem Solving question that is significantly wordy.
The AWA section of the GMAT is made up of one short piece of writing called the “Argument” essay. It essentially asks you to evaluate an argument, usually a type of proposal. The main qualities that the readers look for are the organization of your ideas, the quality of the ideas themselves, the strength and relevance of the examples, and your grasp of standard written English. According to GMAC, the “Analysis of an Argument tests your ability to formulate an appropriate and constructive critique of a specific conclusion based on a specific line of thinking.” With that, let’s take a look at a few helpful tips:
One of the reasons calculators aren’t allowed on the GMAT is to ensure that people are really thinking about the numbers they are using to solve problems. Being at ease with mental math is a skill that has been slowly eroded since the advent and subsequent ubiquity of the calculator in the education process (sadly my frequent calls to bring back the abacus have gone unheeded). Too often, people mindlessly type in numbers, and don’t even notice if they hit the wrong number or a button gets pressed twice. Of course 5*6=45, the machine told me so! (Dependence on machines also eventually leads to Skynet) However, being good at mental math can be helped along if you already have a good idea which numbers you might expect to see on test day.
Need better scores on GMAT Geometry questions? The GMAT loves triangles (no offense, circles). With a clear set of rules and formulas which govern their construction, they are lean, mean, Plane Geometry-machines. Get ANY question with a triangle right as long as you know its foundational properties. Let’s review!
As the basketball playoffs get underway, the LA Lakers are present once again. While they’re missing their star player, let’s take a moment to reflect on how he helped get them there – and how it can help you on the GMAT. In the entire history of basketball, perhaps no one has been a better example of focus and perseverance than Kobe Bryant. And if there’s one thing you’ll need to be successful on the GMAT, it’s a good dose of Kobe-esque grit and determination. What lessons can we take from the legend to use in our own preparation and game day execution?
On the GMAT, an exam about reasoning and logic, there are few things more frustrating than long sentences punctuated by a host of modifiers, particularly prepositional phrases, participial phrases and appositive phrases, to say nothing of relative clauses. Sentence correction questions are about making sure there are no mistakes in a given sentence, and the more commas and modifiers a sentence has, the more difficult it is to ascertain whether or not it is structured correctly (hint: ~80% of the time, it’s not).
Is anyone else as obsessed with the BBC’s Sherlock as I am? In addition to the amazingly well-plotted stories and the awesome performances in this latest carnation, Sherlock Holmes is a character we can’t seem to get enough of. From the prime-time CBS version “Elementary” to the Guy Richie movies starring Robert Downey Jr., the deer-stalker-wearing sleuth is everywhere! So how can we apply his powers of deduction to even the most dreaded GMAT Critical Reasoning question? By following this famous Sherlock quote:
GMAT students often get CR problems that use words like “EXCEPT” or “NOT” in their question-stems wrong, and it definitely makes sense why. If we can’t really understand what a question is asking, how can we even begin to solve it? Let’s break down a tough one together.
A greater number of sports magazine subscriptions are sold in Town A than are sold in Town B. Therefore, the citizens of Town A are better informed about international sporting competitions than are the citizens of Town B.
The new GMAT Integrated Reasoning section contain four question-types, several of which require the interpretation of data given in graphs and tables. Data analysis is not a skill required on the GMAT Quant section, so this is new to many students. What skills can we bring to these 12 questions? Here are some hot tips!
I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about the GMAT. It’s a very interesting exam that can be thought of from multiple angles. Most people see it as an obstacle to be surmounted in an effort to get into the business school of their choice. Some people see it as an unfortunate barrier to their future plans. Personally, I like to think of it as an opportunity to test your reasoning skills against an unseen test maker (who you can think of as the Wizard Oz from the namesake movie). Your goal is to stay one step ahead of the test and predict the traps that will be laid out for you as you answer questions.
Fans of the “Harry Potter” franchise know that the Sorting Hat magically determines which of the four school houses each new student is to be assigned at Hogwarts. This Hat has to take into account data on every new Hogwarts student, and somehow be able to tell a Gryffindor from a Slytherin! Similarly, on the “Table Analysis” questions in the Integrated Reasoning section on the GMAT, you are required to sift through data and draw conclusions. We may not have magic to help us, but sorting data isn’t as complicated as it sounds.
Application questions are a very specific type of Inference question. They ask us to go one step further; we must apply what we have read in the passage to a new or hypothetical situation. For these tougher Inference questions, it’s important to ignore the answer choices until you’ve effectively broken down and made sense of the relevant parts of the passage.
In Critical Reasoning questions, we know we have to understand the “author’s argument” – essentially his point of view that is expressed in the given paragraph, but it’s also important to narrow in on the “how” of the argument: the reasoning itself. The reasoning gives us the full “because.” For example, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey might both agree an American Idol contestant shouldn’t move on to the finals, but their reasoning could be very different. Maybe Mariah Carey doesn’t think the singer can hit the high notes, while Nicki Minaj may not think their outfits have enough pink feathers. Let’s look at a CR questions where the reasoning helps us find the correct answer:
Have you taken the time to really read the Directions for AWA Analysis of an Argument? The directions read like a list of critical reasoning question types! Anything that you can do in critical reasoning you are seemingly encouraged to do on the AWA.
Here are the directions. Can you spot the references to various critical reasoning question types?
The topics on the GMAT quantitative section are chosen because most test takers have some experience solving questions on these topics in high school. Subjects like algebra and geometry have given high school students white hairs and craned necks for generations (what? I was stretching, not copying off of her exam, honest!).
Struggling a bit with Plane Geometry? Here are all the formulas you’ll need to know to solve for area on the GMAT! You’ll see several shapes, but the most common is the triangle.
To find its area, we use the formula A = ½ bh, where b = base and h = height. The base and the height of the triangle must always form a 90 degree angle. Keep in mind that the height can be inside or outside the triangle.
You’ve probably seen a GMAT question that looked like this:
The author’s tone in the passage can best be described as:
Questions that ask about tone and style may not be as common as Detail or Inference questions, but they often come up on the GMAT. The first step to tackling them is to make sure you did some solid note-taking on your first read of the passage. Unlike Detail questions, there are no line numbers to help you find the answer for tone/style questions. Only by paying attention to the author’s voice and style as you read will you be able to get these questions right.
On the GMAT, the information provided to you will be factual, but it won’t necessarily be helpful. Once you have made peace with this unfortunate reality, the goal soon becomes to transform factual information into useful information in order to solve the question. This type of analysis is prevalent in the quantitative section of the exam, but also shows up in the verbal section. Statements provided will often contain implicit information that you must convert into explicit information. In essence, you need to get a handle on the assumptions being made.
You already have the skills you need for most Critical Reasoning questions; chances are you’re pretty awesome at deconstructing arguments and isolating conclusions already, but the unique format of “complete the passage” questions requires a few extra tips to master them!
Tip #1 – Break down that argument.
We’ve all seen how the GMAT loves to throw sneaky absolute values into data sufficiency questions involving number properties. Here’s a quick refresher on the properties of those double-bars, and a quick practice question!
The absolute value represents the distance from zero on a number line. Since a distance can never be negative, absolute values are always positive. On the GMAT, most absolute values you will see will involve a variable. Let’s consider |x|. If x is a positive number, such as 4, then |x| = x, because |4| = 4. However, if x is a negative number, such as negative 4, then |x| = -x. For any negative value of x, the sign would have to be changed.
Data Sufficiency statements can’t be altered. Every so often when I am tutoring a student, he or she will change up the rules of data sufficiency. I’ve seen it before with misunderstanding a “yes/no” data sufficiency question (by erroneously thinking an answer of “always no” means “not sufficient.”)
Strategy #1 – Count the Variables; Don’t do the Math!
Remember the “n equations with n variables” rule! If you have three unknowns, you’ll need three equations to solve for all three. If you only need the sum of two of those variables, however, you may only need two equations to solve! Let’s take a look at how this strategy can help us find a shortcut!