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).
Archive : GMAT TipsRSS feed
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!
Even if you’re amazing at Reading Comprehension, it’s sometimes difficult to tell a subtle Inference question from a Detail question. How can you keep straight which question type is which? Here’s an overview of common Reading Comprehension question types and some example GMAT question-stems to help you identify what you’re looking at on Test Day!
On the GMAT, you will face a variety of questions that you can prepare for. Not to be an auctioneer, the section boasts arithmetic problems, factor problems, algebra problems, geometry problems, stats problems, probability problems, data sufficiency problems, work rate problems, ratio problems, even combinatorics problems. However on the quant section you can often run into an unfamiliar question type that can reasoned out with some basics of algebra and clear conceptual thinking. When faced with this type of outlandish question, you only have one basic directive: solve it.
Often, the hardest part of a GMAT quantitative problem is taking all the information and organizing it in a meaningful way so that you can actually start the math part of the problem. (How many of you have faced this on the Grizzly Peak problem in the Arithmetic lecture?)
Let’s look at a particular type of problem that’s common on the test: the multiple rate problem.
We have three basic pieces of any rate problem: Rate, Time, and Distance (or work).
Succeeding in GMAT grammar requires you to emulate Sherlock Holmes. The clues are right in front of you!
The first item to be aware of is that too many of the sentences presented in the grammar portion of the GMAT are not clearly written, which can be frustrating if you are looking for an answer that is clean and concise. However, analyzing the sentences based on the rules that govern language rather than looking for answer choices that have polished readability is the key to being successful on this section.
March Madness, the annual tournament of some elite and some not-so-elite college basketball teams, is soon upon us. Teams have played through an entire season, including conference and early-season tournaments, and 68 of the chosen are now ready to face off in the biggest sports showcase in America. How they will do depends in no small part on their seeding—the ranking they receive based on how well they can perform against the competition. The better the seed, the easier their road to victory.
In Geometry, we often come across unusual figures. This can throw off our mind a bit, but it is important to remember: just use what you already know. Don’t let the unusual shapes take up too much time on the GMAT. Let’s take the following example, very similar to a problem a student emailed me this week.
On the surface, rate problems always seem like straight-forward problems. But when you actually sit down to work on them, especially the higher level problems under the time constraints of the GMAT, it’s often hard to keep all the pieces in order. My own personal strategy for dealing with these problems is to try to develop the intuition behind these problems as well as remember the formulas.
When reading through diverse texts, it is not uncommon to see various portions highlighted in different forms. The use of italics has become ubiquitous with citing references or proper names, and the GMAT has no reserved denotation for Italics. Generally, text that is underlined needs to examined carefully, and the GMAT uses this method exclusively for sentence correction. However, nothing draws the eye like the use of boldface. The additional thickness of the characters makes every letter seem more important than the paler doppelgangers that share the page with them. (Beware: a letter with tiny goatee may be an evil twin of that letter. G is the most likely evil doppelganger)
A student recently asked me how she could have gotten such a low score on the verbal section when the questions seemed so easy. Here is my response:
I have had students in your situation before and let me say that sometimes when things feel too easy on the VERBAL section, it is when a person allows herself or himself to get caught by assumptions and easy answers and does not dig as deeply as they should. This often happens when students finish the VERBAL section too quickly or feel like it was easy.
But You and I, We’re Just a Couple of Squares… What Difference Could We Possibly Make…?
The savvy GMAT-goer knows that the work on a Problem Solving question is best undertaken only after a survey of the answer choices makes clear just how much work — and what type of work — is really necessary. For instance, a 160/1600/16000/… set of choices tells you you can focus all your care on the magnitude of your answer; a 16000/25000/36000/… set of choices tells you you can forget about all those trailing 0’s and just focus on the “head” of the answer. As we stress in our Foundations of GMAT Logic book, the answer choices are part of the problem.
Have you ever been on the exam and the question is asking you something that you know well but can’t remember the details at that crucial moment? This happens to all of us at one time or another, and sometimes it helps to have a catchphrase or keyword to help recall the concept in our mind. Since certain things are easier to remember than others, it helps to associate a difficult concept with something you’re less likely to forget, such as the lyrics to your favorite song.
It was 8:46 AM on a cloudy Saturday in April 2007 and I was at the William St. test center in Manhattan. My GMAT was at 9:00. Unfortunately, that morning was also the date of the final exam for a nursing school in the city. There were around 20 anxious nursing students reviewing flashcards and cheat sheets, asking each other last minute questions, and generally freaking out. Watching them, I felt my pulse quicken.
I have been asked many times what type of snack to have and whether or not caffeine was a good option on test day. While this can vary student to student, here are a few responses to those student questions:
- “Your brain can only make so many complex decisions before it starts to run down. This can happen quickly during a test like the GMAT. In scientific studies they made a remarkable finding, only sugar can restore the decision-making/self-control portion of the brain!!”
Some of the most challenging Quant questions on the GMAT involve Coordinate Geometry, so it’s important you have a solid grasp on the formulas and concepts on Test Day. You’ll see straight lines more than curved figures, but you may find it helpful to know the standard formula of the parabola in order to tackle some of the toughest Coordinate Geometry questions.
Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was famous for winning numerous NCAA championships in the 1960s and 1970s. A number of the life lessons and phrases that he passed on to his players (Woodenisms) have become well known. I have sometimes found myself quoting these from time to time in my GMAT prep classes. Wooden saw himself as an educator even more so than a coach, and therefore his lessons extend to all facets of higher education, whether your goal is to make it to the NBA or to achieve an elite MBA. So regardless of your goals, heed the wise words of the Wizard of Westwood to raise your performance.
In GMAT Reading Comp, we’re sometimes asked to determine why the author includes a certain detail within a paragraph, or why the entire paragraph itself is included in the passage. We have to understand the logical structure of the author’s argument, the “flow” of one paragraph to the next, and the logic behind the use of a particular piece of information.
“How can I improve my Critical Reasoning ability?” is a common question for any GMAT instructor, but particularly for our own David Newland, who owns a 99th percentile LSAT score in addition to several 99ths on the GMAT. As an expert on both GMAT Critical Reasoning and its LSAT counterpart, Logical Reasoning, David is regularly sought out by those seeking advice on CR questions. Here’s his most common reply:
The pope’s recent announcement that he would be leaving the papacy came as a surprise to millions of people around the world last month. After all, election as pope carries a lifetime mandate by definition, and no sitting pope has resigned in the past 600 years. This string of some 60 popes serving their full mandate has now been broken, and the news brings up the topic of abdicating in the scope of the GMAT exam.
Set theory is no one’s favorite GMAT concept (unless you’re a masochist), but since nearly all test-takers will see at least one overlapping-sets question on the Quantitative section of the GMAT, it’s certainly important. And take solace in this – becoming confident with this challenging type of word problem can be as simple as learning how to rock a Venn diagram.
The first time I took the GMAT, I got stuck on a geometry problem. It required a knowledge of the rules of arc angles (Page 33 in the new Veritas Prep Geometry book) and I, at the time, had no idea such rules existed. But I’ve always been best at Geometry – I’m very visually oriented so I often see how to slice a shape into triangles, rectangles, and circles, even if it’s not immediately apparent how to do so. So I figured I should be able to slice the circle in such a way that I could find the arc angle. Suddenly, without my realizing it, over 6 minutes had gone by, and since this was a particularly hard problem, I was at the end of the test. I had 5 minutes to finish 4 questions, and I only answered one (incorrectly) and left the rest blank. My percentile ranking plummeted from somewhere around 90% to 70% when I finished the test.
During your preparation for the GMAT, you will learn myriad techniques, shortcuts, rules, exceptions and strategies. Unfortunately, even the best of us tend to draw a blank once or twice under test day pressure, so sometimes you may have to solve questions using deduction and strategic thinking more than with known mathematical identities and theorems. Consider the following question:
Over the holiday season, you may have taken the time to go see the Hobbit, the much-hyped precursor to the Lord of the Rings movies which breathed life into the seminal Tolkien books published over a half century ago. After watching and reflecting on the movie, there are many parallels between it and the GMAT exam that can be drawn. Most glaringly, the amount of time that must be dedicated to each, the unfamiliar visual experience, the importance of wordplay, and the known subject matter prior to even entering the theater. For the purposes of this analogy, the Pearson center will double as a movie theater, except with the no cell phone rule enforced quite vigorously.
Aiming for a 700+ on the GMAT? You never know when a challenging combination or permutation question will pop up three-quarters of the way through your exam to wreck havoc on your score. This advanced concept is not as commonly tested as algebra fundamentals or number properties, but it’s definitely worth knowing the basics in case you do see it.