GMAT Tip of the Week

Data Sufficiency: How do you Beat It? Be Bad. (It’s easier than ABC)

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

As the world reacts to the passing of the King of Pop, it’s only Human Nature for you to take some time this weekend to reflect on some of your favorite Michael Jackson lyrics (and even to sadly exclaim, “I Want You Back“). But, naturally, after a few songs, you’ll likely look at the Man in the Mirror and Wanna Be Starting Something — namely, your GMAT homework. Here is how you can blend the two to give yourself an edge on the exam (much like a Smooth Criminal would):

Unlike other questions on the GMAT, for which the answer choices A-through-E should each have a 20% chance of being correct (in a blind guess), Data Sufficiency questions are asked in a way that should reward test-takers for being able to accomplish more with less information. In other words, if you can use statement 1 alone to solve the problem without the help of statement 2, that should indicate to the exam (and to business schools) that you are a more efficient problem solver, and therefore more likely to succeed in business school. Inherently, A in this case would be a “better” answer than would C. Judging the answer choices by this standard, they fall in to tiers:

1) D – the test taker can solve the problem with either piece of information individually
2) A, B – the test taker only needs one piece of information to solve the problem (but cannot with the other)
3) C – The test taker can solve the problem when provided enough information
4) E – The test taker cannot solve the problem

Now, of course this is not to say that D should always be the correct answer. However, you can use these tiers to note that:

1) If you need to guess on a Data Sufficiency problem, answer choices B, A, and D are higher-percentage guesses than are C and E. Use your judgment with quick glances at statements 1 and 2 to make an educated, high-percentage guess.

2) If an answer choice seems too easy (“Well, obviously if you had both statements you’d be able to do it”), consider an answer in the higher tier to see if you can use that piece of information with slightly more work (“actually, if I manipulate the algebra in statement 1, it looks like it’s sufficient on its own”). Basically, when an answer choice seems obvious, you should spend a bit more time checking the other statement more thoroughly, as the test has an incentive to reward those who can use less information to solve the problem.

(In other words, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough certainty that the statement will not be sufficient to answer the question!)

If you struggle with Data Sufficiency, You Are Not Alone (the question format is a bit Off the Wall) but with practice and some strategy, you’ll soon be able to say of the GMAT, “She’s Out of My Life“, and move on to b-school where you’ll gain the skills necessary to Heal the World (you PYT).

If you’re just getting started in studying for the GMAT, take a look at all of the GMAT prep resources that Veritas Prep has to offer. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!