GMAT Tip of the Week: There Are No Unique Snowflakes

GMAT prep
Ah, January. It seems like, nowadays, if you don’t live directly on a beach, you’re probably inundated with snow, with snowfalls having reached Texas, Louisiana, and other areas of the world where ice shavings typically only appear in margaritas. For those experiencing this winter phenomenon for the first time, allow us to provide a brief education regarding snow:

When driving, your first instinct may be to hit the brakes when you feel uncomfortable in the snow. Don’t…that’s when your brakes lock and your vehicle slides or fishtails. (If you have anti-lock brakes, you can firmly apply pressure, but even then you’ll want to use brakes more sparingly than you’d probably think, as your brake lights will likely encourage those behind you to hit theirs, too.)

While walking or jogging, look for packed, “crunchy” snow, avoid loose, flaky snow, because the looser stuff may well be covering a sheet of ice.

They say that each snowflake is unique in its construction (you could look under a microscope, but do so quickly because the light will probably melt it). This fact amazes children.

On that last point, however, scientists posit that, although rare, there do exist identical snowflakes, meaning that, even in Western society’s most commonly accepted metaphor for uniqueness, pure uniqueness is unlikely. With that in mind, consider the application for a standardized test like the GMAT, for which the term “standardized” implies that questions fit a given “standard” of similarity:

On the GMAT, you simply won’t see a completely unique question — every question that you see will be similar to several that you’ve already done in practice.

What does this mean for your study purposes? Because there are definite patterns in the questions that the exam asks and the types of mistakes that each question hopes to elicit, you should take care to determine patterns in your own performance. Do you often select answers that are out of scope of the argument? Do you make assumptions regarding variables (that they’re positive? that they’re integers?)? Do you often skip a final step and simply submit the first answer choice that corresponds to a number in your calculation?

All of these mistakes are standard, and the exam will offer you several opportunities to commit each error. Recognizing that your mistakes are likely to resurface on multiple questions, if you can make note of those errors you’ll be able to identify potential pitfalls when those questions come up.

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