GMAT Tip of the Week: SAT, WYPAD, and GMAT CR

It’s acronym day at VP HQ, where we’re not just thinking GMAT and where we’re celebrating the 1-mo. b-day of GMAT IR. We’re also thinking SAT, having just gotten our hands on several copies of Shaan Patel’s SAT 2400 book. This book would not only make a great back-to-school gift for your younger siblings or cousins in high school, it can also provide some insight into the mindset of a great test-taker (Shaan, after all, achieved a perfect score on the SAT and just about the same on the MCAT. Dare we say OMG?)

Arguably our favorite strategy is one he calls WYPAD – a verbal-question strategy that’s eerily similar to our own Critical Reasoning strategy, but with more acronymical cache. WYPAD works a lot like our strategy of “Mind the Gap / Anticipate the Gap” in CR Strengthen/Weaken questions – with the operative activity being that you should form an idea of what the right answer should be before you ever get to the answer choices. On any verbal question on a standardized test, the key is to be proactive and not passive – the authors of these questions are far too clever to let you get away with simply flipping through answer choices without having fully reasoned your way through the prompt. Those who WYPAD on the SAT, or who Anticipate the Gap in CR strengthen/weaken questions on the GMAT, are rewarded for doing so, and can chuckle knowingly when they see the trap answers.

Let’s consider an example of how reading proactively and anticipating the gap can help you on GMAT CR:

Numerous ancient Mayan cities have been discovered in the Yucatan peninsula in recent decades. The ruins lack any evidence of destruction by invading forces, internal revolts, or disease, and appear simply to have been abandoned. Some archaeologists have theorized that the cities were abandoned due to a severe drought known to have occurred in the region between 800 and 1000 A.D.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the archaeologists’ theory?

(A) Ample archaeological evidence of Mayan peasant revolts and city-state warfare exists, but such events could never result in the permanent abandonment of cities.

(B) No monumental inscriptions created after 900 A.D. have been found in these cities, but inscriptions dating before that time have been found in abundance.

(C) Studies of Yucatan lake sediment cores provide conclusive evidence that a prolonged drought occurred in the region from 800 to 1000 A.D.

(D) Climatic studies have documented cycles of intermittent drought in the Yucatan peninsula dating from the present to at least 7,000 years ago.

(E) The Mayan city, Uxmal, was continuously inhabited from 500-1550 A.D.

Now, what’s gap in logic here? We’re concluding that the Mayans fled their civilizations between 800-1000 AD due to a drought, and we’re basing that on the fact that:

-A drought occurred during that time
-There isn’t any evidence of the Mayans fleeing for any other reason

What’s missing? We don’t have any evidence that they left during the drought. All we know is that/when a drought occurred, but we don’t have any evidence linking the Mayan flight to that drought. So what do we need to have in our answer? Something that ties their leaving to the drought itself.

If you know that, you’re much more likely to select correct choice B, which links the Mayan departure to the time period of the drought. It helps to fill that gap in logic. But most people miss this question. Why? Because they don’t see “monumental inscriptions” as relevant, so they fail to read any further. That’s why anticipation is so important – if you know what type of information you’re looking for, you can also anticipate the GMAT curveball of making the first 5-6 words of an answer choice *seem* irrelevant, but hitting the core of what’s necessary for those with the patience to look proactively for what they know the right answer needs to contain.

To become a master of GMAT – or SAT, or MCAT… – verbal, make sure that you don’t read passively. Anticipate the OA (official answer) ASAP – be proactive as you read these questions and you can revive your GMAT score STAT.