Sometimes, you’ll come across a GMAT problem that gives you a lot of information. The relationship between the pieces of information may not even be clear at first. In my experience as a GMAT teacher, I’ve found that these types of questions tend to confuse students, especially when students try to immediately write one big equation to solve. Instead of attempting to reach a solution all at once, take a step back and follow a few standard steps.
First, do not panic. The question may look like it has too much data to consider in the two minute time frame you are allotted per question. You need to remind yourself that GMAT questions are written to be solved in about two minutes, so a strategy must exist to complete the problem in a timely manner.
Second, in order to find that strategy, start translating the question stem piece by … Read full post
The trickiest question type in the quantitative section of the GMAT for most students is yes/no data sufficiency questions. When approaching these problems, it is imperative that you keep in mind the purpose of data sufficiency.
Let’s start with a review of data sufficiency. On these questions, your goal is not to find the answer. Rather, it is to determine if you have enough information to find the answer, regardless of what the answer is. On value questions, this is fairly straightforward. If you are asked for the value of x and you know it is 4, that’s sufficient, but if it could be 4 or 6, that’s not sufficient. In the former case we could narrow down the possibilities to one answer. In the latter, we could not.
Now let’s see how this same concept applies to yes/no questions. If a question asks us if x is positive and … Read full post
Ever since I started teaching GMAT classes, I have taken note of any references to standardized tests I come across in television shows and movies. In the six years of doing so, I have found that these references almost always follow the same pattern. One of the characters needs to take a standardized test that they find difficult or boring. In order to illustrate this to the other characters, they will read an example of one of the questions on the exam. Invariably, the question they read involves two trains leaving two different stations at two different times and traveling towards each other.
Because of this, rate problems that feature two trains (or cars or people or anything else) have a bit of a bum rap. These questions are seen, unjustly, as difficult, time consuming and complicated. However, by learning only a few basic rules, you can handle these … Read full post
For about a year, I always used the same method to solve the following GMAT problem:
How many liters of water must be evaporated from 50 liters of a 3 percent sugar solution to get a 5 percent sugar solution?
“This is simple percentages,” I would say. “Just start by taking 3% of 50 liters, which is 3 over 100 times 50, which comes out to 1.5 liters sugar…”
But one day, teaching this same quantitative problem, a student’s hand shot straight up. “Yes, James?” I said. (That wasn’t his real name, by the way, but it will do.)
“Eli, who cares about the sugar?”
I paused. “Well, the sugar will help us figure out the solution.”
“But you don’t need it!” James explained. “I’ve been a chemical engineer for years, so I do this problem all the time. The sugar is a constant. The amount of sugar doesn’t change, … Read full post
I want you to think back to when you were in grammar school (strange how often the test for business school has us thinking about grammar school). Specifically, I want you to think about gym class and every time you needed to pick teams. For purposes of today’s discussion, let’s say we are picking a baseball team from the students in class. Now I realize that for some of you this was a traumatic experience, and GMAT teachers are no exception to that – we are not particularly notable for our athletic prowess. However, this scenario can help you understand a difficult question type on the GMAT – permutation problems.
A permutation problem will ask you to determine the number of ordered subsets of a certain size that exist in a group. If we move away from GMAT speak, this means permutations will occur when you must perform two actions. … Read full post
Not surprisingly, most GMAT test takers have a background in the business world. As such, many readers have worked on a committee formed from a larger group of employees. Every time a committee is formed in this fashion, you are, in fact, doing a GMAT problem. More specifically, you are attempting one of the most dreaded question types on the GMAT quantitative section – combinations.
While these questions can be tough, by thinking about the real life experience of forming a committee, you can more easily understand exactly what a combinations question is asking you to do. Let’s say that your business has ten employees and needs to create a committee of four people. If you want to determine how many different possible committees you could create, you would use the combinations formula, n!/[k!(n - k)!], where n is the number of people with which you start (in this case … Read full post
Remember, the quantitative section of the GMAT asks you to complete 37 questions in 75 minutes. This means that you have only two minutes per question. That’s not much time as I am sure many of you already know. Thus, it is important that you use your time in the most efficient manner possible.
While many test-takers feel they will not be able to complete the test in time, you should also keep in mind that the questions are designed so that it is possible to complete each one in an average of two minutes. While some questions will take a little more or a little less time than this, you should never be spending over five … Read full post
One of the big GMAT skills that is often overlooked by students is translation. Any time you decide approach a word problem using algebra, you will need to translate the English in the question stem into an algebraic equation. While this seems as if it would usually be fairly straightforward, the GMAT will often find ways to make it more difficult. A translation error will often lead to a trap answer, so it is essential that you learn how to translate difficult statements before test day.
To understand why translation can be more difficult than it seems, think about translating a foreign language. If you only need to translate one word, you can usually just find the equivalent word in English. Similarly, if a GMAT problem uses the phrase “more than” you know that it must translate to addition.
However, when you try to translate an entire sentence from … Read full post
Most students learn that absolute value is the positive version of a number. Thus, the absolute value of 7 is 7 and the absolute value of -7 is also 7. While these absolute values are correct, many GMAT problems will be more straightforward if you learn the true definition of absolute value, which is the distance a number is from zero on a number line. Thus, the absolute values of 7 and -7 are 7 because both numbers are 7 away from zero on a number line.
To understand how absolute value works, imagine you live in a house right in the middle of a block. The street has 5 houses to the left of your house and 5 houses to the right of your house. Whether you walk two houses to the left or two houses to the right you will be 2 houses away from your home. Now, … Read full post
Recently, I took a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As I perused the galleries, I noticed that not all of the painting were equally easy to understand. In the works by Da Vinci, that were made to look realistic, I could clearly tell what was depicted. The Monet’s were a bit tougher, but with the explanation provided by the museum, I could clearly see the subject. At the Picasso’s the subject was a bit harder to find, even with the explanations. Finally, I came across the Pollock’s, which required me to depend entirely on the explanation to understand what was happening on the canvas.
In art, I realized, just as is the case on the GMAT, the more abstract the presentation of a concept is, the harder it is to understand. Luckily, the curator at the museum had written blurbs for each painting – blurbs … Read full post