View Full Version : Strategies to attempt GMAT questions

11-28-2002, 03:02 AM
Hi All

Although everybody has different strategy to tackle questions, I hope some of you guys can benefit from these tactics.

Sentence Correction
1. Don't bother to read answer choice (A). It simply repeats the underlined part of the sentence.
2. Don't worry about punctuation; it's not tested in GMAT Sentence Correction.
3. Test-takers have a natural tendency to hyper-correct—to find fault with the original version (the first answer choice). Keep in mind that, on average, in 1 out of 5 Sentence Correction questions the original version (the first answer choice) is the best among the five choices.
4. Trust your ear. If an answer choice sounds awkward in the context of a sentence, don't bother to analyze it—eliminate it and move on.
5. Eliminate any answer choice that distorts the intended meaning of the sentence.
6. Some answer choices might contain internal grammatical errors (they're grammatically improper, even apart from the sentence). Eliminate them right away to narrow down the viable choices.
7. You'll always encounter a second-best answer choice as well. Resolve close judgment calls in favor of the version that most effectively and concisely expresses the intended meaning of the sentence.
8. Just because an answer choice is a bit wordy or awkward (read: there's room for improvement), don't assume it's a wrong choice. If it contains no grammatical errors, while each of the other choices do, then it's nevertheless the best of the five choices.
9. Just because an answer choice is grammatically correct, don't assume it's the best choice. It might be a bit wordy or awkward; or it might contain a redundancy; or it might employ the passive voice. Another choice might be better overall.
10. Just because an answer choice corrects every problem in the original sentence, don't assume that it is the best answer choice. It might contain a new grammatical error, diction error or word usage problem, or it might be wordy or awkward.
11. Before confirming your response, be sure to read the entire sentence—from beginning to end—with your answer choice. If it sounds proper to your mind's ear, go with it and move on to the next question.

Sentence Correction Secrets

On the sentence correction questions, when in doubt GO SHORT. In a study of the Eighth and Ninth Editions of the Official Guide to the GMAT there is strong evidence that the shorter answers tend to be right much more often than the longer answers.
# of Times Correct/# of Possiblities % Correct
Shortest answer 101/365 27.7%
2nd Shortest answer 95/365 26.0%
3rd Shortest answer 87/365 23.8%
4th Shortest answer 44/365 12.1%
5th Shortest answer (Longest) 38/365 10.4%

As you can see by the chart, the shortest answers are not always correct, but have a much greater probability of being right than the longest answers. In fact, the shortest answer is almost three times as likely to be correct as the longest answer! If you're debating between two possibilities on the test, go with the shorter one and the odds will be in your favor. (Note: The study was conducted using a visual appraisal to figure out the shortest answers rather than word or letter count. Visual "ties" were split up among each tied answer choice. For example, if the correct answer and another answer were tied for 2nd shortest, both the 2nd shortest and 3rd shortest were given credit and two possibilities were counted.)

Critical Reasoning

1. Always read the question stem first (before reading the passage). It will contain useful clues about what to look for and think about as you read the passage.
2. Questions that ask you to identify an assumption behind the argument are similar to those that ask you to select the answer choice the most seriously weakens the argument. In both types of questions, your task is to determine what must be assumed in order for the argument's conclusion to be reasonably inferable. In the latter type of question, your second task is to find the statement among the answer choices that refutes that assumption.
3. If the passage confuses you, try identifying the argument's conclusion (often signaled by terms such as "as a result," "consequently," and "therefore") and its premises—evidence that is given as factual (often signaled by terms such as "because," "since," and "given that.") The passages do not always present the components of an argument in the most coherent sequence. Reasoning linearly from premises to conclusion can help you make sense of it all.
4. In any question that asks which answer choice most effectively either weakens or strengthens the argument, you can be certain that one or two of the answer choices will go the wrong way—by accomplishing just the opposite of what the question asks for. Be on the lookout for them; it's remarkably easy to become confused and go for this type of answer choice under time pressure and during a momentary lapse of concentration.
5. Many passages contain superfluous statements which are irrelevant to the argument and shouldn't come into play at all in responding to the question at hand. Don't be thrown by these red herrings; separate them out from the important logical features of the argument.

Reading Comprehension

1. Read the first question before you begin reading the passage. By doing so, you can read more actively—with an eye out for the information you need.
2. Never confirm your answer to a question until you've read the entire passage. Information relevant to a question can appear anywhere in the passage.
3. Using your pencil and scratch paper, jot down a rough outline as you read. It will help you locate relevant details quickly as you answer the questions, and minimize vertical scrolling and re-reading.
4. Don't be overly concerned with details (dates, examples, and lists) as you read; instead, jot down in outline form where these details are located in the passage so you can locate them quickly as needed to respond to the questions.
5. After reading the entire passage, take about 15 seconds to sum it up in one sentence—in the form of a rough thesis statement. Doing so is well worth the effort, because you'll be able to answer some Reading Comprehension questions with nothing more than the thesis in mind.
6. No matter what type of question you're dealing with, eliminate any answer choice that runs contrary to the passage's overall thesis.
7. Be on the lookout for answer choices that provide information supported by the passage but not responsive to the question. This is one of the test-makers' favorite wrong-answer ploys.
8. If the author of the passage adopts a position, or stance, on an issue, but discusses other viewpoints as well in the passage, be on the lookout for answer choices that confuse the author's viewpoint with the viewpoints of others. This is another common wrong-answer ploy.
9. Be on the lookout for wrong answer choices that provide information not mentioned in the passage—yet another common wrong-answer ploy. These wrong answer choices can be tempting, because it's remarkably easy to assume that you overlooked the information as you read the passage.

Problem Solving

1. If the question asks for a numerical value, the answer choices will increase in size as you read down the list. So if you estimate roughly the size of number the question asks for, then you can easily zero in on the most viable answer choices.
2. Always look for a shortcut to crunching numbers--a more intuitive way of getting to the right answer. The typical Problem Solving question is designed to allow for a longer way as well as a shorter way of solving it. So if you find yourself doing a lot of pencil work, then there's probably an easier way.
3. Geometry figures are drawn proportionately--unless a figure indicates explicitly that it is not drawn to scale. Nevertheless, don't rely on your eye to measure angle sizes, line segment lengths, or areas. Instead, use your knowledge of mathematics along with the numbers provided to solve the problem. Believe me: The test-makers are careful to ensure that no problem can be solved merely by visual measurement or estimation.
NOTE: The one exception involves Data Interpretation questions that require you to interpret bar graphs and line charts; you can (and should) rely on visual estimation for these questions.
4. If you're stuck, many questions allow you to work backwards by assuming hypothetically that each answer choice in turn is the correct one, then testing it by "plugging it in."
5. Use pencil and scratch paper for all calculations, and always check your calculations before confirming your response. Remember: Wrong answer choices will anticipate commonly made computational errors, and careless errors are the #1 cause of incorrect answers in GMAT Problem Solving.
6. In handling word problems (math problems cast in a real-world setting), make reasonable real-world assumptions. Don't split hairs by looking for subtle meanings or ambiguous language. The test-makers are not out to trick you in this way.

Data Sufficiency

1. Memorize the five answer choices; they're the same for each and every Data Sufficiency question.
2. Be careful not to carry over any information from one numbered statement to another. (Making this mistake is remarkably easy, especially under time pressure and in a momentary lapse of concentration.)
3. If a question asks for a numerical value (as opposed to a quantitative expression that includes variables), the question is answerable only if a numbered statement (1 or 2) yields one and only one possible numerical answer--not a range of values.
4. If you can eliminate either answer choice (A) or (B), then you can also eliminate answer choice (D).
5. If either numbered statement (1 or 2) alone suffices to answer the question, then you can eliminate answer choices (C) and (E).
6. In distinct contrast to Problem Solving geometry figures, Data Sufficiency figures are not necessarily drawn proportionately--unless a figure indicates explicitly that it is drawn to scale. Do NOT rely on your eye to measure angle sizes, line segment lengths, or areas. Instead, handle any Data Sufficiency question using your knowledge of mathematics along with the numbers provided.
7. Data Sufficiency questions are designed to test you primarily on quantitative concepts, not on your ability to manipulate numbers (that's what Problem Solving questions are for). So if you find yourself doing a lot of pencil work, you're probably on the wrong track.
8. Just as in Problem Solving questions, in Data Sufficiency questions cast in a real-world setting you should make reasonable real-world assumptions. Don't split hairs by looking for subtle meanings or ambiguous language. The test-makers are not out to trick you in this way.

All the best

01-21-2004, 12:22 AM
Some good thoughts in this post. Check it out, and tailor it to your needs.

10-13-2004, 03:11 PM
Good post , but I wan't to know how huch time should you spend on num. 11. Do you need to write it on paper? Writing it might be time consuming, whereas memoring could be error prone