GMAT & MBA Admissions Blog

Understanding GMAT Critical Reasoning Strategies

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Mon, Mar 21, 2022 @ 11:00 AM

The Verbal Reasoning Section of the GMAT consists of 3 question types: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. In this article, we’ll be discussing the methodology necessary to address critical reasoning questions. Generally speaking, these kinds of questions are formatted as a set of facts followed by a conclusion. Designed to measure your logical thinking ability, CR questions require that you assess an argument’s premises to either strengthen or weaken it. To help you master this process, we’ll cover the following foundational elements:

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Tags: GMAT tips, GMAT, GMAT problem solving, online gmat

Problem Solving Strategies for the GMAT

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Thu, Mar 10, 2022 @ 06:30 PM

Any good GMAT tutor provides a wide range of problem-solving strategies for the GMAT. While the GMAT is, as a general rule, a test of problem solving and critical thinking ability, here we are talking about the problem-solving question type itself on the quantitative section of the GMAT.

Designed to measure your mathematical ability, the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the GMAT consists of 31 multiple choice questions that must be completed within 62 minutes. The two kinds of problems in this section pertain to data sufficiency and problem solving. In this article, we’ll be covering the strategies necessary to gain mastery of the problem solving questions. More specifically, we’ll cover the following foundational elements:

● How to identify problem solving questions
● Strategic implications of problem solving questions
● Simple and complex problem solving processes

How to Identify Problem Solving Questions

The most useful clues for identifying problem solving questions are frequency and format. More specifically, problem solving questions meet the following criteria:

● Approximately 50% of 31 Quantitative Questions
● Always Five Options and One Correct Selection
● Choices can be Either Numeric Values or Variables

Strategic Implications

Once you’ve identified a problem solving question, you would be well advised to take the following strategic measures:

● Note the format of your answer choices to select an efficient approach & enable savvy mental calculation
● For example, if your answer choices are presented in fractions, you should conduct your calculations in fractions as well. Having to translate between fractions and decimals will cause you to waste time unnecessarily.

● Maintain a 2 minutes per question average. Because questions vary in terms of difficulty, however, you can spend a maximum of 3 minutes on the harder ones.

● Check your pacing after every 10 questions. You should not be timing yourself constantly as that will distract you. By checking at predefined intervals, you can allow yourself to really focus on the work instead of anxiously checking the clock. Keep in mind that due to the way the computer adaptive way the exam is designed, performing well on the first ten questions will give you a competitive edge. For this reason, you should spend a little extra time on those than on the remaining questions. With this in mind, try to adhere to the following schedule:
● First 10 questions - 2:25 Average | +/- 38:00 Left
● Second 10 questions - 2:00 Average | +/- 18:00 Left
● Final 11 questions - 1:40 Average

Simple Quantitative Problem Solving Process

Below is an example of a simple quantitative problem:

For many years, a surfeit of bears terrorized Yamhill neighborhoods. Then, Bill moved in and every week he was able to safely relocate the greater of either 1/3 of the bears or 30 bears until a sustainable population of fewer than 30 bears remained in town. If Yamhill had 270 bears upon Bill’s arrival, what was the number of bears in the sustainable population at the end of Bill’s bear relocation effort.

A. 0
B. 12
C. 15
D. 20
E. 24

In order to tackle this questions as effectively as possible, adhere to the followings steps:

1. Set up scratch pad listing choices vertically A to E including simple numbers if provided

2. Skip to the end of the problem to identify sought value(s) & label choices as such

● # of bears end of relo effort = ?

1. Read from beginning taking notes & completing obviously necessary calculations as you go

● Greater of 1/3 or 30 bears relocated per week until < 30 remain in town | 270 bears to start
● 270 – 1/3(270) = 180 |
180 – 1/3(180) = 120 |
120 – 1/3(120) = 80 |
80 – 30 = 50 | 50 – 30 = 20

Complex Quantitative Problem Solving Process

Below is an example of a complex quantitative problem:

If x and y are integers, and , which of the following must be true?
I. x = y
II. y = 1
III. x = 0

A. I only
B. III only
C. I and III only
D. II and III only
E. I, II, and III

Again—in order to tackle this questions as effectively as possible, adhere to the followings steps:

1. Set up scratch pad w/ choices A to E

2. Skip to end to identify sought value(s)

3. Read from beginning taking notes & doing necessary calculations as you go

4. STOP! to consider all four possible problem solving tactics:
              1. Technical Math | Attempt first but abandon quickly
              2. Logical Estimation | Attempt at each step of every problem
              3. Plugging in Values (Modeling)
              4. Plugging in Choices (Backsolving)

5. Work problem until one choice left
              1. Don’t fully calculate if not needed

6. Note roman numeral format

7. Which of the following must be true?

8. 3x+3x+2=10y

9. Consider best approach in the moment
             1. Technical math
             2. Plugging in values & estimation

10. 3x(1+32) = 10y |3x(10) = 10y
             1. 3x must = 1 and 10y must = 10
             2. x must = 0 and y must = 1

11. Plug in x = 0 as most frequent numeral
             1. 1 + 9 = 10 = 10y | Works if y = 1
             2. Plug in x = 1 = y | 3 + 27 cannot be produced solely by a power of 10
             3. Eliminate choices with I | select D

Summary of the Problem Solving Process

1. Set up the scratch pad listing choices vertically A through E
● Include simple numbers with choices if provided
● Note format of choices to inform tactics & calculation

2. Skip to end of the problem & label choices as sought value(s)
● Note if seeking a specific or non-specific value
● Don’t autosolve for individual values if seeking a combined value

3. Read from beginning taking notes & doing needed calculations
● If you see a clear path to solving – take It!
● Most “certain but time-consuming” approaches
Take < 3:00 if begun immediately

4. Consider all four possible tactics for most effective & efficient path to solving in the moment
● Technical Mathematics
● Logical Estimation
● Plugging in Values (Modeling)
● Plugging in Choices (Backsolving)

5. Work problem using your chosen tactic until one choice remains
● Always be asking : am I progressing to a solution ?
As soon as “no” estimate, eliminate, guess & move On in < :20
● Allow maximum of one calm reread, recalculate, or tactical reset before you must estimate, eliminate, guess & move on in < :20


If you are looking for more information on how to approach GMAT problem solving questions, consider requesting a 1-1 consultation with an expert GMAT coach.

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Tags: GMAT problem solving, GMAT Blog, gmat writing, GMAT practice questions

GMAT Logical Estimation Strategies

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Fri, Mar 04, 2022 @ 02:15 PM

Logical estimation might be the single most important tactic for GMAT problem solving questions in the quantitative reasoning portion of the GMAT. We’ve already written an article that covers GMAT problem solving questions and strategies more generally, so we recommend you take a moment to read that before continuing if you haven’t yet. Moving forward, this article will address the following key topics:

● A general description of quantitative logical estimation and the conditions under which it should be utilized
● An overview of the strategic implications of logical estimation
● An example of logical estimation in the context of arithmetic
● An example of logical estimation in the context of word problems
● A summary of the logical estimation problem solving process

Quantitative Logical Estimation

Simply put, logical estimation refers to the process of continuously eliminating impossible answer choices as you tackle a problem. As any online GMAT tutor will tell you, it is one of the most important strategies to employ on the GMAT. In other words, thinking critically about what must be false in addition to what must be true can make the difference between an average score and a great score. Not only will this strategy save you time, but it will also allow you to maintain laser focus as you work through the problem-solving section of the test. More specifically, this method is especially useful when a question asks you to seek a range or approximation rather than a specific value.

To effectively implement the logical estimation process, one of your fist considerations as you read through a problem should be where the viable answer falls within the following binaries:

● Positive or negative
● Even or odd
● Integer or non-integer
● Factor or non-factor
● High or low

For example, if the question makes it clear that the correct answer must be even, you can immediately discount all answer choices that are odd–thereby increasing the likelihood of selecting the correct answer.

Strategic Implications

In addition to the binary-based elimination strategy mentioned above, you would be well advised to take the following strategic measures:

● Consciously note your choices at the beginning of the problem for estimation considerations
● Stop and select the correct choice if through estimation only one answer remains viable
● Avoid blindly guessing by using logical estimation until you’ve been stuck for 20 seconds without progressing
● Make note of key terms such as “Approximate” or “Closest to,” as they indicate cases in which logical estimation could be your primary problem-solving tactic.

Arithmetic Example

Question:

104 - 94 is closest to:
A. 1
B. 100
C. 1,000
D. 3,500
E. 6,500

Logical Estimation Process:

1. Set up a scratch pad listing choices vertically from A to E

2. Note inexact sought value and label choices as such
● 104 - 94 is closest to ?

3. Read from the beginning, taking notes and noting logical estimation opportunities to avoid unnecessary calculations
● Eliminate A, B, C
● 94 = 92 x 92 = 81 x 81
● Approximate as 80 x 80 = 6,400
● 10,000 – 6,400 = 3,600
● Select Choice D
● Beware of Too Fast Trap Choice E

Word Problem Example

Question:

If set N is comprised solely by each of the prime numbers less than 20, and the sum of the reciprocals of the terms in set N is a, what must be true of a?
A. a < 0
B. a < ½
C. a < 1
D. 1 < a < 2
E. 2 < a

Logical Estimation Process:

1. Set up a scratch pad listing choices vertically from A to E

2. Note inequalities in choices, not a single numeric value and label choices as such
● What must be true of a?

3. Read from the beginning, taking notes and noting logical estimation opportunities to avoid unnecessary calculations
● List Prime Numbers < 20 as 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19
● Note Reciprocals as 1 over each of the terms (ie. ½, ⅓, ⅕, etc.)

4. Work through the problem while consciously considering logical estimation as your primary tactic
● Use common fractions to decimal conversions to determine that ½ + ⅓ + ⅕ = 0.5 + 0.333 + 0.2 > 1
● Eliminate choices A, B, and C
● Note only seven terms remain each ≤ ⅐ remaining sum < 1
● Eliminate E and select choice D!

Summary of Logical Estimation Problem Solving Process

1. Set up a scratch pad listing choices vertically from A to E
● Note large numeric differences or ranges in choices

2. Skip to the end of the problem and label choices as sought value(s)
● Note if seeking a non-specific value

3. Read from the beginning, taking notes and doing needed calculations
● Seek time saving opportunities by not fully calculating

4. Work through the problem while using chosen tactic until one choice remains viable
● Eliminate impossible choices as you go to expedite the process!

If you are looking for more advice, consider requesting a 1-1 consultant with an expert GMAT tutor.

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Tags: GMAT problem solving, GMAT practice questions, gmat calculation

Five Critical GMAT Quant Tips

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Sat, Feb 26, 2022 @ 01:49 PM

An 80th percentile GMAT quant score is said to be necessary to get admitted to many of the top MBA programs in the U.S. Is this true? Who knows? I went to the Kellogg School of Management, but scored below the 80th percentile on GMAT quant. That said, it certainly helps and is an excellent GMAT score goal. Do you want to score above the 80th percentile on GMAT quant? 

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Tags: GMAT quant, GMAT Data sufficiency problems, GMAT problem solving, gmat test prep

How to Build a GMAT Study Plan

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Tue, Feb 22, 2022 @ 06:35 PM

Although the concepts covered in the GMAT are quite simple, do not be fooled. The test is designed to assess your ability to identify patterns and problem-solve in subtle, sophisticated ways—all under the pressure of the clock. No matter how smart you are, the unique ways in which the GMAT tests analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills require serious preparation. With this in mind, developing an intentional study plan plays a crucial role in the process of attaining a competitive score. Rather than blindly opening a textbook or half-heartedly starting a prep class, you would be well advised to first think critically about your particular goals and how best to attain them. To inform your study plan, we’ve summarized 5 key steps to keep in mind.

1. Compare Your Raw Score to Your Target Score

Before you even begin taking steps to improve your test-taking ability, it’s important to understand how your raw score stacks up to your target score. Just as a soccer player adjusts the angle and power of a kick depending on their relative position to the goal, so too must a test-taker define the duration and intensity of their study plan relative to the target score. This is to say that without an understanding of where you’re aiming, a clear plan of action is much more elusive. Comparing your raw score to your target score is also important in the sense that it will enable you to identify your strengths and weaknesses early on. A soccer player with a strong defense and a weak offense would be imprudent to spend equal amounts of time improving each. Similarly, a student who excels in the verbal, writing, and reading portions of the GMAT but struggles when it comes to its analytical and quantitative components would be wise to adjust their study plan to prioritize the development of their weaknesses.

2. Choose the Prep Method that Best Caters to Your Individual Needs

After you’ve determined the distance you need to cover as well as the particular areas that need the most improvement to get you there, you’ll be ready to choose an appropriate prep method. Whether it be through a simple textbook, a self-paced app, an in-person or online course, or a private tutor, make sure that your method of choice reflects your particular needs. Students who are able to stay motivated without the accountability and structure that most prep courses and tutors provide are more likely to thrive through self-study methods supplemented by prep books and online applications (like Magoosh or Khan Academy). On the other hand, those who absorb information best with the guidance only a teacher can provide, especially if they have a lot of improvements to make, would be wise to take a prep course or work with a private tutor. Regardless of which study method you choose, always make sure that you are continuously maintaining and adjusting a personal curriculum to reflect your strengths and weaknesses.

3. Define your Study Timeline

It is often assumed that the more time you give yourself to prepare, the better. While this is generally true, needlessly stretching out the duration of your study plan is not necessarily the most effective way to manage your time. Studying with laser-focused attention over a shorter, more clearly defined period of time is much more efficient than distractedly reviewing material throughout a longer and vaguer period. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that you should only give yourself a few weeks to study. Generally speaking, devoting 10-15 hours a week for about 10 weeks will do the trick. It is also important to be strategic about when you carve out your study timeline. Devoting 10 weeks of disciplined study time will be much more challenging during a time of your life in which you’re working a 9 to 5 job. For this reason, try to carve out a study timeline during a transitional phase of your life. Whether it be during the window between graduating from college and finding a new job, changing from one job to another, or any other extended time off you may be able to take, seize the opportunity to really double down on your GMAT prep.

4. Adhere to Deliberate Practice Principles

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Tags: studying, GMAT tips, GMAT problem solving, tutoring, Study plans, strategic study plan

GMAT Tutor Tips: How to Review GMAT Homework

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Fri, Dec 17, 2021 @ 01:44 PM

Any good GMAT tutor wants his or her student to review GMAT homework as efficiently as possible. Careful review of missed GMAT problems is one of the most critical parts of GMAT test prep. So what are our best tips for students as they review missed problems on GMAT practice tests?

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Tags: GMAT problem solving, GMAT practice questions, gmat error log

GMAT Quant Strategies: Summing an Arithmetic Sequence

Posted by John Easter on Wed, May 15, 2013 @ 08:18 AM

One of the more difficult GMAT problem types deals with summing an arithmetic sequence. Problem 157 in the 12th edition Official Guide is an example:

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Tags: gmat test, GMAT prep, GMAT, GMAT, GMAT problem solving, GMAT integer questions, GMAT Blog