GMAT Tip: Get to the Right Answer Quickly

Photograph by Takuya Matsunaga/Aflo

The GMAT Tip of the Week is a weekly column that includes advice on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required for admission to most business schools. Every week an instructor from a top test-prep company will share suggestions for improving your GMAT score. This week’s tip comes from Tracy Yun, founder and chief executive of Manhattan Elite Prep.

The GMAT is a four-hour test. It requires significant focus, stamina, and speed. To succeed on the GMAT, you are required to sift through a large amount of information within the shortest possible time to reach the correct answer for each question.

To be able to get to the answer in the least amount of time, we recommend the following:

1. Understand the inherent time management challenge and exercise rigorous time discipline.

2. Do not start to solve the problem based on how it is presented. GMAT problems are often designed to mislead students to miss less obvious but important conditions. The test makers know intimately all the cognitive weaknesses and reasoning defects to which candidates are prone. Through practice, you will uncover most of those ploys.

3. Take a breath, look at the relevant information, and attack the problem the way you prefer. For example, if you prefer using fractions or decimals, then rearrange terms accordingly. This is often the difference between getting the right answer quickly and getting the wrong answer after wasting time.

4. Break down the original wordy questions to a skeleton of core ideas. What concept is being tested? What is the exact question? What unknown is required? Is it named? If not, give it a label, build an expression, and isolate its value.

5. Quickly scan through all answer choices to break them into subcategories. You can then zero in on each subgroup more carefully to eliminate and estimate.

6. Be meticulous. Carelessness is a killer, no matter how smart and knowledgeable you are. Your last step for every problem should be to look back and read the question to be sure you answered exactly what you were being asked. Accuracy is crucial. There is no credit for almost right.

Tracy Yun, who scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT, is the co-author of Turbocharge Your GMAT and the founder and CEO of Manhattan Elite Prep. Yun is a Columbia Business School grad and is pursuing her passion for education after having spent years in investment banking as a merger and acquisition specialist, advising Fortune 500 companies on strategic investments.

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