GMAT Tip: What Is Enough?

Photograph by Richard Newstead

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 Brian Galvin, director of academic programs at Veritas Prep.

One of the most devious ways data sufficiency questions can trap you is by giving you everything you need—but presenting it in a way that makes it seem as though you still need more information. Often the question stem itself might hide a great deal of the information you need to solve a problem. For example, consider this question:

If ab c?

(1) abc (2) a > bc

Before you dig into statements (1) and (2), spend a moment thinking through what the question stem tells you: ab

c is positive
a/b is negative

So statement (1) is sufficient: the negative number a/b cannot be greater than the positive number c.

Meanwhile, statement (2) is not sufficient. The question stem tells you that either a or b is negative, but you don’t know which one. While it’s tempting to look at the question stem and see that it’s simply statement (2) with both sides divided by b, you don’t know if b is positive or negative, so you don’t know if you need to flip the “greater than” sign.

The folks behind the GMAT know that we tend to glance at the question stem before diving into the two statements. But make sure you have fully digested the question stem before moving on, and you may find many Data Sufficiency problems to be easier than you expected.

Brian Galvin has been with Veritas Prep since 2006, where he has devoted himself to developing new and better ways to help students master the GMAT. He has earned a 99th percentile score on the GMAT and has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in education from the University of Michigan. He has taught high school history in Detroit, worked in sales and marketing for the Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, and completed an Ironman race.

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