Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Good for … Your GMAT Score

Photograph by Corbis

This tip on improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

It used be said that kids were taught the 3 Rs: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (or ‘Rithmetic—the joke is that only one of these actually begins with an “r,” but they all sound like they do). Anyone who is under the age of 40 probably grew up with a different 3 Rs: REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE. REDUCE first, if you can, then REUSE anything and everything useful, and finally RECYCLE to get the underlying value out of something that you would otherwise throw away.

You already know that REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE is right for the planet, but what you may not know is that it is great for your GMAT score as well.

REDUCE is the first and best way to minimize your impact on the environment. REDUCE is also the best first step on the GMAT; if you can reduce the amount of information that you are paying close attention to, you can go a long way toward saving time and energy while getting a greater number of questions right. Three areas where we can “reduce” most effectively are Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Word Problems.

Sentence Correction
When you begin a sentence correction problem, understand that in most sentences, about half the words are what we call “clutter,” designed to prevent you from properly focusing on the decisions to be made in the sentence. You especially want to get used to ignoring three things (we would say cross them out, but you cannot do that on the GMAT): prepositions, extra clauses that do not affect the underlined portion, and modifiers that are not misplaced.

When you next practice sentence correction, try reducing the portion of the sentence that you focus on: It is incredible how much easier “grammar” becomes when you are focusing on the smallest possible unit to make your decisions.

Critical Reasoning
It may be easier to visualize “reducing” as it applies to sentence correction, but it is no less important to critical reasoning. A critical reasoning stimulus usually consists of about half “context,” a term we use at Veritas Prep for the sort of background information that sets the stage for the evidence and conclusion in an argument. Certainly, the entire stimulus should be read, including the “context,” but when it comes to focusing on the essentials of the argument, the context is not something that should command your attention.

When you attempt critical reasoning problems, consciously try to separate the stimulus into context, evidence, and conclusion. Understand that the context is just there to set the stage for the evidence and conclusion. Focus on the evidence and the conclusion and see how much more straight-forward critical reasoning can be.

Word Problems
You might not think that you are “reducing” when you are transforming a word problem into a set of equations or using the numbers provided in some other meaningful way. This is exactly what you are doing, however, just as in sentence correction and critical reasoning: You are distilling the essential information from the context.
The one thing people often forget is that when you are setting up these problems, you should really do the “reducing” BEFORE you begin the calculations. Many people jump right in to the problems without even taking the time to find out what the question is. If you think about transforming a word problem as reducing the clutter and distilling the information into a useable form, you can avoid some of the traps that are intentionally included on the GMAT.

When you work with word problems, start by writing out the question in the form that is most helpful to you. Then reduce the words into equations, lists, or calculations that will help you answer the question. Like sentences in sentence correction, word problems are easier to understand when you reduce the clutter.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? Try our own new, 100 percent computer-adaptive, free GMAT practice test and see how you do.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.