Data Sufficiency: Lean toward A B D, and Jump to C vs. E

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

Remember this: You lean toward A B D, but you jump to C vs. E.

Some question types are ones in which you can generally do more with less: In such cases, you should approach the question by “leaning” a little toward A B D because those offer answers in which one statement alone is sufficient.

On many individual questions, however, the statements themselves cause you to quickly “jump” to C vs. E. This happens when each statement is clearly not sufficient, ruling out A B D right from the start.
Lean to A B D:

Certain types of questions generally allow you to do more with less information. These are question types that have one or more of the following:

1)      Hidden Facts (such as Geometry)

2)      Automatic and Useful Equations. (Examples are Work/Rate and Venn Diagram)

3)      Answers in a form other than an actual number of items (such as Ratio and Percentage)

4)      Yes or No format. (Yes/No questions in general are more likely A B D)
What all these question types have in common is that something about the subject matter of the question—the inherent limitations or the implied facts—tends to allow you to do more with less. Therefore, you should lean a little in the direction of the answers that require less information, specifically answers A, B, and D.

Two things to note here: First, this is a just a slight “lean” in the direction of doing more with less. There are plenty of Geometry, Work/Rate, and Venn diagram questions that have C or E as a correct answer. You should not automatically exclude any answers or jump to any conclusions. (You will do your jumping in the second part of this article).

What you should realize is that logically, a ratio question, for example, simply requires less information or a different kind of information than does a question that asks for an actual number of items. I can know that you have a ratio of children that equals 1 boy: 1 girl, but I do not know if you have 2, 4, 6, or even 8 children! If the question asks for the number of boys, we need more information; if the question just asks for a ratio of boys to girls, we can answer 1: 1.  So with the ratio, we lean in the direction of more with less.

Second, this information may be most helpful on problems you cannot fully solve. If you truly understand a problem and you are able to work that problem all the way to an answer, you do not really need to “lean” in any direction. Just click on the right answer and submit. For example, if you can show that a geometry problem does not have enough information—perhaps the area of the circle could be found if only you knew that a particular chord was the diameter, but you do not know this—then you should certainly answer E for this question, despite the fact that geometry is a “lean toward ABD” type of question.

It is when you are having just a little difficulty with a question that it helps to know which way to lean. Let’s say you are facing a different Geometry question and you are having trouble solving this one. You can clearly see that statement 2 alone is not sufficient and that both statements together clearly are sufficient. You are down to the choice of A versus C. Yet you cannot decide between them.

It seems as if you might not have enough information in statement 1, but you are not really sure. You can feel the time ticking as you try to remember exactly how to compare angles from three different triangles. This is when knowing which way to lean can help; Geometry is full of hidden facts and obscure formulas. So you lean toward doing more with less and you pick A. You move your odds of being correct from 50/50 to just a little better than that by knowing the tendencies of the test.

Knowing which way to lean can also help you be more careful when beginning one of these types of problems. If you know that ratio and percent problems are more likely to be A B or D, you will be more careful and not jump straight into the trap the test-maker set for you.
Next week, in part 2 of this article, we “jump to C vs. E.”

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