Exponent questions are among those that give GMAT-preppers the most difficulty. The key to answering exponent questions correctly is to remember all of the rules you must follow. For example, knowing that ab x ac = ab+c, and ab x cb = (ac)b will be essential to answering exponent questions correctly.

However, you also want to avoid common exponent mistakes. This is especially important because wrong answer choices in exponent questions, as with the rest of the GMAT, will be based on common test-taker errors.

The most common mistake test-takers make on exponent questions is to erroneously believe that ab + ac = ab+c. Remember, exponent rules refer to multiplication and division, not addition and subtraction. When you encounter an exponent question on addition or subtraction, you will usually need to factor out like terms in order to simplify. For example, if a problem states that 2210 + 225, rewrite it as (225)(225) + (225)(1). Then we can factor out 225, which gives us 225(225 + 1). Be sure to note that you cannot simplify it to 2215, as this is a completely different number.

By being aware of common exponent mistakes you can ensure that you will not be tempted by wrong answer choices and that you will complete such problem correctly. This, in turn, will lead to a higher score on test day.

~Bret Ruber

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