In our previous article, we covered some of the areas of content knowledge necessary to perform well on the GMAT. But content is only a small part of the suite of skills that leads to better GMAT scores; in other words, even if you could immediately memorize volumes of Math formulas, Grammar rules, and practice problems, that wouldn’t automatically lead to a perfect score. There are plenty of tests that could test the same subjects as the GMAT—math tests from high school come to mind—but the GMAT is unique, and it has an extreme amount of predictability in its formatting. This means that, ideally, we want to use this format to our advantage; own the GMAT, don’t let it own you.
One unavoidable fact about the test is its timing restrictions: 75 minutes for 37 Quantitative questions or 41 Verbal questions, depending on the section. At 2 minutes per question, this can get quite brutal, especially considering the GMAT’s adaptive nature, which will be sure to consistently feed you questions that are difficult for you. This means that we all, at one point or another, will have to guess.
With proper strategy, you can make guessing work for you. For example, if you’re short on time and come upon a Data Sufficiency question with a killer Statement (1)—maybe the statement requires substantial words-to-math translation, followed by some tough arithmetic—don’t just pick an answer randomly and move on: do yourself a favor and take a glance at Statement (2) first. Often, the GMAT will hide easy-to-evaluate Statement (2)s behind tricky Statement (1)s to throw us off in this very way. If the second statement can be evaluated in short order, then you can eliminate certain answer choices ((B), (C), and (E) if the statement is Sufficient, or (A) and (D) if it is Insufficient) and dramatically increase your chances of guessing correctly among the remaining choices.
Not that GMAT Strategy is limited to guessing and pacing—far from it. All sorts of tactics, such as assigning numbers to unknown values (in Math) and reading for structure, not content (in Verbal) can be employed across all question types that can work in tandem with Content knowledge to get correct answers as quickly as possible. These myriad strategies are a major ingredient of prep course curricula and the toolboxes of high scorers.
That’s it for our Strategy briefing. Look for Pillar #3: Intangibles next!