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Best GMAT Strategy thread (no discussion)

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This will be the master strategy thread. Please note: There is to be NO discussion here. This is to remain a clean sticky where strategies will be posted.

To post strategies that you would like posted here, or to discuss other strategies, please go to the post your strategy or provide feedback thread:


PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE NOTE: Strategies are NOT a replacement for understanding the fundamentals of the material (grammar, idioms, geometry, algebra, etc.). Strategies should ONLY supplement the material, thereby boosting your chances when guessing and helping you select the correct option on more difficult questions.

Here is the "proven" strategy for DS (as long as one solution is "easier" than the other)

Approach for DS problems:
First: Reduce the problem as much as possible.

i.e. If the question is asking "if X and Y are both integers, is x-y-5 > x+y+3?"

You might look at the problem and say "ok, I have two variables so I either need to equations or two variables." The problem is you can reduce the inequality as follows:

Subtract X from both sides ------->
(-x)+x-y-5>(-x)+x+y+3 = y-5>y+3
Add Y to both sides ------->
(+y)-y-5 > (+y)+y+3 = -5>2y+3
Add 5 to both sides ------->
(+5)-5 > (+5)+2y+3 = 0 > 2y+8

You know have "if X and Y are both integers, is 0 > 2y+8?"

X is irrelevant now. All you need to know is y and you can solve for the inequality.

Reducing the equation lets you know "what do I really need to solve this"

Next, select the "easier" of the two options and set up your solution option as follows:

If you option 1 is the easier of the two options:

If you option 2 is the easier of the two options:

Solve the easier option. If you can conclude yes or no (remember, sufficiency = can you come to a conclusive answer, the answer can be yes or no) on the easier option, cross out the other three options.



Or, if the easier option is not viable, cross out the top two:



Then solve between the remaining options.

The reason this works is as follows:

If you can conclude that one option is 100% viable, then three options go right out the door (only the other is sufficient, only together are sufficient, together are NOT sufficient). If you conclude the easier option is 100% NOT viable, then the top pair of options go right out the door (only this one is sufficient, each alone are sufficient). This creates a systematic way of eliminating options in DS problems, and increasing your chances of getting more difficult problems correct (when you can't come to a conclusion overall but can eliminate certain options). It also helps streamline processing to reduce the time spent on DS problems.

Also, ALWAYS reduce the question as much as possible

Critical Reasoning (CR) Strategy:

Critical Reasoning (CR) Strategy:

The more difficult CR questions tend to have more vague answers. That being said, you can still usually knock off two or three of the answer choices. This is the process that has worked for me:

DO NOT read the information first. Skip down and read the question (i.e. Which of these if true would seriously weaken the argument of X).

Now read the stem. Make note if any parts are bold.

Re-read the question after reading the information.

On your testing center provided pad - list out the answer choices. Next, as you read the answer choices, list how the answer choice addresses the question at hand. Use some form of shorthand to get your notes down quick.

+ - na - na

If the above example corresponds to a question that is asking which choice strengthens, your answer is A. If it is asking which answer choice weakens, you will select between B and D.

Using this method will help you establish a streamlined method of approach.

Remember, on standardized tests, there isn't always a "right" answer. With these more subjective questions, your goal is to identify the "best" answer.

Reading Comprehension - Active Reading

Reading Comprehension - Active Reading

One of the biggest complaints people have coming out of a conversation: the person didn't listen to me (i.e. the other person is not an active listener). The same rule applies for reading comprehension, you need to become an active reader to do well on the GMAT.

Rehashing what you just read to someone else is one way of improving your active reading skills. It can be done using any publication.

Example: After reading the newspaper, try to remember some of the headlines.
Example: Two weeks after finishing a book, explain to someone else in 20 words or less what the book is about.
Example: After reading a thesis or research paper, recall both the things you liked about the paper and the things you disliked about the paper.

The question writers on the GMAT ALWAYS have answers that play with your mind. An answer might be verbatim from the passagevand you might think the answer is too obvious. An answer might say all the correct things, but it throws in an "always" or "never" (it's rare that a CR or RC correct option uses extreme words).

Remember, your goal here is to find the "best" answer. It might not be the right answer you thought of, but it's still the best answer.

Something else that works for some people:

Taking notes while reading passages works for some people. The goal behind taking notes is to help you retain key points from the passage and know what information is where (avoid re-reading the entire passage).

The goal is to have one to three sentences per paragraph, with the number of sentences depending on how long each paragraph is and how much information is in each paragraph. The sentences should be high level points (don't write down specific details. i.e. how do you summarize the paragraph into one or two sentences.). This requires a bit of practice, but it also helps you become an active reader.

Another point is taking notes while reading helps some people retain information. By actually writing things down, you can force yourself to process process the information over a longer period of time.

I don't buy into the strategies of:
Skimming, short reading, hunting for key words, etc.

What it boils down to is retaining key information after completing a passage. This will help you answer easier questions, while providing you enough detail to know where to find answer to more difficult question. Best of all, you avoid re-reading the entire passage.

When analyzing the answers, the same strategy used for CR can be used here:

On your testing center provided pad - list out the answer choices. Next, as you read the answer choices, list how the answer choice addresses the question at hand. Use some form of shorthand to get your notes down quick.

+ - na - na

The short hand here might mean something else. + might support the author's main point, and - might counter it. Just as with CR questions, make sure the answer selection is actually answering the question at hand.

Time management is key throughout the entire exam. Other questions you may have more flexibility with (length of argument stem, short SC problem, etc.), but with reading comprehension, you still need to average 2 mins/problem including reading the passage.

Sentence Correction: Split and Re-Split

Sentence Correction: Split and Re-Split

Often on SC problems, you will have a 3/2 split (i.e. two options are similar, and the remaining three are similar but noticeably different from the other two options. The split/re-split strategy can help you eliminate options when pressed for time or unable to knock off any options using the sentence at large.

Two options will use "it" as the pronoun and the other three options will have "they"

If the noun in question is singular, you will only consider the options with "it" as the pronoun. If the noun in question is plural, you will only consider the options with "they" as the pronoun.

Split/Re-Split helps streamline problems, but please note: Some SC problems can be solved in 20 seconds if you immediately identify the correct answer and scan to ensure none of the other answers are better. This can be MORE time consuming than directly solving (at times).

General Quant Strategies

Quant: General Strategies

Many people struggle on the quant section for various reasons. Some of the most notable are as follows:

-Lack of time management (problem the #1 reason people struggle on quant)
-Lack of review/understanding of rules of Algebra (i.e. when you CAN NOT divide by a variable in a quadratic because you might eliminate 0 as an option).
-Word translation
-Lack of understanding of number properties (even/odd, cross multiple, positive/negative, etc.)
-Lack of understand of overlapping sets (Venn diagram) or rate/work problems
-Lack of conversion understanding (tens to tenth, 1x10e^, gram-> kilogram, etc.)
- etc.

Hopefully this post will provide some simple rules to apply across all problems.

1. ALWAYS write everything down. Setting up quant problems is key for the following reasons:
- Ensures you are on the right track to solve for the unknowns needed to solve the problem
- Helps you eliminate obvious incorrect answers (if some are positive and some are negative, by setting up you should know if the answer is positive or negative).
- Creates a systematic pattern for problem approach. Helps streamline problems.

2. The knowns are NOT always clearly stated in the problem. When you write the information down, you can extrapolate the remaining knowns (i.e. complementary/supplementary angles, measurements of embedded angles, lengths of sides, etc.)

3. DON'T PANIC. If you become flustered with a problem - WATCH YOUR TIME. Do NOT let a single problem take up five minutes.

4. Spot check your work as needed. When doing practice problems, check your time and check your approach. This will tell you how often you will need to spot check your work.

5. SLOW DOWN when setting up problems. It's VERY easy to miss a negative sign, or misread a problem and then become very frustrated as none of the options match your answer. Setting up the problem is key to ensure you approach the problem in an appropriate and timely manner.

6. ???

I will edit this post as needed.

Quant: Geometry

Quant: Geometry

Unless you are well versed in proofs and algebra, geometry requires a decent amount of memorization + application of memorized rules. There is no way around this.

That being said, there are things you can focus on which can help target what you need to memorize and can extrapolate out to other problems.

General things to memorize:
-General concepts of circles (area, circumference, embedded angles, etc)
-General concepts of triangles (area, rules for leg length, etc.)
-Rules for special triangles(isosceles and equilateral) <-- KEY TO MEMORIZE. Also make sure you understand the rules for triangles embedded in circles
-General concepts for all polygons ( (# sides-2)*180= measure of inner angles, rules of sides, angles, relation to triangles, etc.)
-How to calculate surface area for 3 dimensional figures
-How to calculate volume for 3 dimensional figures
- Supplementary/Complementary angles

Some problems will only give you variables and the answers will only have variables. You can work through with the variables to come to an answer, the problem is the GMAT writers usually simplify the problem as much as possible and sometimes certain steps are not so "obvious". The only real workaround for this is to plug in numbers. You can ONLY plug in numbers that do NOT violate the rules for the figure in question (i.e. triangle rule: the sum of two legs of a triangle MUST be longer than the third leg). If you use numbers that do not adhere to the rules, you WILL be VERY frustrated with the problems.

The key here is practice the concepts, and then do review problems to apply the concepts. You may have to go back to tactics used in school to help you retain the information (flash cards, notes read throughout the day, etc.). Some of the problems on the real test will mix figures/rules and you will need to be able to figure out what is what.

Quant: Word translations

Note: If you are not familiar with converting from sentences to math equations, PLEASE plan on spending lots of time doing practice problems and identifying key marker words.
Quant: Word translations

If you're not an engineer by trade (or some other things that practice word translations), this might be a struggle for you. If you took advanced math or advanced applied science (physics/chemistry) during university days, these will be much easier.

The key for word translation problems is writing everything down and then plugging in the right values/symbols for the words in question.

Example found using Google:

In used car lot, there are three times as many red cars as green cars. If tomorrow 12 green cars are sold and 3 red cars are added,then there will be 6 times as many red cars as green cars. How many green cars are currently in the lot?

Note: There are three times as many red cars as green cars. This means there are MORE red cars, thus the multiplier should be next to the lower value (green cars).

Identify your variables (this doesn't need to be written down, but make sure variables are kept straight).

r = red cars
g = green cars

First sentence translated: r = 3g
Second sentence translated: 6(g-12) = r+3

Two different equations, two variables. Substitute in and solve.

6(g-12) = r + 3
Substitute 3g for r
6g - 72 = 3g + 3
Isolate the variable
6g - 72 (+72 - 3g) = 3g + 3 (-3g + 72)
3g = 75
g = 25

Granted this is an easy problem, but the approach is the same every time:

Write down your known and work to solve the problem.

I will revisit this post for rate problems.

Strategy post by Samur98

(I disagree with some of his strategies, but they are posted for the benefit of the GMATclub members)

samrus98 wrote:
I would like to share some tips & strategies that might prove to be useful while preparing and attempting the mocks as well as the GMAT:

1) Make sure no question is left unattempted as you will be heavily penalized for doing so. Its better to randomly mark an answer if you are pressed for time than leaving it unmarked.

2) Its common knowledge that first few questions are more important. In order to take advantage of this piece of information, spend more time on the first 15 questions, say an avg of 2.5 min per question. Spending that extra time on the first few questions will more or less fix your score band - this is what is meant by CAT.
Once the band is fixed i.e. once your level has been set by the computer, you will have to work really hard to change that level by either getting questions wrong continuously or getting them right continuously.

3) At the end of the test, even if there are 15 questions remaining and you have just 15 min to go, do not panic. Since your band has already been decided by the computer, in order to stay in that band all you have to do is make sure that you dont make too many continuous mistakes. Hence, for every 3 questions that you solve 'properly', mark the 4th question randomly and move ahead. This will make sure your mistakes are well dispersed and will also help you manage your time.

4) The importance of first few questions in each section has been emphasized enough everywhere. Although its not proven, it might be beneficial to remember that the initial 4-5 questions of each subsection in Verbal and Quant are also important in deciding your score band. So give extra time to the first few questions of each of the 5 subsections, irrespective of how late or early they figure in the test.

5) Maintain an error log of all the questions you solve and make a note of the mistakes you made. Even for the questions you get right, make sure that you read the solution and check whether the reasoning used by you is correct.

6) Make your own SC notes. Maybe for PS too. Your own consolidated notes along with the error log proves very handy at the time of revision.

7) a) Revise Manhattan SC Guide at least 3 times
b) Revisit OG questions at least once
c) Take GMATPREP tests 1 & 2 at least 2 times each

8) Make use of the scratch pad that is made available at the test center. I used it while eliminating the options. I used to make a table as follows and mark a cross against the options that I have already eliminated:
1 x x x x
I also used the scratch pad to write down the gist of each para in an RC passage.

a) Do not try to plan your strategies around the 11 experimental questions (these are not scored) that are present in each of the 2 GMAT sections as there is no way of knowing which are experimental and which are not. Don't assume that a question must be experimental and won't be score just because it seems too tough.
b) Do not assume that you are doing well (not doing well) when you see (don't see) Boldface questions or Probability/PnC questions on the test.

10) Prepare a list of 15 schools you would want to send your scores to. Depending upon how much you score you may then select the final 5 schools and save 17$ * 5 = 85$

This post will be edited over time. I will post revisions at the bottom as it is edited.

Strategy Discussion Thread | Strategy Master | GMAT Debrief| Please discuss strategies in discussion thread. Master thread will be updated accordingly. | GC Member Write Ups

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Last edited by mohater on 18 Aug 2009, 13:39, edited 8 times in total.
Rev. 1.0 - 8/15/2009
Best GMAT Strategy thread (no discussion)   [#permalink] 15 Aug 2009, 09:54
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