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Trouble interpreting problem solving questions

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Trouble interpreting problem solving questions  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Oct 2018, 01:31
I have a strange problem. I have been noticing that I have been misinterpreting the meaning of a few problem solving questions, they are simple mistakes but i have been making them very often. I was wondering if anyone else has the same issues, or have strategies on how to solve them.

To elaborate - take this question for example:

In a certain learning experiment, each participant had three trials and was assigned, for each trial, a score of either −2, −1, 0, 1, or 2. The participant's final score consisted of the sum of the first trial score, 2 times the second trial score, and 3 times the third trial score. If Anne received scores of 1 and −1 for her first two trials, not necessarily in that order, which of the following could NOT be her final score?

In the second sentence in the question above I would interpret the wording as : the participant's final score consisted of : the sum of the first trial score, 2 times the second trial score ...etc. Where as the meaning should be the sum of the - 1st trail store, 2 times the second trial score.. etc.

Not sure if this makes sense, or if anyone else has the same issues.
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Re: Trouble interpreting problem solving questions  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Oct 2018, 04:13
Dear mate, reading slowly definitely helps.
Also, here your verbal skills come into action. When you see the word "and", you know you might dealing with a list. Interpret as you read -"sum of first score" doesn't mean anything after all :)
PS - speaking from personal experience :)
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New post 07 Oct 2018, 10:05
Hi Yangyangdog,

This thread might help you:

Word Problems Made Easy

Check out the videos on word problems here:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/manhattan-s- ... 23612.html

Hope this helps!
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Re: Trouble interpreting problem solving questions  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Oct 2018, 12:13
Yangyangdog wrote:
I have a strange problem. I have been noticing that I have been misinterpreting the meaning of a few problem solving questions, they are simple mistakes but i have been making them very often. I was wondering if anyone else has the same issues, or have strategies on how to solve them.

To elaborate - take this question for example:

In a certain learning experiment, each participant had three trials and was assigned, for each trial, a score of either −2, −1, 0, 1, or 2. The participant's final score consisted of the sum of the first trial score, 2 times the second trial score, and 3 times the third trial score. If Anne received scores of 1 and −1 for her first two trials, not necessarily in that order, which of the following could NOT be her final score?

In the second sentence in the question above I would interpret the wording as : the participant's final score consisted of : the sum of the first trial score, 2 times the second trial score ...etc. Where as the meaning should be the sum of the - 1st trail store, 2 times the second trial score.. etc.

Not sure if this makes sense, or if anyone else has the same issues.


My best advice on this is to write down all of the mistakes of this type that you make, and periodically review them. It's possible that specific types of wording are tripping you up over and over, and if you just memorize them, you'll learn to interpret them correctly. This is a good reason to use an error log - you can include a specific section in your error log for this sort of thing!

For this specific problem, when you see 'sum of', you're looking for a list of multiple things that are being summed together. See the word 'sum', look for 'a AND b'. Since 'her first trial score' is only one thing, you can't have a 'sum of her first trial score'. You can confirm this by double-checking how the trial scores are actually assigned, from the first sentence of the problem: the first trial score is a single number.
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New post 09 Oct 2018, 09:55
Hi Yangyangdog,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. First of all, you need to identify the specific types of problem-solving questions that cause you issues. For instance, maybe you get twisted around most word problems, rate problems, ratio problems, work problems...etc. Thus, when presented with such problems, you can be sure to SLOW DOWN when reading, so that you avoid making a careless reading error.

Furthermore, any time you are reading a problem stem, you must be sure to “be in the moment.” You can’t think about the time on the clock, or the problem you just completed, or how many problems you have left, or even about your next break. If you are thinking about anything other than the words in front of you, you are apt to make a mistake, right?

Lastly, once you define the problems that give you the most issues, make it your LIFE GOAL to study those problem types until you you know them like the back of your hand. For instance, let’s say you make reading errors in rate problems. Well, ask yourself, do I know every single formula necessary to answer rate questions (i.e., average rate, converging rate, diverging rate, catchup, etc.)? After all, if you are presented with an average rate question and you have the average rate formula memorized, don’t you think you are less likely to make a reading error?

I’ve written about these points in further detail in this article about how to improve your accuracy on the GMAT. Feel free to reach out with further questions.

Good luck!
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Re: Trouble interpreting problem solving questions   [#permalink] 09 Oct 2018, 09:55
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