Top 3 Must-Know Tips for GMAT Data Sufficiency Problems

Posted on August 5, 2014 | Filed in GMAT

Find out 3 important tips for mastering the data sufficiency section of the GMAT exam.

Find out 3 important tips for mastering the data sufficiency section of the GMAT exam.

The GMAT exam is not the average standardized exam. It digs deeper passed learned knowledge and aims to assess the analytical and critical reasoning skills that would define an ideal MBA candidate. The goal is to develop an instinct for taking the GMAT because mastering the test is just as important as mastering individual test questions. The Data Sufficiency section of the exam is particularly tricky when it comes to test pacing. These questions require attention and can quickly become a sandtrap. There are certain tips and tricks that can maximize on efficiency and shave vital minutes off of test taking time. These are the three top tips for zipping through the Data Sufficiency section of the exam like a Formula 1 racer:

  1. Ask what’s important

    Contrary to popular belief you don’t always have to solve for the answer to know the answer. In fact, it is highly recommended that you DON’T actually solve the problem, unless you want to waste time and fall behind on questions that is. Before tackling any question it is important to relax and assess what is actually being asked of you. The GMAT test-makers are very intelligent people. They construct each question to be highly sophisticated in order to assess just how skilled the test-taker is in gauging what’s important. The Data Sufficiency problems aren’t aimed to test your quantitative skills, those skills are assumed to be present. The skill being brought into question is the ability to analyze and extract data. The test-taker is presented with a problem and needs to determine if any information is missing in order to solve for an answer. You only need to get far enough to conclude that you could work out the answer with the information given. Solving for the answer is unnecessary and proves only that you are inefficient with your time.

  2. Accidents happen

    So you’ve concluded that each statement holds sufficient data in order to reach a solution. Great! You have selected answer choice (D). Unfortunately, each statement, when applied, results in a different solution. This should be an immediate red flag that an error has occurred. Test designers construct questions on this portion of the exam to have very specific outcomes. If statement (1) and statement (2) are meant to be sufficient enough in order to reach a solution, the solution should be uniform. A good rule to remember is that there are only three possible outcomes to a question on the Data Sufficiency section: a) No solution can be determined, b) A solution can be determined from only one of the statements but not the other, and c) A solution can only be determined when both statements are applied. The solution, if existent, is always singular. If, however, something goes wrong there is no reason to panic. Losing focus is a guaranteed way to lose time and start a snowball of bad answers. You must remember that errors occur, remind yourself of this fact during the exam. When you notice that an error might have occurred the instinct and immediate reflex should be to take a breath, go back and re-test the problem. Rely heavily on your training and trust that you have a strong mastery of the exam. The confidence to re-test a question is the difference between an average score and reaching maximum potential.

  3. Be ignorant

    A great tip for mastering Data Sufficiency problems is to be ignorant. Read each statement independently and pretend that the other doesn’t exist. If pretending isn’t doing the trick actually cover the question with your hand. Put your hand up against the screen and ignore everything out of sight. It might feel a little silly, however, the tradeoff of a potentially higher GMAT score should ease any qualms. The reason for attacking questions with this method is because many students suffer common mistake. Students read the 2nd statement and determine that there is sufficient information for a solution. This momentary celebration leads to a wrong answer because upon closer inspection both statements TOGETHER are required to answer the question. By reading the statements independently it is easier to determine how much data is available and from which source.

The GMAT does not aim to trick you, however, can at times appear to be tricky. Take a deep breath, relax, and rely on the techniques learned during GMAT test-preparation. These techniques don’t necessarily come natural so it is important to complete practice tests and condition yourself and your instincts.

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