Make the Provided Answers Work for You


There are many various tests that we have to undertake in our lives. Of all those tests, some stand out as being crucial to our educational progress. GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, SAT – and many more of a kind comprise a serious obstacle in our way. In fact, similar test exist in almost any country that has an established high level education system. Despite constant criticism, they have proven as a worthy way of segregation. As the years pass, no other efficient system has been found to estimate one’s “learning abilities” – the abilities that are required to successfully complete the studies. Of course, as any other tool, those tests are far from perfect. Passing GMAT with a high grade is no guarantee one will eventually succeed in completing his Master Degree. But his/her chances are, probably (and statistically) higher than of a person who did not succeed in GMAT.

Anyway, no matter how good or bad those tests are, we are all forced to cope with them. SAT, GRE, GMAT, Psychometric Tests of various kinds – all are different exams with slightly different purposes and various target audiences. However, they all have several things in common. Those are MULTICHOICE questions exams with TIGHT TIME LIMIT. And these two are actually closely connected.

The two characteristics suggest that there is much in common when we are talking about any of the above mentioned exams. They also imply that in order to successfully surpass an exam of this kind one needs to prepare in certain way. Of course, there is no “one and only” system that will ensure the best preparation. Nor some “best” technique has been identified yet. But there are several things that have to be included in preparation besides gathering the necessary knowledge and acquiring the relevant skills. The exam structure can actually play to your favor… Something anyone should try to take advantage of: learn to use the multiple choice format to save time. How? Let’s look at the examples below.

Here is a sample question:

What is the area of a rectangle with sides of 32 feet and 28 feet?

  1. 120 sq ft
  2. 1214 sq ft
  3. 896 sq ft
  4. 528 sq ft

If there were no answer options, we would, of course, multiply 32 by 28 (and there are ways to do that quickly, but that is another topic) ad get the 896.

However, this question might be solved without any calculation at all. We can use a method called APPROXIMATION. Area of rectangle 32 by 28 is should be pretty close to a square of 30×30, which is, of course, 900 sq ft. 120, 1214 and 528 are all pretty distant from this 900 figure. So the only answer left is number (3). Well, was this quick?

Another thing we could have used in this example is, actually, the… multiplication table! How so? Well, let’s look at the answers once again. They all end with a different number. It might take some time to calculate 32×28, but it is obvious that it will end with the 6. And, fortunately, there is only one answer that fits this criterion! Of course, answers might have been different, but probably only two (or maybe three in cases of 5-answer test) would generally fulfill this criterion. This is also because those who create the exams WANT us to think in slightly different way, analyzing the data and not just doing straightforward calculations – we have also had 10,11,12 years of school to check THAT ability, remember?

By the way, haven’t I mentioned that 32×28 us actually to too hard to calculate? Well, it actually is pretty easy – not only without a computer/calculator (which are, of course,  not allowed in majority of tests) but also without even a pen and a paper… It involves a little bit of algebra (don’t be afraid of the world, it is much less scary than the college linear algebra course you have had  – or have heard of) – but pretty basic one.

Let me remind you a simple rule that says: a2-b2 = (a+b)*(a-b). This is learned somewhere in 6th to 8th grade math class. The form of a2-b2 = (a+b)*(a-b) should be pretty familiar to you. What is many times forgotten, however, is that is can work vice versa as well: (a+b)*(a-b) = a2-b2… Ok, so far so good – but what it has to do with 32×28? Wait a second. Isn’t 32 = 30+2 and 28 = 30-2? Then 32×28 is actually (30-2)*(30+2), which is 302-22. And this is really easy 900-4 = 896. So even if we HAD to calculate the area of that rectangle (remember, in multiple choice questions we are always looking for a way to avoid direct calculations) – we could do it pretty easily.

To sum this up – when you are about to attend GMAT, GRE or similar test you should always keep in mind that the time limit is introduced because the questions are not that difficult. When preparing for such test – look for untraditional ways to solve questions. Learn some “tricks” that will help you to save precious time during the exam.

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