GMAT Problem Solving

The Problem Solving (PS) section isn’t as quirky as the Data Sufficiency (DS) section. Fewer test-specific acrobatics are required of you—it’s more “straight math.” There are certain tricks for using the answer choices to your advantages, but certainly the best way to prepare for the PS section is to master all the basic concepts from geometry, algebra, statistics, and arithmetic. Ready to take a stab at PS questions? Check out some sample Problem Solving questions here.

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Problem Solving Tips
  • Make sure your fundamentals are strong. Since the GMAT doesn’t allow you to use a calculator, you’ll need to be quick and accurate with basic calculations. Know common higher powers and roots. Be able to multiply and divide decimals. Have fractions down to a science. Knowing right away whether 3/7 is less than 5/11 will save you lots of time.
  • Learn how to estimate. Estimation plays a big role on the PS section. Often, a question will test your ability not to compute, but rather to make reasonable approximations. For example, the fact that 11 goes into 56 a little more than 5 times means that 11/56 must be slightly less than 1/5, or 0.2.
  • Some questions don’t have any variables, yet can still be tackled by choosing numbers wisely. If a question asks you about “a multiple of 6,” it’s probably quicker to work with a particular multiple of 6 (say, 12) than the abstract “multiple of 6.” While studying, identify the kind of problems where this strategy can be applied.
  • Remember that when the answer choices are numbers, they will always be listed in increasing (or decreasing) order. If you know that the correct answer must be less than the value in choice C, immediately eliminate choices D and E (or choices A and B, if the answers are in decreasing order). Don’t guess randomly.
  • Use the answer choices in conjunction with one another. If you’re stumped but you notice that three of the choices have a factor of ab, try to figure out where that factor comes from. If you know that the right answer choice should not have a factor of ab, eliminate all those choices in one fell swoop.
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