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Don't Solve, Delegate: Data Sufficiency in Real Life

Posted in Test Prep on October 1, 2010 by

Good managers do more than just dole out assignments; those working under them appreciate seeing their boss from time to time tackling some of the same kinds of projects that they work on themselves. It shows that the boss doesn’t give assignments she wouldn’t be willing to do herself, and it shows she is competent, able to do the assignments she asks others to do.

Still, a lot of the time, a manager’s job is to tell people what to do. Chris Wu, one of Knewton’s star GMAT teachers, likes to point out that data sufficiency problems are actually excellent precursors to this duty at your future job. Maybe you’re a finance whiz going to business school to take your career to the next level. When you start your new job after b-school, you’ll deal with many difficult analytical problems. Some problems may require your own expertise; with others, though, you’ll recognize right away that the problem is solvable and pass it on to a first year analyst to work out the details.

Or maybe you’re an experienced software developer who will exit business school with a job at some technology behemoth. You may be the master architect of a program, but you’ll have other coders who write various sections of the code for you. When you ask them to work on something, you’ll probably know all of the hurdles that the junior coder will encounter and how to get over them. But that doesn’t mean you should do the work yourself. Knowing that the problem can be solved, you delegate it to someone else.

Perhaps you’re doing a JD/MBA and will one day be a managing partner at a top 10 firm. Some case matters might be in uncharted territory and so may require your personal touch, but others will be issues you’ve seen before. You’ll know that there is relevant precedent, you’ll see the course that an argument must take, but you won’t write the motion yourself. Knowing that the problem can be solved, you assign the case to an associate.

The common thread here? Sometimes, your time is too valuable to be spent solving problems you know how to solve. You delegate tasks to those you manage; you may provide some guidance on how to tackle a sticky issue, but you let others put all the work together.

Data Sufficiency is the exact same process. Sometimes, it may be necessary to work through all the computation to be sure that the information you have is sufficient. But other times, it becomes clear at a certain point that the problem is solvable. You deem the statement sufficient and move on.

It’s an old theme, but always worth reinforcing: Don’t waste your valuable time solving when you don’t have to.