Few Mistakes done by test-takers in GMAT Data Sufficiency

    Graduate Management Admission Test – commonly known as GMAT – is a crucial part of the application process of the business schools. It can be perceived as simple, but as looks can be deceptive, this test is, in truth, not that easy. It is a computer-based and computer-adaptive examination, filled with multiple-choice questions. It is important to be taken by everyone who wants to pursue an MBA; as it is applicable globally.

    If you work hard and get a more than just good GMAT score, it will get you in your desired business school, especially if it’s one of the most prestigious schools in your city. It is administered by GMAC, and bases them on their graduate-level academic syllabus. There is your basic arithmetic, geometry, and algebra, paired with multi-source data analysis and grammar. The score that you get here, is then assessed during the application process, along with your work experience, academic record, related documents as well as the candidate’s willingness to join the MBA program.

    GMAT Data Sufficiency: Paper Section

    Data Sufficiency seems to be a totally new type of mathematics section for students when they sit down to study for GMAT. You can expect a number of questions from this section. The questions based on this comes in the GMAT Quant section; around 1/3rd – 1/4th of that section is data sufficiency questions. The rest comprises GMAT Problem Solving questions. It is not as easily graspable; one can see the plethora of tutorials and links dedicated to the students.

    And yet, they are simple, but since they are posed in the paper in quite a confusing way, students seem to stumble on these questions a lot. What is important here is to understand the question properly – read it twice or even thrice, but understand it completely before wholly committing to solving it. Given below is one of the simplest examples of a Data Sufficiency question. To help you understand, here is an example of that -

    • Is x > 10?
    • (1) x >8
    • (2) x > 12

    This is how the question is asked always, at least the simplest ones. The students are always asked the question, complemented with two statements. The student’s work here is to answer the question after studying the given information through the question here.

    As for the answer, almost all the questions will have the options for answers like these -

    1. (1) is enough, (2) is not
    2. (2) is enough, (1) is not
    3. You need both statements
    4. (1) is enough alone and (2) is enough alone
    5. You can’t answer the question

    Once you understand the question, take a look at the answers. Ask the question to yourself and check whether it’s enough or not. Don’t panic because x could be any number; think logically. The obvious response here would be to discard the options of A and D. The option B answers the question properly, as x>11 is enough, but x>9 is not enough here. That’s where you select the answer B.

    The mistakes students often make –

    Look at the simple question given above, and it still took you 10 minutes to solve it. Students, therefore, are seen struggling in this section, even if they have done exceptionally well for the problem-solving questions. Students are actually prone to make mistakes, as must have been deduced.

    They are, more often than not, seen to be making these three mistakes the most -

    1. The question stems from being interpreted incorrectly.
    2. The question stems from being interpreted incompletely.
    3. Unsteadiness when inferences are being applied.

    Notice how all of the mistakes have one word in common – Inference. Inferring is a technique you need to put to use in GMAT exams, especially in this section, in order to understand the question in front of you. Infer actually means the type of information concealed subtly in the question, where you have to use your concentration skills and conceptual knowledge, so that there is a chance you can come closer to understanding the given problem.

    Now, let’s take a deeper look at these three mistakes.

    1. The question stem being interpreted incorrectly:

    Students are usually seen to understand how to solve the question – having studied day and night for it –but since they are under a time limit, they unnecessarily try to get the answer as quickly as possible. This makes them interpret the question incorrectly. It won’t do you any good; it will just make you lose the marks that much faster.

    For example –

    • x, y, and z are positive integers, where x is an odd number and z = x2 + y2 +4. Is y2 divisible by 4?
    • z = 8k – 3
    • (z – x + 1) = 2q + 1

    Here, read the question properly. Try to understand what it is trying to say.

    What you infer from here is that –

    • z = Odd + y2 + Even
    • z = Odd + y2 (As Odd + Even = Odd)

    However, this inference is partially incorrect. The correct one is –

    • if y is divisible by 2 then y2 will be divisible by 4.
    • Or, essentially if is even then y2 is divisible by 4.

    Students usually make this mistake as the books don’t cover the part of drawing inferences from the question stem. Even if they have made themselves adept in this practice, those hurrying to complete the question makes them interpret it incorrectly. Or more importantly, you might not even have that much depth of understanding such a question. In all of the scenarios, the only remedy is that you are supposed to practice, and practice much.

    1. The question stem being interpreted incompletely:

    The other type of mistake that students are seen to make is how students not just infer the question incorrectly, but actually incompletely. Their partial understanding of the question endangers the answer, and then the consequent results. To better understand this mistake, a proper example would help you understand.

    For example –

    • The number x is a positive odd integer. If the unit digit of x3 is subtracted from the unit digit of x2, it results in 0. What is the unit digit of the number x + 7?
    • The unit digit of the product of 105 and x is 5.
    • When x is divided by 5, it leaves no remainder.

    What can be inferred from here is that the students are quick to assume that x is 5, since 105, if multiplied with any number will end in 5. The correct inference here is that units digits can actually equal. Therefore, x3 = Units digit of x2. It means that it can’t only be 5; rather, it will be 1 and 5.

    The traps that students fell for and made these mistakes were in understanding the question incompletely. Mistakes made here is assuming that x can never be equal to 1. Another mistake here is the incomplete use of number substitution, which will produce wrong answers. Considering any of the possibilities, here only 1 or even just 5, then it will yield false answers. Practice reading and interpreting the answer completely and correctly; both of it is important.

    1. Unsteadiness when inferences are being applied.

    Now, we come to the next common mistake, maybe even found in other mistakes – the unsteadiness of the students while solving the questions in the Data Sufficiency section. It doesn’t have the difficulty of the question or even the seemingly oppressive time limit. Inferring something from the given data might not be a skill you are good in, let alone an expert in. While a few are skilled in it – even to the point where they don’t have to write down the inferred content, and solve directly – the rest of them need help with it. This unsteadiness can cause the students to solve the question incorrectly, and we don’t want that now, do we? One thing that you can do here is use the practice questions as learning opportunities. Don’t look for an answer; solve it as much as you can, try again and again. If remembering what you inferred is not working, simply write it down, so as to decrease the mistakes during understanding the question. The unsteadiness will lessen, to the point where you will be able to solve the given problems like you've been doing your whole life.

    GMAT is an easy enough examination, even if it is considered otherwise. All you have to do is study hard, follow the GMAT preparation tips, concentrate even harder and have faith on your skills. Infer is a very difficult and also equally important process in the working of these questions especially. In fact, it all depends on the ability of yours to infer it as correctly as possible, so that you can then solve the question and have the correct answer. Practice papers of GMAT play a very vital role in nurturing the test takers in this regard. The lockdown that seems to be effective globally might make you feel irritated for sitting at home all day – but turn this into an opportunity, and work on your inferring skill and catch up with your overall GMAT studies!

    *The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College

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