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GMAT Tips – Data Sufficiency: Hiding in Plain Sight

Today’s GMAT tip comes to us from Veritas Prep.  In today’s blog post, they discuss tips for finding “hidden” information on the Data Sufficiency section of the GMAT.  Read on to see what they have to say!

On the GMAT, Data Sufficiency questions can be tricky. Perhaps most frustrating about Data Sufficiency questions are those questions that somehow trick you when, upon further review, they gave you absolutely everything you needed. When you look back at them, you cannot  believe that you got them wrong .  One common way that an in-hindsight-pretty-straightforward question can be extremely challenging involves the “hiding” of pertinent information in the question stem itself, where the testmakers know that you’re apt to read quickly in your haste to get to the statements. Consider the question:

If xy < 0, is x/y > z?

(1) xyz < 0
(2) x > yz

One of the major keys to solving this problem is to fully digest the initial fact: xy < 0. This tells you that one of x and y is negative and the other is positive, and when you combine that with statement 1 you learn that “when a negative number xy is multiplied by z, it stays negative”. This means that z has to be positive. The given information also tells you that x/y is negative, because you know that x and y have different signs. So by fully unpacking the given information along with statement 1, you know that:

z is positive
x/y is negative

So the statement is sufficient – the negative number x/y cannot be greater than the positive number z.

Statement 2, on the other hand, is not sufficient. You know from the given information that either x or y is negative, but you do not know which one. So you can’t simply divide both sides of the statement 2 equation to mirror the question, because you know that there is a 50% chance that y is negative and in that case you would have to flip the sign. So the answer is A, and the important lesson is that you need to leverage the information in the question stem on many problems in order to fully understand the problem.

The GMAT knows that we tend to rush through the question stem so that we can get to work on the statement, so many difficult questions are constructed so that they reward those who fully leverage the question stem as an asset and not just as a “backstory.” The GMAT knows that it can hide crucial information in plain sight, so be certain to use the question stem to your advantage.

For more information on Veritas Prep, download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies here. This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at ten different firms!

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Posted in: GMAT - Quantitative, GMAT Tips

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