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GMAT Tip: Always Follow Directions

Always Follow Directions

If you have any children in your life, you know that with that and the holidays comes toys… and directions. Lots and lots of directions. If you’re wondering what late night toy assembly has to do with data sufficiency, read on for a crash course in following directions and what to do when you have extra information (or extra spare parts). Both should make for better studying (and excited children on December 25th).

Four elves were working on the bicycle assembly line at North Pole Central yesterday. Did one of the elves build at least three bicycles yesterday?

(1) Together they built 8 bicycles yesterday on the assembly line.

(2) No two elves built the same number of bicycles.

(A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked

(B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked

(C) Both statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked; but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient

(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked

(E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about elves and bicycles or girl scouts and cookie sales. The most important language (and first “direction”) is the inclusion of “at least.” That’s about as clear cut of a directive as knowing whether to pick a flathead and Phillips screwdriver. “At least” tells us that we’re looking at a min/max question. (In this case, we’re talking about a min question. If the wording had been “at most,” it would suggest a max question.)

Next, let’s take a look at the first piece of data: If four elves built eight bicycles, each elf could have built 2 bicycles (2+2+2+2) or maybe two elves could have built three bicycles each and the others one each. (3+3+1+1). Since each scenario answers the question differently, statement 1is clearly insufficient to answer the question.

The second piece of data tells us that no two elves built the same number of bicycles which means that at a minimum, your elf bicycle production looks like this:

0 + 1 + 2 + 3

At a minimum, one elf had to build three bicycles thus making this statement sufficient.

Now, let’s take a look at the answer choices. Since the first statement is insufficient, that automatically rules out answer choices (A) and (D).   Choice (C) is tempting (just like those extra screws or washers that remain after you thought you were done assembling Barbie’s dreamhouse). But choice (C) won’t work because while the first part of the statement is correct, the second part isn’t (because the second statement alone is sufficient).

So two takeaways here:

• Remember to read all of the statements in their entirety as well as the answer choices. If one part of the answer choice doesn’t work, neither will the entire answer choice.

• If you have a hard time visualizing a scenario without numbers, translate the qualitative into quantitative terms. (For those of you building toys at home, it’s similar to lining up the box next to your work with the perfect picture of the finished product instead of the reading the enclosed directions with no pictures).

Happy studying…and happy assembling!










Posted in: GMAT, GMAT - Quantitative, GMAT Tips

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