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GMAT Tip: More On Data Sufficiency

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While many folks in the U.S. celebrate the arrival of Thanksgiving (or an excuse to watch American football and pig out on decadent sweet and savory treats), there are others who cringe at the idea of cooking an extravagant multi-course feast. If you’re wondering what late night calls to the Butterball turkey help line have to do with data sufficiency, there are some remarkable parallels between the two that might make for better studying (and happy friends and family on Turkey Day).

• Take stock of what you have (& avoid last minute trips to the store). Before you start prepping for the feast, you likely put together a shopping list because as you add more dishes (sweet potato pie, two types of stuffing, etc) there are too many things to remember or keep track of. The same holds true for DS. You know you need to read the prompt and understand what question you’re looking to solve. And don’t overlook important details included in the prompt. If you forgot to look at how much your turkey weighs before starting to cook it, you’d likely have an under or overcooked bird.

Before diving into the two statements, take mental note of or physically write down what information you need in order to solve the question. That’s your shopping list. Look at each statement separately. You wouldn’t compose your list by writing down one ingredient for stuffing, one ingredient for jello salad, and then repeat. Evaluate and understand the possibilities of each statement individually. You may mix stuffing and cranberry sauce on your plate, but it doesn’t work well in the kitchen. And it doesn’t spell success on the GMAT if you blend both statements.

• Remember your basic toolkit. You’re not going to get far without a roasting pan, but if you start getting fancy and forget the brine or a meat thermometer, you can probably cope. The same is true for data sufficiency. Make sure your computation and foundational skills are strong. Not only should you be able to convert percents to decimals to fractions with ease, but you should understand when they’re best used and what they mean. Prime factorization, divisibility, single variable equations…. All of these are frequent data sufficiency fodder so get fluent in this language.

• Know when it’s time to walk away (or call in for back up) Every November, the Butterball Customer Service line is inundated with calls from people with seemingly outrageous situations (e.g. how do I get my turkey to stop sudsing? Can I salvage a soapy turkey I washed with dish soap?). It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses, when to try and salvage the holiday bird and when to call for pizza delivery. In the case of Data Sufficiency, pacing is going to be crucial to success (as it is on every GMAT question type). However, there are some questions that you’re going to struggle with, work through every seemingly possible scenario, plug in numbers, and use every tool in your arsenal. And you’re still going to be staring at answer choices C and E or B and C or D and E. The difference between success on DS (and having something to actually eat on Thanksgiving) is knowing when to cut your losses and move on to the next question because you recognize the importance of winning the larger battle that is the GMAT. You’ll thank yourself later.

So now that you’re sufficiently hungry, remember that Data Sufficiency is all about patience, understanding the fundamentals and making sure you have an arsenal of tactics and strategies ready to deploy. Don’t lose sight of the basics while trying to tackle everything at once. Your score will reflect it, and your future self will thank you.

The above GMAT Tip comes from Veritas Prep. Since its founding in 2002, Veritas Prep has helped more than 100,000 students prepare for the GMAT and offers the most highly rated GMAT Prep course in the industry.

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