Why You Need Pacing Benchmarks on Quant

The Quant section contains 31 questions in 62 minutes. That is exactly 2 minutes per question!

How can we complete the sections with so little time? By knowing how the exam is scored and using that knowledge to our advantage!

Some tips:

95% of test-takers don’t have time to attempt every Quant question. With only 2 minutes/question on the Quant section, the GMAT purposefully does not provide you with adequate time. Don’t be fooled into thinking you must attempt every question. In fact, unless you are preternaturally fast with very high Quant accuracy, you should NOT be attempting every question!

Always look at the answer choices first in Problem Solving. On the GMAT Quant section, we’re looking for the fastest (and easiest) way to get through the problem. You’ll need to be flexible, and learn how to Approximate, Pick Numbers, Backsolve, and Guess Strategically. Yes, Algebra may be your go-to for most problems, but you will become faster the more flexible you are.

Every time your take a practice test, write out these above numbers on a sheet of paper. Have them on your desk so you can get used to “checking in” every 5 questions. Do not try to “memorize” these benchmarks right now. Though you probably will memorize them eventually just out of habit, on your first few CATs the visual aid will help you remember to check-in.

Bringing more awareness to how you “pace out” the Quant section will help you fight “test day panic” enormously! It often takes students 5-6 practice exams before they “get the hang” of how to deal with pacing. Be patient with yourself, and be a little more free with “throwing away” questions. Most students find their score jumps 50+ points once they have the pacing under control.

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Compound Interest: a Sequence in Disguise?

A man invested $P in a long term investment plan for 24 years at an interest compounded annually. Due to some financial crisis he had to withdraw money at the end of 6 years. How much more amount could be have gotten after 24 years if he received $3P after 6 years. It is known that there were no other charges of deduction in the plan?

A) 9P
B)24P
C)72P
D)78P
E)81P

This question is tricky at first since we don’t know the compounding interest rate, and feels like perhaps we would need a compound interest formula to solve, but let’s consider.

It started at P and then compounded 6 times and tripled itself to 3P. So this is more like a Geometric sequence question!

The rule is “P triples every 6 years.”

Year 1 – P
Year 6 – 3P
Year 12 – 9P
Year 18 – 27P
Year 24 – 81P

How much more means we subtract 3P from 81P:
81P-3P = 78P

The answer is (D). This is an interesting question — a sequence in disguise!

Modifiers and Meaning in Sentence Correction

Let’s look at a Sentence Correction question that seems rather challenging at first:

Instead of buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for someone new to financial planning, real estate has become increasingly the choice of young people as a first investment.

A) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for someone new to financial planning, real estate has become increasingly the choice of young people

B) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for those new to financial planning, increasingly young people have shown a choice for real estate

C) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for someone new to financial planning, the choice of young people increasingly has become real estate

D) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional investments for those new to financial planning, young people have increasingly chosen real estate

E) stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for those new to financial planning, young people have shown an increasing choice of real estate

This question is almost completely underlined, and many students get nervous when they see these. But fear not! What appears super-challenging at first, might actually be more straightforward than we think if we mentally delete the “which are…” modifier in the middle of the sentence.

It’s always nice when a long sentence openings with an -ing modifer like this, because then you can skip ahead to the comma to make sure that whatever follows can logically perform that action.

(A) “real estate” cannot “buy” stocks and bonds. Eliminate.
(B) “young people” could “buy” stocks and bonds. Keep.
(C) “the choice” cannot “buy” stocks and bonds. Eliminate.
(D) “young people” can “buy” stocks and bonds. Keep.
(E) different construction…Keep for now.

In (B), the adverb “increasingly” is oddly placed in front of the noun “young people.” Normally, I wouldn’t eliminate for something so petty, but (D) and (E) gives us two better choices, so you can assume the correct answer lies with them.

Let’s look at our Final Two and highlight the differences:

D) Instead of buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional investments for those new to financial planning, young people have increasingly chosen real estate

E) Instead of stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for those new to financial planning, young people have shown an increasing choice of real estate

(E) is wordier and more awkward, but more important has a noun-verb issue. “Approach” is singular, but “stocks and bonds” are plural, and the sentence is using the plural “are.”

It has to be (D). Notice how (D) nicely places the adverb “increasingly” right next to its verb. This what the GMAT prefers, if possible. Modifiers are nice when they touch! :)

Why Scope Matters in CR Assumption

Let’s look at this CR Assumption question (it’s actually an LSAT question, but let’s give it a whirl):

In considering the fact that many people believe that promotions are often given to undeserving employees because the employees successfully flatter their supervisors, a psychologist argued that although many people who flatter their supervisors are subsequently promoted, flattery generally is not the reason for their success, because almost all flattery is so blatant that it is obvious even to those toward whom it is directed.

Which one of the following, if assumed, enables the psychologist’s conclusion to be properly drawn?

Evidence: 
-Belief that flatterers get undeserving P
-Many who flatter get P

Notice here the 2nd sentence is split between evidence and conclusion. The “real conclusion” doesn’t start until “because almost all…” This happens quite often and can be confusing to students who often wonder which clause is the conclusion.

Conclusion: 
As with all Assumption questions, we have to look for the brand-new, sparkly keywords in the Conclusion — the “concept-shift,” or the new idea that appears in the conclusion that appears to “come out of nowhere.” Here it is this new idea about it being “blatant” or “obvious.”

Concept Shift: “flattery…obvious”

Why does it matter if the flattery is obvious to the supervisors? There is clearly an assumption made here that whether the supervisors KNOW they are being flattered has an impact.

The scope of the correct answer needs to be on the awareness of the supervisors.

Prediction: If supervisors know they are being flattered, they wouldn’t promote undeserving employees b/c of it.

Let’s look at the scope of each answer choice:

(A) People in positions of responsibility expect to be flattered. (scope: Expectations of Supervisors)
(B) Official guidelines for granting promotion tend to focus on merit. (scope: Official guidelines)
(C) Flattery that is not noticed by the person being flattered is ineffective. (scope: Effectiveness of Flattery)
(D) Many people interpret insincere flattery as sincere admiration. (scope: Misinterpretation of Flattery)
(E) Supervisors are almost never influenced by flattery when they notice it. (scope: Supervisors and Flatter)

At this point, because of our prediction, it should be very clear the answer is (E), with (D) as our second-best (but still wrong). Identifying that “concept shift” and getting crystal-clear on what kind of scope you expect the correct answer to focus on will REALLY help your Assumption-spotting abilities.

Just because we’re here, let’s look in more detail at the answer choices:

(A) Whether supervisors EXPECT to be flattered has no bearing on whether promotions occur as a result of it.

(B) What official guidelines DO or DON’T say has zero stated relationship in the passage to the ACTIONS of supervisors.

(C) This is trickier. It basically says that Unnoticed Flatter is Ineffective. Okay…but we cannot assume that Flatter that is noticed IS effective. And even if we could, that would Weaken the argument, not be its Assumption.

(D) Just because MANY people think flatter is sincere, doesn’t mean SUPERVISORS do, and it doesn’t follow therefore that the supervisors would promote flatterers just because they think they are sincere. This choice essentially just says, “Some people are dumb.” Well…okay, but what does that have to do with the idea of supervisors and promotions?

(E) If we negate this choice, we can see even more why it is correct.

Negation of (E): Supervisors ARE influenced by flattery when they notice it.

Well, if they ARE, then the author’s entire conclusion that flattery is not the reason for the success kind of falls apart!

Things the GMAT Does Not Like: “Because of” + NOUN + -ing

becauseSince the word “of” is a preposition, when we add it behind “Because” it limits what we can have afterwards to a noun.

On the GMAT, “Because” and “Because of” are NOT interchangeable!!!

We use “Because” to describe an entire clause. For example:

CORRECT: Because Ft. Sumter was attacked, the Civil War began.

The bold section (everything between the “Because” and the comma, is an independent clause and could stand on its own as a complete sentence. The word “Because” is describing that entire action. BECAUSE this action occurred, something else occurred.

Let’s look at the sentence if we tried to use “Because of” instead of “Because”:

INCORRECT: Because of  Ft. Sumter was attacked, the Civil War began. 

Hopefully you can hear just how “wrong” that sounds! If we’re describing an entire action and using an independent clause, we need only “Because.”

“Because of” should describe a NOUN only. 

CORRECT: Because of his complete lack of remorse, the criminal was given a harsher sentence.

“His complete lack of remorse” is a noun phrase, so “Because of” is used correctly.

One thing the GMAT does not like is sentences that attempt to use “Because of” + NOUN + an “-ing” verb. This construction is incorrect, since, as we have seen, “Because of” is best used with just a noun.

Example: “Because of the Senator attending the event …” = WRONG!
Example: “Because of the girl winning the sports competition…” = WRONG!
Example: “Because of Alex getting a 700 on the GMAT…” = WRONG!
Example: “Because of the cat sleeping all day…” = WRONG!

We would want these ideas to be expressed with just “Because,” and change the verb to make logical sense:

Example: “Because the Senator is attending the event,…” = RIGHT!
Example: “Because the girl had won the sports competition…” = RIGHT!
Example: “Because Alex got a 700 on the GMAT…” = RIGHT!
Example: “Because the cat had slept all day…” = RIGHT!

Let’s look at a practice question that uses this structure:

Because of the broker having a portfolio of losses, he will most likely be let go from the firm.

(A) Because of the broker having
(B) Because of the broker having had
(C) Because the broker having had
(D) Because the broker has
(E) Because of the broker had been having

(A) and (B) both attempt to put the participle (-ing) verb immediately after the noun “the broker.” The GMAT does not approve of this! Therefore, (A) and (B) are incorrect.

(E) is also incorrect (not least of all because its verb tense makes no sense).

Only (C) and (D) are options. They now use “Because” so what follows must be an independent clause. Let’s examine both sentences, and highlight the section between the “Because” and the comma:

(C) Because the broker having had a portfolio of losses, he will most likely be let go from the firm.
(D) Because the broker has a portfolio of losses, he will most likely be let go from the firm.

Only (D) puts something that could stand on its own as a complete sentence after the “Because.” Therefore, the correct answer is (D).

 

 

Arithmetic and the GMAT

Random pile of colourful plastic lettersThe branch of mathematics dealing with the basic manipulation of numbers is called “arithmetic.” On the GMAT, Arithmetic questions have to do with solving equations and expressions by moving variables from one side of the equation to the other.

Sometimes this involves conversion, or describing one variable in terms of another. Let’s look at an example from the OG:

Temperatures in degrees Celsius (C) can be converted to temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit (F) by the formula F = 9/5*C + 32. What is the temperature at which F = C?

(A) 20°
(B) (32/5)°
(C) 0°
(D) -20°
(E) -40°

Explanation

The question is asking what is the temperature at which F = C. For this question if, F = C, then wouldn’t F = (9/5)C + 32 be the same thing as C = (9/5)C + 32?
If C = (9/5)C + 32, we can start to simplify by subtracting (9/5)C from both sides.
C – (9/5)C = 32 is the same thing as:
(9/9)C – (9/5)C = 32
(-4/5)C = 32

Let’s multiply both sides by 5:

-4C = 160
C = -40

The correct answer is (E).

GMAT SC: The Myth of “Intended Meaning”

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Joan of Arc…preparing for the GMAT exam

Sometimes I read explanations for GMAT Sentence Correction questions that state something like this: “Choice X cannot be the correct answer because it changes the meaning of the original sentence,” or, “Choice Y cannot be right, because it is not the intended meaning of the sentence.”

Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as “original” or “intended” meaning on the GMAT. 

Any answer choice can be correct in Sentence Correction as long as it offers a sentence that is clear of grammar errors and makes logical real-world sense. If choice (A) offers a meaning that does not make logical sense, then it cannot be the correct answer. Choice (D) may offer a different meaning than (A) and be correct, because it corrects the meaning error in (A). It is not healthy for GMAT students to give the “(A) sentence” more weight, gravitas, or benefit of the doubt when it comes to meaning, simply because that sentence happens to occupy the first position in the question. (A)’s meaning is not any more likely to be correct or logical than (B)’s, (C)’s, (D)’s, or (E)’s. In order to step up your SC game, make sure you do not give (A) unnecessary value over the other options.

As for “intended,” what the GMAT intends is for the student to select an answer choice with a logical meaning. If that is (A), then great! If that is (B), then great! Just because (B)’s meaning is different than (A)’s, doesn’t mean (B) is automatically wrong.

In order to illustrate this point, let’s look at this question from the GMAT Official Guide:

Joan of Arc, a young Frenchwoman who claimed to be divinely inspired, turned the tide of English victories in her country by liberating the city of Orleans and she persuaded Charles VII of France to claim his throne.

Before we look at the answer choices, let’s remove the unnecessary modifiers and strip this long sentence down to its simple meaning:

Joan turned the tide by liberating AND she persuaded Charles to claim his throne.

Here we have the marker “and” separating two clauses. This is an indication we should check for Parallelism. We know the GMAT loves verbs to be parallel, so let’s highlight the verbs in the sentence that could be parallel.

Joan turned the tide by liberating AND she persuaded Charles to claim his throne.

We are faced with a decision. Is “persuaded” supposed to be parallel with “turned,” or is it supposed to be parallel with “liberating”? Often the logical meaning of the sentence will only make sense with ONE version, so let’s examine how the sentence would sound both ways:

Joan turned the tide by liberating AND persuaded Charles to claim his throne.

In this version, Joan is doing two separate actions: turning the tide, and persuading Charles.

Joan turned the tide by liberating AND persuading Charles to claim his throne.

In this version, Joan is only doing one action: turning the tide, and she is using two methods to help her turn the tide: she is (1) liberating the town, and she is (2) persuading Charles to claim his throne.

Here’s the difficulty with this question: either meaning is logical, and could be correct!!! If we read (A), and assumed that just because it said “persuaded,” then it HAS to be parallel with “turned,” we would be missing the nuance. We cannot eliminate (A) based on meaning, so let’s look at Parallelism.

Whether the Parallelism is turned/persuaded, or liberating/persuading, we know (because of our parallelism grammar rules), that the word “she” should not precede “persuaded” since it is unnecessary for the parallelism. Therefore, (A) is out.

Now let’s look at the other choices:

(B) persuaded Charles VII of France in claiming his throne
(C) persuading that the throne be claimed by Charles VII of France
(D) persuaded Charles VII of France to claim his throne
(E) persuading that Charles VII of France should claim the throne

The “that” in (C) and (E) breaks the paralllelism, since “liberating THE CITY” is not parallel with “persuading THAT….” If we had had the word “that” after liberating, then perhaps one of these two options could have been correct.

Now we’re on to our final two options:

(B) persuaded Charles VII of France in claiming his throne
(D) persuaded Charles VII of France to claim his throne

We now see that the correct meaning is the turned/persuaded Parallelism, so Joan did two distinct actions. Here, the only difference is the preposition preceding the verb “claiming/claim.”

Two questions must be asked:

(1) when faced with a 2nd verb (“persuaded” being the 1st verb), does the GMAT stylistically prefer the INFINITIVE form (“to claim”), or the PARTICIPLE form (“claiming”)?

(2) what is the correct preposition, idiomatically, to use with the verb “persuaded”? do we say “persuaded in” or “persuaded to”?

The GMAT prefers the infinitive form, and the correct idiom is “persuaded to.” For both of these reasons, the correct answer is (D).

Takeaways:

  • There is no such thing as “intended” meaning. Ask yourself: does each sentence make real-world sense on its own, yes or no? If no, get rid of it.
  • The correct answer can have a slightly different meaning than the meaning presented in (A).
  • (A) is not “special,” or any more likely to be correct than (B), (C), (D), or (E). Let’s not give it unusual credence, or get SC questions wrong because we second-guessed our instincts.