Breaking the GMAT Word Problem Barrier!

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.”

– Alfred A. Montapert

Word problems on the GMAT get an unfair reputation for being especially challenging. Once you’re able to effortlessly translate the key phrases into algebra, you’ll be able to handle any word problem with aplomb!

Here’s my favorite resources from around the web all in one convenient Learnboard to help you overcome your fear of word problems: GMAT – Word Problems. And, no worries if Word Problems are the bane of your existence, we’ll start with the very basics!

Learnist: ACT Science and Data Representation

The Data Representation format on the ACT Science Test will ask you to understand and interpret information presented to you in graphs or tables. Occasionally there will also be charts, scatterplots, and diagrams.

As the video below outlines, it’s important to REALLY analyze all the data you’re given. The point of Data Rep is to determine your ability to pinpoint and extract conclusions from a series of data. 38% of the ACT Science passages will be in this format.

Making sure you have a strong understanding of the data will save you lots of headache when you read the questions. The questions will be so much easier if you spend just a few minutes focusing on the data. Check out tutor Jim Jacobson’s strategy for just how to do that in this video!

Need to see a passage in action? Sparknotes reviews some basic strategy, then shows you a passage exactly like one you’ll see on Test Day. Start with the intro, then when you get to the chart, you should glance over it to make sure that you know what’s being measured and that, in general, you feel comfortable finding information in the chart.

Now try some ACT Science Test Data Representation questions on your own on Learnist!



Learnist: Free Passages to Practice GMAT Reading

If you’ve used up the Reading passages in the GMAT Official Guide and don’t have the money for more books or a prep course, here’s where to find reliable GMAT RC practice material online!

In this video, expert Dana walks through an example of how you can break down one of the toughest question types on the GMAT–the Science RC passage. Since Science RC passages are relatively uncommon, it’s great to see one here! Use this video as a warm-up before diving into the remaining resources.

If you haven’t downloaded this free GMATPrep™® software from GMAC, it’s a MUST. It’s free, contains 90 questions and 2 full-length adaptive practice tests, and its RC passages are the closest you’ll find to the actual questions on the official GMAT.

Once you’ve taken the two GMATPrep CATs and thoroughly reviewed them, be sure to download this comprehensive collection of ALL the Reading Comp passages and questions from GMATPrep. You may have seen many of them on your practice CATs, but there’s definitely going to be some new ones!

This is a great way to exhaust more official material with forking over the cash for the GMAT Packs sold on

Here’s the answer key to the 126 GMAT Prep Reading Comp questions found in the previous document. Though explanations aren’t provided, most of these questions have been discussed on various forums and explanations are easily found by typing the question-step into Google. Enjoy!

Check out more free GMAT practice reading passages on Learnist!

Learnist: How to Interpret your GMAT Score

Your GMAT score is calculated using a complex algorithm — here’s what you need to know about the scores you’ll receive before and after the exam.

This video above from GMAT PrepNow gives you a basic idea how the GMAT scoring works. Notice the point it makes about CATs: an adaptive test changes based on your response. If the question is answered correctly, the next question will be harder and the score will adjust upwards. If the question is answered incorrectly, the next question will be easier and the score will adjust downwards.

The GMAT is constantly recalculating the scaled score as the student progresses through the section to determine the precise ability of the test-taker.

It’s not the number of correct questions that matters most, but how hard the questions you answer correctly are! This is why you must challenge yourself with harder questions in your practice!

An official GMAT score report consists of four sections. There is a Verbal Scaled Score (on a scale from 0 to 60), a Quantitative Scaled Score (on a scale from 0 to 60), a Total Scaled Score (on a scale from 200 to 800) and an Analytical Writing Assessment Score (on a scale from 0 to 6).

Keep in mind: the GMAT scores the multiple choice and the writing sections differently. There are a total of 78 multiple choice questions: 41 in the verbal section and 37 in the quantitative section. To compute the scaled score for each section, the GMAT uses an algorithm that takes into account the total number of questions answered, the number of questions answered correctly, and the level of difficulty of the questions answered.

The standard error for the GMAT is +/- 30 points, meaning you have a significant advantage if you score 30 points higher than the average score of your dream school.

In this Kaplan video, you’ll see how the average GMAT score of all the top programs listed here is around 718. In order to be above par, a 750 score is required. This guarantees you a helpful push in your application (though GPA matters significantly as well).

That’s how you can evaluate your competitiveness for each school: look up the average GMAT score of accepted students, then add 30 points to it.

Get more tips for interpreting your GMAT score on Learnist!

Learnist: How to Achieve Perfect Pacing on the GRE

Finishing all sections is essential to a high GRE score. Even if you come to the end of a section and realize you have more questions than you have time to work on, make sure to click an answer for each one before the time runs out. This discipline on your GRE practice tests will set the right habit for Test Day, even if it’s painful at first to answer questions you can’t solve quickly. You can download TWO FREE GRE practice tests at!

For each Verbal section, you will have approx. 20 questions to answer in 30 minutes. This is approx. 1.5 minutes per question. But remember, that you’ll need a few extra minutes for Reading, so try to do the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions in less than that time. Try to do pacing drills where you work on doing them in 1 minute each. Don’t rush and lose accuracy, but remember the importance of finishing the entire section. If you feel up to the challenge, Major offers 7 free GRE reading comprehension practice tests with explanations.

The Quant sections of the GRE will each contain approx. 20 questions and you will have 35 minutes to answer them. That works out to 1.75 minutes a question. Divide the section into 4 parts:

Around 9 minutes, you should be on question #5.
Around 18 minutes, you should be on question #10.
Around 26 minutes you should be on question #15.
Around 34 minutes, you should be around question #20

Review some basic Quant tops on this blog before you attempt you next full-length exam. A combo of great benchmarks and strong content knowledge will help you move quickly and confidently through each section.

Check out more tips for GRE pacing on this Learnboard!

Learnist: How to Get Better Scores on LSAT Logical Reasoning

Logical reasoning, or LR, is one of three multiple choice questions on the LSAT. According to the official LSAT website, LSAC, questions test your ability to “analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments.”

An argument may be something you think of as occurring in politics (two sides arguing over an issue such as the payroll tax cut), or as part of a celebrity feud, but in LSAT terms, an argument is not a conflict at all.

An argument is simply a declarative statement backed up with examples. It can be as simple as, “One Direction is my favorite boy-band because I like pop music.” The conclusion is that this group is the author’s “favorite” and the evidence is that the author likes pop music. The assumption here is that One Direction is classified as pop music.

The LSAC states that there are ten concepts tested in Logical Reasoning:Recognizing the parts of an argument and their relationshipRecognizing similarities and differences between patterns of reasonin

  • Drawing well-supported conclusions
  • Reasoning by analogy
  • Recognizing misunderstandings or points of disagreement
  • Determining how additional evidence affects an argument
  • Detecting assumptions made by particular arguments
  • Identifying and applying principles or rules
  • Identifying flaws in arguments
  • Identifying explanations

According to this official LSAC site, the LSAT concepts will be based on a short passage accompanied by one (or occasionally two) multiple choice questions. The questions can ask about any part of the argument: the conclusion, the evidence, the assumptions, or it can ask how an outside piece of information relates to the argument (parallel reasoning, complete the passage, additional evidence, etc.)

While I don’t tutor the LSAT in its entirety, I have worked with LSAT students who need help with LSAT Logical Reasoning! Feel free to get some more free LSAT tips on this Learnboard.

Learnist: 8 Ways to Beef Up your GMAT Vocabulary

A strong vocabulary will help your Analytical Writing, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and even Quantitative accuracy! Here’s how to build yours from the ground up, and use it to break down the toughest GMAT questions.

You can ignore most of the challenging vocabulary on sentence corrections as long as you identify what part of speech each word is, and how it functions within the sentence.

To do this, you’ll need to spend some time with a solid English grammar review book. I recommend pairing a heavy-duty review book, like the Oxford Guide or those published by McGraw-Hill or Longman, with a “fun” book like Writer’s Express or English Grammar for Dummies. If you don’t have time to go through an entire book, this “English Grammar for Dummies Cheat Sheet” is a great overview!

It is much, MUCH easier to memorize synonyms for words than their full definitions. Start grouping words together mentally (and on paper) according to their meaning. For example, words like “pusillanimous,” “poltroonish,” and “timorous” might go on the “shy” list.

According to this “Word Group” blog from Kaplan, an easy way to learn these word groups is the “reverse flash card” method:

  1. Read the word group
  2. Write the heading on one side of the card
  3. Write only the words you recognize from the list on the back.

Learn more ways to beef Up your GMAT vocabulary on this Learnboard!

Learnist: 7 Ways to Rock the GRE’s Quantiative section

Each GRE quantitative section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 35 minutes. Here’s how to get the most points possible!

When you practice for the GRE, avoid using a calculator unless you really need one. Most GRE Quant questions can be solved within 1-3 minutes without one. It’s provided on the GRE and allows for simple calculations, but don’t use it as a crutch. You should only need it for a couple of questions. You’ll save time if you can do simple conversions in your head.

Review the allowable functions here on the GRE’s official website‘s instructions for using the calculator!

Check out more ways to rock the GRE’s Quantitative section on Learnist!

Learnist: Best Reading Strategies for the SAT

The Critical Reading section of the SAT consists of approx 70% passage-based questions. Remember the SAT test booklet is your scratch paper – don’t be afraid to use it to take notes on the passages as you read!

To focus your brain, it is especially important to take notes as you read and practice what is known as “active reading.” This video from Kaplan describes a system of notes you might find helpful called a “Passage Map.” A Passage Map helps you track:

  • Main Ideas
  • Beliefs and Opinions
  • Details

Even if you don’t want to write a full Passage Map, make sure you at least underline the main idea of the paragraph and circle any relevant details. It will be much easier to get the questions correct later on if you thoroughly understood the passage the 1st time through. Never skim!

Learnist: Best Websites to Self-Study for the GMAT

Who needs to enroll in an expensive GMAT classroom course when there’s tons of free (or almost-free) reliable GMAT practice tests, strategy guides, and test questions online?

The official website for GMAT is at Download the free GMATPrep software and take the two adaptable free GMAT practice tests. You’ll want to go over these GMAT questions with a fine tooth comb.

For $29, you can download three additional GMAT tests with “retired” test questions. There are also some other excellent free GMAT resources, such as two large pdf files containing all of the Topics for the AWA section, excellent GMAT practice for the Issue and Argument essays. This is your first-stop GMAT shop!

Learn about more great sites to study for the GMAT online on Learnist!