Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to introduce Manhattan GMAT instructor Andrea Pawliczek as a writer on our blog (even though she is a New England Patriots fan)! This is Part 1 of her two-part first post. Give Andrea a warm welcome in the comments!
Success on the GMAT demands many efforts: learning new skills, sharpening existing skills, and in some cases forgetting or setting aside some of the skills that we use in real-life. It is this last demand that often proves the most challenging, as a GMAT test taker must veer away from the type of thinking that has served her well to this point in life.
One such case occurs in data sufficiency problems, which ask us not to solve a problem but rather to identify when we have enough information to solve a problem. In both my professional and personal life I have been asked to solve problems on many occasions (How much will the new project cost? How many gallons of paint do I need to buy to paint the living room?). I cannot think of a real life occasion when I have specifically been asked when I have enough data to answer a question.
As such, when I see a problem on paper, my first instinct is to take all the available data and figure out a solution. This approach would likely have somewhat disastrous results if applied to data sufficiency questions on the GMAT. While it may take time to understand this difference, as a GMAT instructor I have found most students willing to accept the idea that data sufficiency problems are a weird artifact of the GMAT and a specific methodology must be learned [potentially add a link to a MGMAT post on data sufficiency?].
Another place where GMAT thinking diverges significantly from real world logic occurs on critical reasoning questions. Perhaps the word “critical” in the question title leads to the common perception that “I can think critically. Therefore, I should be able to tackle critical reasoning questions.” In fact, many of the critical thinking skills that are considered assets in the real world can work to your detriment on the GMAT if you lack the awareness about what critical reasoning is truly testing.
Specifically, the ability to draw connections and consider all possibilities beyond that which is explicitly stated is a highly valued skill in life. On GMAT critical reasoning questions, it is almost exactly the opposite of what you want to do.
Tomorrow, we’ll analyze a critical reasoning argument using real world analysis and GMAT analysis, plus there will be a bonus quiz!