Working Smarter, Not Harder

Joe Lucero —  January 23, 2013 — 1 Comment

What’s more valuable on the GMAT? Saving 30 seconds on a question that took you 2:30 to solve? Or 30 seconds on a question that took you 1:30 to solve? Trick question. Either way, you have the same amount of extra time to use on some other question. So with that in mind, take out a timer, pen, and paper, and let’s try out a fairly straightforward GMATPrep problem.

 

District

Number of Votes

Percent of Votes for Candidate P

Percent of Votes for Candidate Q

1

800

60

40

2

1,000

50

50

3

1,500

50

50

4

1,800

40

60

5

1,200

30

70

 

The table above shows the results of a recent school board election in which the candidate with the higher total number of votes from the five districts was declared the winner. Which district had the greatest number of votes for the winner?

 

(A)  1

(B)  2

(C)  3

(D)  4

(E)  5

Now before we work through the problem. Ask yourself a few questions about what you just did:

  1. How confident are you in your answer?
  2. How much time did you take to answer?
  3. Looking back on your solution, was there shortcut you could have used to eliminate some of the work you did?
  4. If so, what specifically about this problem allows you to use your shortcut?

At this point, hopefully you either did the shortcut for this problem or discovered what the shortcut might be. Let’s start with the long method. If I wanted to calculate the number of votes for each candidate, it would look like this:

District

Number of Votes

Total Number of Votes for Candidate P

Total Number of Votes for Candidate Q

1

800

480

320

2

1,000

500

500

3

1,500

750

750

4

1,800

720

1,080

5

1,200

360

840

Total

6,300

2,810

3,490

Twelve calculations later (ten products and two sums), we have all of our numbers calculated and can answer two questions:

  1. Who won the election? (Candidate Q)
  2. Which district had the most votes for that candidate? (District 4- answer D)

Let’s go back for a second though. Are there any calculations from above that we could have skipped? Let’s start by analyzing the first question from above. Who won the election?

 

District

Number of Votes

Percent of Votes for Candidate P

Percent of Votes for Candidate Q

1

800

60

40

2

1,000

50

50

3

1,500

50

50

4

1,800

40

60

5

1,200

30

70

 

Looking at the table, four out of the five districts had the same number of or more voters for Candidate Q. And District 1, the only district where Candidate P won, had the fewest number of votes. Finally, the 60-40 margin in District 1 is the same margin in District 2, but in favor of Candidate Q. Looking at the first four districts, we should be able to clearly see that Candidate Q had more votes in those four districts combined AND had more votes in District 5. Our problem is now half-solved and we can look just at Candidate Q’s votes:

 

District

Number of Votes

Percent of Votes for Candidate Q

1

800

40

2

1,000

50

3

1,500

50

4

1,800

60

5

1,200

70

 

Time to answer our second question: which district had the most votes for Candidate Q? Again, we should be able to simplify this question by comparing the first four districts; the population in the first four districts goes up as we go down the list AND the percentage of votes for Candidate Q goes up or stay even. Of the first four districts, District 4 has the largest number of votes AND the highest percentage of votes for Candidate Q. So our chart can be simplified even further and after two computations we have this:

District

Number of Votes

Percent of Votes for Candidate Q

Total Number of Votes for Candidate Q

4

1,800

60

1,080

5

1,200

70

840

Those twelve initial computations that we had to solve the first time we solved the problem became just two computations after some critical reasoning. This may not be a 700+ level question, but the same shortcuts that are helpful in analyzing an easy or medium question will become necessary when tackling harder problems. Those of you who have taken a Manhattan course have seen some of these shortcuts when we simplify Data Sufficiency questions before looking at the statements or identify several different splits in Sentence Correction. Whenever you review questions and skip over the ones you get right, you might be missing out on a concept, a shortcut, or, in a DS question, an earlier place to stop calculating an answer. So the next time you finish up a set of problems, spend 10 minutes going back through the questions and ask yourself how you can work smarter, not harder.

 

* GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

Joe Lucero

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Joe Lucero has both a Biology degree and a Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame. He also has a 780 on his GMAT. In the fall, you will find Joe in a much better mood during weeks after the Fighting Irish win their football game. During the rest of the year, you will find him looking for new places to travel, reading almost anything non-fiction, crossfitting, and trying to solve every challenge problem in the Manhattan GMAT Student Center.

One response to Working Smarter, Not Harder

  1. Good information thank you closely monitor your success. http://youtu.be/ihnPPo6gqWo

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