Here’s a fairly straightforward GMATPrep question that I’ve seen many-a-student answer incorrectly. See if you can answer the question without writing anything down:

Of the 3,600 employees of Company X, 1/3 are clerical. If the clerical staff were to be reduced by 1/3, what percent of the total number of the remaining employees would then be clerical?

A)25%

B)22.2%

C)20%

D)12.5%

E)11.1%

Classic GMAT question. Straightforward. Easy to understand. Simple to equate” 1/3 of 3,600 is 1,200 and 1/3 of that is 400. So we’d only have 800 remaining clerical staff and 800/3600 = 2/9, answer B. And like so(oooooooo) many other GMAT questions, we’d have answered incorrectly.

If have some paper in front of you, try to solve the question again by writing down each step along the way. Maybe even include what each of those numbers that you write down mean in the context of the question. Don’t cheat- see if you answer the question differently when you’re forced to write down more than just a simple computation or two.

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Here’s what I wrote down first on my scrap paper:

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