A few months ago, I wrote a couple of articles targeted toward those students looking for a super-high score (one for quant, one for verbal). I challenged students to answer those questions in much less time than we typically average on test questions.
Well, I’m back with another one in the series. This problem is a bit different though: it’s from our Challenge Problem archive, a question bank consisting of what we call 800+ level problems. (Some might qualify as 750+ but most are harder than anything you’ll ever see on the real test.)
Do you need to be able to answer a question like this in order to score 750+? Absolutely not. (In fact, after my colleague Ron Purewal submitted this question, I tested it out on several of my fellow instructors, all of whom have scored 760+ on the test. Not everyone answered correctly.) Mostly, I’m offering this to stretch your brains, drive you a little crazy, and make one important point (see my second takeaway at the end).
If, however, quant is your strength and you’re hoping to score 51 in that section”you can certainly score 51 without getting this one right, but if you do get this one right in 2 minutes, then you know you’re ready for the quant section.
One more tidbit before we dive in. I chose this question because it is SO very hard. As of right now (as I’m typing this), 254 people have tried this problem and 44 have answered it correctly.
Do a little math here. What percentage of people answered the question correctly?
17%. Random guess position is 20%. Wow.
Let me start off by saying that hard work and mastering each question topic is the best way to conquer the GMAT. There is no Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right B, A, Start cheat code that can replace months of intense studying. That said, getting a 700+ score on the GMAT sometimes means having a few tricks up your sleeves. Here’s a few strategies that I’ve found to be helpful with gaining a few extra points at the very top of the GMAT curve:
1) Know your PEMDAS and your SADMEP
In other words, you have to know your parenthesis, exponents/roots, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction, backwards and forwards. For as many students as I have worked with, I have yet to come across a student who can barely work through a multiplication table, yet still manages to consistently finish the quant portion of the GMAT. Even though you only need to answer 37 quantitative questions, this will entail hundreds of math calculations- calculations that far too many of us have left to the machines (I for one welcome our new calculator overlords). If the average straightforward calculation takes five seconds and a student sees two hundred of these calculations over an average test, that’s sixteen minutes and forty seconds of just doing simple arithmetic. And if it takes you twice as long to do each of those calculations, that’s going to take, umm, well, it’s…. it’s going to take a lot longer.
One of the great GMAT myths is that the first 8 questions in each section “make or break” your score and that nothing you do after that point has much of an effect on the score you end up with. False! Eight questions are not enough to determine your score. If they were enough, each section would consist of 8 questions.
One of the consequences of the myth is the belief that in order to break 700, you must answer those first 8 questions correctly. Untold numbers of test-takers have labored over the first eight, afraid that any mistake will send their scores plummeting to unthinkable depths. While it is true that you should give each question your best shot, the absolute number of questions answered correctly is not as important as their difficulty level. Better to have a 50/50 success rate at a high level than a 50/50 success rate at a lower one, even though the percentage of right and wrong answers is the same.
The most serious upshot of this myth is that its believers spend far too much time on the first eight questions and then find themselves racing to finish the section. Often, these test-takers run out of time and leave some questions unanswered at the end of a section. Given that unanswered questions are essentially counted as incorrect answers, it makes more sense to move at a steady pace throughout the entire section rather than concentrate on any particular subset of questions. In fact, spending too much time on early questions may actually damage rather than help your final score.