Here it is: Don’t memorize equations.
There you go, all the benefit of this post in one sentence!
No, I’m being serious here. I’m here to argue that you don’t have to memorize anything past some very basic material that you’ve already seen before.
Beyond that, everything on the GMAT Math section is all process, all algorithm to solve problems.
Jamming loads of abstract equations into your head during your GMAT prep will only be confusing. Worse–what happens when you don’t screw the lid on tight and some fall out?
Remember, there will always be a snag. To paraphrase Duke Ellington: practice as much as possible at 100% performance, because you will only ever achieve 80% of that level on stage.
The last thing you want is to have your memory play tricks on you and you forget the key to unlock that beast of a problem.
This leads us to the more important point. In my years as a GMAT tutor in London, I have seen many creative attempts by clients to memorize entire “cheat sheets” or complicated equations that will only cause trouble.
Let’s get one thing straight right now: the GMAT isn’t interested in your memorization skills.
So what does it want? Read on…
The GMAT Math section is actually interested in process. It wants to understand how you think when thrown into the middle of a problem.
This is the core of your GMAT Math preparation.
Put another way…
Imagine you have been thrown into a cave, blindfolded, and spun around ten times. Then the blindfold is removed and you are given two minutes or less to make your way out of the cave.
This is exactly what the GMAT does. It expects that as a relatively experienced spelunker, you have seen such caves before.
Knowing this type of cave follows this type of structure, you can feel your way out, hugging the wall.
But imagine if you only understood how to navigate the cave from the opening forward. This is the same as memorizing an equation.
“I know exactly how to negotiate this type of cave. I enter, turn left, then turn right, then jump over the chasm and I will come out the other side.”
Good for you!
…but not good enough for the GMAT testwriters.
What happens if you mistake one type of cave for another? What happens if you begin in the middle?
This is what the GMAT questions test you on. This is where a qualified GMAT tutor can help guide you.
The language of the questions is confusing. The over-complicated situations described in the questions are confusing.
The only way to learn process is by studying previous GMAT questions at length. Deep study—several times for each question–until it makes perfect sense.
How can you make sure that the question is making good sense to you? Try it again in a couple of days and see if you can solve it line-by-line.
Still confused? Want to know a good starting point?
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p.s. Those few things you have to memorize are ABSOLUTELY VITAL to know. What do you think they are? Send an e-mail to [email protected] to find out.
p.p.s. Which section requires the most memorization? Let me know your thoughts.