There are a few Quant topics on the GMAT that are much simpler than they seem.
Learning these topics will boost the hell out of your GMAT prep. Factoring, Counting Problems (Permutations and Combinations), Probability, Mixtures, and Venn Diagrams round out the list. Unfortunately, Percents and Rate Problems will always be hard–and this is coming from a Physics major!
So what distinguishes between easy and difficult questions on the GMAT? Counter-intuitively, questions that should be simple such as Percents and Rates will often be “made more difficult” by twisting them, GMAT-style. That is, they are over-complicated or given with missing information in odd places or just plain asked in the most intentionally-confusing way possible!
However, the questions that “set a higher bar” at the beginning–that is, the stuff you were less likely to see in high school–tend to be the easiest questions to answer correctly. The testwriters basically assume that because you had to learn it fresh for the GMAT that you must be worse at it. Therefore, they don’t put as much effort into making it intentionally confusing.
In other words, the question is thought to be confusing by its very nature, so it’s not twisted around and asked in that perverse GMAT-tricky style.
Let’s take a look at a “difficult” factoring question here:
The integers A, B, C, and D shown on the number line above are all equally spaced. If C and D are equal to 5^12 and 5^13, respectively, then what is the value of A?
Factoring is like the gymnastics of the Quant section. If you’re flexible enough working with exponents (powers, indices–all the same thing), then you’ll see that when adding and subtracting different values such as 5^12 and 5^13, you can actually factor out numbers that AREN’T 5s!
This is a common trick on the GMAT and–for example in this problem–is a good way to eliminate 2 or 3 answers (here: A, B, and C can be safely ignored).
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