GMAT Preparation: Mastering Calculations

Many GMAT Preparation blogs like to tackle the idea of mastering calculations. Why is this? Surely the math section of the GMAT should be approached like any math test, right? Isn’t it a matter of just memorizing formulas?

Except not really. We have to constantly remind ourselves that isn’t a regular old test. Just as the reading comprehension or English section doesn’t really test us on what we have learned in English or on a certain book, the math section is not really a math test. GMAT preparation that tries to tackle the test in this way is a little off base and is not going to be as successful.

As a recent post at Beat the GMAT tells us, “These tests are actually trying to test us on our ‘executive reasoning’ skills – that is, how well we make decisions and prioritize when faced with too many things to do in too short a length of time.”

Any GMAT preparation book or post on problem solving or data sufficiency is going to tell you this: this is less about formulas and more about thinking on your feet. In a post on recognizing patterns, we’re told “Often, you’ll need to break down a complex problem into simpler components and apply some clever insight to spot an emerging pattern.”

Because you will not have a calculator on the quant section (which could help you answer most of these calculations within seconds), you’ll need to develop a method that will help you break down and simplify the calculations. “Spotting the pattern” is one way that will help you more quickly work through many problems, even those with complicated or tricky wording.

Another post on conquering calculations talks about the importance  of 1) avoiding simply “ballparking” a number and 2) managing time. This post on GMAT preparation is all about how to simplify calculations so that you are more quickly getting an accurate number.

What do you think? Are any of these strategies useful to you? What kind of GMAT preparation do you plan to do as you prepare for business schools in DC? Leave us a comment!


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