A New Solution for GMAT/GRE Takers Challenged by “Word Problems”

Guest post by Margo Diewald, Senior Tutor, The MBA Exchange

MBA applicants are highly motivated to succeed on the required test that stands between them and admission. Furthermore, mastering this quantitative-reasoning skill continues to be useful during and after business school. Building financial models, crafting a business case, analyzing and interpreting complex contract language, or creating a work breakdown structure for a consulting engagement requires many of the same skills necessary to prevail on the GMAT or GRE. However, interpreting word problems correctly has been a major – but now surmountable – challenge for many MBA applicants, students and grads.

As a Senior Tutor at The MBA Exchange, coaching business school applicants for success on these required tests, I’ve seen many who find it difficult to solve word problems consistently, efficiently, and intuitively. Most test-prep books on the market today don’t adequately explain how to adapt and apply their general strategies for solving word problems to the more specific and challenging problems found on the actual test. When I observed this serious gap, I decided to create a solution by authoring a book to address the issue:

All Your Word Problems Solved – Crushing Standardized Test Math for the GMAT®, GRE®, SAT®, PSAT/NMSQT®, and ACT®.

In straightforward, easy-to-follow language and full color, “All Your Word Problems Solved” presents a system of approaches for individuals tackling any of the major standardized tests. This resource enables them to learn, practice, and apply strategies to more intuitively and consistently solve even the toughest word problems. This book incorporates my practical insights as a marketing professional and management consultant, making liberal use of tables, bullet points, color, and white space to make it easier to follow along with more complex concepts, questions, and explanations. Substantial review material is also included, with explanations of the similarities and differences among related-but-different concepts.

Simply stated, the book helps readers learn how to consistently solve word problems by:

1. Solving for the right thing.

2. Solving for that answer as efficiently as possible.

The nature of standardized tests implies that the wrong answer choices are standardized, and thus fall into patterns. People who create these tests know that, for any given type of question, there are certain patterns of mistakes that a large number of students make. Most of the available-but-wrong answer choices are thus the result of errors in logic, not mistakes in mental calculations. The logical mistakes students might make are far more predictable than the computational mistakes they might make.

Roughly 85-90% of success on GMAT word problems comes from your ability to quickly recognize the type of question and select a structured approach to set up the correct equation(s), and then correctly interpret which piece of information goes where in the equation(s). Success is about translating words to math, then modifying and applying that approach in greater detail for specific types of word problems (e.g., linear relationships, ratios and proportions, work-rate, distance-rate, percent change, and combinatorics problems).

The remaining 10-15% of success on GMAT word problems is about solving as efficiently as possible. Successful test takers adopt a mindset of doing as little work as possible to arrive at the right answer as quickly as possible. If you selected and structured a good approach, then the computational part should be relatively effortless. There are a variety of techniques for knowing when to estimate a good-enough answer versus calculating a precise answer, and various shortcuts for computational and reasoning.

So, if you’re serious about maximizing your performance on the GMAT or GRE, I strongly encourage you to use my book, engage my test-tutoring services or – even better – do both! Achieving a top score will not only strengthen your MBA candidacy but also allow you to focus on the other, more subjective aspects of your admissions campaign.

GMAT® is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which neither sponsors nor endorses this product.
GRE® is a registered trademark of the Educational Testing Service, which neither sponsors nor endorses this product.
SAT® is a trademark registered by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and neither sponsors nor endorses this product.
PSAT/NMSQT® is a registered trademark of the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which are not affiliated with, and neither sponsors nor endorses this product.
ACT® is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc., which neither sponsors nor endorses this product.