# GMAT math - why might this be difficult?

Over the last couple days, I went through the math section of Princeton Review’s “Cracking the GMAT” (pages 52-211). From what I could tell, the math section here didn’t seem any more difficult than the math section of the SAT’s. The data sufficiency section seemed somewhat novel at first blush, but there were also a number of math questions on the SAT where one possible answer choice was that there wasn’t enough available information. This leads to a couple of questions – (1) For those of you who have used the Princeton Review book and have taken the GMAT, how representative is the math review here? Is it easier or harder? (2) What are the most challenging parts of the GMAT math section? (3) Assuming that one performed well on the SAT’s, where is the person most likely to make silly errors on the GMAT math section? Is it really any harder than SAT math? I just want to make sure I’m not missing anything. Thanks.

Numi my pal- the problem I have is that in standardized exams’ math sections I always prefer to jump back and forth through the questions and I often have lightbulb moments multiple questions later that allow me to go back and correct a couple answers. I’m not a math “natural”, but good logic and problem solving skills usually get me by- I find this less so in GMAT format for the previously mentioned one-and-done format as well as the computer setting that hinders my innate need to scribble.

same as CFA, not difficult but under time pressure even 2+2 can be difficult

I would say the toughest part, for me, has been getting back in the groove of translating the problems into the CORRECT mathematical representation. Other than that, there are some tricky questions involving use of various number properties that many people may have forgotten, or are not accustomed to working with. Their are some tricky probability q’s, overlapping set problems and of course data sufficiency. None of the concepts by themselves are very difficult. 95% of the solutions are simple as hell. I would say it’s the wording, time pressure and not being able to use a calculator that stymies most folks. Also, GMAC is pretty damn good at coming up with effective distracters. I find myself looking back and saying, “dammit, that was so simple, why didn’t I get that”, and I realize it’s the wording and translation not the math that is tough. Obviously, if your squeezed for study time, which you may or may not be, doesn’t help either. One final thought. Many people I feel don’t respect GMAT math. Because it’s only 9th grade math they assume it’s going to be a cake walk. While this may be true for some folks, I think many people underestimate how rusty their fundamentals may be. They figure it out when they have to find the GCF if three large numbers to get to the second step of a four step problem and the clock is ticking. Oh yeah and Numi, I purchased the Manhattan GMAT word translations guide you asked me about a while back. I feel it has been very helpful. Not only do they cover word translations of each problem type, they offer solid tools that can be used to solve each problem type as well.

Yea I would say the time constraint is the toughest part. I used the Kaplan books but the Princeton review stuff I’m sure contains the same kind of tips that I found most helpful: time-savings shortcuts. For example there was a table that explained shortcuts to determine if a large number was a factor of 3, 4, 6, etc. These kinds of shortcuts were invaluable to me because they allowed me to both quickly eliminate incorrect answer choices and to concentrate on the actual question versus getting bogged down doing the math in my head. The same things helped in the verbal section as well…i.e. memorizing when to use neither/nor vs either/or etc.

I took the Gmat 2 times: 600 (v24 and 49M) 650 (27v and 50m). Princeton is really easy. You are wasting your time. You need to practice with hard problems. I recommends you the challenges in gmatclub.com.

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I just started studying for GMAT’s and decided to really take things seriously since work has not been too busy lately, so I am just going to try to blaze through the material. The Princeton Review book is the first one that I’ve read. Personally, my biggest issue is that it encourages a lot of “plug and play” solutions, when it seems to me like it would be just as sensible for people to learn the formulas up front (assuming they had forgotten them) and apply that to the problems directly. I’ve never really been a “plug and play” type of guy, and from what I’ve heard, there aren’t too many instances where you can actually do this on the GMAT. So I was confused as to why Princeton Review dedicated so much time to this strategy if there aren’t many opportunities to implement it on the exam. I’ll go through the rest of the Princeton Review book, and will probably move on to Manhattan GMAT’s Sentence Corrections or just get right to taking practice tests out of the Official Guide. Do you guys think the practice exams in Princeton Review are worthwhile? If the Official Guide ones are much better, I’m thinking about skipping the Princeton Review ones in the interest of time. saj123 – I might check out 800score.com if additional practice is needed. Meanwhile, I have a couple books from Manhattan GMAT, namely Sentence Corrections and Word Translations. Do I need any of the others, or do you think I would be OK if I just focused my time on the Official Guides and the GMATPrep software? From what people are saying, it seems like the verbal and writing sections might be more of a concern. I feel pretty competent with my math skills, as I did well on my SAT’s and also took 1.5 years of math in college on the engineering core track (like multivariate calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, linear optimization, matrix theory, etc.). I realize none of this stuff appears on the GMAT but it probably is a reason why I have felt reasonably facile with numbers, based on what I’ve seen so far. Gouman – I’m glad you found the Word Translations book helpful. I bought that as well and flipped through it a while back, and it looked pretty useful to me too. It was also highly recommended on GMATClub.com, which is why I bought it. I’ll probably look at this after I’ve done some Official Guide practice tests.

concur with pierovic gmatclub.com challenges are really worth the money … they are the best set of exams I have come across during my prepartion … they are slightly more difficult then the actuals but in an identical exam format, problem spread etc … if you score a 80% there consistently … you can rest assured

Numi, Like yourself I have the Princeton book. I found it a very quick read with good tips/tricks. Once I finish it, I’m moving directly to the Official Guides since I have them all.

eros79 and pierovic18 – thanks, I guess I’ll have to add the GMATClub.com challenges to my “to do” list. Here is my study schedule: (1) Princeton Review - Cracking the GMAT (2) Manhattan GMAT - Sentence Correction (and maybe Word Translations) (3) Official Guide 11 (4) GMATPrep software (5) OG Verbal Review and Quantitative Review (6) GMATClub.com challenges I’ll worry about picking a date for the exam later, but will probably take it in the fall.

Don’t use Kaplan for preparation. The book is great framework-wise, but the math explanations are crappy: you just don’t solve math problems like they describe. Furthermore, I think it is almost impossible to learn math while preparing to exam. The toughest ones on the actual exam I solved only because I had a good math background. Still, by perfecting in understanding the types of questions and various typical mistakes you can greatly raise your score. I think I got 770 partly because I didn’t spend time on understanding what they wanted me to solve.

numi Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > Thanks for the feedback, guys. I just started > studying for GMAT’s and decided to really take > things seriously since work has not been too busy > lately, so I am just going to try to blaze through > the material. The Princeton Review book is the > first one that I’ve read. Personally, my biggest > issue is that it encourages a lot of “plug and > play” solutions, when it seems to me like it would > be just as sensible for people to learn the > formulas up front (assuming they had forgotten > them) and apply that to the problems directly. > I’ve never really been a “plug and play” type of > guy, and from what I’ve heard, there aren’t too > many instances where you can actually do this on > the GMAT. So I was confused as to why Princeton > Review dedicated so much time to this strategy if > there aren’t many opportunities to implement it on > the exam. > > I’ll go through the rest of the Princeton Review > book, and will probably move on to Manhattan > GMAT’s Sentence Corrections or just get right to > taking practice tests out of the Official Guide. > Do you guys think the practice exams in Princeton > Review are worthwhile? If the Official Guide ones > are much better, I’m thinking about skipping the > Princeton Review ones in the interest of time. > > saj123 – I might check out 800score.com if > additional practice is needed. Meanwhile, I have a > couple books from Manhattan GMAT, namely Sentence > Corrections and Word Translations. Do I need any > of the others, or do you think I would be OK if I > just focused my time on the Official Guides and > the GMATPrep software? From what people are > saying, it seems like the verbal and writing > sections might be more of a concern. I feel pretty > competent with my math skills, as I did well on my > SAT’s and also took 1.5 years of math in college > on the engineering core track (like multivariate > calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, > linear optimization, matrix theory, etc.). I > realize none of this stuff appears on the GMAT but > it probably is a reason why I have felt reasonably > facile with numbers, based on what I’ve seen so > far. > > Gouman – I’m glad you found the Word Translations > book helpful. I bought that as well and flipped > through it a while back, and it looked pretty > useful to me too. It was also highly recommended > on GMATClub.com, which is why I bought it. I’ll > probably look at this after I’ve done some > Official Guide practice tests. numi - I only used Sentence Correction book and Online Practice Exams from Manhattan Prep. My experience with the math section of the practice exam for Manhattan prep was interesting. It was heavily focused on basic number theory, inequalities etc (mainly prime number, even/odd etc…), so my scores were humbling for the first/second tries. But overall i think it is good to do these tests, even if they might not be terribly representative of the actual test. Also based on your background, I don’t think you will have much trouble getting a good score. But, as it has been pointed out above, practice as many hard questions as you can find. This will be especially important if you are shooting for a 51 raw score (which is typically the highest you can get).

If you are scoring over 90% in the Quant section (I think that would be around a 48), the problems in the prep book will much easier than what you will face on the test. This is because the test is a CAT which means you will be mostly facing 700-800 level questions whereas the book is setup with questions ranging from 400 level to 800 level. The only thing I really got out of the books (in the Quant section) was a refresher of basic formulas and concepts. Once I ingrained those forumlas into my memory, the only way for me to practice was by taking practice tests that incorporated CAT. I really like the Manhattan GMAT practice tests (even though the only book I thought was worthwhile was sentence correction). If you purchase one book, they give you a code to take 6 practice tests online. The practice problems they give you are not a perfect representation of the actual test, but are extremely helpful if you are finding it difficult to be challenge via the books. A lot of people say their math section is tougher than the GMAT’s math section. Good luck, Bryan I am writing this in a hurry, so if you need any clarification, let me know.