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In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, which became the moral and intellectual touchstone for the American colonists struggling for independence from England.

What does this have to do with the GMAT? Nothing politically, of course. But the concept of using common sense to eliminate clearly wrong answers is a remarkably powerful concept on the GMAT, and one that many students often overlook to the detriment of their GMAT score.

If you’re like a lot of GMAT test-takers — especially if you’re a bit rusty in your math skills — you freeze up when you look at a problem that you don’t immediately know how to do. Yet, a useful habit to develop is to step back from a problem and look at the big picture. Try to see the forest for the trees. Can you apply common sense and basic logic to the problem and eliminate clearly wrong answer choices? Sometimes eliminating wrong answers on the GMAT is just as helpful as being able to lock in on possible right answers.

Consider this real former GMAT problem:

___1___
0.75 – 1       =

(A) -4
(B) -0.25
(C) 0.25
(D) 0.75
(E) 4

Let’s assume you hate fractions and decimals. Let’s assume further that you don’t immediately know how to solve this problem mathematically. What to do?