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How Using a Little Logic and Common Sense Can Help You Get More Right Answers on GMAT Test Day

use common sense on the gmat to get hard gmat problem solving questions rightIn 1776, the great American patriot Thomas Paine wrote his famous pamphlet Common Sense, which inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for freedom and independence from Great Britain. In it, he laid out in simple, common-sense language the advantages and need for independence.

It’s amazing what a little common sense can do, right? This same truth applies on the GMAT.

See, one of the biggest traps I see some of my students fall prey to is the feeling that they need to solve GMAT quant problems in the traditional, “textbook” way. In fact, I had one student from Asia tell me recently that she actually feels guilty if she doesn’t solve a problem fully, even if it takes her five minutes or more to do so. She just can’t bring herself to make and educated guess or try to arrive at the right answer another way. She even feels compelled to show all of her work on her scratch paper!

I would suggest to you, then, that much like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense helped provide freedom for the American Colonists, so too using a little bit of logic and common sense on the GMAT can provide you with a certain amount of freedom from the oppressive feeling that you need to solve every GMAT math question in a methodical, traditional way. (See our lesson on “Non-Traditional GMAT Math Techniques” for more examples of how to out-think the GMAT test makers).

And even if you don’t end up feeling more liberated in terms of your emotions on the GMAT? I guarantee you that these “common sense” strategies I’m about to teach you will save you time and enable you to get more right answers more efficiently on test day.

Let me prove it to you.

Consider this example (below). Looks pretty straightforward, right?

how to find the area of a triangle in a coordinate geometry plane on the GMATIn the rectangular coordinate system on the right, the area of triangular region PQR is

(A) 12.5
(B) 14
(C) 10√2
(D) 16
(E) 25 

Now, perhaps you’re somebody who looks at a question like this and you have no idea how to proceed. Perhaps you haven’t studied GMAT triangles or coordinate geometry yet, or even if you have, you’re simply not quite sure how to solve it. Or maybe you look at this question and it’s super easy for you. You know how to do the math, and you can easily solve it the traditional, mathematical way in less than a minute. Good for you.

In both cases, however, using logic and common sense can help you get to a right answer even faster…without even doing the “proper” math! Check out this video to see exactly how:

So there you have it. Using “common sense” isn’t a cut-and-dry strategy per se. It’s more of a mindset. Your goal on the GMAT is to get right answers, not to prove to your high school math teacher that you remember what she taught you years ago. If you get creative and think outside the box a bit on certain GMAT math questions, you’ll be able to get even the more difficult questions correct more quickly and with less stress, thereby enabling you to dominate the GMAT.