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GMAT Algebra: Things to Remember
If you’re just beginning your GMAT prep and it’s been a while since you’ve studied math at a high school level or above, you’re likely very intimidated. Just reading a practice algebra problem is overwhelming and makes your head spin. The good news is, you’ll probably catch on in no time. But it’s important to approach your studies in a way that gets you to your goal: competence and GMAT success. Here are some things to remember as you prepare for the GMAT algebra questions.
The Difference Between Memorizing and Knowing
There are certain formulas you should know to help you move quickly and easily through the Quant section of the GMAT. However, simply memorizing the formulas without fully grasping their applications won’t help you at all. In fact, that approach will probably hinder you, since you will be cluttering up your mental space with less-than-useful information. Your first step in acing GMAT algebra is to really know algebra. In this sense, there isn’t a shortcut. Now, you need to know what sorts of questions are on the exam and study specifically to those concepts. But be sure you know the material, including both how and when to use it, instead of just knowing it for recitation.
Practice Problems Come After Drilling Concepts, Not Before
If your knees buckle when you see a GMAT algebra practice problem, you're not alone. Algebra often seems complicated and confusing when it’s not a regular part of your life. Instead of beginning with practice problems and trying to work them out without full understanding, it’s better to prepare by learning the concepts in another context first. Why not tackle the practice problems right away? Well, while there are many different algebra problems on the GMAT, they all fit pretty neatly into categories. Once you learn the categories and how to solve them, you will be to able to read the practice questions without even a hint of mystery. Instead, you will simply categorize the problem by what formulas or functions you need, and then get to work.
Begin at the End
If you face a GMAT algebra problem that threatens to get the best of you, try taking what you know of the answer and working backward. For instance, if the problem wants you to find a decimal but you are given fractions, conversion is a good first step. Or if you are working with squared numbers, establish first whether you are finding the difference or the sum, write your final formula, and then begin plugging in your numbers. Remember also not to be tripped up by language. “Positive number” does not necessarily mean a positive integer. You may not always need all of the information you are given, so stick to what you know and don’t doubt yourself if you end up not using all you have.
In the end, GMAT algebra is straightforward and conquerable. Unlike the verbal section, there isn’t much room for interpretation. Math is math. However, if you are unfamiliar with the concepts it can feel impossible to master. Take it one concept at a time, and don’t anticipate tackling practice questions until the concepts make sense to you and come to you easily. Also, work the problems backward when you get stuck the other way. If you are looking for the best and most successful way to learn GMAT algebra concepts, check out EMPOWERgmat’s online GMAT course. We guarantee that you will see results.