How a GMAT app can help you master GMAT questions

Knowledge is only powerful if you know how to use it.

Nowhere is this more true than on the GMAT. But for most test takers, there’s a disconnect between understanding the subject material on the GMAT — the math, English grammar, reasoning and reading skills — and applying this understanding to answer questions correctly.

The subject material on the GMAT isn’t advanced: It’s roughly what you learned in high school or before. It’s how it’s presented that’s difficult. GMAT questions are constructed to fool you by complicating simple concepts, providing plausible but false answers or setting up traps to encourage mental gaffes.

It takes familiarity with how GMAT questions work in order to score well on the GMAT, and Prep4GMAT’s X-ray feature can help you build this familiarity as you practice questions.

What really separates someone who scores 750 from someone who scores 550

It’s undeniable that in order to score in the 700s on the GMAT, you need to have a firm grasp on all the material covered on the test: math formulas, rules of English grammar and idioms, and critical reasoning skills. (For simplicity, we’ll use the term concepts to describe all the various bits of knowledge you need to know in order to do well on the GMAT.)

But what really separates someone who scores a 550 from a 750 is an ability to see the structure of GMAT questions and understand what they’re asking. When faced with a GMAT question, top scorers quickly figure out what they need to do in order to answer the question.

They’re skilled at translating the abstract language of the question back into the concepts they’ve studied and know well, no matter if it’s a quant problem or a verbal question. They’re able to do this because they recognize the concepts being tested in a question.

Let’s illustrate this with a simple example.

A PS problem states how fast two painters paint a room. The problem asks how long it will take both painters working together to paint a house with many rooms. Presented with such a question, a top scorer would immediately recognize this as a work-rate problem and recall the needed formula. Furthermore, they’d know what the correct answer represents mathematically and how to input the question’s information into a formula in order to to solve for the answer.

The math involved in such a question isn’t complex, but it takes much longer to figure out the math from scratch than to recall a concept you’ve seen before.

Without recognizing the concept, you’d be missing the epiphany that says, “Ah this is a work-rate problem! So in order to find how long, I’ll need first to find the painters’ combined rate of work.” While someone’s actual thought pattern may not be so explicit, this is essentially what happens in the mind of a top scorer in the 10 to 20 seconds after reading a GMAT question.

Question recognition is just as much a part of the verbal section as it is of quant. For example, a top scorer who sees a sentence correction question with an underlined portion that contains a list of items connected by “and” thinks, “This is a parallel structure, so I need to check whether all the items are parallel and make sense together.”

So how do I practice question recognition? Answer: Prep4GMAT’s X-ray button

Prep4GMAT is more than just a GMAT study app; think of it as a personal trainer, or brain trainer if you will, for your test taking skills. While you practice questions, you also learn to recognize the concepts tested in each question. How? When practicing GMAT questions in the app, touching the X-ray button highlights keywords in the question and answer choices.

These keywords are clues as to which concepts – the bits knowledge needed to answer this question – are being tested. Recognizing the concepts tested in the question will help you reach that “ah ha” moment when you realize what you need to do in order to figure out the answer.

The highlighted keywords don’t explicitly tell you how to solve the question; instead they make you think about why these words are important and what concepts are associated with them.

After continuing to use the X-ray button, connections between keywords and their concepts will become second nature, and you won’t need to use the button in order to recognize the concepts in play on a question. At this stage, you’re turning into a top scorer with the ability to quickly recognize what you need to do in order to answer the question.

This Label Study Method has helped self-proclaimed “bad test takers” tackle GMAT questions with greater confidence and accuracy as well as those who already know the test material well.

Question recognition sounds great, but I still have to learn all the concepts, right?

You likely already know many of the concepts tested on the GMAT, so the bigger challenge is learning how GMAT questions test concepts, but you still need to practice the broad range of concepts the GMAT tests. Prep4GMAT gives you an accessible way to do both. The app’s lessons and flashcards can teach you the essential concepts you need to know while the X-ray button and practice questions demonstrate how these concepts appear in the exam.

See how the X-ray button can train you to master questions by downloading the app for free for iPhone, iPad or Android devices, or learn more about our app and the science behind it here.