With the highly anticipated release of the latest James Bond caper, Spectre, we realized there’s a lot you can learn from Bond, James Bond when you take on the GMAT and apply to business school. No, we’re not suggesting you don your best tuxedo and explosive cufflinks to the test center, but just like Bond, a few clever “gadgets” can go a long way. And while you can’t bring any actual gadgets with you to take the GMAT, you can take these (double-O) seven GMAT shortcuts with you.
1. Be the first to the trigger
Factorization and prime factorization are important skills on the GMAT and you can learn how to factor faster by internalizing just a few simple rules until they become second-nature and rote like the multiplication table. First, the easy ones: a number that ends in an even digit is divisible by 2, a number that ends in 0 or 5 is divisible by 5, a number that end in 0 is divisible by 10. Trickier ones: a number is divisible by 3 if the sum of its digits is divisible by 3. For 9, the sum of the number’s digits must be a multiple of 9. If a number is divisible by both 2 and 3, it’s divisible by 6 and if the last two digits of a number are divisible by 4, the number is divisible by 4. We purposely left out (double-O) 7 because the number theory to determine divisibility by 7 is so convoluted, you may as well do the math.
2. Notice suspicious patterns
The GMAT tests a limited number of specific concepts, using relatively few different numbers. By recognizing patterns, you’ll quickly see that the GMAT doesn’t pick numbers indiscriminately. The test makers love squares, multiples of 12, and small numbers that have multiple factors. Remember number quirks — 64 is the sole number, other than 1 of course, that is both the square and the cube of an integer. Impress your friends (and save time on the GMAT) by also knowing that 16 and 81 are the only numbers other than 1 that are the square of an integer and the square of a square.
3. Master the native tongue
While many idioms can seem common sense, they can become tricky on the GMAT, especially if English is not your first language. Instead of trying to memorize every single possibility (you won’t and you can’t) focus on the ones the test makers love: “Neither A nor B”, “Prefer A to B”, “Not only A but also B”, and “Require that A be B”. By becoming automatic on the most-test idioms, you can spend your time on the more obscure idioms that may pop up.
4. Cut to the chase
Spot transition words like a pro and make a mental and visual beeline for them when you’re reading a longer or convoluted passage. A Reading Comprehension passage will often bog you down with dense sentences and unfamiliar topics. Remember that you’re not being tested on your discrete knowledge, but on your ability to parse out an argument structure. Transition words for addition can be “furthermore,” “besides,” “what is more,” and “not to mention.” When the author is countering, you may see “conversely,” “in contrast,” “still,” or “while.” You’ll also encounter words signaling a conclusion, such as “hence,” “ergo,” and “thus.”
5. Be a decision maker
Learn to make quick, calculated decisions when it comes to question pacing. Unlike any test you’ve ever taken, the GMAT’s algorithm awards you points based on question difficulty, not how many questions you answer correctly. As such, the way you miss questions is crucial. If your pacing is off, rushing to finish questions may cause you to miss questions you would otherwise nail, and missing easy questions is much worse for your score. Practice your section pacing, and force yourself to guess strategically on questions you will likely miss — typically your weakest subjects. Guessing isn’t giving up: it’s moving on. Use a countdown timer when you begin your pacing practice to keep disciplined.
6. Spot traps
Critical Reasoning questions are more similar than they are different. If you get any CR skill down pat, learn how to identify the assumption in the argument. The assumption is the unstated piece that would logically link the evidence and the conclusion. After that, the most common questions will ask you to strengthen or weaken the argument, where you’ll need to find which new information will make the conclusion more likely or less likely to be true. Practice these until you’re no longer intimidated by the question’s words, and can hone in on the argument structure.
7. Never forget Queen and Country
Close your eyes and think of England — or whatever the bigger picture is for you. The GMAT doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it’s only meaningful in the context of your larger journey toward business school. While this isn’t a GMAT hack, it’s certainly a life hack. MI6 agents work in service of the United Kingdom, not on random and disparate assignments.
Is your approach to the GMAT more Daniel Craig or Sean Connery? Share your best GMAT shortcuts with us in the comments below.