Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Plugging in Numbers

When dealing with math problems that include variables in both the question and answer choices, it is easier to plug in numbers and test out which answer choice meets the correct criteria.

Sample Problem:

If a is an odd integer and b is an even integer, which of the following is an odd integer?

(A) 3b
(B) a + 3
(C) 2(a + b)
(D) a + 2b
(E) 2a + b

The easiest way to solve this problem is to create numbers for a and b. So, lets choose some:

a = 3
b = 4

Now, test out each answer choice with your numbers.

(A) 3(4) = 12
(B) 3 + 3 = 6
(C) 2(3 + 4) = 2(7) = 14
(D) 3 + 2(4) = 3 + 8 = 11
(E) 2(3) + 4 = 6 + 4 = 10

Just by plugging in one set of simple numbers, it is clear that (D) is the correct answer, because it is the only choice that is odd with the number 11.



Monday, August 07, 2006

Sentence Completions - Positive/Negative Words

When dealing with difficult sentence completions, you often may not know the meaning of every word. Instead of completely guessing, decide whether the blank word is positive or negative, before looking at the answer choices. Now, when you look to eliminate answer choices, some will obviously stand out as incorrect.

Sample problem:

There is no doubt that Larry is a genuine _______ : he excels at telling stories that fascinate his listeners.


First decide whether the blank word is negative or positive. From words such as "genuine", "excels", and "fascinate", it is safe to assume that the blank will be a positive word. Even if you did not know that a raconteur is a good storyteller, you can continue with the problem using the positive/negative technique. Now as you look through the answer choices, try and decide whether each word has a negative or positive feel to it.

You can assume that braggart has something to do with the word brag, which is definitely a negative word. So answer choice (A) is eliminated.

If you know that a dilettante is someone who lacks skill, like an amateur, than you can also decide that it is negative. Answer choice (B) is now eliminated.

To pilfer is basically to steal. And you know that stealing carries a negative connotation, eliminating answer choice (C).

And a prevaricator is someone who lies, which again is negative. So, answer choice (D) is eliminated.

Thus you are left with only one answer choice, (E) raconteur.


Although the positive/negative technique may not eliminate all the wrong answers, it is useful for narrowing down your choices, especially when you're faced with many unfamiliar words. It is also very useful when dealing with problems containing two blanks, because you can identify and eliminate certain patterns.

For example, if after reading the question, you knew that the first blank must be positive and the second negative, you can easily eliminate some choices after applying the positive/negative technique to each answer choice:

(A) negative...negative
(B) negative...positive
(C) positive...positive
(D) positive...negative
(E) positive...negative

Even without understanding every word or how it functions in the sentence, you can automatically eliminate answer choices (A), (B), and (C) using the positive/negative technique. Without much effort, you've changed your chances of answering correctly from 20% to 50% in one swift move.

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