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Data Sufficiency Trick Questions

The tricks used in Data Sufficiency questions come from a narrow pool of tricks. Learn to identify each of the tricks, and you will be in a strong position to answer each question. In approaching each question, apply the three step method we discussed earlier: Step (1) Look at the question stem. Step (2) Look at each statement individually. Step (3) Then look at both statements in combination. It is important that you have the discipline to stick to this approach. The Data Sufficiency questions tend to be trick questions, particularly the difficult ones, and straying from this basic strategy will increase the chances of you being fooled. Remember that standardized tests are based on the premise that you can separate students into groups of ability. In order to do this, the less capable students must get questions wrong. To make sure less capable students get low scores, the tests are deliberately designed with trick questions specifically made to fool you.

Selected Trick Questions

1. Amnesia Trick How many adults ride bicycles in city A if all adults in City A either ride bicycles or drive cars? (I) 85% of the 10,000 adults in city A drive cars. (II) 8500 adults in city A drive cars. Statement (I) is sufficient since if 8,500 drive cars then 1,500 ride bicycles. Statement (II) is not sufficient since we do not know the total population; it cannot be assumed from (I). The trick here is that (I) alone can answer the question. Although (I) and (II) together may answer the question, the answer is still A. The unskilled reader will carry over the information from statement (I) when reading statement (II) and not catch the flaw with statement (II) (it does not tell you the population). Trick #2: note that the question doesnt tell you the total population of City A, but the total population is not relevant since the question only asks for Adults. This question shows how you must have discipline and stick to the 3 step process. 1. Read the stem 2. Read each statement individually 3. If both statements cannot answer the question alone, then look at both statements together. Before you try to combine statement (I) and (II), make sure each answer can/cannot answer the question. When you first read statement II, temporarily forget what you read in statement 1 so that you may evaluate if (II) alone is sufficient. Hence the name of the trick question: Amnesia. Get temporary amnesia after reading statement I and dont use statement (I)s information when you first evaluate statement (II) (because you need to see if statement (II) is sufficient alone. 2. Delay Trick How much was a certain Babe Ruth baseball card worth in January 1991? (I) In January 1997 the card was worth $100,000. (II) Over the ten years 1987-1997, the card steadily increased in value by 10% each 12 months.

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Sol: (I) Alone is obviously insufficient. To use (II) You need to know what the card was worth at some time between 1987 and 1997. So (II) alone is insufficient, but by using (I) and (II) together you can figure out the worth of the baseball card in January 1991. The trick here is not to do the calculations. If you tried to actually calculate the value in January 1991, you have fallen into the trap. All that matters is that sufficient information is available. The test designers make these questions to make you waste time so that you do not finish the test on time. This is called the DELAY trick because it causes you to be delayed and lose valuable time if you do unnecessary calculations. 3. Backsolve Is the two-digit integer, with digits r (first) and m(second), a multiple of 7? (I) r + m = 13 (II) r is divisible by 3 Sol: With statements (I) and (II) we may determine that the two digit number is not a multiple of 7. Using statement (I) Try all the two digit numbers that sum 13: 94, 85, 76, 67, 58, 49. Of those, only 49 is divisible by 7. So, using statement (I), rm may or may not be a multiple of 7; it is insufficient. (II) Is not sufficient because there are many numbers with r that are divisible by 3 and that are multiples of 7 (35, 63, 98). Combined, there are NO possible numbers rm that are divisible by 7 and satisfy statements (I) and (II). The answer is NO, rm is not a multiple of 7. Using statements (I) and (II) we may deduce this. Using statement (II), however, 49 is not a multiple of 3. So, combining the two statements proves that rm is not a multiple of 7. In other words, weve used the two statements to deduce that rm is not a multiple of 7.This looks like a very intimidating question. As a rule, when you encounter a highly intimidating question such as this one, you should plug in possible answers. This question defies an algebraic solution, so it must be solved through back solving. 4. Red Herring Trick Billy sells twice as many $20 tickets as Tim, and Tim sells three times as many $10 tickets as Billy. How many tickets did Billy sell? (Tickets are either $10 or $20). (I) Tim sold a total of 35 tickets. (II) Together Billy and Tim sold 70 tickets for $1000. Sol: (I) is not sufficient. Let x = the number of $20 tickets sold by Tim and y = the number of $10 tickets sold by Billy. Then Billy sold 2x ($20 tickets) + y ($10 tickets) , Tim sold x ($20 tickets) + 3y ($10 tickets)(2) implies 70 = x + 2x + y + 3y and 1000 = 20(x + 2x) + 10 (y + 3y)- divide this equation by 20 to simplify. Subtract these two equations 70 = 3x + 4y -50 = -3x - 2y 20 = 2y may be solved for x and y and subsequently y = 10 and x = 10, Billy sold 2(10) + 10 = 30 tickets. The trick here is that (I) is completely unnecessary and a distraction. The information in (I) may help answer the question, but it is unnecessary; (II) can do it alone. A red herring is an American/English phrase for something that is a distraction to the issue. In this case, the first statement is a distraction.

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Super Statement Trick What is the average (arithmetic mean) of 3x and 12z? (I) x + 4z = 20 (II) x + z = 8 Sol: Yes, combining (I) and (II) will solve the question, but (I) can do it alone. The trap is (3). Students will know that the two statements together can solve the question. Super Statement questions involve questions where together both statements can solve a question, but carefully examined, one statement may solve it alone. The given information asks for the average of 3x and 12z, which is (3x + 12z) / 2, or 3(x + 4z)/2. Statement (I) tells us the value of x + 4z, 3(x + 4z). So you can solve the average formula directly without using the second statement. x + 4z = 20, so 3x + 12z = 60, meaning that the average = 30. You may use statement (II) to solve the problem, but statement (I) can do it itself (thus disqualifying choice C, which requires both (I) and (II) to be insufficient). HINT: On difficult Data Sufficiency questions, the statements usually have more value than it appears at first glance. When drawing a geometric figure or checking a given one, be sure to include drawings of extreme cases as well as ordinary ones.

Example 1: In the figure to the right, AC is a chord and B is a point on the circle. What is the measure of angle x?

x C

Although in the drawing AC looks to be a diameter, that cannot be assumed. All we know is that AC is a chord. Hence, numerous cases are possible, three of which are illustrated below:

Case I B

Case II B A A x C

Case III B x C

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In Case I, x is greater than 45 degrees; in Case II, x equals 45 degrees; in Case III, x is less than 45 degrees. Hence, the given information is not sufficient to answer the question. Example 2: Three rays emanate from a common point and form three angles with measures p, q, and r. What is the measure of q + r ? It is natural to make the drawing symmetric as follows:

P r

In this case, p = q = r = 120, so q + r = 240. However, there are other drawings possible. For example:

P q r

In this case, q + r = 180. Hence, the given information is not sufficient to answer the question.

Final Summary of Data Sufficiency Tips and Strategies Memorize the five answer choices; theyre the same for each and every Data Sufficiency question. Use only the information given in the questions. The CAT tries to measure your ability to distinguish facts from careless assumptions. Do not rely on a visual assessment of a geometry question to determine angle sizes, parallel lines, etc. Finally, do not carry any information from one question to the next. You can count on seeing at least a few questions where a wrong selection is presented just to capitalize on this common fallacy. Be careful not to carry over any information from one numbered statement to another. (Making this mistake is remarkably easy, especially under time pressure and in a momentary lapse of concentration.) If a question asks for a numerical value (as opposed to a quantitative expression that includes variables), the question is answerable only if a numbered statement (I or II) yields one and only one possible numerical answernot a range of values. Use process of elimination. This CAT section lends itself perfectly to process of elimination. If time becomes an issue, you can always look at the (II) statements in either order. Hence, if statement (I) is confusing, look at statement (II) to help you eliminate incorrect answer choices. If you can eliminate either answer choice (1) or (2), then you can also eliminate answer choice (4). If either numbered statement (I or II) alone suffices to answer the question, then you can eliminate answer choices (3) and (5).

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In distinct contrast to Problem Solving geometry figures, Data Sufficiency figures are not necessarily drawn proportionatelyunless a figure indicates explicitly that it is drawn to scale. Do NOT rely on your eye to measure angle sizes, line segment lengths, or areas. Instead, handle any Data Sufficiency question using your knowledge of mathematics along with the numbers provided. Be on the lookout for statements that tell you the same thing in different words. When the two statements convey the same exact information, you will know through process of elimination that your choices are (4) or (5). One favorite of the CAT testers is to use ratios and percentages. Here is an example where Statement (II) simply states backwards the exact same information provided by Statement (I). 1. x is 50% of y 2. the ratio of y : x is 2 : 1 Do not get bogged down with complicated or lengthy calculations. As we stated before, these questions are designed to test your ability to think conceptually, not solve math problems. Data Sufficiency questions are designed to test you primarily on quantitative concepts, not on your ability to manipulate numbers (thats what Problem Solving questions are for). So if you find yourself doing a lot of pencil work, youre probably on the wrong track. Make real-world assumptions where necessary. The test makers will not try to trick you in this way with these questions. However, you must assume in certain abstract questions such as What is the value of x? that x can be a fraction and/or a negative number. Just as in Problem Solving questions, in Data Sufficiency questions cast in a real-world setting you should make reasonable real-world assumptions. Dont split hairs by looking for subtle meanings or ambiguous language. The testmakers are not out to trick you in this way. Practice, practice, practice. If you spend some time practicing these questions, you will be able to internalize these tips and strategies. You will also become very comfortable with the questions from this portion of the test and will quickly realize if there are any math areas such as geometry or algebra where you will need to brush up on your skills. When it comes time to sit for the CAT, you will want to know the important data relationships for the various math areas tested.

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