Rephrasing the Target Question:

by on June 30th, 2014

In this article, we’ll examine how to make Data Sufficiency questions easier by simplifying the target question before examining the two statements. To set the stage, try solving the following question:

Is ?

1) xy < 0

2) < 1

At first glance, the target question appears complex, but after some manipulation, we can see that it can be simplified significantly. Here’s how:

Get equivalent bases by rewriting 4 and 8 as and to get:

Is ?

Apply Power of a Power rule:

Is ?

Since the bases are equal, we can write:

Is ?

Subtract 6x from both sides:

Is ?

Is ?

Solve: So, asking, “Is ?” is the same as asking, “Is ?”

This rephrased target question is much easier than the original and, as a result, our question becomes:

Is y = 0 ?

1) xy < 0

2) < 1

Now that we’ve rephrased the target question in simpler terms, we can handle the statements with relative ease.

Statement 1: If xy < 0, then y definitely does NOT equal 0. Since we can answer the rephrased target question with certainty, statement 1 is sufficient.

Statement 2: If < 1, then there are several possible values for x and y. For example, it’s possible that and , in which case y equals 0. Alternatively, it’s possible that and , in which case y does not equal 0. Since we cannot answer the rephrased target question with certainty, statement 2 is not sufficient, and the correct answer is A.

TAKEAWAY: When answering Data Sufficiency questions, don’t be in a rush to analyze the two statements. Devoting extra time to simplifying the target question first can actually save you time in the long run.

So, as you prepare for the GMAT, watch out for complex, confusing or lengthy target target questions that might benefit from rephrasing. At the same time, please note that we need not rephrase every target question. If the target question is already easily understood, then rephrasing it is unnecessary.

Here are a few examples of rephrased target questions I’ve spotted in the Beat The GMAT forums:

Target question:

Is it possible to assign each of the n students to one of the m classrooms so that each classroom has the same number of students assigned to it?

Rephrased target question:

Is n divisible by m

Target question:

x is what fraction of y?

Rephrased target question:

What is the value of ?

Target question:

If x and y are positive integers, is greater than Rephrased target question:

Is x > y

Target question:

If x is an integer, does x have a factor n such that 1 < n < x

Rephrased target question:

Is x a non-prime integer?

Target question:

Is Rephrased target question:

Does Target question:

Is point R equidistant from points (-3,-3) and (1,-3)?

Rephrased target question:

Is point R on the line ?

Target question:

Can the positive integer p be expressed as the product of two integers, each of which is greater than 1?

Rephrased target question:

Is integer p a composite number?

I’ve also started a thread in the Data Sufficiency forum where students can post their own examples of target questions that benefit from rephrasing.

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