As anyone who has taken or prepared for the GMAT realizes, there is a finite amount of general knowledge that we must do our best to master. There are however countless manifestations of questions that test this knowledge and therefore exposure to lots of questions from each general topic is highly beneficial to our preparedness for the as-of-yet-unseen manifestation we will surely encounter come test day.
In algebra, the more we practice with manipulating equations, simultaneous equations and quadratics, for example, the more likely we will be to recognize when the given information is sufficient to solve for x or not. In a geometry question, we are more apt to be able to solve for the area of a triangular region within a mixed shape if we’ve trained ourselves to spot vertical angles, similar triangles, the diagonals of squares or whatever the case may be for the particular scenario. And on the list goes. We also know that certain topics are tested more often that others and thus, though all topics matter, spending more time on the higher frequency areas gives the most payoff come test day. The two key words here are knowledge and recognition. Those two components allow us to execute most effectively.
When I took my most recent official exam in June 2013 (click here to read Amphibious Assault, a post about my water-logged testing experience), one question caught my attention. The question caught my attention not because I got it right or wrong, but because I knew I wasn’t answering it as effectively as possible. This problem is a classic example of how the GMAT is not only a challenge to your knowledge but also about how well you recognize when the knowledge you have is being tested. The lesson for you here is that even someone like me, who has been teaching GMAT non-stop for 4 years and scores in the high-700s, will get stumped on the occasional problem. The key is to not let one problem prevent you from getting your best score, and to always use your knowledge AND recognition in concert!