Variables In the Answer Choices, or VIC Questions, have always been a huge stumbling block for me. There have been countless times, particularly during the latter part of a CAT exam, that I’ve run into a VIC problem and perform terribly. The process usually goes like this:
I see a tough VIC problem and I tell myself, “Hmm, I’m a quantitative guy. Surely I can solve this algebraically.” Then I spend about one minute trying to work out the algebra before I get stuck and realize I don’t know what else to do. It soon becomes a mad dash to switch over and use the “plugging in” method to solve the problem. Because plugging in obviously takes longer, I’m stressed out because I know this question is going to cut deeply into my overall time. The time I spent trying algebra was a complete waste. What follows is not pretty. It’s often me making a stupid math error because I’m rushed, or me being overcome by the time pressure, throwing my hands up in the air, and making a wild guess.
Today I will try to turn the page on my bad habits and develop a better approach. Here’s how I plan to go about solving tough VICs from now on:
1. Don’t spend more than 15 seconds on trying algebra – I don’t know why I feel I have to know the “smarter” way of doing VICs to feel competent. The GMAT doesn’t score you on whether you used algebra or plugging in. They just a care about whether or not you got the question right. I’ll always start out with the algebra method to begin with, but if after a short while I don’t see the answer immediately, I’ll go straight to plugging in. I can’t afford to waste time on trying algebra when on so many occasions, usually on hard questions, it has failed me. My accuracy and success rate with plugging in are simply higher.
2. Sacrifice the time for plugging in – I know my payoff on plugging in will be higher, but I won’t disregard the fact that I will likely spend more time on these type of questions. This is just something I must keep track of during the test to make sure I pace myself appropriately. Hopefully, I’ll be able to compensate by completing the other question types more quickly.
3. When testing answers, go with the first answer choice that comes up with the target – the test prep companies and guides will tell you to try out each of the VIC answer choices , just to make sure that you didn’t pick an unlucky set of numbers that works with multiple answers. The remedy for this would be to pick numbers again and redo the two choices to find out which one is correct. I have two issues with this: One, if you come up to a very hard question, with a number of variables to plug in, the probability that you’ll pick an “unlucky” set of numbers is very low. Two, given the time spent on a complex plugging in problem, I likely won’t have time to spend doing the process over again. I’d probably just have to guess between two choices anyway, so why not pick the first one? Hopefully this will help compensate and save me some time.