5 Steps for GMAT Data Interpretation

Data Interpretations GMAT1. Read the labels first. Mentally categorize each graph, chart and table. (EX: “This is a graph showing the change in the price of gas per gallon over the course of one year.”) Do not just skip the statistics entirely and go straight to the question! While you may think this will save you time, it actually significantly decreases your accuracy.

Data Interpretation questions are like an open-book test. You wouldn’t skip a Reading Comp passage, so don’t skip the data. Make sure you read every tiny piece of writing on or near the data, including titles, the labels for the x and y-axes, column names, and even footnotes. Scroll down to make sure you’ve caught everything.

2. Note the units. Once you understand the labels, take special care to note the units (mph, m/sec, cm2, etc.). Are we dealing with seconds, minutes, or hours? Does one graph represent the month of June, while the other graph represents the entire year? The units may change from graph-to-graph or chart-to-table. Especially note any given information about percentages, as DI questions frequently require you to work with percents and raw numbers.

3. Look for trends in the data. Quickly note the relationship between the variables in each table, chart, or graph. Do they have a direct or indirect correlation? Where does the data spike or significantly decrease?

4. Connect the question back to the appropriate data.  The most common mistake on DI questions is using the wrong data. Make sure you understand what the question is asking, and then stop and consider which table, graph, or chart you will need to locate the information you’ll need to solve for the correct answer.

Harder DI questions will require you to use more than one statistic. Don’t rush through this step! The questions may be multi-step, so look closely for key phrases in the question that refer to the labels you carefully studied in Step 1.

5. Predict an answer! You may be able to approximate an answer by rounding off numbers for certain questions. Make sure to be consistent in how you approximate, and only do so if the answer choices are far enough apart that estimation is prudent.

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