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How to answer MSR questions
Nov 09, 2015

How to answer MSR questions

Let’s face it, Multisource Reasoning questions (MSR) are a little weird. They do not really look like most of the questions that you will face on the GMAT and they have a lot of charts. For this reason, a lot of people are not 100% sure what to do with them and tend to get lost in the ocean of information presented.

The trick to MSR questions is simply to be really good at taking notes. Do not try to take on this entire problem in one straight shot. Instead break it up before diving in. Here is how to do it.

Step 1: Read the problem

This should really go without saying, but you need to actually take the time to read through the material in front of you. I know there is a lot of information and that you are on a time limit, but do not be afraid to spend up to 2 minutes reading the problem and taking notes. As you read, make three lists.
  • Information that is critical to understanding the background and underlying case.
  • Information that is probably going to be important once you get to the questions.
  • Details that probably are not going to be overly important, but could come up in a few situations.
As a word of advice, when you make these lists use shorthand. Writing things out verbatim is a waste of time. Additionally, if the information involves a lot of numerical figures, do not write them either. It is more important to know where to find the information than it is to jot every long string of numbers down.

Step 2: Outline the Tabs

This is a quick step, but an important one nonetheless. Write a brief one sentence summary of the overall contents of each tab. The first tab almost always contains information about the background of the problem, but the other tabs could contain just about anything. In the heat of the moment it is easy to mix up tabs and make mistakes. Avoid this by making a quick note of what is in each tab.

Step 3: Solve

With the groundwork laid, it is time to address the actual questions at hand. Work deliberately and refer to your notes often.

MSR demands more prep work than most other question types. The planning stage can seem like it takes up to much time, but it is key to helping you stay organized and accurate. If you allow yourself 2 minutes to read and take notes, you still have a minute and a half to 2 minutes to work on each question which should be plenty.

How do you feel about MSR? I find that it is one of those topics that divides people into one of two camps. Some testers hate the problems. Some love them. Let us know which camp you are in. Additionally. If you have any tips for MSR please share them in the comments section! We would love to hear from you.

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