Data analysis questions typically come in groups of two or three. They’re usually in the second half of the question set and are often accompanied by a chart. There are a few steps you should follow to help you answer these questions.
Briefly look at the charts to get an overall sense of the data
Read the question and determine what information is needed
Find the necessary data in the charts
Do the math needed to get the answer
Reread the question to double-check and select the answer
Following these steps will help make seemingly hard-to-tackle data interpretation problems simple.
Tip 1: If you’re having trouble understanding the charts, it may be a good idea to go ahead and just read the first question. It may help you to better understand the charts to actively search for information that is needed to answer a question. Also, the first question is always simpler than the others so it can be a good way to help you start exploring the charts.
Tip 2: The most common data interpretation question asks you to determine a percentage change or a percent of a whole. Remember, a percentage change is found by using (change)/(original), and the percent of a whole uses (comparing group)/(whole).
Let’s try our hand at some data interpretation questions.
For this question, refer to the figure and chart below.
*The terms trips and shoppers are considered synonymous
Month Total shoppers September 2,000 October 2,200 November 2,400 December 2,500 How many more trips did customers spend $100+ in December than in November?
A. 10
B. 100
C. 250
D. 260
E. 375
Give it a try yourself and check your answer!
Answer: D. 260
There were a total of 2,500 shoppers in December. If 20% of those 2,500 spent $100+, that makes 500 customers. In November, there were a total of 2,400 customers. With only 10% of those customers spending $100+, that makes 240 customers.
$500−240=260$
So, 260 more customers were spending $100+ in December than in November.
Data interpretation questions often come in batches. Ready for part 2?
Which of the following must be true?
Choose all correct answers.A. Customers spent more total money in December than they did in September
B. The median customer for both November and December are located in the $50-$74.99 bracket
C. November’s smallest bracket spent more money than December’s smallest bracket
Give it a try!
Answer: C. November’s smallest bracket spent more money than December’s smallest bracket
(No other choices are correct.)
Choice A is incorrect because it is unknown how much the customers spent in September. Although there may have been fewer customers, there is no way of knowing if their total money spent was any greater than in December.
Choice B is incorrect because the median customer would be in the $75-$99.99 bracket for December and the $50-74.99 bracket for November.
So, we’re left with only choice C, and since every GRE question will have at least one correct choice (and as many as all the choices might be correct), we could just pick this one and move on. But for the sake of explanation, let’s walk through it.
The smallest bracket for December is the bracket with the least spending. There are a total of just 125 customers in that bracket. November’s smallest bracket is the $100+ bracket. There are also 240 customers in that group. Because there are more people spending more money, we know for sure that November’s smallest bracket spent more money than December’s smallest bracket.
Data interpretation questions can be nice since if you understand the charts, you can often solve multiple questions in a short amount of time. On the other hand, if the charts are more difficult to read, these questions can become a timesink.
If the charts don’t make sense to you at a glance, feel free to skip these questions and return to them at the end!
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