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Get to the Heart of the Question.

Again, be sure that you read the entire question very carefully. You may want to underline key words in the question so that you do not miss what the question is asking. Of course, frequently, tests are given on computers these days, and underlining key words in a question may not be possible. Still, you can certainly identify the key words, even though you can't underline them.

For example, what do you feel is important in the following question?

Five years ago, Charlie purchased 100 shares of the ABC Mutual Fund at a price of $10 per share. Charlie felt that he could double his investment over five years. Due to a medical emergency, he is now being forced to redeem these 100 shares. The current purchase price is $11.50 per share and the current redemption price is $11 per share. How much will Charlie lose or gain if he redeems the 100 shares today?

Ideally, you read this question carefully and possibly even read it twice. There is some extraneous information contained in the question -- information that is not important with regard to determining the answer. You need to "blow away the smoke" to get to what is important. You can accomplish this by underlining the important parts of the question. Repeating the question with underlined parts:

Five years ago, Charlie purchased 100 shares of the ABC Mutual fund at a price of $10 per share. Charlie felt that he could double his investment over five years. Due to a medical emergency, he is now being forced to redeem these 100 shares. The current purchase price is $11.50 per share and the current redemption price is $11 per share. How much will Charlie lose or gain if he redeems the 100 shares today?

Once the smoke is blown away, we are dealing with the purchase of 100 shares at $10 per share, redemption of those shares at $11 per share, and how much of a gain or loss has occurred. The remaining information is just smoke -- information that is not relevant to the question being asked, which is: How much of a loss or gain is being realized?