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Tips to plan your GRE solving strategy

Posted on November 27, 2020
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GRE Coaching

In certain ways, the GRE is a traditional standardized exam. For one it’s an endurance test. You’re going to stay there for about four hours. It’s also a speed test; you’re going to face considerable time pressure. And it’s an ability test, of course, you’re going to be tested on material that graduate schools have found important to their admission choices.

The GRE is not like any other standardized exams, since the GRE problems are not ordered by level of difficulty. They are all mixed up.

How does this determine your strategy?

Here are some tips to follow a strategy that will maximize your score within the GRE pattern.

Use the freedom to decide the order of answering questions

Within a segment, you have the freedom to skip around. At the top of the screen, there are buttons allowing this option, along with a button to label (flag) questions for review. A summary screen shows you the questions that you have not answered and the questions that you have marked for review. Although you don’t want to mark too many questions because you don’t have time to go back and try more than a few questions, you should know that there are these features so you can use them.

Ensure you finish a section on time

Your Quant and Verbal ratings are based on the number of problems that you correctly resolve, regardless of their level of difficulty. Since some of those easy problems can be at the end of a segment, you want to make sure you have time to do those problems. This implies that you should be prepared to cut yourself off if necessary when you hit a very difficult problem in the middle of a segment. In other words, early in the section, do not invest too much time in a single difficult problem.

Plan on how you will answer problems that suck time

One of these time-sucks is the Select-All-That-Apply question on both Quant and Verbal sections. This is a multiple-choice question for which there can be more than one correct answer, and up to seven or so options to choose from will sometimes be offered to you. It takes as long as it sounds to try out 7 options.

The Data Interpretation in the Quant segment, of which you are likely to see around three, is another time-suck problem. These problems consist of graphs that you must carefully read and understand before answering a set of questions about them, coming about two-thirds of the way through the section. Since the charts are rarely clear, they appear to take too much of your time.

For both of these question forms, it is prudent to go into the test with a strategy. You can decide that you’re going to guess on them for Select-All-That-Apply and then mark them for analysis if you have extra time, or you can simply decide to cut yourself off after two minutes.

For data interpretation problems you may want to save them for the end of the section so that they don’t suck up all your time.

Plan your strategy

The last thing you want to do is find yourself confused by the next question to focus on, or how to plan the exam as you take it. For this reason, I suggest that, with the exception of some question types such as the ones listed above, you do the problems in order by default, and be ready to skip and label as required. This way, though staying open and versatile, you will avoid being confused by the option of what to do next.

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