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GRE® General Test STRATEGIES: Should I answer the easy questions first?

Research has proven that getting organized and preparing well in advance will help you increase your score on the GRE® General Test. Part of getting organized is learning as much as you can about the test sections and question types, determining specific topic areas that require further study, and identifying which specific strategies work best for you to give you the edge that you’ll need to improve your overall score results.

One of the best strategies that has consistently demonstrated a test-taking advantage for thousands of test-takers is to answer the easy questions first (the ones that you can answer with little or no difficulty). After answering the easy questions first, go back to answer the more time-consuming or challenging questions later. Here are some of the reasons why students like to approach the GRE® General Test using this strategy:

1. Saves time. Because the GRE®revised General Test computer-based software allows you to skip questions and return to unanswered questions later, solving the easy questions first enables you to move quickly through each section of the test. Your time will be spent more efficiently on the questions that you can answer correctly.  As you work back-and-forth within each section, the computer software allows you to digitally mark questions to skip and revisit later. The “review” feature appears on your computer screen to help you keep track of unanswered or marked questions. (Note: You must answer all questions within one section before moving on to the next section).

2. Increases your odds of scoring higher. Your final score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly. Don’t puzzle more than a few seconds over a question. If you can’t solve a question immediately, mark the question and move on. You will increase the statistical odds of improving your score if you answer all of the solvable questions first, before time runs out. There is no penalty for guessing, so after you have answered all of the easy questions, and the questions you are relatively sure of, it is in your best interest to take an educated guess on the remaining questions.

3. Improves confidence. Answering the easy questions first often gives test-takers an increased sense of accomplishment, command and confidence because the response time is accelerated. As you become test-wise and time efficient, you are engaging in a psychological confidence-building exercise that mentally improves your capacity to succeed.

4. Aids in triggering your memory. After answering the easy questions, you memory may be triggered to remember how to answer some of the challenging questions later. Memory improvement skills are based on “thought associations.” Repeated exposure to similar topics improves memory by sending a signal to a part of your brain to remember associated topics. Sometimes challenging questions are subtle variations of the easy questions. As you return to the challenging questions, you may be amazed by your ability to remember how to solve difficult questions after you have answered some of the easier questions.

As you start using this strategy in practice tests, keep in mind that what may work for some people, may not work for others.  When you are preparing for the GRE® General Test, decide in advance if answering the easy questions first is appropriate for your individual learning style and personality. You may instead prefer to methodically answer all of the questions in sequence, and take an educated guess on challenging questions as you move through each section. Whatever strategy you choose, remember to trust the nature of your instincts about what works best for you and that there is no wrong method to answering questions on the computer-based GRE®revised General Test. With this in mind, however, it is important to approach the exam with as much insight about strategies that have helped other test-takers like yourself. Learning new skills may give you the edge you need to reach your highest test-taking potential.

To learn more about specific test-taking strategies to help you score well on the GRE® General Test, read Cliffs Notes GRE (ISBN ##978-1118057605) available on Amazon.com for about $20. The easy-to-read study guide includes comprehensive subject reviews, a diagnostic test and four full-length practice tests (and CD-ROM).




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