In this GRE strategy video lesson, I use two GRE Quantitative Comparison questions to illustrate how to simplify algebraic representations to make it easier to solve these types of questions.
In the video below I detail all the options students have for using the Official GRE Practice tests. I also describe how best to stage your practice and the proper use of Official GRE tests.
The list below organizes the links to the resources mentioned in the video:
The Revised GRE test is a section adaptive test, this means that the first section of the Quantitative or Verbal section is of average difficulty, and the difficulty level of the subsequent section depends on how well one does in the first section.
ETS rates the test questions with a difficulty level ranging from 1 to 5, 1 being the easiest and 5 being the most difficult. In the first section, the weighted average of the difficulty of the questions is close to 3. The section consists of a mix of easy, medium, and difficult questions. The number of incorrect questions in the first section determines the difficulty level of the subsequent section. This format of test administration is called section adaptive.
To find out the impact of the difficulty level of questions missed on the overall score, I used the PowerPrep II 2.1 software and ran the following tests:
Trial#1: Miss 3 of the easiest questions in the first quantitative section, and then miss 3 of the easiest questions in the second section as well.
Trial#2: Miss 3 of the hardest questions in the first quantitative section, and then miss 3 of the hardest questions in the second section as well.
In both of the above trials, the second section was identical, and of the highest difficulty level. This is because I only missed three questions, if I had missed a greater number of questions, the difficulty level would have been different for the second section. I will do additional trials to show the relationship between the number of questions incorrect in the first section and the difficulty level of the second section. The key point of this observation is that the difficulty level of the second section is entirely dependent on the number of questions missed in the first section, and not on the difficulty level of the individual questions.
The interesting outcome is that in both of the trials, the final quantitative score was 162 (84th percentile). In both cases, the two sections were identical and I missed a total of six questions. However, in one case I missed the easiest questions and in the other I missed the hardest questions. This means that the final score(assuming the sections are of the same difficulty level) purely depends on the number of incorrect questions, and not on the difficulty level of the individual questions.
So how does all this information help a GRE test taker. I recommend that when you are attempting the first section, focus on the easiest questions first and make sure you get those right. Only then move on to the hard ones. Because one can jump from one question to another, it is best to first target questions that are easier and are on topics that you can tackle with ease. Once you have completed those questions, then move on to the harder questions. This is prudent because all questions are equally weighted when it comes to deciding the difficulty level of the second quantitative section. The same strategy should also be implemented in the second section.
The final score is then computed by an equating process that takes in to account the difficulty level of each section administered to a student and the number of questions correct in each section. For example, the average difficulty of the question in the actual Revised GRE test I took was 3.2 for the first quantitative section and 4 for the second section. The final score would then depend on the number of questions that you missed. In my next, blog post I will present results from further trials that show the impact of number of incorrect questions on the overall score.
Here I list several strategies that can help you curb careless mistakes during the GRE test:
- Read Carefully: Read the question very carefully and read it several times. On the difficult problems, you will not grasp the entire question on one reading. You may have to read it two or three times, or more. In general, harder questions require several readings.
- Stay organized: Do all of your scratch work in a systematic manner. I do the problems in a horizontal fashion, meaning I use a horizontal line to separate successive problems.
- Write legibly: Your work should be clear enough that you can read your own handwriting. This is helpful in situations when you end up with an answer that is not in one of the answer choices. This often happens when one makes a careless mistake. To spot your mistake it helps if your work is written in a clear and legible manner.
- Don’t Overrely on the Calculator: Only one or two problems in the GRE test truly require the use of a calculator. The rest are more efficient without the use of the calculator. Also, if you do all your work on the paper it is easier to go back and spot your mistakes, unlike steps done with a calculator.
- Redraw diagrams: On Geometry problems you should be prepared to redraw figures, this will also help you to digest the problem and possibly see a way to solve the problem.
- Slow Down: Don’t rush off to attack the problem immediately and don’t change the problem to what you think it is asking, be careful about that temptation.
- Reread the question at the end: Once you have completed the problem, reread the question to make sure you are answering what the question is asking for. For example, if you defined a variable x to solve the problem, check to make sure the question is not asking for the value of x-2.
ETS, the test writers of GRE, provides students with a free diagnostic service that allows you to understand your post-test performance on the revised GRE general test. It is not well advertised and in my experience most students are not aware of this free service. In my experience, the majority of GRE test takers only take the test once and they may have little value to do post-mortem on their test. However, if you are planning on retaking the GRE test, this service may help you in understanding what may have happened during your test, so that you can on the relevant areas on your second attempt.
To access the diagnostic service, you will need to wait until you have received your official score report in the mail. You will need to enter the Registration number listed on the score report along with your test date and date of birth.
The diagnostic service provides the following information on the questions you encountered during the test: question type, difficulty level, time spent, and whether you got it right or wrong.
The images below are from the diagnostic report on the test I took in August 2010. The first section was fairly easy and had an average difficulty level of 3.2 on a scale of 1 to 5. The second section was fairly difficult with an average difficulty of 4. It is interesting to note that I received no Geometry questions in the second section. I don’t know how many questions one can miss in the quantitative section and still obtain a score of 170. My best guess would be a maximum of two questions, and would also depend on the difficulty level of the questions missed.
In the Verbal section, out of a total of 40 questions I missed 8 questions (scaled score of 164). Most of the questions that I missed are concentrated in the Reading Comprehension, an area that I would need to focus on if my goal is to raise my Verbal score.
Within each category below, questions are displayed in order of difficulty from 1 (easy) to 5 (hard).