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Should You Guess On The GRE?

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: August 29, 2021

If you are thinking about taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), you have probably thought about the best strategies to get a good score. One of the strategies students often consider when they don’t know the answer to a question is to guess on the GRE.

I have supervised and tutored students for years on how best to learn GRE concepts, how to practice for this exam, and what to expect on the test day.

However, not every examinee finds it easy to select a random choice during the test. Some students tend to skip complex questions entirely.

Is Guessing on GRE Necessary?

Young male thinking while studying

Guesswork on the GRE may sometimes be necessary, mainly when your time is limited, but you need a good test score. Writing on a scratch paper, solving a practice problem, reading comprehension questions, and understanding the multiple-choice questions is crucial.

However, you may also need to make a strategic guess within the specified time in order to get as many points as possible.

According to the ETS, your GRE score depends on the total number of choices that are correct [1]. Therefore, as an examinee, you should tackle all the questions in the specified duration.

Ensure you answer all the verbal section and vocabulary questions. You may be tempted to skip questions, but avoid this temptation. Correct responses from the quantitative reasoning measures and the verbal reasoning section will give you a high score.

What happens if you fail to pick between the answer choices in the given time?

Making a correct inference should help answer the questions correctly when you have limited options. When you have prepared well for your GRE, you can make an educated guess.

“To be a scholar of mathematics, you must be born with talent, insight, concentration, taste, luck, drive and the ability to visualize and guess.’’ - Paul Halmos, Math Expert

You might find yourself starting to solve easier questions first and skipping the difficult questions. However, keep in mind that it is better to make an educated guess.

How to Guess on the GRE

Close up images of students writing on a test paper

In the last moments of the test, when you don’t have enough time to read the entire passage, don’t know how to answer a math question, or similar, you may have to make a guess. There are two ways for guessing correctly and avoiding careless errors during the test.

1. Visual Estimation

To make an informed presumption using visual estimation, you must first pass through the problem efficiently. Some problems have a disclaimer: “figure not drawn to scale”, so be on the lookout for it.

If the figures are drawn to scale, you can take a look at the given answers and pick the best match.

If they are not drawn to scale, you can redraw the figures more accurately and choose the best answer. Such guesses help increase your number of GRE points and give you more time for other questions.

2. Benchmarking

Benchmarking is an excellent technique for answering a vocabulary question. Here, you can score easy points with sufficient GRE test prep. You have to look at the questions, compare the given answers to another set of values, and check how they measure up.

Compare them to a value in the problem itself, and try to opt for the correct answer.

GRE prep practice problems help you avoid spending too much time on each question during the test.

You should start with easier questions and leave the other questions for later answering. Don’t forget to mark the questions you want to revisit later.

Guessing Strategy for Correct Responses on GRE

Male student reading and writing on a paper

As a student taking the GRE test and looking to score highly on your exam, having a strategy for making the right choice is an added advantage. There are several strategies for this, but I will suggest one that I think is the most helpful.

The Process of Elimination

You may use the Process of Elimination (PoE) to give a random answer when there’s less than half an hour left. You can only use the PoE after you have enough GRE practice under your belt. Practice problems help you identify your weaknesses and strengths and grasp necessary concepts.

How Do You Use PoE to Give the Right Answer?

Most of the GRE questions have multiple answer choices. As an examinee, you may have to eliminate the answers that you know are not correct. You can strike off the unlikely choices to improve the odds of picking the correct answer.

Random selection from a list of four choices gives you a 25% chance of landing on the answer.

When you eliminate two given answers that you know are incorrect, you have a 50% chance of answering correctly.

This technique is called the process of elimination, and you can use it to solve a problem you are not sure about. You get to remove choices that are least likely to be the answer as you narrow down to the correct answer.

Final Thoughts on Guessing on the GRE

Sometimes you are forced to make an inference in order to give a correct answer.

Unlike some standardized tests, where the examinees are discouraged from guesswork, GRE doesn’t penalize for guessing. There’s no point deduction for wrong answers.

If you are thinking about taking the GRE test, keep in mind that guessing is a better option than skipping questions.

However, instead of relying on dumb luck, you should try to make an informed guess instead.


References:

  1. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/scores/how/

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.

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