What I learned about GRE scoring/strategy

Graph of GRE scores as determined by computer-adaptive process

Graph of GRE scores as determined by computer-adaptive process

Tonight I attended a two-hour seminar about the GRE.  I don’t even know if I’ll end up taking it but I am considering applying to grad school–to pursue either a communication master’s or an MPA.

So tonight, from a well-seasoned GRE tutor and current public administration PhD student, I learned that because the GRE is computer-adaptive, if you make sure to get the first questions write, toward the end you should be getting every other question wrong…and it will barely affect your overall score. It seems that the goal of the test is more to gauge the level of difficulty you can handle rather than raw number of correct answers.

You can see by the graph I uploaded (sorry it’s fuzzy) from a test prep company’s marketing brochure, the person who scores in the 700s (green) ultimately answered only 17 out of 28-30 questions correctly, but the questions the test-taker was faced with were much harder than those facing the gray test-taker, who got a total of 21 questions right but bombed the first several. Lesson: do as well as possible on the first couple of questions.

It’s skewed such that not many people to well on the verbal section (700 on verbal is 97th percentile, while 700 on quantitative is only the 72nd percentile). I expect I will do well on verbal. It’s the quantitative I need to brush up on.  The (cheap) math review book recommended to me was Cliffs Math Review for Standardized Tests. I realized from the practice test we reviewed that I solve math problems (especially algebra) in my own way. Must have learned some shortcuts way back in my elementary G/T class. It’s the result that matters, right? Just got to focus on acing those opening questions.


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