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When to Mark Questions on the GRE

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The GRE allows you to mark questions as you go through each section of the test. When you get to the end of a section, you’ll be able to see which questions you marked:

Here are a few tips on using this feature to maximize your GRE score.

1. There are two good reasons to mark questions.

You can mark questions that you’ll only try if you end up with extra time. On each section of the GRE, your goal is to get as many questions right as possible. It doesn’t matter whether those questions are hard or easy—so, you’ll get the highest score by focusing on the easier and moderate questions first. If you have extra time, though, you might get some extra points from the tougher questions.

You can also mark questions if you tried to solve them but weren’t confident in your solution. For instance, maybe you were stuck between two answer choices and picked one at random in order to avoid wasting time. Don’t spend a ton of extra time on a problem as soon as you see it, because that might keep you from having enough time for other, easier problems later on. However, if you’ve already seen all of the problems and you have some time left over, it’s okay to revisit an earlier problem.

2. Mark questions that are tough but realistic.

The best questions to mark are the ones that look realistic, but also time-consuming. Don’t mark the very toughest questions or ones that you don’t understand at all. It’s better to guess on those and move on without marking them.

Why? You want to get as many questions right as you can. There’s no point in spending any time at all on a question that you’re unlikely to get right. If a little bit of extra time will make the difference between a wrong answer and a right answer, go for it! But if the question just doesn’t make sense to you, going back to it probably won’t change anything and will only take time away from other questions.

So, don’t mark questions that are completely baffling. If you don’t know where to start on a problem now, you probably won’t know where to start 30 minutes from now, either. Instead, mark problems that you could realistically solve, focusing on problems that would probably be time-consuming.

3. Whenever you mark a question, pick an answer choice.

Don’t ever leave a question unanswered, even if you think you’ll return to it later. Pick a random answer or make a quick educated guess. No matter how careful you are, it’s always possible that you’ll run out of time on a section or forget to go back to a question and answer it. There’s no wrong-answer penalty on the GRE! If you choose some kind of answer, you’ll at least have a chance of getting the question right if everything goes haywire.

4. Aim to mark 2-3 questions per section.

That doesn’t seem like very many. However, think back to the last time you did a practice GRE. How much time were you usually left with after finishing a section? You probably didn’t have more than a few minutes at most. That’s only enough time to try a couple of problems. So, choose those problems judiciously. Don’t just mark everything that you’d like to review; pick a couple of problems that you think are most likely to get you some extra points.

Try out the marking function on your next practice GRE! Experiment with how many questions you mark, and how you decide whether to mark a question. By test day, you should know exactly how to make that decision.

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