Using Process of Elimination on the GRE

By Alyssa Laffitte on October 24, 2017

Like most standardized tests, the GRE (Graduate Reasoning Exam) is a multiple choice test. This is great for test takers because the answer is right in front of you! You just need to distinguish the one correct answer from the others.

This may sound easy, but sometimes it isn’t. A trick you can use for these multiple choice questions is the process of elimination. If you can eliminate even one answer, you increase your odds of choosing the correct answer. Here are a few ways you can use the process of elimination on the GRE.

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See if you can eliminate any answer choices right away

Sometimes, you can eliminate an answer choice or two right away. If you can, definitely do it! Look to see if any of the answer choices look outrageously wrong or impossible. For example, if you are solving a math problem and one of the answer choices look way too small or too large based on the problem, eliminate it and focus on the other choices. This strategy is quick, easy, and will keep you from worrying about answers that are obviously incorrect.

Re-read the question

Now that you’ve eliminated an answer choice or two, re-read the question. After you’ve spent some time trying to eliminate obviously incorrect answers, you might forget what you’re being asked! Also, it’s all too easy to miss a keyword that could change the entire meaning of the problem. Re-reading will help you catch that and save you from making a silly mistake because you didn’t interpret the problem correctly. Read the question again just to be sure you understand what you are being asked.

For math, estimate

There’s nothing like good old estimation. If you are stuck on a math problem, estimating can help you eliminate certain answer choices that are very far away from your estimate. Then, you can spend the rest of your time working on the answer choices that are closer to your estimate.

For math, back-solve

The beauty of having multiple choice math questions is that the answer is right in front of you! Try to plug in each of the answer choices into the problem to see what answer you get. If you plug in an answer choice and it gives you the answer you need, pick that answer choice!

For verbal reasoning, look for similarities between your choices

Some verbal reasoning questions ask you to choose two words that would correctly fit the blank in the sentence. If two words can fill in the blank, that means these two words must have similar meanings (in other words, they are synonyms!). For questions like these, you can look at the answer choices and see if two words have similar meanings. This doesn’t always work because there could be a set of synonyms whose meanings don’t match the sentence. Still, it’s a good strategy to double check your work or if you don’t understand the sentence.

Look for the answer that doesn’t look like the others

Yes, I know I just said to look for the similar answers, but that was only for a specific part of the verbal reasoning section. For all other sections, try to look for the one answer choice that is different from the others. This answer will be different because it’s the right one! For example, in the math section, if all the answers are even numbered and there’s one that’s an odd number, pick the odd numbered one! Like the previous tip, it’s not completely foolproof, but it’s a good way to go if you’re stuck.

The GRE is a daunting test, but the fact that it is multiple choice is a big help. Multiple choice tests like the GRE allow you to use tricks, such as the process of elimination, in order to help you determine the correct answer. Use these tricks to your advantage, as they will increase your odds of choosing the right answer, and as a result, you will get a better score.

21, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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