Problem Solving is the classic GRE Quantitative question-type, and the “select one answer” is the one format that has not changed from the old GRE to the Revised GRE. Like any standard Quant question, you will be presented with a typical math problem, given five answer choices, and told to select only one choice. Here is the step-by-step strategy to improve your accuracy on these seemingly straightforward questions.
Step 1 – Write down what the question is asking. This is especially important for long word problems. Don’t start solving unless you know what you’re solving for. Is the question looking for the area of a circle, or just its diameter? X, or 1/X? Part of a ratio, or the entire ratio?
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Step 2 – Extract any given information. As you read the question, pull out any definitions (“x is an integer,” “the set contains only primes,”etc.), or numerical relationships (z < 13, y = -1/2x + 14, etc.). Write them down in shorthand.
Step 3 – Examine the answer choices. What are they? Numbers, variables, words, or some combination? What does that tell you about the question? Can you potentially pick numbers or backsolve (plug-in)? If you had to guess strategically, are there any answer choices that seem illogical based on the definitions and numerical relationships established by the question stem? Any odd “outliers,” or answer choices that are suspiciously different from the rest?
Step 4 – Select your strategy and solve. There are only 4 ways to solve: Do the Math, Backsolve, Pick Numbers, or Guess Strategically. Based on the answer choices and your overall pacing within the Quantitative section, select the strategy that feels right to you, and go for it! Don’t second-guess yourself, or spend too long considering which way is “best.” Many GRE questions can be solved in more than one way, but you don’t get extra points for knowing that.
Step 5 – Double check your answer. Are you really done? Did you find what the question was asking? Before you confirm your answer, just make sure you didn’t skip a final step. The “second-to-last” step is frequently an incorrect answer choice on GRE questions.