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How can I answer SAT/GRE/GMAT questions faster?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Here’s one thing to be thankful for: answer choices. That’s right - test question answer choices. If you’re trying to answer standardized test questions faster, having answer choices makes it much easier. (You couldn’t guess if you had to write in the answer). The tip I give students who are stuck not being able to finish in the time given, or who are trying to increase the speed with which they answer questions is to - GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Try answering questions much faster than you’re comfortable doing. This may initially cause you to make more mistakes, but if you haven’t been finishing your test section(s) in the past, completing a section will usually raise your overall score, even if you make errors you would not otherwise have made had you gone slower.

Try it yourself. If you’ve been answering 5 questions in 10 minutes, try 8 questions in 10 minutes. Are you getting more wrong? How many more? Remember to balance the extra questions you get wrong with the greater amount of time you now have to either complete the section or to spend on harder questions. It may be worthwhile overall. If 8 questions in 10 minutes is OK, try 10 questions in 10 minutes, and so on.

I recently read Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which makes a similar point. Foer, a journalist, was able to win the National Memory Championship, beating out many professional memorizers. He used this same trick for attempting to remember answers faster for a competition. The example he gives is of increasing one’s typing speed on the computer. You have a certain speed you’re comfortable with, and you think that this is as fast as you can type. But if you force yourself to type faster, despite the initial increase in errors, you will eventually comfortably type faster, error-free. I tried this with my own typing and it really works!

The point is that when you try any new test-taking strategy, you may initially make more errors, just because you are not used to it. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. You’re only practicing, after all.

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