GMAT Tip: Making Educated Guesses

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The GMAT Tip of the Week is a weekly column that includes advice on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required for admission to most business schools. Every week an instructor from a top test-prep company will share suggestions for improving your GMAT score. This week’s tip comes from Brian Galvin, director of academic programs at Veritas Prep.

Even if you have perfectly prepared for the GMAT, there is a good chance you will face at least several instances when you have to make an educated guess on test day. You therefore need to develop a strategy for knowing when to make an educated guess. No one wants to have to guess, but you also need to be smart about time management. Part of that is knowing when to guess and move on.

First, consider the simple math of the exercise: Narrowing the answer choices down from five to three increases your odds of guessing correctly only from 20 percent to 33 percent. If you take a minute to do this, then you’re using a minute that could be used on another question you know how to solve.

When you decide to make an educated guess, you can do better than blind guessing or going off pure hunches. For example, with many math questions, you can use properties of numbers to at least eliminate a few answer choices. For example, you may be able to spot that an answer must be an even number, therefore eliminating two answer choices right away. Or you can often look at a problem involving fractions and at least determine that the answer’s denominator will be larger than the numerator, immediately ruling out all answer choices that are larger than one.

Knowing yourself and knowing simple tools like these can save you precious minutes on the GMAT. Develop your guessing strategy now, and don’t be too proud to employ it a few times on test day.

Brian Galvin has been with Veritas Prep since 2006 and since then has devoted himself to developing new and better ways to help students master the GMAT. He has earned a 99th percentile score on the GMAT and has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in education from the University of Michigan. He has taught high school history in Detroit, worked in sales and marketing for the Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, and has completed an Ironman race.

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