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Beginning questions are more important than latter questions

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hwang327 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
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Beginning questions are more important than latter questions

Post Mon May 08, 2017 6:06 pm
I just finished reading CR bible 2017 Edition by powerscore. The first chapter talked about an idea that seems to contradict information I read elsewhere. Essentially, the book claims that we should pay greater attention and allocate greater time to the beginning questions, not necessarily the first 4, but first 10 or 20 etc. because it is better to have a strong start and a weak finish than the other way around.

Can anyone comment on this? If this is true, how many questions should we assign priorities to?

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Post Tue May 09, 2017 5:31 am
hwang327 wrote:
I just finished reading CR bible 2017 Edition by powerscore. The first chapter talked about an idea that seems to contradict information I read elsewhere. Essentially, the book claims that we should pay greater attention and allocate greater time to the beginning questions, not necessarily the first 4, but first 10 or 20 etc. because it is better to have a strong start and a weak finish than the other way around.

Can anyone comment on this? If this is true, how many questions should we assign priorities to?
A source of serious debate. The Official Guide states explicitly that the notion that the first 10 questions are more valuable is a myth. So that's coming straight from the folks who write the test. However, this seems to be at odds with the evidence we see both on GMATPrep tests and on Enhanced Score Reports. (Which are also from the folks who write the test.)

So here's my take: we know that the algorithm assesses a greater penalty for mistakes on easier questions than it does on more challenging questions. This makes sense. If you miss a 500-level question, the algorithm is wondering if your score should be in the 400's. If you miss a 780-level question, the algorithm is wondering if you're closer to, say, 760. (This is a gross simplification of how the algorithm works, but it'll do for our purposes.) If you're a high scorer, it stands to reason that the later questions will be, on average, more difficult than the earlier questions, as the algorithm will have vaulted you into a more challenging bank of questions as a result of your success on the easier ones. In that case, if you miss more questions late in the test, those misses would have a smaller impact than if you'd missed the earlier questions. The point being that those earlier questions aren't worth more because they come early in the test, but rather, that the penalty for missing them is greater because, on average, they're easier for the high-scoring test-taker. (And just know that the test isn't perfectly linear. So it's possible to see brutally hard questions early in the test and more moderate questions later in the test even for high scorers. And, of course, there are experimental questions, which complicate things further.)

As for how this translates into test-taking strategy, the reality is that you need to take practice tests to master your timing allocation. It's less that you want to devote more time to early questions than that you want to make sure you're not making careless mistakes on the easier questions you know how to do, and thereby likely incurring a greater penalty.

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Post Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:01 pm
David is absolutely right. The earlier questions are not "worth" more, but getting several wrong in the beginning could get you "stuck" in a low-score range (again, major oversimplifications).

In terms of strategy, though, it's a bad idea to treat any questions as more important than others. It will hurt your score far more to run out of time at the end and miss several in a row than it would to get a few wrong intermittently at the beginning. At the very least, rushing to catch up will cause anxiety and negatively influence your performance at the end. Allocate the same amount of time to questions no matter where you are in the test.

Here's the easiest way to understand the scoring algorithm: WHERE YOU END IS WHAT YOU GET. Don't let the beginning of a section jeopardize the end of the section.

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