One of the most dread-inducing additions to the GRE—back when it changed in Aug. 2011—was the Numeric Entry question. The reason is apparent: instead of five answer choices to guide you, suddenly there is nothing more than a box, a big blank waiting for you to cough up one number out of millions (if not billions!).
But really speaking, the Numeric Entry question should not inspire such fear. Believe it or not, this question type may actually be far less diabolical than the seemingly innocuous five-answer multiple-choice question. To illustrate that this is indeed the case, let’s take a look at the following question:
Two stacks of ten cards each are numbered 1-10 and randomly shuffled. Sam has to pick the top card from each stack and guess the number on each card. What is the probability that Sam guesses both numbers correctly?
A) .001
B) .025
C) .01
D) .02
E) .50The math here is pretty straightforward. There is a one in ten chance that Sam picks correctly from one stack. Therefore to find the probability that he picks correctly from both stacks is 1/10 x 1/10, which equals 1/100.
In the high-pressure environment of the test, we are prone to diving right into the answer choices as soon as we have the answer. Doing so can result in unfortunate lapses of judgment.
In this question, it is very easy to jump at (A), thinking that 1/100 is equal to .001. Of course, if you think about it for a moment, you will realize that .001 is equal to 1/1000. The problem is we don’t take that moment. And just like that, instead of choosing (C) .01, we pick (A).
Now the question is reframed in the following manner:Two stacks of ten cards each are numbered 1-10 and randomly shuffled. Sam has to pick the top card from each stack and guess the number on each card. What is the probability that Sam guesses both numbers correctly?
[ ] Write you answer in decimal form.Now when you go to convert 1/100 to decimal form, you will take a moment to think about the conversion. The dreaded box has become your savior.
Helpful tips
That does not mean that all Numeric questions are this straightforward. Nevertheless, you no longer have to contend with the answer traps that the GRE so craftily lays.
A few useful strategies for the Numeric Entry questions are:
1)Don’t be overcome with dread.
2)Read the question with the confidence that you will find the correct answer.
3)If after one minute, you’ve made no discernible progress, let the question be. It is not worth spending more time hoping you will come up with the right answer. Unlike the multiple-choice, you do not have a 20% chance of randomly guessing correctly.
4)Likewise, do not hover over the blank, entering in a number, then erasing it, then entering another number, then erasing it, and so forth.
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