Through our quest for education, we are required to pass different tests. Some are more important, some are less crucial. In their constant search for the most objective way to identify one’s skills, researches in different countries have reached similar conclusion: to estimate one’s ability to successfully cruise in the turmoil waters of higher education, multiple choice time limited test is currently the best available tool. Of course, those exams are neither flawless nor error-free in approximating the level of future students. But throughout the years, GMAT, GRE, SAT and other similar tests have proven to be pretty potent in recognizing the potential of the attendee. Yet there are many antagonists, claiming that those tests are deceiving and we should look for other tools for projecting one’s ability to successfully complete his or her higher education. As a result, many people are simply afraid of multiple choice time limited tests, regarding them, sometimes, as a huge obstacle that someone had intentionally raised in order to prevent certain population groups from achieving proper education.
Well, there is certainly no need to be afraid of the GRE, GMAT or similar. Of course, they are not easy, the preparation process is very hard (and sometimes may even prove almost useless…) and the atmosphere at the exam itself is very tense. But much of the above happens due to the lack of understanding the nature of those Psychometrical tests.
Anyone who have attended, or even looked at the questions of some GRE exam, would probably notice that answering them correctly requires pretty basic knowledge. In fact, most of required math skills, for instance, are taught in elementary school! You will not find exponential equations, complex combinatorial formulae or long geometrical statements. The calculations involved, usually do not require the use of a computer or a calculator… So, what us this all about? Why can’t everyone succeed? What are test creators trying to CHECK with these tools?
The answer is not so hard to find. Multiple Choice Time Limited Tests check the ability to process fairly large amount of INFORMATION within a limited TIME. And the term “to process” means the ability to receive the information and make use of it in a proper way. This seems very logical – after all, during our college years (contrary to even high school education) we are expected to accumulate a great deal of data from books, lections, seminars, etc – information, facts, knowledge and skills that will become the basement for our future profession.
The above conception is also trying (pretty successfully) to diminish the effects of formal education (the knowledge we acquire in school) by posing different types of questions to those that we are accustomed to. This is the reason for “New Operations” type questions – we are offered a new way to operate with the numbers (or letters). Graphical diagrams are many times of the type we have never seen – and this is exactly what the test creators want: to see how we cope with a completely NEW set of data and check our ability to draw conclusions based on NEWLY defined set of rules.
In other questions, the information is EXCESSIVE – checking our ability to comprehend what is relevant and what is not. This is also the reason that most questions are written as “stories” rather than represent the mathematical expression. In fact, we are expected to CREATE the mathematical representation of the question – another verification of our information-processing skills. And of course, we are required to pay attention to details. Many, many “stupid” mistakes happen due to pressure and loss of focus. That’s why you will always find answers like “50ft” when you are required to calculate the perimeter of a 10ft by 5ft rectangular field. Hey, did you notice that 50 is a WRONG answer? The perimeter is 10+5+10+5 = 30ft! 50 sq ft is the AREA of this field! Now tell me, how many of you automatically circled the answer 50 after they quickly did the “10 by 5 is 50” multiplication? That is exactly the kind of mistakes that prevent us from scoring perfect in the exam…
In summary, when preparing for the “scary Multiple Choice Time Limited Test” you should bear in mind that it is not that scary. Remember, the purpose of the exam differs from our graduation examinations. It is designed to test our ability to process information and then operate/draw conclusions based on the data we have just received. During your preparation process you should try to develop the skills that help you in this field. Creating your personal games with set of rules is a good idea, for instance. As is trying to understand some diagram in a newspaper (financial table, for instance). Going back to your 6-7 degree basic algebra books that contain “phrased puzzles” that eventually turn into fairly simple equations is also a beneficial activity. Good luck!