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When to NOT answer a PGRE question.

  1. Jul 24, 2013 #1
    Hello. I have a quick procedural question about the physics GRE. I know that incorrect answers deduct 1/4 point from your raw score, but I do not understand how questions that are left unanswered affect you.

    Basically I am trying to understand if I have absolutely no idea how to answer a question, whether or not I should guess, or leave it blank.

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2013 #2
    Statistically, if you know *nothing* about a question, guessing will cost you as many points as you gain. (Guess 5 times, hit once, 1 - 4 * 1/4 = 0.) However, if you can eliminate an answer or two, guessing will help you. (If you can eliminate one answer, you'll hit 1 in 4 by guessing, and so 1 - 3 * 1/4 = 1/4.)

    If you know absolutely nothing, Dirty Harry has the answer... "Do you feel lucky?"
  4. Jul 24, 2013 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    For the expectation value: If you can exclude some value, or at least think that one answer is more likely than another: guess.
    Guessing will increase the spread of your expected result - that can be positive or negative, depending on the result you want, and the number of correct answers you find.
  5. Jul 24, 2013 #4
    Thank you both. I think I am confused about the penalty for leaving something blank. I'm used to the standard test where any attempt at an answer is better than a blank, so I don't understand why leaving a question blank would ever be advantageous on the PGRE.
  6. Jul 24, 2013 #5
    There is no penalty for leaving something blank.

    The advantage is... a blank answer isn't wrong. :smile:

    Statistics says that if you guess at 5 questions with 5 possible answers, you should expect one right on average. However, if you are just guessing randomly, there is a 32.768% chance you'll get them all wrong, and lose 1 1/4 points.

    So... do you feel lucky... punk? :smile:
  7. Jul 24, 2013 #6
    This is a stupid question, but I have to ask it. What stops me from answering only one question, that I am absolutely confidant in getting right? Somehow this can't be allowed to happen, so would this process be penalized when the scaled score is computed?
  8. Jul 24, 2013 #7
    You would get a 1% score. That doesn't seem very good...
  9. Jul 24, 2013 #8


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    No one is saying you are graded only on the questions you answer. What they are saying is that you get, say, 1 point if you answer correctly, 0 is you do not answer, and -1/4 point if you answer incorrectly.

    If there are 100 question, you answer only one correctly, you get get 1 point, the "1%" micromass gives. If you answer that one question correctly, answer the other 99 completely at random, you would expect to get 99/5= 19.4, which I will round down to 19, correct and 80 incorrect Since you got a total of 20 right and 80 wrong, you will get 20-(1/4)(80)= 0 points.
  10. Jul 24, 2013 #9
    Thank you very much HallsofIvy.
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