GRE Algebra - Using Your Scratch Paper

All of these algebra questions look easy, right? Well, they kind of are, but remember that you'll be under stress, so it is to your advantage to use the scratch paper that you are given so that you can double check your work. You definitely don't want to do an algebra question in your head, and, as you are going down the answer choices in an attempt to eliminate those answers that you know are wrong, you forget what the answer is, in which case you'll need to redo the problem. So practice using the scratch paper and keep track of your work.

The use of the scratch paper can greatly improve your performance on the GRE if you use the paper efficiently. Get into the habit of organizing the scratch paper. Yes, you read it right. Organize your scratch paper. The last thing that you want is a scratch paper with so many scribbles that you get confused when you look at it. Here are a few rules to keep in mind when using the scratch paper:

  • Write legibly and clearly, but don't try to be neat. You need to do these problems fast!
  • For each problem, write down on your scratch paper the letters a, b, c, d, and e, and as you eliminate answer choices, cross off that letter. This will help you keep track of what answer choices are left.
  • As you get done with each question, either cross it off or draw a line around it to separate it from the calculations for other problems and to clearly distinguish the empty space that you have left. And yes, stay within the lines. You don't want to be running into other equations and calculations for other problems and getting confused.

Here is a piece of a scratch paper that was used to do the calculations for three questions.