Students often ask if working backwards in Logical Reasoning might be the way to go. After all, the reasoning goes, the hardest questions are typically towards the end of the section. So, if you tackle them early on, you will have more time to get them right without rushing. As you progress through the section, you will have less and less time left, but the questions will (presumably) get easier, so you have a higher chance of getting them right.
While it sounds appealing, working backwards is an extremely risky proposition. Yes, it will appear as if you have more time to spend on the hardest questions, but this perception is incredibly deceiving: you don’t have more time per question. You will be paying back this time later on, when you hear the 5-minute warning with 10 (relatively easy) questions left. Guess what? Regardless of how easy the questions are, it’s unrealistic to answer 10 of them in five minutes. You will probably misread at least a few of them, missing the opportunity to get a few easy points.
In short, you’ll likely pay a high price for the dubious benefit of getting the hardest questions right. I say “dubious” because you can’t guarantee that you got them all right (they are the hardest questions, remember?), and – even if you did – each of them is worth exactly one point. You don’t get a gold star for nailing the hardest questions, but missing the easy ones. In fact, most students would probably waste so much time on the harder questions of the section that they completely run out of time to cover the easier ones. Needless to say, this can be catastrophic, and contribute to a score that is much lower than expected.
The advice of “working backwards” is also predicated on the dubious assumption that the difficulty level of the section gradually increases in a steady, linear progression. Based on our observations from the June and October 2013 tests, this does not seem to be the case anymore (if it ever was). In fact, in all four Logical Reasoning sections of the tests this year, we observed a few relatively difficult – or, at least, confusing – questions lurking among the first 10 from each section. Difficulty did increase toward the end, but the very last question or two were often easier than expected.
In short, don’t try to “game” the system. Just make sure to manage your time wisely. Do not let one or two questions eat up an undue amount of time. Because every question has equal value, if you run into a question that will take (or is taking) too much time to solve, skip it and return to it at the end of the section.
Photo: “Lefty Clock” courtesy of RBerteig.