3 Key Time Management Tips for Acing General Ability

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Out of the 3 multiple-choice exams, General Ability (or GA for short) has the lowest time-per-question ratio. With an average of 40 seconds per question, students tend to feel that GA is a race against time, and often make silly mistakes as a result of rushing. As the 2020 Selective exam draws nearer, it is becoming more and more important to ensure that your exam technique is effective.

So, how can you manage time efficiently and maximise your marks in General Ability? Here are 3 simple techniques to keep in mind:

1. Know and understand your question types

At 300 Selective, we divide these questions into 7 distinct types:

  • i) Vocabulary

  • ii) Letter Patterns

  • iii) Number Patterns

  • iv) Shape Patterns

  • v) Verbal Logic

  • vi) Non Verbal Logic

  • vii) Numerical Problems

It’s important to be able to recognise question types as soon as you read them. Most questions will be quite distinct - for example, Vocabulary questions have the phrase: (“Which of the following is a SYNONYM/ANTONYM of…”).

Even if you have only done a couple of practice papers, you will start to recognise different question types quite quickly. But it is important to consciously pay attention to exactly what category each question belongs to because it will help you allocate enough time for each question.

2. Allocate a time limit for each question type

Every question type should have different amounts of time allocated to it depending on its difficulty. Let’s compare two examples:

Question 1. Which of the following is an ANTONYM of the word ‘treason’?
A. logic B. betrayal C. disagreement D. mediocrity

This is a simple Vocabulary question which should take no more than 20 seconds to complete. If you know the word’s meaning, then great - pick the answer and move on. If you don’t know the word, this is not one of those questions where spending more time is going to get you any closer to the answer. So, once again, use the process of elimination, pick an answer and move on. Let’s look at the next example:

Question 2. In a certain code, HONK, ENDS and SIFT are written as three out of the following ULFA, PKIT, WELP and ANKO. What is the code for HONK?

This is a code question (under Non Verbal Logic), and requires a careful examination of each letter in each word to find common elements between the words and codes. Codes should generally take no more than 1 minute to complete.

As you work through practice questions it should be clear to you which questions you cannot afford to waste time on, and which questions naturally take longer than others to figure out. 300 Selective offers quizzes, which are short drills of 5 to 7 questions focused on each question type, ranked in difficulty from Basic to Challenge. You can check out our materials here.

3. Read through the exam paper

Now that you know all of the different question types, and roughly how long to spend on each one, you’ll have the skills to effectively read through your exam paper. Understanding how the question types are spread out across the exam will help you keep a mental note of your progress so make sure that you read through your exam paper at the beginning of each section. Maybe you will see a lot of the easier question types in the last 30 questions, but almost none in the first 30. If this is the case then do not worry if you spend more time in the first half of the exam than usual. If the questions are evenly dispersed, then you know to stick to the 30 questions per 20 minutes rule.

Remember! The trick is not to do every question as fast as possible, it’s about knowing when to make a quick decision, and when to allow yourself a little bit more time (but not too much!) on certain question types. Work smart, not hard, and you will be acing your GA tests in no time!

These key tips were written by 300 Selective Founder Chris Song, who completed the NSW Selective Test with a score of 260 and attended James Ruse Agricultural High School.

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