The One-Two Pass: General ISEE Test-Taking Strategy

In the Synonym, Sentence Completion, and Math sections of the ISEE, it is important for you to become comfortable with the one-two pass strategy. 

In the first pass, you should only attempt problems that you feel you have a good chance of being able to answer correctly. In the second pass, you should attempt the remaining problems. By using the one-two pass strategy, you won’t get caught up on a difficult problem halfway through and run out of time before you can get to problems later on that might have been easier for you.

For the Verbal section, you will go through the entire section on your first pass, and then go through the entire Verbal section again in your second pass. You should attempt:

  1. Synonyms you feel you can answer
  2. Sentence Completions you feel you can answer
  3. Synonyms you skipped in the first pass
  4. Sentence Completions you skipped in the first pass

For the Math section, you will go through the entire section on your first pass, and then go through the entire Math section again in your second pass. You should attempt:

  1. Math you feel you can answer
  2. Math you skipped in the first pass

There will always be some questions that are easier for you than others, so it’s helpful for you to try to learn which kinds of questions to approach in the first pass and which to save for the second pass. For example, if you routinely struggle with ratio problems, you should skip these in your first pass of the Math section. 

One-Two Pass

Make sure you practice keeping careful track of your answers on your bubble sheet! Using the bubble sheet can be tricky when utilizing the one-two pass strategy. When you are doing your first pass, if you plan to skip a problem and save it for the second pass, you need to somehow mark this on your test booklet (such as with a check mark or a star). You need to know to go back to the question on your second pass while keeping track of everything on your bubble sheet.

Do Not Use One-Two Pass For the Reading Section: You will not be using the One-Two Pass on the Reading section, because once you have read a passage you should answer all the questions you can for that passage. 

Process of Elimination and When to Guess
On the ISEE, there is no penalty for wrong answers, so no matter what, you need to fill in every answer on the bubble sheet. However, you do not want to put equal effort into every question, because you will be unlikely to finish in time if you do this. 

You should choose a letter that will be your “fill-in” answer, so if you can’t eliminate any answer choices, you will fill in that letter on the bubble sheet. 

You need to learn which types of problems you may need to just “fill-in” when you run low on time near the end (for example, if ratios are always difficult for you, plan to save these for last and then “fill-in” if you run out of time). It is important that you can focus your energy on the questions you are most likely to be able to answer correctly. 

Specific strategies for eliminating answer choices are part of each following chapter. Learning to use the process of elimination is important, because the more answer choices you can eliminate, the better chance you have of getting the question right. 

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