When you're preparing for the GRE, it can feel like you're awash in a sea of advice. Some of it's good, some of it's bad, and some of it's just plain unhelpful. So, let's narrow it down. What can you do now to ensure you get the best score before your exam? There are ten tricks and tips that will actually help.
- Plan ahead. Whether because of sudden decisions or new information, some students don't have a lot of time to plan for the GRE Exam. Can you still get a good score on the GRE? Absolutely. Is it harder? Absolutely. No matter what your situation is, though, make sure that registering for your GRE test date is the first thing you do. Spots fill up early (sometimes months in advance!), and if you're at your mental best on weekends, afternoons, or have any other special requirements, lock the date down now.
- Know what you're getting into. It may be too late to turn back now, but familiarize yourself with both the exam and your own strengths and weaknesses by taking a GRE diagnostic test. There's no time like the present…
- Take lots of practice tests. A lot of students prepping for the GRE think that taking/reading lessons and doing practice sets is sufficient. Not so! The GRE is a marathon, and staying alert for almost four hours takes practice. Taking at least one practice test a week, for a total of around ten in all, is ideal.
- Start studying vocabulary. GRE Verbal is extremely vocab heavy, and (particularly if you're applying to humanities or social science programs) will be important to master. This isn't SAT/ACT-level stuff, either. These are some hard words!
- Focus on your subject. Well, broadly speaking. This is a little blurrier for those in the social sciences, but if you're applying to an English grad program, your Quant score will have little bearing on your application. Similarly, Engineering admissions committees won't care too much about your English scores.
- Don't ignore the other subject. I know, it's contradictory. However, you don't want to ignore the other areas of the exam completely. If you score extremely low on a part of the test, even if it's not directly relevant to the graduate program, it might raise red flags for the admissions committee. So do put some work in.
- Use good materials. The materials you use to prepare should have detailed explanations of why right answers are right, and why wrong answers are wrong. You'll be surprised at how few books actually do this! Scout out reviews and take a look at a few pages of the material before buying—these books don't come cheap.
- Know question types. Again, lessons aren't enough here. You'll see some question types on the GRE with multiple answer choices, questions where you have to fill in a numerical answer, quantitative comparisons…all kinds of beasts. Pay attention to the question types you consistently ace and those you get wrong, and make sure you come up with approaches that work for you for each problem type. To do that…
- Keep an error log. Keep a record of your mistakes – and the correct answers and steps to get to them. Work through these problems regularly and you'll be far less likely to be thrown off-balance by similar questions on test day.
- Plan on taking the exam twice. Most people will get better scores on the GRE by taking it twice. The tests have to be at least 21 days apart, so make sure you plan well in advance! You may be happy with your score on the first exam…but just think how much pressure will be taken off your shoulders during that test, simply by knowing that you'll have a chance to retake the exam if necessary.
About the Author
Predict your English proficiency score by sharing few details
Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about graduate school admissions for Magoosh. She has a BA from Brown University and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (PhD). She has taught and written about test preparation and admissions practices for eight years.
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