More than 700,000 people will take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in any given year, each hoping a good test score will open doors to the graduate program of their dreams.
As any savvy testing coach will tell you, however, the best way to realize those dreams is simply to study and follow the best GRE preparation tips.
Test-taking can be stressful, especially when you feel your future is on the line. The right kind of test prep strategies and practice can help to ease those testing jitters so you can do your best on the exam.
By following a few simple GRE preparation tips, you can master the skills that will make a real difference on the day of the test.
1. Answer Every Question
To guess or not to guess – it’s a perennial issue on any standardized test.
Most GRE study tips from experts suggest that guessing on the exam won’t hurt, and it could actually help. Indeed, the GRE’s quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning test scores are based on how many questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for incorrect responses.
A smart strategy is to first answer all the questions you know within a section, and then go back to answer any skipped questions. The computer-based GRE test lets you flag items for further review so you can change responses within that section or answer them later if time allows.
2. Take Practice Tests
Don’t expect your stellar SAT score to instantly translate into a high GRE score. It is important to familiarize yourself with the GRE’s test structure, question types, and scoring.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the exam, allows you to review GRE preparation tips online and to download two free practice tests with its Powerprep software. Many of the best GRE prep apps also offer test banks that offer plenty of opportunities to practice.
Moreover, the Princeton Review, Manhattan Prep, Kaplan and other companies offer free online practice tests that allow you to sample the types of questions you might find on the exam.
Many of these resources will also offer GRE preparation tips about how you can improve your score.
3. Review Basic Skills
Don’t spend time trying to learn a lot of advanced math concepts before the test. Instead, one of the best GRE preparation tips is to take the time to review basic math lessons from junior high and high school.
According to ETS, the GRE includes math and statistics concepts that are typically no more demanding than your second course in high school algebra. The test does not include calculus, trigonometry, and other more complex topics. In addition to the typical math problems, some test questions ask students to apply math concepts to real-life issues.
4. Pace Yourself
We’ve already established that you should try to answer every GRE question, but you can’t do that if you linger too long on difficult or time-consuming items.
On the computer-based test, you must finish 20 verbal reasoning questions in 30 minutes and 20 quantitative reasoning questions in 35 minutes. If you want to complete the test, follow this key GRE tip: spend about one and a half minutes – 90 seconds – on each question in those two test sections.
Before tackling the writing section, plan to take a few minutes to compose and outline your thoughts so you can produce well-written essays within the tight time constraints. The writing section includes two tasks, with 30 minutes allotted for each one.
5. Take a GRE Test Prep Course
A wide range of GRE resources are available both online and in many local communities, many of them for free.
However, if you can afford to take a course, for example by Kaplan or another company that is among the best GRE prep course providers, it may help you to discover your weaknesses and to make corrections before taking the real test. Any credible course should give you an opportunity to take tests that mirror the kind of questions and scoring standards used by ETS. If your budget permits, it also can be valuable to work one-on-one with a coach who will review your practice test results and offer additional GRE preparation tips.
If you put these GRE preparation tips into practice and study accordingly, you will be able to head to the testing center with a new level of calm and confidence. This, in turn, is by itself certain to help boost your performance on this all-important exam. Good luck!