10 Tips to Do Well on the GRE

Exam: GRE Test - Graduate Record Examination Test: Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing

1.Study!Study any test prep materials you can get your hands on – books, webinars, tutoring sessions, test prep courses, and practice tests.  Read the dictionary, subscribe to a ‘word of the day’ email list, and go back to studying algebra, geometry, and calculus.  Write sample essays each day on random topics, even if they are the worst topics imaginable.  If you’re not sure where to start, check out the ETS website for materials – some are free and some are not, but all of them will help (http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare?WT.ac=grehome_greprepare_b_130807).

2. Practice the test.  It’s important that you practice the test under the conditions you will have for the actual test as much as possible.Use the same time constraints you’ll have during the test with the same number and length of breaks.  Take practice tests as much as possible.  If you’re taking the computer administered GRE, try to take computer administered practice tests. If you’re taking the paper test, take paper practice tests.  Use only the materials you will have available in the room on that day.  Try to take your practice tests at the same time of day you will take the GRE, and if you’re scheduled to take the GRE on a work day, factor that into your practice tests.  The more you mimic the actual testing conditions, the more comfortable (and therefore less stressed) you will be and the more you can concentrate on the most important thing: the test.

3. Know the test.  Be aware of the types of questions you will be asked and how you will be scored.The GRE General Test has three question types: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.

Quantitative reasoning tests arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and data analyzing skills.  There are two 35-minute sections with quantitative comparison questions, multiple choice questions, and questions where you must provide the numerical answer.

Verbal reasoning tests your vocabulary and reading comprehensions skills.  There are two 30-minute sections with reading comprehension questions, sentence equivalence questions, and text completion questions.

Analytical writing tests your ability to create an argument and present it in essay form.  There is one section with two essay questions, each taking 30 minutes to complete.  The first question asks you to make an argument, while the other asks you to evaluate an argument.

The GRE General Test is scored based on how many questions you answer correctly (Note: this is not true for GRE Subject Tests, which subtract 0.25 points for each incorrect answer).  Questions are weighted in the computer administered test, meaning that the first questions you answer are worth more than the last.  The paper test counts all questions equally.


4.Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep – don’t go to bed at 8pm only to twiddle your thumbs for two hours, but don’t stay up until 1am watching reruns of Friends.

Eat a decent breakfast, but not a large one.  You’re probably going to be nervous at some point in the test, even if you aren’t at the beginning.  The test is timed, and being times usually puts people on edge.  A large breakfast could turn against you, and it’s not worth it.  Also, if you know certain foods sometimes mess with your stomach, avoid them the morning of a very important test like the GRE.

If you feel ill and you have medicine, take it and bring some to the testing center.  The only medicine you should probably avoid is anything that addles your brain more than your current illness or anything that makes you drowsy.  Otherwise, take the medicine and bring extra.

Some practice GRE math for you: Take the number of alarms you usually require to wake up in the morning.  Multiply by two. Set that number of alarms and maybe ask a friend to call you to make sure you’re up.

5. Be prepared.Wear layers in case the testing center is too hot or too cold– that way you can adjust to whatever temperatures the center throws at you.  Also, Arriveat leastthirty minutes early in order to ensure you’re there on time and have all of your paperwork filled out.

6.Bring what you need, nothing more.There are many things you cannot bring into the test center, so don’t bring it period.

The GRE requires ID.  Bring it.

Cell phones, electronic watches, and basically any electronic equipment are not permitted in the test center.  When in doubt, just leave it in the car.

Food and drink aren’t allowed in the room itself, but you can probably have some in your bag to access during the scheduled breaks.  Your personal belongings will be stowed outside of the testing area.


7. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Move slowly, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.You should plan to be at the testing center for roughly four and a half hours.  That’s a long time, and most of it will be spent taking the GRE.  Don’t take forever to answer each question, but don’t race through them either.  Budget your time and pace yourself.

8. Be a proactive test-taker.If a question is taking too long to figure out, skip it for now and move on to the next one.  You can always come back to it later. If something is wrong with your computer, raise your hand and an administrator will help you. When there are problems, find a way to fix them that is within the bounds of the test center’s rules.  Don’t have a stiff upper lip if you don’t have to.

9. Use what you have.Scratch paper, a calculator, and a pencil.  That’s essentially what you will have.  Use them.  You can replenish your scratch paper at the breaks, so don’t worry about running out.  If you can answer a question faster by using a calculator, then use it.  No one will see what you write on your scratch paper, so there’s no need to show your work by hand if you don’t have to.  Plan your essays using the paper you have.  Make notes to yourself.  Use what you have to the best of your ability.

10. Relax!Yes, this is a large test, and yes, it is difficult, but if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been studying and practicing like crazy.  You’re hoping to go to graduate school, which means you probably generally get good grades.  You’re smart, you know what you’re doing, and you can handle the GRE.

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