If you are reading this, it means you’re either thinking about Graduate school or you are just looking for ways to prepare for your scheduled GRE. For people who aren’t familiar with the GRE, it is a 4 hour computer-based test, composed of two essay questions, a verbal and quantitative sections, and an experimental (non-graded) verbal and quantitative sections. There are always inquiries about the best way to approach this test. Truthfully not every style of studying works for everybody, but the following tips can definitely help improve your score.
Tip #1: Space out the studying
If you are one of those rare students who can cram 3 days before a standardized test, and still get a high score, then this blog is not for you. However, if standardized tests are not your forte, then I would suggest studying 3-4 months before your scheduled GRE date. The sheer number of vocabulary words, strategies and algebra contents are too overwhelming to cover in just a short period of time. With 3-4 months to prepare, you can dedicate 2 hours a day, 4-5 days a week to go over the materials.
Tip #2: Do not neglect any section during your daily practice
Let’s forget about the essay for now. You are left with the verbal and the quantitative sections. This means within that daily 2 hour study session (or longer), you have to cover verbal content as well as the quantitative content.
The first couple times I took the test I ended up spending too much time in one section and neglecting the others. That method of studying was reflected in my result. No matter how confident you are in your verbal or quantitative reasoning skills, do not neglect any section.
Tip #3: Learn how to take the test
It may be a surprise to you but you can improve your score if you learn how to take the GRE. All the prep books now have a plethora of strategies dedicated to each section of the test. So much of the anxiety of taking the GRE comes from the fact that it is timed. The strategies from the books teach you how to efficiently approach the questions even if you do not know the answer. By learning various tactics, you will have enough time to give every single question some thought. This was an impossible feat for me the first time I took the test, but after employing the strategies, the second time around was more manageable.
Tip #4: Practice writing essays every two weeks
The GRE consists of two kinds of writing task; The first one requires you to analyze an issue. You will state whether you agree or disagree with the issue, and then substantiate your argument. The second essay requires you to evaluate the logical soundness of an argument. Some people are naturally gifted writers and can beautifully express themselves in long paragraphs within a short period of time. If you don’t fit in that category, then you have to regularly practice using the essay formula from the GRE books. Practice is the only way you will get better. So practice; practice writing common GRE essay topics. Read upon issues such as health-care, social-economic disparity and changes needed in high school and college curriculum because you might encounter them during the test. During those months of preparation, make a habit of analyzing the argument made by politicians, celebrities, or anyone on TV. You only have 25 minutes to write an essay, so by regularly practicing as I mentioned above, you will increase your confidence with the writing task of the GRE.
Tips #5 Increase your vocabulary
Needless to say you will have to learn new words for the GRE. All the prep books now come with a list of words that are repeatedly used in the GRE over the years. Get to know that list over the course of your preparation. Commit to a weekly number of new words to study. Say your target number is around 450 words, using the schedule I suggested, you will have to learn 28 words every week for the next four months to get to your desired target. It takes a lot of discipline to commit to this schedule, but if you start your preparation even earlier than 4 months, your work load will be considerably less. You will also notice a lot of synonymous words as you go through the list. Make sure you group them so it’s easier to review.
Tip #6 Work on your endurance
The GRE is very exhausting. Sitting in front of a computer for 4 hours and all the while trying to organize your thought to answer questions in a timely manner, drains you physically and mentally. In order to increase your endurance you have to practice taking the test. The company ETS has a software you can download that simulates the test taking experience. Taking this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis will not only increase your endurance but also give you feedback on where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you take this practice test at least 5 times, it will be easier to go through the real one.
The highest you can score on the essay, verbal and quantitative sections are 6, 170,170 respectively. You do not have to be great at math to score well in the quantitative section, but it will be worthwhile to refresh on the basic geometrical and algebraic concepts. I did not emphasize on which books to buy because I did not have to buy one. Any public library will have a recent version of a GRE book which you can borrow for free. The biggest takeaway from this blog is to practice taking the test and to start practicing early, so set your target score and start studying.