9 Essentials for GRE Test Prep and Mastery
The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test is a must-take for anyone who wants to further his education beyond the undergraduate level. (And let’s face it, these days, the more education you have, the better!) Though it takes just 3 hours and 45 minutes of your life (3 hours and 10 minutes if you’re taking a subject-specific exam), it can feel like an eternity without adequate preparation. Here are 9 Essentials for GRE Test Prep and Mastery. Try them out and let us know how they work for you.
1. Put yourself through the English wringer.
The analytical section of the exam focuses on two key written scenarios, asking you to critique an argument (“the argument task”) and write an essay on a pool of topics that are provided for you (“the issue task”). You’ll have 30 minutes to tackle each one and another 30 minutes for the experimental section, which serves as a testing ground for future issue and argument task questions and doesn’t count against you. (You won’t know which is experimental, so try hard.) Each of these sections demand strong writing and communication skills. If you love English and have a major centered toward the liberal arts, then you’ll already be in rigorous upper-level courses on the subject. If you don’t, get ready. It may not be what you want to do, but it’s the best preparation for this section of the GRE that you could possibly have. Start now, so when test day arrives, you’ll be ready.
2. Give it 60 days.
GRE tests should not be taken lightly. You may have gotten to where you are with a lot of studying and hard work, but these exams are cumulative, and a lot to take in during one chunk of time. You’ll want to get used to the formatting of the test, the types of questions asked, and the pacing that is involved in a timed testing environment. Don’t assume that because you had a 3.25 GPA you’re ready. Best to give it at least 60 days, and use that entire length of time to prepare for different aspects of the test.
3. Find extra time for quantitative prep.
The quantitative section covers math and reading skills, two areas that can be particularly challenging for the average individual. It’s no wonder. In a fast-paced environment where we’ve become so dependent on technology, attention to detail is something easily taken for granted. Be aware of the pitfalls ahead of time, and give yourself more time to reacquaint yourself with math concepts.
4. Feed off others.
Ask fellow classmates to join you for a study group. Search for private tutors or group courses in your area. Collaborative study efforts are far more beneficial than you think, even if you’re the most introverted person on campus. By joining forces, you can feed off the knowledge of others, and maybe even help someone else with a problem they’re having, and that is good karma for you!
NOTE: If you do get caught up in the group study environment, or if you are taking a prep class, make sure that you are “fake testing” regularly. You don’t want the actual test day to be a culture shock, so get used to it by taking a couple every week. Don’t let your group, whatever form it takes, become a socially driven gab session.
5. Balance your time.
We’ve already discussed giving yourself enough GRE test prep time, but what about mastery? That comes with earning a good score, which means you have to perform. Since GRE is a timed test, that means performing well is as dependent on using the clock wisely as it is on what you know. Don’t rush yourself, but don’t spend too long on any one question either. Read each question carefully, and know what type of answer you’re looking for before you ever get to the responses. This will cut down on reading time without sacrificing your score on multiple choice questions. If you do get stumped, come back to the little troublemaker later.
6. Guess smart.
Guessing is good so long as you’re doing it right. You don’t want to randomly answer questions, but if you’ve done your homework, you won’t have to. That doesn’t mean you have to know the answer to every question, but it does mean you should be knowledgeable enough to safely eliminate some wrong answers. Any time you can eliminate incorrect answer choices, you improve your guess’s chances of being correct.
7. Stay the course.
The GRE is “smart,” and can tell when you’re trying to fool it with a wrong answer here and a lucky guess there. It adjusts its level of difficulty to you in much the same way the GMAT does. So don’t assume that if you miss a question you are cooked. If you feel like you’ve missed a couple, don’t agonize. Stop thinking about a plummeting score and focus instead on the next question. In other words, stay the course even when you feel yourself take a wrong turn.
8. Answer with certainty.
Sure, it’s okay to pass and then come back to a question you’re not sure about. Just don’t mark an answer and then think you’ll have an opportunity to change it. Again, the GRE is an adaptive test, meaning that future questions adapt based on the right (or wrong) answers you’ve given. Once you’ve answered it, you’ve answered it. Be deliberate when you mark an answer.
9. Make test day the best day.
Test day comes with its own set of pressures, so it’s important that you arrive on time and undistracted. You may want to do a test run if you’re not familiar with the location. Get comfortable with the parking and with the actual site location. Wear attire that makes you feel good about yourself and comfortable in your own skin. You may even want to listen to a relaxation clip or watch a video prior to leaving your apartment, dorm room or house. Bottom line: do what you have to to not be intimidated. It’s what you’ve been preparing for your entire college career. You got this.
What are some tips that helped you on the GRE? Share your recommendations in our comments section!