Six Helpful Tips for Properly Preparing for the GRE

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The GRE General Test is a requirement for an ever-increasing amount of competitive graduate programs as it is not specifically designed for any individual field of study. It is meant to evaluate executive functioning skills that are responsible for critical thinking, data analysis and problem solving, which are transferable to almost all academic and professional disciplines. If you want to perform well on the GRE, it is important to be organized and decisive. Understanding your personal strengths and weaknesses will allow you to build a study plan that will effectively yield improvement on weaker areas while better allocating that precious time by not focusing too much on areas of strength. Below you will find six strategies we have compiled to help you execute an efficient and effective GRE preparation plan.

  1. Rely on your instincts
    It is common to encounter the problem of filtering out non-plausible answers, but still facing the decision of choosing the correct answer out of multiple options. Many students will obsess over the fact that there are multiple answers that could be correct and have it inversely impact their overall performance due to losing time and mental capacity. Even though you have gone through every step you practiced when it comes to analysis, evaluation and critical thinking, you still have only whittled it down to 2 possible answers. With the GRE having time constraints, it is important to trust your gut and go with intuition. It may be seen as a “guess”, but if you prepared thoroughly and put in the practice, your instincts will often automatically point you in the correct direction saving time and energy for some of the tough decisions that need to be made during the GRE. Making an educational guess through intuition is a critical skill to develop in order to succeed on the GRE. The subconscious mind is powerful and is trained during the preparation process, so relying on your gut will be an advantageous option when under stress on exam day.

  2. Feed your brain through non-fiction reading
    Making sure to have a well-balanced routine of reading material to ensure your brain and GRE skills stay healthy. Preparation for the GRE is an exhausting process that requires supplemental non-fiction reading activities to bring a balance to the study sessions. It is well known that GRE takers who score in the top percentiles on the verbal section tend to be from philosophical or liberal arts backgrounds where the academic workload consists of reading and analyzing a plethora of texts and essays. Putting in the effort to read about topics that are outside of your primary interests will pay off in the long run as it drastically improves reading speed and comprehension. Everyone knows that the GRE demands a strong and broad vocabulary, which many students achieve by studying lists and definitions. This is simply a tedious and monotonous experience that can be lightened through reading and allow for your brain to discover more than just the words on the pages. Give yourself an advantage and find a good reading list for non-fiction analytical texts to implement into your preparation strategy.

  3. Schedule your self-study sessions and stick to them.
    It is always asked how long a student needs to study to achieve a certain score on the GRE, but truth be told, there is not a universal answer to this question. The amount of time you need to spend on your preparation comes down to various factors including learning style, schedule and motivation. Of course, the more time you have the better, but the critical factor to the preparation process is to create a suitable plan and adhere to the schedule as strictly as possible. The ability to customize the curriculum you choose to use is dependent on your academic background, reading skills and overall understanding of how you function best in such an environment. It is important not to underestimate the time it takes to master certain aspects of the GRE by being overconfident in your experience with the topics at hand. On the other hand, it is equally important to ensure that your preparation program is realistic, and the daily time allocation can be stuck to. No matter how confident you feel about your skills on a particular topic, be sure to include all sections in your plan (although the amount of time spent on each topic should be reflect your strengths and weaknesses). Adhering to a well-rounded and thought-out preparation structure is a key ingredient to successfully conquering the GRE.

  4. Incorporate regular practice tests
    Overcoming the stress that is inevitably incorporated in both the GRE preparation process and on exam day can be achieved through routinely putting yourself through simulated full-length practice tests. Many students have not had to endure a 3 hour and 45 minute test and it is a task that should not be overlooked. While it is fine to tackle each section separately during your study time, getting through the entire exam in one sitting is critical to proper preparation. Stamina will most likely be an issue during the first few rounds, but going in with the mindset that some aspect of your test taking skills will improve with each completed practice test is essential to keeping your mind at ease. Adhering to the time restrictions and trying to replicate test settings and atmosphere can go a long way to helping you feel more confident and relaxed on test day. If your brain gets used to the feeling of sitting down for the full GRE in settings as similar to the actual way the GRE is administered, then you will greatly increase your chances of scoring as high as possible.

  5. Identify areas of weakness
    It is safe to assume that the sections of the GRE that pose the biggest challenge are also the areas you are least motivated to dive into. Whether you have a background that caters toward reading and analyzing texts or one that relates to the quantitative section of the exam through arithmetic, geometry and algebra, the other side of the coin will most likely prove to be more excruciating to prepare properly for and master. One way to combat this is to closely identify your areas of weakness and slowly improve upon them through tedious curriculum planning and scheduling. This will also help to balance your study content and avoid any type of burnout even though more time will be allocated to those topics which you are not so keen on pursuing. Although it may be difficult to maintain focus in the early stages of the study process, pushing through and enjoying the improvement over time will ease the burden. The challenging circumstances of trying to grasp topics which are outside of your comfort zone will translate into a more confident, well-rounded performance on the GRE.

  6. Track your improvement
    Setting intermittent goals and milestones throughout any process is a surefire way of maintaining motivation. With the GRE being a daunting undertaking, small victories while preparing can have a large impact on a attaining a strong mental state during the exam. Not only does setting benchmarks and tracking progress help with your mental state, but it also sheds light on weak areas that are not improving as quickly as planned allowing you to tweak your curriculum to reflect that. It is equally important to set criteria to the system you are using to track your progress. Checking in on progress in frequent increments will increase the volume of self-evaluation, which in turn will optimize the method you are implementing for the study period. Working out negative habits and ineffective methods of acquiring and storing information streamlines the process and will have you more well-equipped for your exam.

Looking at the GRE as more than just an exam to get into a graduate program will help motivate you to prepare thoroughly while developing lifelong skills that will be beneficial both during subsequent studies and a future career. Knowing yourself and putting yourself in an environment that is conducive to your learning style will allow you to unlock your full potential. It is no simple task to focus 100% of your attention to such a daunting task, but the GRE is one of the most widely recognized admissions exams and attaining a score in the top percentiles is an achievement that will be permanent on your record. If you have a less than desirable GPA or course load on your application, an elite GRE score can push your application toward admission into your target program. It is also useful for potential future employers as they can view your GRE score as a reflection of the skills that you possess and utilized to get there. Implementing the strategies mentioned in this article will take you one step closer to not only improving your GRE score, but also developing useful skills for many aspects of both personal and professional environments.

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