Hacks for a Better Score on that GRE – GRE Test Tips

Posted: May 03, 2017

Hacks for a Better Score on that GRE – GRE Test Tips

Getting into graduate school requires lots of “hoops” to jump through. The applications, the personal statements, the transcripts, the recommendations, and on and on. Unless you are applying for a professional program, such as law or medicine (they have their own exams), you will probably be required to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). It’s four hours of jam-packed fun in front of a computer, taking a test that will assess your general verbal, analytical, writing, and quantitative skills.

GRE Test Preparation Tips

The test designers say that there is really no way to study for the GRE – it’s a test of cumulative knowledge and skills. Just register, pay the fee and drop on by the testing site at the appointed time and day. Others, however, say that there are a number of ways to prepare to get a higher score. If that could be true, what have you got to lose?

Here are some GRE test-taking tips that might help you blow it “out of the water.”

  1. Know the Test

There are three sections to the GRE (and they are timed):

  • Verbal: These are two 30-minute long tests. You will be tested on vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension. You’ve seen these before. You’ll be asked for synonyms or antonyms of words, or you may be given a sentence with a vocabulary word underlined and then choose the best meaning. The grammar part will include competing sentences with the grammatically correct portion or choosing which of four sentences is grammatically correct. For the reading part, you will be given a passage and then asked questions – many of them involve making inferences or deciphering meaning.
  • Quantitative: As you might have guessed, this is the mat part. There are two 35-minute tests that begin with arithmetic and go through algebra, geometry, and some data analysis. When the entire test was revised in 2011, the new policy became to allow calculators, so have at it. There will be word problems, but the math skills are pretty much middle and early high school levels.
  • Analytical Writing: Again, two timed sections of 30-minutes each. You have to write two essays. One will be in support of your opinion on an issue; the other gives you an argument on something and asks you to evaluate it. You’ll be graded on structure and logical flow, use of transitions, and that pesky grammar and punctuation. One of the best tips for GR test prep, if you have concerns about your writing skills, is to bone up on that grammar. The score on these essays is holistic, but if the reader is wading through lots of grammar and punctuation errors, s/he will certainly miss the important points you may be making.

Here are a few important GRE test tips

  • You will be taking the test via computer, and there is a reason that goes beyond just easy scoring. The beginnings of each test (except the essays) start with easy questions. If you get these right, the computer will then begin to generate harder ones. You do want to hit those harder ones because they bring up your score. This is one of the most important GRE test-taking tips you can have. Carefully work through those easy ones so that you can get to the harder ones quickly.
  • Be careful on the easy beginning questions. Take your time and get them right, so that you get to the harder ones.
  • When the test was revised in 2011, it was decided that students can skip questions and go back to them at the end. This is a good strategy to use. You want to answer as many questions as possible, so it just makes sense to go through an entire testing section and skip those that you want to go back and think about more.
  • Get on the ETS website. You’ll get a good intro to the format of the test and how the user interface works.  (you will also schedule your test date here).
  1. Prep Tips

How you choose to review is up to you. If you’re basically a loner, there are study guides (on- and offline) as well as prep books, just like the ones for the SAT and ACT.

If you prefer company in your misery, you can join a GRE prep class – they’re all over the country. Just do a Google search and you will find a bunch. There are also online classes, thanks to new technology, with an instructor and classmates.

ETS also offers a free prep program, through its PowerPrep Software. You can download it from the ETS site. Besides review sessions, there are two practice tests. Take one at the beginning and the second one at the end to see if you have improved enough. And if you haven’t? Go to one of the other options for more study. These might include a prep class or more individual study. But the practice tests will tell you where your weaknesses are, and you can focus on those.

  1. Sleep, Glorious Sleep – One of the More Important GRE Test Preparation Tips

College students don’t sleep – it’s a fact. There is just too much to do to waste time on that pillow except maybe weekend mornings. But there is a definite relationship between sleep and memory. For the two weeks before the GRE, as you begin to really review in earnest, skip those parties and late night video game contests and get more sleep. It’s only temporary, after all, and you can go back to your partying habits afterward. This is a small sacrifice for a larger, more important goal.

  1. Vocabulary – Another of Many Important GRE Test Preparation Tips

Vocabulary does not just appear on that one part of the verbal test. It’s also indirectly a part of the reading comprehension test, and it will figure into the GRE scoring of your essays.

Some study guides have lists of up to 3500 words. Go through that list, cross out the ones you know and go back and choose 5-10 words every couple of days. Find ways to remember them, like associating some kind of visual in your head. The larger your vocabulary on test day, the better off you will be.

  1. Write Practice Essays

There is no lack of issues facing society. Pick a couple and write some opinion essays. This will give you good practice in organizing your thoughts. And turn off autocorrect while you do this – there won’t be any such feature during the real thing. Turn it back on after you finish and figure out where your most common grammar and/or punctuation errors are. Then, bone up on those rules.

  1. Review the Math Basics

Yes, you will have the use of a calculator, but plugging the numbers in correctly can be an issue. Do you know how to figure per cents, for example? Go back and review if you can’t remember. Practice high school word problems in algebra and geometry. If your review guides are pointing to math issues, go back and re-learn. You don’t want to screw up because you can’t remember how to change fractions or decimals into per cents or vice versa.

  1. GRE Test Day Tips

The day has finally arrived. If you have been smart, you will have gotten a good night’s sleep for several nights before this day. Being tired (or hung over) on the day of the test is a recipe for certain disaster.

  • Arrive early. Getting there at the last minute adds additional stress that you do not need on this day.
  • Follow instructions. They are not hard, but it is easy to trip up. Once you are checked in and are assigned to a computer, read each instruction carefully, so that you are correctly registered in the system.
  • Be mindful of the times you are allotted for each section. These will be clearly displayed at the beginning, and, in many situations, there will be a running countdown on the computer itself. If not, set one on your phone. Once you click that “start” button, the questions begin, and there is no turning back.
  • Go through and answer those questions you are absolutely sure about. Remember, you can go back to those that are unanswered.
  • As you go back through those questions about which you are unsure, remember your test-taking tips from all those years of standardized tests. Eliminate the answer options that you know are not right. Narrow the field down, and pick the one you think is right. Your first choice is usually right. Stop second-guessing and move on – you have a time limit.

There you have it. These are important tips for your preparations to get yourself ready for the GRE, so don’t believe it when anyone says there’s no way to study or prepare for it. Yes, you have a body of accumulated knowledge and skills, but some of them may be in the dark recesses of that brain. Bring them up, take the practice tests, get yourself into a prep group if that will be helpful, identify your weaknesses and focus on those. There is a lot riding on your GRE score, because many grad programs set it as a priority in their admissions decisions. Why risk this factor when you can take very specific steps that will get you a better score? Yes, it will require some work and some preparation. In the end, though, your sacrifice will be minor compared to that acceptance letter.