If you have your sights set on a dream graduate school, you must also have a target GRE score to get you in. When taking a big and important test like the GRE, preparation is crucial to perform well. The GRE has big implications for your future, so you do not want to leave your score up to chance. These tips can be applied to any GRE prep plan to improve confidence and test outcomes.
Know what you are walking in to on exam day
When prepping for the GRE all students immediately dial in on content review and practice, which is very important and will be the majority of your prep, but not the full picture. You will also want to familiarize yourself with the exam itself and the administrative procedures.
Are you familiar with the online format of the GRE? Do you know what format questions they can ask? Do you have an idea of how long the test will be and what breaks you get? These are all things that will prevent you from feeling thrown off or unprepared on the day of your exam.
Some prep courses will cover this in their review, but the ETS website dos a great job of providing all the information students need as well.
Know where you are at and where your target is
If you were to sit down and take the GRE today what would you score? That is your baseline score. An easier question for most, what do you want to score? The gap between your baseline and target scores should be a guideline for your GRE prep.
Many GRE prep courses will start students off with a diagnostic test to estimate their baseline score. If you do not have a GRE prep course or book with a diagnostic exam, there are some available online for free. The ETS, Princeton Review, and Kaplan are just a few free online practice tests you can choose from.
The results of a practice test do not just give insight to an overall baseline score, but also which areas you scored well and poorly on. Knowing your weakest and strongest areas will be like a field guide to set up an individual and time-efficient GRE prep.
Mimic the conditions of the GRE
A great way to boost the effect of your prep is to include practice that mimics the conditions of the GRE. This is not only beneficial to memory but will promote comfort and confidence with the conditions of exam day.
The GRE is online, so an important component to include in prep is computer-based practice. If you are prepping with an online course, this is a given. If you are prepping with a tutor or self-study book, it may require a more conscious effort to incorporate, but can certainly be done.
Another important component is the time frame. The GRE is a timed and long test. It may be easier and tempting to complete that practice test in chunks, but it is highly recommended that at least once during prep, you complete a practice test following the time restrictions of the GRE. This will help you know how to manage time on exam day and work on the necessary focus for a long exam.
Review your progress throughout prep
It can be easy to chug straight through the plan you have so clearly set up, but you will want to make sure that plan is helping as much as its intended to.
If you are prepping with a tutor or prep course, performance analytics are almost always included. If you are prepping independently, the best way to track progress is through your practice material. If you determined a baseline score you can retake that test at least once during prep to see if your score is improving. You will also want to look at your weak areas and see if they specifically have improved. Do not forget to review your strengths and make sure you are maintaining your performance there.
Doing this allows you to pivot your plan if things are not going as you expected. Observing these changes allows you to save precious time following a plan that is not fully benefitting you. Being aware of your progress and flexible to change can make a huge difference in the outcome of your prep.
Have a plan for right before the exam
Surely, you have at least a month out from the exam planned to a tee, but how exactly will you spend those few hours before the test?
Along with what material you want to review in that time, you will want to plan ahead to ensure things go as smoothly as possible and reduce any before-test-anxiety. Make sure anything you need for the test is laid out, set any necessary alarms, have an idea of a morning routine, and so on.
This will help you sit down for your test cool, calm, and collected, ready to perform the best you can.
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