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4 Tips for Nailing the GRE

Written by Teresa Te on July 20, 2017

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people take the Graduate Record Exam, also known as the GRE, so that graduate schools around the country can grade applications on their knowledge and preparedness for rigorous programs. If you’re one of the people taking the test this year, you need to make sure you’re as prepared as you can possibly be.

4 Tips for Acing the GRE

Everyone who has attended an undergraduate college or university remembers taking the SAT when they were in high school. The best way to think about the GRE is as the SAT 2.0, or the SAT’s closely related cousin. It’s simply the standardized test that graduate schools use to evaluate applicants. Your GRE score is something graduate colleges and universities will look at in addition to your college GPA, resume, references, and application.

You don’t want to let the prospect of taking the GRE overwhelm you, but you certainly shouldn’t take it lightly. Here are some tips that will help you pass with flying colors:

1. Understand the Format

While a lot of people equate the GRE with the SAT, it’s really entirely different – both in substance and structure. The GRE consists of three main sections: the Analytical Writing Section, the Verbal Reasoning Section, and the Quantitative Reasoning section. The test lasts for 3 hours and 45 minutes and composite scores range from 260 to 340 for the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and 0 to 6 for the Analytical Writing section.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the GRE is that it’s a computer-adaptive test. The better you perform on the first sections, the harder the next set of questions will be. Understanding this format and structure will help you develop a better test-taking strategy.

2. Develop a Study Plan

Everyone learns differently. You may be the sort of person who can pore over study materials for four hours straight, or you could be someone who can only stand quick 30-minute bursts before needing a break. You might be a visual learning, or you could be a verbal learner. We all have our own unique preferences.

The key for you is to understand your personality and preferences and develop a study plan that allows you to be successful within these constraints. If you start far enough in advance, you shouldn’t have any trouble being prepared.

3. Take a Prep Course

Taking the GRE cold isn’t a good idea. Even if you’ve purchased a couple of workbooks and done some online exercises, you probably aren’t ready to tackle the exam quite yet. Almost everyone in graduate school admissions agrees that GRE prep courses and classes are the way to go. Courses, like this one from Manhattan Elite Prep, not only prepare you for the content, but they also explain the test format, recent changes, and test-taking strategies and techniques for raising your score.

4. Take the Test Multiple Times

You can take the test once every 21 days and up to five times within any 12-month period. While you do have to pay the registration fee every time, there’s no other reason not to take the test multiple times. The more you take the test, the more familiar you’ll be with the format and content. As a result, you’re likely to see your scores increase.

5. Take Preparation Seriously

Nobody likes studying – especially when you’re preparing to graduate from undergrad and all of your friends are trading in their backpacks and student loans for briefcases and paychecks. But if graduate school is really on your radar, then the GRE is an important requirement that will – to a degree – determine where you’ll continue your studies. Make sure you take the preparation seriously.