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Preparing for the GRE - How to Do Well on the GRE


GRE Success Step One.  The GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, is one of the more standard components of your graduate school application.  As such, it should be relatively easy to prepare for the GRE and master it since you have an idea what they're looking for.  Even if they do make major changes to the exam, which they do every now and then, it is basically a test of your academic abilities.  Sure, there may be other elements involved which they're testing, but to succeed, the main duty for you is to study and prepare for it well.  Therefore, the first step in GRE success is to understand the layout and the types of questions that you will be asked and simply devote a block of your time to studying it.  Many people don't devote enough time, while other people devote too much time.  Do plan ahead to determine how well you want to do on the exam and proportion your time accordingly.  Applying to graduate school is a balancing act between all the volunteering and other extracurricular activities that you must accomplish.  Therefore, it may be just as harmful to devote too much time to the GRE as too little.  

GRE Success Step Two.  Do a dry run of the test initially at the beginning when you just start to study for the GRE, and also maybe two or three weeks before the exam.  The initial practice test will give you an idea where you will need to focus your energies on.  The second dry run will give you an idea of any weaknesses that you must concentrate and improve on before the real test.  Try to time yourself and give yourself only the amount of time stipulated for each section because only then will you understand the time constraints.

GRE Success Step Three.  Study each subsection as you would a separate course in school.  You must perfect each section separately.  The best way to do this is to devote a reasonable block of time to one section, and then some time to another section, and so on.  You don't want to be studying two minutes on one subject, and another two minutes on another because they you would not have focused well.  At the same time, it would be good to rotate subjects so that you don't bore yourself from studying.

GRE Success Step Four.  Although memorization of some concepts is beneficial, you will likely benefit the most by practicing, practicing, and practicing.  You will improve whatever skill you are honing, and eventually speed up that skill.  Some people advocate taking certain test preparation courses, and if that is your style of learning, by all means do so.  However, you may do just as well by buying books and studying on your own.  A list of GRE books is listed here.

GRE Success Step Five.  Check what types of scores the graduate schools of your choice have for their entering class.  You should try to aim to be above the average for the schools that you are interested in.  If you are below average, you could still consider applying, but your chances would be diminished.

GRE Success Step Six.   Try to do well the first time.  Try not to have the mentality that if you don't do well, you will simply retake it.  It's a waste of time and money even if you do happen to do slightly better the second time.  Aim to do well the first time.

Good luck! 


Last reviewed May 21, 2011



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