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A Guide To Beginning Your GRE Preparation

How is the GRE Structured?

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test is a computer-delivered test that features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do — and the skills you need to succeed — in today’s demanding graduate school programs, including business and law. The test-taker friendly design lets you skip questions within a section, go back and change answers and have the flexibility to choose which questions within a section you want to answer first. Get a look at the structure of the GRE General Test.

The GRE Test measures your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills — skills that have been developed over a long period of time and are not related to a specific field of study but are important for all. Here’s a look at content covered in the three test sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning.

Sections of the GRE:

The overall testing time for the GRE General Test is about three hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections with a 10-minute break following the third section. The test follows the following structure:

  • Analytical Writing – Essay 1 (30 minutes)
  • Analytical Writing – Essay 2 (30 minutes)
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • Verbal (30 min) or Quantitative (35 min) or Experimental
  • Verbal (30 min) or Quantitative (35 min) or Experimental
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • Verbal (30 min) or Quantitative (35 min) or Experimental
  • Verbal (30 min) or Quantitative (35 min) or Experimental
  • Verbal (30 min) or Quantitative (35 min) or Experimental

An unidentified unscored (Experimental) section that does not count toward your score may be included and may appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section. Questions in the unscored section are being tried out either for possible use in future tests or to ensure that scores on new editions of the test are comparable to scores from earlier editions. 

1. Analytical Writing Section

The Analytical Writing section measures your ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively examine claims and accompanying evidence, support ideas with relevant reasons and examples that sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion and control the elements of standard written English. The Analytical Writing section requires you to provide focused responses based on the tasks presented, so you can accurately demonstrate your skill in directly responding to a task.

Number of Sections: One section with two separately timed tasks

Number of Questions: One “Analyze an Issue” task and one “Analyze an Argument” task

Allotted Time: 30 minutes per task

The “Issue” essay section will contain two prompts, of which you will choose one. Each will be a declarative statement, such as “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” Your task is to agree or disagree with the statement. You must defend your point of view using reasoning and examples. Technically, grammar and spelling are not supposed to count, but they do.

The “Argument” essay section contains only one prompt. You will be given a short paragraph that takes a position. Your task will be to identify whether the argument is sound, and how it could be improved.

2. Verbal Reasoning Section

The Verbal Reasoning section measures your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse; reason from incomplete data; identify the author’s assumptions and/or perspective; understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author’s intent: select important points; distinguish major from minor or irrelevant points; summarize text; understand the structure of a text; understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts and understand relationships among words and among concepts.

Number of Sections: Two sections

Number of Questions: 20 questions per section

Allotted Time: 30 minutes per section

There are three categories of Verbal questions:

1. Reading Comprehension – A typical Verbal section will contain 10 RC questions, based on short passages that contain from 100-450 words. The paragraphs could be about the humanities, history, science, or social science.

2. Text Completion – You will be presented with a sentence or paragraph with one, two, or three blanks. Your task will be to complete the sentence or paragraph based on not just grammar, but also the style of the surrounding language. There are typically 6 TC questions in a Verbal section.

3. Sentence Equivalence –  You will be presented with a sentence with 1 blank and 6 answers; you’ll need to find the 2 answers that fill in the blank. There will generally be 4 SE questions in a Verbal section.

3. Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models, apply basic skills and elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.

Number of Sections: Two sections

Number of Questions: 20 questions per section

Allotted Time: 35 minutes per section

The Quantitative Reasoning section includes an on-screen.

There are two kinds of Quantitative questions:

1. Problem Solving – About two thirds of a Quantitative section will be PS questions. You might be asked to find the one correct answer out of five possibilities, to find the one or more correct answers from 6 – 9 possibilities, or to enter your own answer. The topics in Problem Solving range from algebra to geometry to arithmetic to data interpretation.

2. Quantitative Comparison – The remaining third of a Quantitative section will be QC problems. In these, you will not be asked to solve an equation, but to compare two quantities and decide which one is larger (or if it is not possible to define).

How the GRE is Scored:

  • Both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE are scored in one-point increments on a scale from 130-170. Your raw score (each question counts for the same amount of points) will be converted to the final 130-170 scale.
  • The Analytical Writing section is scored by both a human rater and an ETS program known as an e-rater. Your essays are graded in half-point increments from 0-6. In case of a disagreement of more than a point, a second human rater is brought; the final score is then the average of the two human grades.

How Is Your GRE Score Calculated?

On the GRE, The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0–6 in half-point increments. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections each yield a scaled score within a range of 130 to 170 in one-point increments. You cannot score higher than 170 for either the Verbal Reasoning or the Quantitative Reasoning sections, no matter how hard you try. Similarly, it’s impossible to score lower than 130 for Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning. But you don’t receive only scaled scores; you also receive a percentile rank, which rates your performance relative to that of a large sample population of other GRE takers. Percentile scores tell graduate schools just what your scaled scores are worth. For instance, even if everyone got very high scaled scores, universities would still be able to differentiate candidates by their percentile scores.

GRE Score Scales

The GRE is composed of three distinct scored sections—the Quantitative section, the Verbal section, and the Analytical Writing section—and the scores for these three sections appear as follows:

  1.  A Quantitative score reported on a 130-170 score scale, in 1-point increments.
  2. A Verbal score reported on a 130-170 score scale, in 1-point increments.
  3. An Analytical Writing score reported on a 0-6 score scale, in half-point increments

The Quantitative Section

As outlined by ETS, the Quantitative Reasoning section “Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts…The content in these areas includes high school mathematics and statistics at a level that is generally no higher than a second course in algebra; it does not include trigonometry, calculus or other higher-level mathematics.” Your performance on the 40 total questions in the Quantitative section are used to determine a score from 130-170, with scores assigned in 1-point increments.

The Verbal Section

The test makers describe the Verbal section as, “The Verbal Reasoning measure of the GRE revised General Test assesses your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.” As with the Quantitative section, the Verbal section has its own individual scoring scale ranging from 130-170.

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing section is composed of two separate essays, an Analyze an Issue task and an Analyze an Argument task, with allotted times of 30 minutes each. As described by the test makers, “The analytical writing section tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses your ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. It does not assess specific content knowledge.”

The two GRE essays in the Analytical Writing section go through a different scoring process than Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. Each essay is read by at a trained grader and given a score from 0-6. Then the essay is scored by an e-reader, a computer program developed by ETS to measure writing proficiency based on scores in multiple areas. If the human grader’s and e-reader’s scores “closely agree” (are within a point of each other), then the average of those two scores, rounded to the nearest half-point is used as the final essay score. If they disagree, a second human grader scores the essay, and the average of the two human scores, rounded to the nearest half-point is the final essay score.

Adaptivity In Your GRE Score

Instead of adapting from question to question, the new GRE adapts only between sections: it is “section adaptive”. Everybody starts off with a medium section, and, depending on how they do, are given either an easy, medium, or hard section. Within each section, all questions contribute equally to the final score.

For instance, if you do well in the first math section, your second math section will be difficult. If you do not do well on the first math section, your second math section will be easy. As to what constitutes “well”, the GRE algorithm is a little vague. But if you only miss a few questions on a section, you will get a difficult section for your second section. There is also a medium-difficulty section for those who do moderately well.

By getting the easy section, you limit how high you can score. In other words, not doing well on the first verbal section precludes a perfect or near perfect verbal score. Likewise, getting to the difficult section ensures that you can’t score below a certain point. So let’s say I get the difficult verbal section (meaning I did well on the first verbal section) and miss every question. I would still get above a 130 (the lowest possible score) in verbal–though nobody, save for ETS, knows what my exact GRE score would be.

Types Of Scores

Top Scores

These scores will put you in the top 10% of all test takers

  • Verbal: 163 – 170
  • Quantitative: 165 – 170
  • Analytical Writing: 5.0 – 6.0
Competitive Scores

These scores will put you in a highly competitive place in admissions (top 25% of all test takers)

  • Verbal: 158 – 162
  • Quantitative: 159 – 164
  • Analytical Writing: 4.5
Average Scores

These scores put you ahead of the pack (50%+), but won’t be as advantageous when applying to highly competitive programs.

  • Verbal: 152 – 158
  • Quantitative: 153 – 158
  • Analytical Writing: 4.0
Below Average Scores

These scores may be enough to get into a wide variety of graduate programs, but will be below average compared to the testing population

  • Verbal: 151 or below
  • Quantitative: 152 or below
  • Analytical Writing: 3.5 or below

Other Information About your GRE score

  • The GRE Doesn’t Penalize for Guessing

To discourage examinees from making wild guesses, some standardized tests deduct points for wrong answers. The GRE doesn’t do this. Questions answered incorrectly count exactly the same as questions left unanswered, so you’re better off guessing than skipping.

  • The GRE Uses a Percentile-Based Scoring System

The GRE is a competitive test. Immediately after you complete the test, you receive an estimated percentile ranking based on the test-taker's scores from the previous year.

  • The GRE Allows You To Skip Questions In A Section

You can skip questions and go back to them later, time permitting, within the section you’re working on. The only thing you can’t do is go back (or forward) to a section you’re not currently working on, but within a section, you have free reign. The number of questions you can skip is unlimited.

  • You Can’t Bring Anything into the Testing Center

The testing center staff wants to ensure zero opportunities of cheating on the GRE. Because of this, you can’t take anything in with you — not even a wristwatch.

Lifetime Limit on GRE Retakes

You can take the test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days). This applies even if you cancelled your scores on a test taken previously. In total there is no limit, you can give GRE as many as times you want through out your life. You can use the best test score out of those multiple exams while applying. 

For tests taken on or after July 1, 2016, scores are reportable for five years following your test date. For example, scores for a test taken on July 3, 2020, are reportable through July 2, 2025.

Create a comprehensive GRE study plan

How much should you study for the GRE?

There’s a wide variation in the amount of time people choose to prepare for the GRE test. However, most people spend about one to three months studying a few hours a week for the GRE. This means the amount of studying for the GRE could range roughly from eight hours (studying two hours a week for four weeks) to 120 hours (studying ten hours a week for 12 weeks).

In order to figure out how long to study for the GRE, you first need to set a goal score and figure out how far you are from it. Below are estimates of approximately how many hours you need to study in order to raise your score by a certain number of points. These numbers indicate how much you need to study to raise your GRE score by that many points across BOTH sections. So, in 40 hours, you could raise your score for each section by about 2.5 points (5 points total).

  • 5 points = 40 hours
  • 10 points = 80 hours
  • 20 points = 160 hours
  • 30 points = 240 hours

These are very rough rules of thumb. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may need more or less time.

How to develop your GRE study schedule

Step 1: Make a Goal

Based on the schools and programs you’re interested in, select a goal score. Also take this time to figure out which section is more important. The more-important section is your “primary” prep section.

Step 2: Take a Complete Practice Test

Taking a full practice test will show you what your baseline score is. Analyzing your first practice test will also help you target specific weaknesses in your prep. Make note of question types you struggled with, content areas you missed, points where you ran out of time, and so on. This will help you figure out areas to focus on when you start really digging in on prep.

Step 3: Determine How Much Studying You Need to Do

Based on your goal score and your baseline, figure out how many hours you’ll need to study to reach your goal score.

Step 4: Calculate How Many Hours You’ll Need to Study Per Week

Divide the total number of hours you need to prep by the number of weeks you have until the test. So if you have 10 weeks and you need to prep for 80 hours, that’s 8 hrs/week. You can also reverse-engineer this if you haven’t registered for the test yet: divide the total number of hours you need to prep by the hours a week you can study, and that will tell you how many weeks from now you should take the test. So if you can study 10 hours a week and you need to prep for 60 hours, take the test in 6 weeks.

Step 5: Gather Prep Materials

You’ll definitely need a sizable bank of practice tests and problems. There are six official, complete GRE practice tests released by ETS, but to access two of them you need to buy the GRE Official Guide by ETS. You’ll also need material to help you review key concepts (especially math) and to help you with test strategy.

Step 6: Plan Out Your Week-by-Week Activities

Make a list of what tasks you’re going to accomplish each week. Try to keep your hours studied per week pretty consistent, although you can vary a little bit if you need to for scheduling reasons.

Sample 1-month GRE study plan

This plan is an intense 20 hr/week plan. With 20 hours/week, you can actually make some substantive gains in your foundational understanding of your primary section. Again, you can divide up the 20 hrs/week how you want, just so long as you can complete self-contained tasks like practice tests in one session.

This plan aims for about a 6/7 point increase on your primary section, and a 3/4 point increase on your secondary section.

Week 1
  • Take a complete practice test on PowerPrep to set your baseline – 3.5 hrs
  • Debrief complete test – 1.5 hrs
  • Review test format – 1.5 hrs
  • Content review, primary section – 8 hrs
  • Complete one primary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 4 hrs
Week 2
  • Content review, primary section – 8 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 2 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 5 hrs
  • Take another complete practice test – 3.5 hours
  • Debrief complete test – 1.5 hrs
Week 3
  • Content review, primary section – 4 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 4 hrs
  • Complete one primary test section and debrief, 1.5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 3 hrs
  • Complete secondary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, secondary section – 1 hr
  • Take final PowerPrep test, focusing on strategy – 3.5 hrs
  • Complete debrief of test – 1.5 hrs
Week 4
  1. Strategy review, primary section – 6 hrs
  2. Content review, primary section (brush-up any weak spots) – 2.5 hrs
  3. Complete primary test section and debrief – 1.5 hours
  4. Strategy review, secondary section – 5 hrs
  5. Content review, secondary section (brush-up any weak spots) – 1.5 hrs
  6. Complete secondary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  7. Practice analytical writing outlines – 2 hrs
  8. Take the test!

Sample 3-month GRE study plan

This plan requires a mid-sized commitment of 7.5 hours a week (or 30 hours a month) for a sizable 12-point gain. But with three months to prep, this schedule is much less grueling than the 10-point, 1-month plan. This plan aims for about 7-8 points of improvement in your primary section and 4-5 in your secondary.

Month 1

The first month focuses primarily on establishing your baseline, reviewing test format, and doing content review.

Week 1:
  • Take a complete practice test to set your baseline – 3.5 hrs with break
  • Debrief complete test – 1.5 hrs
  • Review test format – 1.5 hrs
  • Content review, primary section – 1 hr
Week 2:
  • Content review, primary section – 5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 2.5 hrs
Week 3:
  • Content review, primary section – 5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 2.5 hrs
Week 4:
  • Content review, primary section – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 1 hr
  • Complete practice test –  3.5 hrs
  • Debrief complete test – 1.5 hrs

Month 2

In the second month, you’ll start to shift your focus to strategy review.

Week 1:
  • Content review, primary section – 5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 2.5 hrs
Week 2:
  • Content review, primary section – 2.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 1.5 hrs
  • Complete one primary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 2 hrs
Week 3:
  • Content review, primary section – 1.5 hrs
  • Complete last PowerPrep practice test – 3.5 hrs
  • Debrief complete test – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, secondary section – 1 hr
Week 4:
  • Content review, secondary section – 2 hrs
  • Strategy review, secondary section – 2 hrs
  • Content review, primary section – 1 hr
  • Strategy review, primary section – 2.5 hrs

Month 3

The final month focuses mostly on strategy review with some time for Analytical Writing review.

Week 1:
  • Complete one secondary section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Content review, secondary section – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, secondary section –  2 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 2.5 hrs
Week 2:
  • Complete practice test – 3.5 hrs
  • Debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 2.5 hrs
Week 3:
  • Complete one primary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 3 hrs
  • Analytical writing practice – 1 hr
  • Strategy review, secondary section – 2 hr
Week 4:
  • Analytical writing practice – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, secondary section – 1 hr
  • Complete one secondary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Strategy review, primary section – 1 hr
  • Complete one primary test section and debrief – 1.5 hrs
  • Any last tweaks – Can use for more Analytical Writing prep, or brushing up on anything you’d like to refresh
  • before the test – 1 hr
  • Take the test!

How to recover from spending too much time on one GRE question

If you did take too long on a particular question, remember:

  • Don’t worry, you can bounce back!
  • Resist the impulse to accelerate. This can lead to multiple errors in a row.
  • Know when to let go. Only sacrifice a question when truly needed, according to a more orderly time
  • management strategy of using benchmark of time vs question number.
  • Don’t buy into the myth that every question needs to be answered under a certain time.

GRE while balancing a career

Through this GRE Preparation Guide, we’ll guide you to the plethora of things you can do to balance your GRE test prep with your full-time job.

1. Start early.

Getting an early start is always important for GRE prep since the test format is new to pretty much everybody. However, if you’re working full-time, getting an early start is even more important. After evaluating the following, How long will it take you to fit in sufficient practice? then step back and look at your schedule. Taking a GRE diagnostic early on is also important—where are you now, and how far do you have to go to reach your dream score?

2. Register early too.

Weekend GRE test dates can be like gold dust if you don’t hop online and lock down your test slot early enough. If you can avoid taking a day off work to take the test (and the accompanying stress), you’ll be more likely to show off your full potential.

3. Identify “dead” time.

Friend late for drinks? Waiting in the dentist chair? While it’s not officially blocked out in your calendar, these moments can provide the perfect opportunity to get extra studying in and can really add up. Make sure you have sufficient materials on you (or your phone) to prep for the GRE exam at all times.

4. Make flashcards.

Flashcards are indispensable! This is partly because they’re so useful for “dead” time, and partly because you’re going to have to learn a lot of complicated vocab before test day.  There are a variety of great apps you can use now to help you prep—paper-free.

5. Carve out time for practice tests.

Lessons alone just won’t cut it. To make it through the almost-four-hour test, you’ll need to have taken and evaluated a significant number of practice tests. If you can do one a week, that’s great. If you can’t, evaluate how long it would take you to complete ten and schedule your exam date from there.

6. Time your vacations right.

Using your vacation time to study intensively for the GRE can be a useful trade-off. If you have vacation days left, think about taking some four-day weeks or shorter days to prep for the exam.

Strategies to follow during your GRE studies

Strategic guessing

When you read a question and you’re very unsure of the correct answer, don’t panic. Instead, use process of elimination to eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can. Even if you can’t identify the correct answer with certainty this way, you’ll increase your odds of guessing correctly with every answer choice you eliminate.

There are times on the GRE where it makes sense to do some estimation instead of going through a complete series of calculations. For example, you’ll often be able to exclude some answer choices for being way off base just from a quick estimate; this can be especially useful on multi-answer multiple choice questions.
When to plan GRE practice exams

Taking the first practice test at the beginning of your GRE prep is an excellent way to gauge what you need to work on. For a 3-month GRE study plan you should take six more full-length practice tests. Take a practice test after 1 month of studying, another one at the 6-week point, and then one a week for the 4 weeks leading up to the GRE. You will take your last practice test 1 week before Test Day.

Take practice tests to measure your progress, become more familiar with the test’s timing and format, and build your mental endurance. After each test, invest at least 1.5 hours in reviewing the answer explanations

Examine after GRE practice tests

Whether you scored close to your goal or not, you have a lot to learn from reviewing your results. Remember, your score can only go up with practice. How do you make the most of your GRE practice test or diagnostic results? This GRE Preparation Guide will guide you to the essential factors you need to consider for planning your next steps.

1. Review every question and every answer choice

  • Standardized tests consist of patterns. Recognize the patterns by reviewing the questions on the practice test and your answers. During your analysis, consider the following:
  • On what question types did you do well?
  • Which areas of the exam were most difficult for you?
  • When you selected an incorrect answer, what traps did you fall into?
  • Noting these wins and areas of opportunity for improvement will help guide your prep.

2. Think about your testing experience

Were you nervous? Were you surprised by the exam format? Did you feel rushed? Were there sections you didn’t complete? Take some time to reflect on the GRE practice test and use this self-analysis as a basis to learn more about the exam itself. Then develop a personal strategy for controlling your pacing and attacking every section of the exam. Remember, there is no need to take the questions on each section in order. Become familiar with the exam tools and learn how to harvest easy points and prioritize different question types to your advantage.

3. Plan your studies going forward

Organize your study plan by focusing first on sections where you struggled the most, but also remember to check the frequency of each question type. You don’t need to master everything to do well on the GRE, so pick your battles. Statistics don’t really matter, for example, unless you require more than a 160 in Quantitative. Focus your energy on high-yield areas of the exam, then come back to other areas if you still have time before Test Day. Remember to alternate your Verbal and Quantitative prep.

 Free resources for GRE

Free GRE Online Practice Tests

  • ETS, the creators of the GRE Test, offer something that they call PowerPrep, which is a free software download that includes two GRE practice tests. Unlike many of the other free practice tests out there, you can trust the accuracy of these practice tests since they come direct from the source.
  • Manhatten GRE Practice Test: If you want to test your GRE preparations then you might want to take the reliable practice test. Manhattan GRE Practice Test maintains a high standard and gives you an idea of areas that you need to improve.

Free GRE Vocabulary Resources

  • Reading complex publications that cover a variety of topics, such as The New York Times or The Economist, is the best way to build your vocabulary — and both of these publications allow you to read a certain number of articles for free every week on their websites.
  • Magoosh GRE Vocabulary Flash Cards brings the flashcards experience to your phone. With its apps for iOS and Android, you have it on the go and can practice your sets or they call it, decks, while on a stroll or break. Their levels are split into Common Words, Basic and Advanced with six to seven levels each. Make studies fun with this uber interactive, fun app/site.

Free GRE Essay Resources

  • Once again, ETS (the creators of the GRE) have your back. They’ve published extensive guides to both the “Analyze an Issue” task and its counterpart, the “Analyze an Argument” task. These are excellent guides, complete with everything from sample essays to scoring overviews.

Free GRE Online Practice Questions

  • The creators of the GRE have published helpful guides on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections, complete with conceptual overviews and practice questions.
  • LEAP Test Platform: It is the world’s first Social and free test prep platform. You can become a part of the community of applicants and experts, and benefit from social learning, personal prep and a secret society. You can access thousands of questions, notes, videos every day and track your progress.
  • Quizlet: This is the place where you find thousands of flashcards made by students for the GRE. They cover Math, Vocab etc and help you learn from the experiences of other students.

Tips for taking the official GRE

Dos and don’ts for GRE test day

DO: Bring a government-issued photo ID
You must bring an acceptable photo ID with your signature. Your full name on the ID must exactly match your name as it appears on your admission ticket.

DO: Arrive early
When you show up for your testing appointment, you won’t just stroll in and sit down to test; first, you will have to go through a lengthy check in procedure. You will need time to check your personal belongings into a locker, fill out all of the appropriate paperwork, and get checked into the computer lab by one of the center employees. This can take a bit of time, so be sure to arrive early. (The registration directions will remind you of this fact, so make sure to heed their warnings!)

DO: Get fresh scratch paper during your break
You are allowed fresh scratch paper at any time during the test if you turn in the scratch paper that you have already used. In order to get fresh scratch paper, you need to get the attention of the proctor, which can be difficult mid-test.

DON’T: Bring any study materials to look at during the break
The test centers are very strict and can disqualify a score for even a hint of misconduct. Leave everything at home except for your wallet, your registration ticket, and a snack.

DON’T: Dress in layers
You should definitely dress comfortably and it might be chilly in the testing center so a long sleeve shirt might help, but layers are not the best idea.  You can’t use layers to prepare for the temperate of the room, because you aren’t allowed to adjust your outfit mid-test. Instead, try to find an outfit that will work for different temperatures and wear that on test day.

Remove GRE anxiety

It is quite common for students to get really anxious before, or during a test. Maybe it is because they take it too seriously, or maybe it is because they aren’t really confident about themselves. But students have been experiencing test anxiety for as long as we have had exams. Here are a few steps to combat the text anxiety.

1. Think of the test as a challenge: Don’t think of the test as something intimidating. Think of it as a challenge. Challenges are fun, and we take them all the time, with friends or family.

2. Stop being a perfectionist: Being a perfectionist doesn’t always work well. You shouldn’t expect to be able to work out each and every question on the test. Sometimes, it is not possible to solve difficult problems on a test when you don’t have much time on hand. And that’s completely fine. Don’t overstress yourself on the fact you couldn’t solve that one hard problem. Such things happen, especially if you have not practiced these kinds of problems ahead of time.

3. One question at a time: Always think of one question at a time. If you are solving a particular question, no matter how easy or hard it seems, focus all your energy and time on solving that question.

4. Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation is a major reason why test takers are not able to give their 100% on test day. Make it a point to sleep for at least 7-8 hours every day, and never do all-nighters, even if you are a night-owl. If for any reason you had to pull an all-nighter, make sure you get enough sleep on the next day. But more importantly, you should compulsorily sleep for at least eight to nine hours, starting from two nights before your exam. This way, you won’t feel tired or sleep deprived during the test.

5. Eat properly: Eating proper food on the morning of your test really helps. Eating low fat protein (such as egg whites, milk, broiled chicken or fish) and some fresh fruits an hour or two before the exam will really keep your mind alert and attentive. Eating fatty foods will make you feel drowsy, and drinking caffeine or sugar-rich drinks will lead to more anxiety.

 6. Use the scratch paper: It is really important to use the scratch paper effectively during any test, and more so during the GRE. Take small notes whenever you encounter a tough question, especially something as hard as an RC question. Make a note of significant data or words in the question. Using the scratch paper will help you understand the questions carefully and will avoid misinterpreting what is being asked. That way, you will be a lot calmer during the test.

7. Do not spend too much time on any one question: When you spend too much time on one particular question on the GRE test, anxiety is bound to happen, because you are running out of time, and there are scores of questions left to be solved. So, it would be better if you can skip the harder ones, and mark them for later review. Once you think you have finished all the easier questions in a particular section, you can go back to the tougher ones later, since by then your confidence will have built up, and you won’t have as much anxiety.

8. Take advantage of calculators: You are given an on-screen calculator for the math section, and if you want to score well, you must definitely take full advantage of it. Maybe you are very fast at calculations, or maybe your friends call you a math genius, but when you sit for a test, you will have the added responsibility of managing time. So, it is better if you reduce the burden of calculating numbers, no matter how easy they might seem. Plus, since you are encouraged to use the calculator given, there is no point in trying to calculate on your own. Learn how to use the calculator well ahead of time, and take full advantage of it during the test. Also, calculators can be very useful for checking your answers.

 9. Verify answers: Always have time to recheck all your answers. Sometimes even if you think you chose the right option, you might have made a mistake, thanks to your anxiety. So, when you finish the entire section, spend a minute or two going through each and every answer that you have chosen.

10. Proofread your essays: Once you finish writing your AWA essays, always be sure to proofread them, instead of simply trying to add more sentences to what you have already written. Always remember than a small but perfect essay will score higher than an imperfect but long essay.

Retaking the GRE if required

If you didn’t get the score you were hoping for on the GRE, you make be wondering, “should I retake the GRE?” About a quarter of all people who take the GRE take it more than once, and the majority of them get a higher score on their second try.

When deciding whether or not to retake the GRE, consider the following questions:

  • How Far Away Are Application Deadlines?
  • How Far Are You From Your Score Goal?
  • How Much Have You Already Prepared?
  • How Was Test Day?
  • Will Taking the GRE Again Pose a Financial Hardship?
  • Do You Have a Plan For How You Will Improve?
  • If you do decide to retake the GRE, you should take steps to maximize your chances of improving your score such as creating a study schedule, figuring out where you made mistakes, and trying out new study materials and study methods.

Getting an advanced degree can create many opportunities. Whether you are planning to go to graduate school, including business or law — or just exploring your options — you are taking an important step toward your future. It is a smart move to show schools your best and with the GRE General Test, you can! With the GRE General Test, you decide which scores to send to schools. If you feel you didn’t do your best on test day, that’s okay. You can retake the test and then send only the scores you want schools to see. It’s all part of the ScoreSelect option, only available with GRE tests.

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