10 ways to get a terrific GRE score

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Signing up to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) can be a scary task.  However there is plenty to online test prep resources that can help you prepare for the GRE. Use the following 10 tips to help you prepare for the new GRE test.

  1. Use the free online test the Educational Testing Service has on their website (gre.org) to take your first practice GRE test just like you would the real thing. Make sure you have the entire time to be alone in a quite area with no distractions. Use this to see where you are in scores and how much you will need to improve for your perspective graduate program(s). This test will allow you to see the area’s and types of GRE questions that are a weakness for you, as well as help you get familiar with the GRE question format.
  2. For every practice test you take, and for all GRE practice questions you answer, go over the questions that you get wrong and read the explanation. Doing just this for a month or two will improve your score no matter what other GRE prep you do, it is easily one of the best and most important ways to improve your GRE scores.
  3. Prepare for your GRE using trusted set of prep material. In our case, Barron’s books have been around for decades and over the years thousands of students have used Barron’s books to prepare for GRE. We are officially in the business of “preparing students” for GRE and other tests. Now all this material and much, much more will be available in our online GRE course. Stay tuned and find out what we mean by much, much more!!
  4. Create a study plan, stick to it, and give yourself at least one month to study. Do not slack or procrastinate on your GRE preparation. Create a detailed study plan for everyday you plan to study and for the entire length of time you have to study the materials. Study at least 4 days a week, and for a minimum of an hour a day. Consistent studying over a long period of time will increase your score more than any other tactic. Switch up GRE subjects and materials often to keep yourself motivated and engaged.
  5. Buy or make a big set of GRE Verbal vocabulary flashcards and use them whenever you have a few spare minutes while waiting in line or for a class to start. Learning even just 100 new words can increase your GRE Verbal score by a few points. If you really need a solid GRE verbal score, aim to learn at least 200 new words before the test.
  6. If your GRE Quantitative score is less than you need, use flashcards to learn formulas and math principles you are weak on. Again, study them whenever you can and as often as possible to give you an easy boost on your GRE Quant score.
  7. Read something (non-test prep topic) every day, and learn to ask questions of what you read. For example try picking up a newspaper and asking things like “What is the main theme here?” “What is the author’s intent or purpose for this piece?” “Is this an opinion piece?” Reading comprehension is a bigger part of the new GRE test, so doing this will make you so much more confident in your skills and greatly improve your reading question scores.
  8. Practice using full-length practice tests! You cannot take too many practice tests. Ideally you should be taking at least 4-5 practice tests before the real one. Ideally experts encourage you to take one every weekend for the entire length of time you have to study before your GRE test date.
  9. Relax. Realize your GRE scores are only a portion of your application. GRE scores vary from program to program and so do the importance of the scores on your overall application. Work hard, but don’t stress too much. A decent score will enhance your application, but you’ve also worked hard during your undergraduate years, all of that counts for a lot.
  10. Read test instructions. Make yourself familiar with the test instructions that you are likely to encounter for different types of questions. These instructions are not going to change every time you take the test. Therefore you might as well save some time in the real test by skipping the instructions.

We will go over many more test taking strategies and concepts in the coming months. Our online course will cover them in even more detail using online videos. It is our #1 job to ensure that you get a terrific GRE score.

 What does Section Adaptive mean?

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If you are preparing to take the GRE in the near future, you may already know that the GRE exam format and scoring structure has changed. The GRE in its new avatar a.k.a. the revised GRE has a number of changes. Apart from the new questions types and the score range, the biggest change is in the area of computer adaptive testing (CAT).

The GRE continues to be a computer adaptive test meaning the questions given to you are selected by the computer specifically for you. However the version of the CAT is significantly different from the older version of the GRE that used the “classic” computer adaptive testing format.

  • The classic computer adaptive testing: The older GRE and the current version of the GMAT uses the classic computer adaptive testing model. The test adapts to your performance as you’re answering questions. That means every question that you answer directly affects the next question. At any given time, you see only one question. In addition, you will not see the next question until you’ve provided an answer to the current question. This test format prevents you from going back to a previously answered question.
  • The Section Adaptive Format: The new format does away with all the restrictions placed in the earlier version of the GRE. In the new GRE, the first section of either the verbal or the quant section is like any other regular test i.e. the same questions are given irrespective of how your perform in the test.  The computer adaptive testing kicks in when you get the second section. The questions are based on how you performed in the first section. If you did very well in the first section of quantitative reasoning, you are likely to see harder questions in the second section of quantitative reasoning. On the other hand, if you did not perform all that well in the first section of the verbal reasoning, you are likely to see easier questions in the second section. You also get the added flexibility of “mark and review” i.e. you can mark a question and come back to it later.

The section adaptive is not such a dramatic thing as it may sound. However it will impact your overall approach to test taking. I will list out a few things that you will do differently:

  1. First get the low hanging fruits: Answer all easy questions first before you answer the harder questions. You should get all easy questions right in the first pass of the entire section.
  2. Pacing: Do not spend a lot of time in answering a hard question. With section adaptive testing, GRE gives you the added flexibility of “mark and review” i.e. you can mark a question and come back to it later.
  3. Guess and Eliminate: Test taking strategies such as elimination/guessing tools become more important. You can eliminate and guess a question in the first pass. If time permits, you can come back and answer these questions to get a precise answer.
Want to know more? There is good news for you. Barron’s GRE Prep course will have video lessons that will cover these topics and more. Stay Tuned!

 How much preparation is needed for the GRE?

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Trying to figure out how much time to spend preparing for the Graduate Record Exam can be tricky, but there are a few steps you can take to lessen the headache.  First, it is important to take a diagnostic test (a full length version) to find out where you stand with your scores.  This will help you gauge your preparation level. In addition you can also analyze your wrong answers and determine your weak areas and where you need to improve.  Educational Testing Services (ETS) offers a free online test on their website. Very soon you will also be able to take a diagnostic test at Barron’s test prep. This diagnostic test will be free for all.

Next, research the programs you’re applying to and figure out how important the GRE score really is to your overall application.  Some schools just like to see a basic minimum score in case you’re application has some less than stellar parts to it (like GPA for example), other programs can be more competitive and the GRE score is just as important as your letters of recommendation.

If you do your research and learn that your program really only views the GRE as an added benefit to your application, then you’re in luck.  Go over some sample essays and study a few GRE practice questions, but don’t stress too much.  As long as the score on your first full length test is within the normal range for the programs you’re applying to, focus on the other, more important, pieces of your application e.g. the essay and letters or recommendation.

However, if you have a low score on your first practice GRE test, or if you’re program is very competitive, you’ll need to tackle the GRE with a real plan and purpose.  My best advice?  Really use you’re first practice test to figure out your weak areas and focus primarily on the section of the test that reflects the program you’re applying to.  For example, if you’re applying to an engineering graduate program, you score on GRE Quantitative Reasoning is probably more valuable than the GRE Verbal Reasoning score. But the opposite will probably be true for a liberal arts program, verbal is more important.  Focus on the areas of the test where you aren’t as strong and knowledgeable and improve those scores, but also work on the section your program will highlight the most.

Online GRE Prep courses like Barron’s can help you get familiar with the format of the GRE test and also give you the vocabulary, reading and math skills that you need to score high on the GRE.  Barron’s GRE Prep also allows you to go over your wrong answers and see the area’s you need to work on most.  I cannot stress enough the importance of taking at least one practice test and going over your wrong answers and taking note of your weakness areas.  Finding the average scores needed for your intended graduate program can help you write a great GRE study plan and decide how much time you need to devote to your GRE prep. Following these tips can insure a less stressful GRE experience.