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3 Simple Steps to Improve Your GRE Scores

Abdulah Hanifi

Higher-GRE Score-Success Kid

GRE season is quickly approaching and it’s time to begin preparing. Here are some useful tips and tricks to get you through the big test.

Step 1: Buy the official ETS practice book

a. Once you have the book the first thing you'll want to do is ignore the essay portion…we’ll get to that later.

b. Next, take both of the timed tests included in the practice book (two verbal and two math). After scoring your practice tests you’ll have a clear idea of your weaknesses.

c. Once you've identified your weaknesses you should start studying those sections and ONLY those sections. Focus on correcting your mistakes because, let’s face it, you're really busy and you don't need to waste time on subjects you've already mastered.

Step 2: Take the free online practice tests 

After studying for a couple of weeks you should be ready to take the online practice offered by ETS (the company that makes the GRE). Keep in mind that these online tests often grade more harshly than the real GRE so don't be discouraged if you score a little lower than expected.

a. Treat the online test as if it is the real thing. Take this test in a nice quiet place and make sure you have enough time to complete it all in one sitting. In addition to practicing questions you'll want to mimic the actual testing scenario. This will reduce anxiety and increase confidence when you take the real GRE.

b. After you receive your score you should repeat the process outlined in Step 1 to identify your weaknesses and improve upon them.

Step 3: And now…THE ESSAY

The first thing to know is that SIZE matters. Essays are expected to be a certain length and anything under that length will likely receive a lower score. Structure is also extremely important. Before you begin writing take a moment to organize your thoughts using the following steps:

a. Take the first 5 minutes to write down your thoughts using bullet points. Write down anything you can think of in those first 5 minutes and then group your ideas into similar subjects (3–4 groups should be enough).

b. Now you have your paragraphs! Spend the next 15 minutes writing out those ideas into body paragraphs.

c. Once the body of the essay is done write your introduction and then wrap up the essay with a conclusion paragraph.

d. Don’t waste time using big fancy words. The scorers are most concerned with length, structure, and correct grammar.

Now you are ready to take the official GRE!* 

There are lots of other resources available online but our favorites are:

Free GRE test prep material from ETS including the Powerprep II software to take the test online: https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/

What is a Good GRE Score? Magoosh can help you find out the score you need to get into a specific program. They also have a ton of interesting content to check out: http://magoosh.com/gre/2012/what-is-a-good-gre-score/

*This process usually requires spending around 5–10 hours a week practicing questions and writing essays. Plan on taking practice tests every 2 weeks to track your process.