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Best Ways to Study for the GRE

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Best Ways to Study for the GRE

Students who plan to go to graduate school need to take the Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE. A student’s GRE results are taken into account at various points during the graduate school application process, making them extremely important for ambitious applicants. Not surprisingly, many students find themselves wondering: what is the best way to prepare for the GRE? Students want to know the best way to study for the GRE so they can prepare for this exam in the most efficient way possible. At Veritas Prep, we offer GRE prep courses and individual tutoring to students who want to gain an advantage over their peers on this important exam. We can equip these students with several effective strategies on how to study for the GRE most effectively.

What Is the Best Way to Prepare for the GRE?

The best way to prep for the GRE is highly individual, since all students have different backgrounds, educations, strengths, and weaknesses. In spite of this, the best first step is the same: taking a practice exam is the most effective way for students to begin the GRE preparation process. For many students, the skills and concepts tested on the GRE are several years back in their educational backgrounds, leading to vague memories and half-remembered strategies and techniques. Beginning the study process with a practice exam has two main benefits:

  • Start to gain familiarity with the GRE itself
    By taking a practice GRE, students have the opportunity to learn what’s in store for them on exam day. On the verbal reasoning sections, they’ll encounter four kinds of problems: Critical Reasoning (testing logic), Reading Comprehension (testing reading and logical skills), Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence (both of which test vocabulary and contextual skills). The quantitative reasoning sections test students on arithmetic (operations, percents, fractions, etc.), algebra (exponents, equations, inequalities, etc.), geometry (polygons, circles, coordinate, etc.), and data analysis (graphs, tables, basic statistics, etc.). These areas are tested in a variety of question formats: multiple choice (with one or multiple correct answers), Numeric Entry (where students provide their own answer), and Quantitative Comparison (where students must determine which of two quantities is greater). Finally, students will encounter the two essays (Analyze An Issue and Analyze An Argument), allowing them to understand the key differences of each type and start to develop an effective strategy for handling each type. Beginning to study by taking a practice test allows students to start to learn exactly how they’ll be tested, which can be very beneficial in the study process.
  • Begin to identify weaknesses and areas of focus
    The best way to prep for the GRE is to do so with a solid understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Without a solid grasp of areas in which they need to improve, students are likely to spend time on concepts and content with which they are already very comfortable, leading to inefficiency and the potential to leave points on the board on exam day. After taking and reviewing a practice test, the perceptive student will make note of what gave them the most trouble: content areas (for example, absolute value or assumption questions), question formats (such as Quantitative Comparison or Sentence Equivalence), and exam-specific issues (such as pacing or stamina). The best prep plans for the GRE are well-rounded and cover all key areas, but going into the study experience with a solid understanding of where extra practice and focus will pay dividends can help streamline the process.

Improving Weak Subject Areas

After taking the first practice exam, students now possess the information and feedback they need to begin planning and carrying out an effective, efficient study plan. Some students will find that they need an overall review (especially if they are several years removed from their last educational experience), in which case following the Veritas Prep curriculum is a great way to make sure that all key areas, from basic concepts to advanced strategies, are covered in a logical, coherent plan. Other students may realize that they feel okay with most areas of the GRE but need to focus on a few key areas; working through the entire curriculum may not be the most time-effective strategy, but choosing specific lessons and practice sets on which to spend extra study time can pay off on test day. Finally, some students may find that their grasp of the required knowledge and skills is excellent but that they need help with the application of those skills on more difficult problems: working with a Veritas Prep tutor can be a great way to turn knowledge and skills into a great GRE score.

Regardless of which scenario a student finds themselves in, our professional instructors at Veritas Prep can help students improve on any section of the GRE. We provide our students with skills strategies for approaching any math problem in the quantitative section. In addition, we show students how to look for key elements in a written passage that will assist them in choosing the correct answer option for verbal reasoning questions. Understandably, students who are looking for the best way to prepare for the GRE want to learn techniques that can simplify the most challenging questions on the exam. Because our instructors have achieved success on the GRE, they are able to pass along practical tips to students who are preparing for this test.

Create Flashcards for Vocabulary Practice

Students who are searching for the best way to study for the GRE may find it useful to look at a list of words that may appear on the exam. They can fish out the unfamiliar words and create flashcards by putting a vocabulary word on one side of a card and its definition on the other. Flashcards are valuable study resources that students can utilize whenever they have a free moment during the day. Our tutors at Veritas Prep can guide students in creating mnemonics or cues to help them recall the definition of a word. Even if a student only encounters a few of these words on the GRE, they still benefit by expanding their overall vocabulary.

Read Editorials in Newspapers and Magazines

When it comes to the analytical writing section, the best way to prepare for the GRE is to practice writing issue and argument essays. Another effective way to prepare for this section of the exam is to read editorials in newspapers and magazines (The New York Times is a great place to start). Students are able to see the organization of a convincing essay, as well as observe how a writer uses vocabulary to convey his or her points. Furthermore, students see how writers use supporting details to solidify their argument. They may also learn about various controversial topics that are in the news. There is always a chance that one of those issues may show up in an essay prompt on the exam.

While the above-mentioned strategies are excellent starting points to help students find the best way to prepare for the GRE, here are a few additional techniques to keep in mind:

  • Create specific tasks for each study session
    Beginning a session by saying “today I am completing two hours of algebra problems” is not the way to get the most out of a session. Instead, go into your study time with specific objectives in mind: “today I will focus on exponents, inequalities, and absolute value.” Each of your textbooks is broken into specific areas of focus; they aren’t monolithic chunks of algebra, critical reasoning, etc. Use those areas to pick specific objectives for each planned session.
  • Develop a routine
    One of the best ways to get into a groove with your GRE preparation process is to develop a session plan that works for you. For example, if you spend two hours per weeknight session, you might find something like this to be very productive: 15 minutes for reworking a few previous problems (see a later point for more context),15 minutes for a quick review of key concepts and skills for that day’s work, 60 minutes for practice problems, and 30 minutes to review problems, analyze performance, and jot down key takeaways. Feel free to play around with the structure of your sessions, but after a few weeks you’ll probably have a great feel for what works for you.
  • Make time to review
    Building in time to review previous work can make a dramatic difference in your ability to retain the concepts and skills you’ve covered to that point in your study plan. For example, you might set aside an hour or two each week to do a quick refresher on one important topic (such as algebra or critical reasoning) or question type (such as Text Completion or Numeric Entry) to make sure you’re still as comfortable with it as you were when you finished that lesson.
  • Revisit past problems
    It is strongly recommended to keep a list of GRE problems (from lessons, homework, and practice tests) that gave you trouble to review later on. Come back to them in a few weeks (when you’ve forgotten what the correct answer is and have to work through it from scratch) and see if you’ve improved. If you find yourself making the same mistakes, you may be able to identify patterns of errors that you can then take steps to address as you move forward.
  • Focus on achievement, not activity
    One mistake to which many students fall victim is mistaking time spent studying for progress made in mastery of the material. Doing problems for two hours and then checking how many you got correct is fine, but doing problems for an hour and a half and spending the remaining time checking your work, looking for ways to improve, and making note of concepts to review in future sessions is a much more productive use of a GRE preparation session. If your session takeaway is “I completed 25 critical reasoning problems with 80 percent accuracy”, you have not gotten as much out of that time as you would if your takeaway was “Of the five problems I missed, three were assumption problems, one was an inference problem, and one was a weaken problem.” Knowing what kinds of problems gave you trouble is more instructive than how many problems gave you trouble.
  • Work on test taking skills, especially as test day approaches
    While you don’t need to treat every practice problem as though it were a question on the actual exam (especially early in the study process), make sure you are also working to improve your test day skills and strategies. It’s one thing to achieve mastery of the material and confidence in your abilities, but it’s another to apply them effectively on test day. Make timed problem sets (to work on test-realistic pacing) and practice tests (to work on test-day strategies and improve test taking stamina) a regular part of your study arsenal. To perform best on the GRE, prepare for the exam itself, not just the material being tested!
In summary, the best way to prep for the GRE is highly individual, but every effective plan will contain a few key elements:
  1. It addresses key areas of the exam and individual needs of the student.
  2. It contains a clear, logical progression from start to exam day.
  3. It provides specific objectives to achieve and a roadmap to get there.

Still unsure about the best way to prepare for the GRE? Want individual advice for how to get started on a plan that works best for your situation? Our team at Veritas Prep is more than happy to answer questions about our online or in-person GRE prep classes and private tutoring options. Contact our GRE Course Advisors at Veritas Prep today and study with the experts!

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