Published: 14th October 2021
Insights from a test prep insider: Avoid these top five mistakes while preparing for GRE
While some candidates who plan to take the GRE test are aware of the test format and features, many unfortunately are not
As we all find ways to settle into a new normal, students from around the globe are aggressively pursuing their higher-education aspirations. I serve as part of a team at an international educational non-profit that provides information and support to students who are working toward achieving their graduate school goals.
In recent months, a growing number of Indian students are refocusing their efforts on achieving their academic dreams by applying for MBA and MS graduate programmes in popular destinations like the United States, Canada, UK and Australia. These prospective graduate students are part of the rising number of applicants registering for assessments such as the GRE® General Test to gain admissions at top universities at home in India and around the world.
Given the current circumstances, most preparatory institutes have temporarily suspended in-person learning. Yet, aspiring students aren’t at a loss because there are still a number of innovative ways that they can work on their preparation for fall 2022 admissions. While some candidates who plan to take the GRE test are aware of the test format and features, many unfortunately are not. To help you perform your best on this important admissions exam, I want to share some very common and avoidable mistakes that I often see made during preparation and on test day.
“Two weeks of preparation and I will be a GRE test Ninja!”
As a former graduate student and professional whose work is focused on supporting students who are preparing for graduate admissions, this is a pain point that I hope I can encourage you to avoid. The GRE General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills; skills that have been developed over a long period of time. You should start planning early by following a disciplined routine and creating a study plan leading up to your test date. You should also know that there is no magical test preparation time frame that suits everyone. Just as strengths and weaknesses vary from person to person, so will the time needed to feel prepared and ready to successfully take the GRE test.
“Practice tests are a sheer waste of time!”
Practice makes us perfect and it also helps us to identify areas where we have room to grow and improve. Practice tests are a vital part of any test preparation process, from assessing a starting point, to determining what areas need more preparation time, to getting a feel for answering all questions within a section in the time allotted. The two free POWERPREP® Online practice tests, created by the maker of the test, contain the same question types, help screens, on-screen calculator, word processing software, section timing and test functionality in order to simulate taking the actual exam. I highly recommend that you take full advantage of the practice tests available to you to evaluate your performance well in advance of taking the actual test.
“Let’s skip these questions”
Unlike other admissions exams, the GRE General Test does not subtract points for incorrect responses, yet many test takers leave questions unanswered. Don’t leave anything on the table. You should not only focus on giving the right answers, but on making sure that you answer all of the questions in each section. Within each timed section of the GRE test, you can move backward and forward through the questions. You may choose to first answer the questions you find to be easier in the section and then focus the remaining time on the questions you find more challenging.
“Which test prep materials are the best?”
How can you gauge which materials are credible? I always encourage the prospective students I work with to ensure that they are preparing with authentic study materials by using official GRE test preparation materials. These include free resources like the overviews of each section on the GRE test website and the free POWERPREP Online practice tests. For test takers who want additional practice, I recommend they purchase POWERPREP PLUS® Online practice tests that offer a full-length practice test and simulate the actual GRE General Test experience by providing scores for all three measures of the tests within minutes and explanations for correct answers for all Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning test questions along with a score report. In addition, to help you prepare well, the POWERPREP PLUS Online books and materials are available for purchase. In my personal and professional experience, it is always advisable to choose materials available from the maker of the exam. Materials from the GRE test programme help you ensure that you are preparing with the most up-to-date and accurate information on the test format and content.
“Panic mode on!”
I have seen many students start with good intentions, but somewhere along the way lose their motivation to study in a disciplined manner. This leads to panic, chaos and cramming in hopes that they somehow will be able to crack the test with last minute preparations. This never works! Planning your test preparation and getting more familiar with the content and functionality of the GRE test in advance of your actual test, may help to reduce your stress on test day.
Last but certainly not least, in preparation for test day, I want to remind you to review the official “On Test Day” page and prepare ahead. You should ensure you have your official identification as well as the other mandatory items ready in advance.
These tips can go a long way in helping you avoid some of the most common test day missteps. In the words of Colin Powell, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from mistakes.” I hope these best practices help you on your higher education journey!
Matthew Bashi-Kadlubowski serves as the Associate Director of Product & Sales Training at ETS. He supports the international education nonprofits’ product brands and development as part of the organization’s mission to advance equity and access to education for all learners.