Preparation is the best weapon you can draw from your arsenal when you embark on nerve-wracking challenges, such as the GRE.
You can never control what the exam contents are or how difficult they’d be, but you can decide on your preparation strategies. Successful preparations improve your test-taking skills, knowledge, and most importantly, confidence.
One of the most important things you should pay attention to is your review materials. The progress and quality of your review largely depend on the materials you choose to utilize.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of options out there, and it’ll take time to choose among them.
What you need is a list of criteria or assessment points to help you narrow down the list. That’s exactly what we have for you below, together with other effective GRE preparation tips.
The Graduate Record Examinations is a graduate school admission test. It consists of Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal reasoning sections.
The test evaluates general skills, so it’s not specific to any course or subject. You can encounter this test when you apply for master’s or doctoral degree programs in certain universities in 160 countries (not all universities require passing the GRE to incoming grad school students).
Assessing GRE review material options
Consider the following items when choosing GRE test prep materials:
It’ll serve you best if you choose comprehensive review materials that cover all the sections of the GRE. It should also be reflective of how long and difficult these sections are. Comprehensive review materials are detailed enough.
However, if you find them lacking and you want something more elaborate, there are resources that each section individually and more deeply. This will require you to spend more, though. You can see comparison of between 2 most popular prep materials by DigitalVaults here.
- Amount of detail in answer keys
A prep material should thoroughly explain why the right answers are the right answers. Every answer is arrived at using the logic, concept, and theory behind the subject of each question. If you understand those concepts, you can apply them confidently in answering any other question involving that subject.
You should consider your skills and knowledge in deciding how much detail you need in the answer keys. If you have considerable knowledge beforehand, you’ll find tremendous amounts of details as verbose and unnecessary. However, if you’re an absolute beginner, you can never have enough of them.
- Content style and approach
The material’s approach must cater to your learning style and study practices. Materials aren’t built the same, so they appeal differently to people. If you’re an audio or visual learner (or both), you need to find materials that include audio-visual instructions.
Also, some materials that recommend study schedules. This is perfect if you get overwhelmed by the review, and you need a structured schedule to keep you on track.
- The relevance of the material
Review materials come in various editions. Always make sure to grab the latest ones. Obsolete materials are not good. You must choose from those with up-to-date information. With this being said, you might want to research the latest concepts in the GRE sections, so you have something to check the materials against.
Educate yourself on what’s new regarding test-taking strategies as well, and see what materials have those. It’s important to equip yourself with effective ways to approach questions, so you’re able to understand and analyze them regardless of how they’re presented.
- The resemblance to the exam
You must find materials that mirror the actual exam, so you can undergo a simulation or mock test. This helps you get familiar with what the questions will likely be and how they’re iterated. Familiarity will ease your anxiety. Some brands publish questions from previous exams; keep an eye out for them.
If you have materials like this, you should try taking the mock test component within a time limit (the exam’s time limit). That way, you’ll get acquainted with answering the exam under pressure. Habituating your mind to this will make it less sensitive and responsive to time pressure and improve your confidence. Test anxiety can greatly affect your score, so make sure you train yourself to be in the right mental space.
- Involvement of pre-diagnostic tests and test-taking strategies
Before studying the exam, it’s best to test your current skill level and identify your strong and weak points. This information will help you identify which subject you need to focus on, and the depth and coverage of materials you need to study to understand it. Materials like this are built in a way that helps you see your progress along the way.
Your prep materials should also include test-taking strategies. These are transferable skills that apply to all the sections. This teaches techniques in dissecting questions and using deductive reasoning to determine which among the choices is the correct answer.
Other GRE Preparation Tips
Now that you know what to look for in a prep material, consider following these extra tips for a more holistic preparation:
- Expand your vocabulary studying the meaning of words and how they’re used in different contexts.
- Refresh your basic knowledge about the subjects in each section.
- Start preparing early, so you can take all the time you need. Rushing and cramming won’t do you any good.
- Practice how to diagnose and dissect questions.
- Always get enough rest and sleep.
- Organize your study space. This helps you keep your mind clear and organized as well.
Don’t just work hard; work smart. No matter how much time and effort you put into something, if you’re going about it the wrong way with the wrong tools, you won’t achieve your objectives. So, use the pointers above to find the right materials and add in the extra tips for an effective GRE preparation. Study smart and good luck!