How to Prepare for GRE?

GRE is an important test, for which you must prepare well. Admissions officers often use it to categorize applicants and determine eligibility for scholarships. Professors sometimes use it to award assistantships. It’s also been known to be used to evaluate eligibility for sanctioning student visas and loans.

If you are jittery about your performance in the GRE, you should know that you are not alone. It is, after all, a test and it’s only natural for you to be anxious about a test. With strategic preparation and a proper study schedule, you can ace the GRE too. There are a few things that you could do to minimise this fear and prevent it from slowing you down.

 

Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

‘Temet Nosce’.

Temet Nosce is just a fancy way of saying ‘Know yourself’. This is imperative. Pretty much everyone, from Socrates to modern-day ascetics stress upon this. You will find yourself more confident in yourself if you have a crystal clear understanding of your motives and the impact of your actions.

How can you know yourself when you’re preparing for a test? Easy. First, you determine where you stand in the pecking order. The best way to find your baseline is to take a GRE test on the very first day of your preparation. Doing so will give you context on what your strengths are, where you lack and what you need to focus on to be prepared for test day. 

Once you’ve figured out what you need to work on, determine the target score you need to achieve to get into the Master’s program of your choice. Think of your target as a minimum threshold you have to achieve. Reaching this target should enable you to get into your program of choice comfortably and also give you a chance at other, perhaps more selective programs.

 

For more information on planning for your master’s abroad, read this.

 

Make a Study Plan – and stick to it

Remember that time, when you were preparing for the JEE/NEET/CET and devoted hours of your day to dedicated prep? Yep. The GRE is rigorous in a different way. However, it also requires considerable effort and dedication to achieve the best scores. Till the time you’re finished with the GRE, consider it to be the alpha and the omega for a given span of time. To stay focused, direct all your efforts towards strategizing and planning on how best to maximise your score.

 

Create a Strategic GRE Prep Schedule

Introduce a time-table and plan study hours for specific areas as required. The internet has multiple free and inexpensive resources for GRE. You should craft a strategy to use these resources in an efficient manner. For each book, online video series or test you pick up, set a target you want to achieve after finishing it. You should plan to gain from every resource you utilize.

Here’s a list of some free and inexpensive GRE prep materials that can help you prepare comprehensively

 

How To Optimize Your Learning

You can train your mind to get into a GRE study-zone. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Set a fixed place to study where you ONLY do GRE prep and not eat or call an old friend (you get the drift). This may be a desk, a cupboard under the stairs or the terrace. The idea is to find a spot where you won’t be disturbed by anyone else. Once you only study at your assigned spot, you start associating it with work. This will help you focus better.
  2. Develop a technique for answering different types of questions. This way, you learn how to solve test questions better, faster and accelerate your learning process.
  3. Try using models like Mind-Maps (Sherlock, anyone?) and incorporate activities like yoga into your regimen.
  4. Set daily targets for learning a new concept or revising an old one. Reward someone  else with a bar of chocolate or a lavish lunch with your money if you don’t achieve that target. This will motivate you! 

Also, remember that the GRE is a standardised test that’s been around for decades. There are plenty of tips and tricks that students have discovered over the years to ace the GRE. Get out there and find them! After that, practice regularly and smartly, so that you end up making most of the time that you’ve allotted for yourself.

 

Take GRE Practice Tests

This is pivotal to your success. Sure, you’ve charted your goals and are working towards them. But it’s incredibly important to take a step back and review your progress constantly. How far you’ve come from the first day of prep is a measure of how effectively you’ve learnt. Take a GRE sample test at regular, fixed intervals throughout your preparation to constantly update your plan as needed.

Here’s how that’ll help: maybe when you took your baseline test, you didn’t do so well on the Verbal section, but in Quantitative, you were great. However, in the very next test, you seem to have improved your Verbal score (thanks to prep) and gone a little down on Writing. Self-evaluation gives you a chance to see where you have made progress, where more effort is needed and helps you change your prep accordingly.

 

Keep Moving Forward

It may seem like a huge, huge deal but don’t forget that the GRE is merely a test, especially one that is offered all year round. If you think you’ve scored lower than the threshold, you can take some time off, do other things to build your application and attempt it again. The key is to learn from each experience and keep moving forward. With a positive attitude you will definitely learn much, much more and will have a stronger application when you do apply the next time around.

 

Exam anxiety is not uncommon in the current socio-economic environment that we live in. It is only symptomatic of the fear and paranoia that grips young, clueless students. You can conquer it easily by effecting a few subtle changes to your perception and routine. Have some faith in yourself. You’re more powerful than you think.

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