10 Principles for GRE Success
1. Don’t break the bank
Taking the GRE test is expensive. Taking the test multiple times is even more expensive. University is exorbitantly expensive. Dare I say rip-off?
Test prep doesn’t have to be.
2. Official material is king
No one beats ETS. Period.
The company that makes the test naturally creates the highest-quality practice questions. Much as they try, test prep companies cannot replicate what you’ll see on test day. And neither can I. This is especially true for Verbal.
3. It’s all about the process
No question type should be approached blind. You should have an idea of what steps you’ll implement — and in what order — to get the question correct.
Having a process eliminates test-day surprises, lowers anxiety, and keeps you focused on the task at hand.
The processes you employ on test day should be second nature, as if they were part of your muscle memory.
4. Quality > Quantity
Many are under the mistaken impression that completing hundreds of GRE questions invariably results in a higher score. In fact, if you regularly employ bad habits, you might only be reinforcing them.
In practice, don’t be afraid to spend time with a question. Really get to know it. Intimately.
In doing so, you’ll glean insights not readily apparent when blowing through questions.
5. Be a GRE scientist
Albert Einstein famously stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
If a strategy is not working, try another. If that one doesn’t work, try a different one. In practice, experiment with various strategies.
Trial and error is what accounts for our modern world. Don’t underestimate its power.
6. Discipline trumps motivation
Doing things you want to do is easy. Doing things that you don’t want to do — but that are good for you — is hard.
People who study for the GRE when they are excited about the prospect of graduate school are exhibiting motivation.
People who force themselves to wake up at 6 AM on a Saturday to learn 100 GRE vocabulary words four months into studying are exhibiting discipline.
Who do you think has more success?
7. Easy to hard
Every question on the GRE carries the same weight. Because of this, you can maximize your score by working from the easiest questions to the most difficult.
In other words, imagine you’re cutting through an avocado, with its thin skin, fleshy outside, and firm pit. The skin and the flesh are no match for your knife. Worry about the hard pit later.
8. Have a strategy toolkit
Mastery of concepts is not sufficient. You’ll also need strategies. But one strategy does NOT fit all, much as one tool cannot accomplish every task around the house.
Your strategy toolkit should include a variety of techniques that can be employed — flexibly — on GRE questions.
9. Work on your weaknesses
Working on our strengths feels good. We get most of the answers correct and enjoy a positive feedback loop. Working on our weaknesses feels bad. Many of the answers, at least initially, are wrong, and we start to feel discouraged.
But to kill the GRE, we must be well-rounded…we must be competent in all areas of the test.
Tiger Woods did not become Tiger Woods by only hitting his driver at the range.
10. Prepare to get frustrated
For many, the GRE is a humbling experience. For some, it can be downright nasty.
Walking hand-in-hand with GRE is frustration, that feeling you get when you’re unable to exert control over an undesirable situation or condition.
You might even feel defeated, like all is lost. Power through these negative emotions.
There is light at the end of the tunnel.