Tips & Tricks

Common Mistakes People Make When Studying for the GRE And How to Avoid Them

Written by staff

Some people are able to study for the GRE for 1-3 months and then achieve their ideal score. Most people require a bit more time and effort. Here are some common mistakes people make, and ways to overcome them:

  1. Reading Comprehension: Concentrating on the questions alone, and not paying attention to your reading in general.

Many prospective graduate school applicants focus on studying the information found inside of GRE prep books for Reading Comprehension, instead of identifying the architecture of the question. It is absolutely important to utilize your study materials and learn the information bound within the books; however, it is equally important to learn to understand difficult, complex sentences. Familiarize yourself with this type of writing. Every morning when you wake up, read articles from your local newspaper or from the internet, from trusted journal sources. See how the author explains a point, argues and opinion, or presents a question for the reader. Mix it up. Some articles may be a quick read, focused on a topic of interest. Some articles may be scholarly articles discussing imaginary numbers. Read, read, read! Your brain is a muscle. The more you read and digest literature, the sharper you will be at identifying the theme, opposing opinions, questions, arguments, or faulted logic within the articles.

Time yourself when you read these articles. Learn to skim quickly and efficiently.  Skim through an article, then turn it over. Take notes on the key points of the article. Then, turn the article back over and read it thoroughly. Test how much you absorbed, and how can improve your skimming abilities.

  1. Focus on taking the test while you’re taking the test.

Do not worry about your score, your applications, or any of life’s numerous worries. It is most important that you hone in on the questions while you are taking the GRE, otherwise, you will lose focus, and in return, not perform your best. This could lead to not achieving your target score. So, while you’re taking the test, try not to focus on your score. Just focus on doing your best.

  1. Debrief After a Practice Exam

Taking full-length GRE practice exams is a necessary way to improve on the test. Try to simulate a real test taking environment. Remove all distractions (your smart phone, your pets, etc). Sit and take the GRE, and try to make it as close to real life as possible.

After taking the practice test, take a break. Go for a run. Eat something. Call a friend. And then set aside the time to debrief. Go through each question. Is there a pattern in your performance? Are you weak in particular types of questions? Identify where you are struggling, and modify your study schedule accordingly. Creating a personalized study plan is the best way to ensure your improvement. Many students decide to work with GRE tutor who has excelled on the exam, in order to create a focused study plan.

Review the questions you got wrong, and the questions you got right! Identify the strategy you implemented to get the right answers. Was it pure luck? Are there ways you could have achieved that correct answer faster? See if there is room for improvement within your correct answers as well.

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