GRE - Last Minute Studying and Taking the General Test

You might think that the best way to prepare for the GRE is to work through several practice official GRE exams. Unfortunately, this would be very time-consuming, difficult, and probably not very effective. These practice questions are not going to be on other exams, so worrying about the specifics of each item is not worthwhile. However, if you have a solid foundation in test-taking strategies, the sample exams provide excellent practice at applying these strategies and becoming better prepared to face future exams. In addition, performance on practice exams shows where you are weak while there is still time to review the appropriate basics and strategies. When time is short, you need an efficient and practical way to get ready for the test.

  1. You should not try to work an entire exam in one sitting. This would require an uninterrupted stretch of three hours for the exam and several more for going over your answers.
  2. A better approach would be to work one complete 30-minute section in a given session. You need to set aside a full hour to allow time for immediate scoring and analysis.
  3. Before starting each unit, review the appropriate verbal or math basics and the strategy for that type of item.
  4. Work through the section with standard test timing, following the procedure for taking the GRE outlined on the next page. Keep an eye on the clock. As time is running out (but still keeping within the time limit), return to the questions on which you eliminated several choices. Quickly select one of the remaining choices. When you make a choice but are not confident that it is correct, be sure to mark any other choices that look almost correct.
  5. After time runs out, mark the questions that you did not have time for. With no time limit, finish all these questions as best you can.
  6. Grade the unit using the answer key. What proportion (of all items and just the on-time items) was correct?
  7. After a short break, and while the questions are still fresh in your mind, go over each item. On items you missed, can you see what you did wrong? When you made a choice without being sure, did you mark the correct answer as the second choice?
  8. Keep in mind that the reason for reviewing is not to find out which was the correct choice for a particular question. The goal of the analysis of each test item is to find out if your approach to that item was correct. If not, how did you go astray? Did you read carelessly or too fast, fail to underline or mark paragraphs properly, or get drawn into a trap?
  9. Be very careful. The quantitative items are reasonably direct, even when difficult. But with the verbal items, it is necessary to become comfortable with the type of thinking that leads to the correct choice. Review the reasoning that led you to each wrong answer and see how you could have handled it correctly.
  10. Work through all sections of one practice exam before going to the next. Calculate your final score for each section and for the entire test.
  11. If all went well, on the next exam you will work more quickly and see an improved score.
  12. Knowledge is the main factor for the Subject Test. You cannot learn everything about psychology, but a good way to review the most important concepts and details is to study any standard large introductory psychology text. Concentrate on the summary and key terms for each chapter.
GRE: Taking the General Test
  1. Answer every item -- leave no blanks
    • the score is based on the total number of correct answers with no adjustment for guessing.
    • an unanswered item therefore is equivalent to a wrong answer.
  2. Know the directions for each type of question before the exam.
    • be able to recognize the directions rather than read them.
    • - have a strategy in mind for each section of the exam.
  3. Do not waste time doing the sample questions given with the directions.
  4. Keep an eye on the clock and pace yourself.
  5. You cannot afford to take much time for any single item. If you do not get the answer quickly, cross out any choices that are clearly wrong. Then mark the test booklet to show that the question is unanswered. Use a (+) for the items you could work out with more time, a (-) for those that seem impossible and should only be worked after all the (+) items have been tried. Immediately go on to the next item.
  6. Note that within certain math sections, the questions are ordered from easy to difficult. Try "obvious" answers for the early items, but be extra cautious with the later (difficult) items.
  7. Some strategy tips
    • Do not hesitate to write in your test booklet!
    • Mark the Starting time, Half-Way time, and End time.
    • Cross out wrong choices and mark the 'maybe' choices in the test booklet.
    • Leave any 'don't know' items for later - resist the temptation to take extra time to go over them now.
    • For the analogy, antonym, and sentence completion items, first decide on a good answer. Then check the choices to see which one matches. With reading and analytic reasoning passages, underline key words, terms and phrases.
    • Use the last few minutes for choosing among the uncrossed-out choices of the remaining items to gain as much credit as possible for partial knowledge.
Special Note on the Subject Tests

The subject tests are not scored in the same way as the General Test. The Subject test (but not the General Test) has a correction for guessing so that your score is (Number Correct - (¬ Number Incorrect). This means that you should:

  1. if you have no idea of the answer, do not guess randomly. Just skip the item.
  2. if you can eliminate two or more choices, it is well worth picking one of the remaining choices rather than leaving the item unanswered. You will be correct on a half or third of these items -- enough to improve your score even with the correction for guessing. In fact the correction now works in your favor to give more than one point for each correct answer.