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4 steps to prepare for the GRE

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The GRE is a common graduate school admissions exam that is, on occasion, confused with other standardized assessments. Before you begin preparing for the GRE, ensure it is definitely necessary that you sit the test, as it won’t be accepted everywhere. Here is a list of schools that accept the GRE. You should also contact prospective institutions to confirm that they prefer this exam. After all of this is done, consider the following tactics to earn a competitive score:

1. Answer every question
There is no penalty for an incorrect response on the test, but GRE guessing strategies are different from those on other assessments. On the GRE, you can bypass questions in a section as well as return to previous problems and adjust your responses. Take advantage of this feature by guessing on any question on which you’re stuck, flagging it, and then returning to it with a more thoughtful answer. However, this can also be a complex strategy; relying on this method too heavily can harm your score. Determine your optimal pace and preference by completing practice tests ahead of time.

2. Understand the computer-adaptive test format
The exam has three main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The Verbal and Quantitative sections utilize the adaptive features of the computer-based format, and there are two sections within each of those. The first portion contains a range of problems where the difficulty spans from simple to challenging. Overall, the first section is designed to be of average difficulty. The difficulty of the second portion will depend on how well you do on the first. For example, if you have an elite score on the first section, the second will adapt and confront you with the more challenging problems available in the database. Similarly, if you score poorly on the first section, the second will adapt and become much less complicated.

3. Utilize appropriate test preparation materials
There are a wealth of prep books, GRE tutors, and online resources available. You must examine the options and determine which forms of support are best for you. Begin by taking a practice test and then analyzing your score report, identifying your areas of weakness. Using the right test prep materials can help you analyze your test scores at a deeper level, pinpoint exactly why you answer certain questions incorrectly, and dissect the complexities of particular problems. Such problems will then become more familiar and routine. Quality tutors can expose you to advanced strategies and principles that are individually tailored to your strengths and preferred methods. To maximize this opportunity, ask as many questions as possible.

4. Practice efficiently
It is extremely important to form a strict preparation plan so that no time is wasted. One such plan is to complete a practice exam each week. Optimal learning occurs when you mimic the test setting. This can aid your brain in developing patterns and endurance, as well as ultimately increase familiarity with the assessment setting. Come test day, your brain will then not be distracted by trying to assess and understand the setting and will then be able to devote more attention to the task at hand. So, sit for a full practice test for the allotted amount of time in a busy, yet quiet setting, such as a library. After each test, analyze the questions you answered incorrectly as well as the most time-consuming problems. Determine common themes or patterns in your work and thinking processes, then focus your review on the specific questions that eluded you. Spend your time wisely so attention is given to the areas that need it most!

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