How to Ace the GRE


Know What to Expect

On the GRE, your reasoning and analytical skills will be tested to make sure you have what it takes to excel in an advanced degree program, regardless of your chosen discipline. It can help to become familiar with the format of the test so you know what to expect on exam day.

The test is offered in computerized and paper-based versions. Keep in mind that the type you take makes a difference, and you'll want to tailor your practice to suit. The paper exam includes more questions, but also allots more time for completing each section. Both test versions are made up of three sections with the following components:

Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning Analytical Writing
2 Sections 2 Sections 1 Section
20 questions, 30 minutes each (Computerized test) 20 questions, 35 minutes each (Computerized test) 2 writing tasks, 30 minutes each (Computerized test)
25 questions, 35 minutes each (Paper test) 25 questions, 40 minutes each (Paper test) 2 writing tasks, 30 minutes each (Paper test)

Create a Study Plan That Works for You

Preparing for test day involves not only familiarizing yourself with the exam format, but also honing the critical-thinking skills you'll need to successfully answer test questions. The following exam tips can be good to keep in mind as you get yourself ready:

Take Practice Tests Before the Exam. This will help you become familiar with the exam so you won't be caught off guard on test day. While practicing individual questions is a good idea, it helps to simulate the exam, so you know what it's like to force yourself to sit and concentrate for hours at a time. Practice questions and full-length exams are available on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website (

Do the Math. The exam will include math that you may not have seen for years, and some of the concepts may be hard to recall. It could be to your benefit to set aside some time away from taking practice tests to review the arithmetic, geometry, algebra and data analysis topics covered on the exam. You can then complete practice questions to see if your review was solid enough to help you score well on the analytical reasoning section.

Brush Up on Your Vocabulary. You'll likely need the ability to draw inferences about the meanings of unfamiliar words to do well on the verbal reasoning section. Reading as much as possible before the exam can help. You can also consider learning prefixes, roots and suffixes to help you figure out the right answer choice for these types of questions.

Consider Taking a Prep Course. While practicing on your own can be helpful, you might consider enrolling in a prep course to get feedback on your progress and help keep your study goals on track.'s GRE Test: Practice & Study Guide includes video lessons that can be reviewed in manageable bites along with quizzes you can use to measure your understanding of the material. You can find lessons outlining test-taking strategies for each section of the exam. Instructors also cover topics ranging from vocabulary skills and sentence structure to systems of equations and plane geometry.

Perform Your Best on Test Day

Once test day arrives, you might want to consider using the following strategies to keep your brain working at its best for hours:

Answer Easier Questions First. Making sure you answer every question can help improve your score. Test results are based on the number of questions you get right, and you won't be penalized for answering any questions wrong. Try answering the questions you can complete easily first. If you're taking the computer-based test, you can use the software to mark questions you want to go back to if they appear difficult at first glance.

Stay Focused. It can be hard to block out all of the noises around the exam room, and you may see others finishing their sections early or causing other distractions. Try to stay as focused as you can on the exam in front of you; it could make a difference in how you score. Consider taking ear plugs into the exam with you just in case you need them.

Pace Yourself. Some test takers have a tendency to start with a lot of energy and focus and then slow down without realizing it. Creating a plan of action for each test section can help you better manage your time. For example, you can plan to complete a certain number of questions in ten- or fifteen-minute increments, then quickly re-energize your brain to finish the next set. You'll find out what methods work best for you as you take practice questions.

Give Yourself a Break. Take the 10-minute break time between the third and fourth test sections to step away from the exam. Giving your eyes a rest from the questions could be helpful, and you can take the minutes to try to minimize your level of stress.

Continue reading: GRE Math Test & Study Guide

Determining when and where to take the GRE is an important step in test preparation. Learn how to find the right date and location for the GRE general test and the GRE subject tests, as well as helpful study tips.

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