20 Tips for GRE Prep

We’re all entering an academic year that feels a little strange, to say the least. Most of us are taking classes virtually at home this semester, while others are learning in person and on campus. Some of us are at schools with a hybrid model.

Regardless of how your classes look, one thing remains the same for undergrads—having to take the GRE!

Prepping for the GRE can feel stressful under “normal” circumstances, but now there’s an added level of stress because of the impacts of COVID. You may be unsure of even where to start. I want to help ease your stress, so I asked some of my friends from across the country for their best GRE tips to help you out …

Prepping for the GRE

  • Prepare a 3- or 6- month study plan. Don’t forget to build in time to practice taking the test under simulated testing conditions: Spend 4 quiet hours taking a practice test, time yourself to see how long it takes you for each section, and give yourself the same amount of breaks they allow you to take during the GRE.
    Natalie Sfeir | University of Texas at Austin
  • Don’t cram! Study in chunks as much as possible so you’re not scrambling the last week before the test. Carving out an hour or two a day, or dedicating a whole day once a week, really helped me prepare.
    Jordan Girola | California State University, Chico
  • Take practice tests without timing yourself. Write down the types of questions that are difficult for you as they come up. Afterwards, look up lessons on YouTube and take notes to better prepare for your next practice test.
    Megan Kinnerk | University of Iowa
  • Dedicate extra study time to topics you don’t know well. Don’t waste time on areas you know will come easy. Of course, if you need a brain break or confidence boost, going back to an “easy” topic helps! 
    Joslyn Parsons | University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • Study with an online calculator. You MUST use an online calculator during the GRE. Practice the same way you’ll take the actual test.
    Mary Moody | Valdosta State University
  • Strategize. After taking a practice test, review the questions you got wrong. Work through those questions to understand the correct answer so you get it correct the next time.
    Caryn Moy | Northern Illinois University
  • Make sure the testing site is in line with your test taking style. The first location I took the GRE was not ideal due to a lot of background noise. The second location was much because they played white noise. Of course, if you’re taking the GRE online because testing sites are closed due to COVID, make sure the space you take the test at home doesn’t have any distractions.
    Jayden Sarabia | University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  • If your in-person testing site is impacted by COVID, take practice tests in the environment you’ll be taking the GRE (bedroom, office, living room, etc.). By studying and taking practice tests in the same setting you’ll be taking the GRE, you’ll be able to focus more on the test and less on the unfamiliar environment.
    Allison Buroker | Marshall University

Study Resources

  • Magoosh Online Study Tool: This resource teaches you strategies to answer questions. It also has practice questions and mini lessons, so if you are struggling with one component, you can watch a short video on that exact topic.
    Rebecca Willer | University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • GRE Studying Podcasts: This is perfect for anyone who can’t sit and read for extended periods of time, especially commuters! I recommend the VictorPrep GRE, Magoosh GRE, and NicksNeologisms podcasts.
    Leila Regio | California State University, Los Angeles
  • Princeton Review’s GRE Prep Book: Not only does it include practice problems and tests, it explains strategic tactics for taking the test. Bonus: It’s free at your local public library!
    Karlie Mayer | Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • Free Apps: Download free apps that have practice problems and vocabulary, like Magoosh, Barron’s, Kaplan, Manhattan Prep, and Quizlet. Use these apps during your down time instead of  scrolling through social media.
    Kaylee Genzel | Illinois State University
  • Kaplan Test Prep Classes: One component of the class is that they give you full-length timed practice exams so you feel comfortable taking a timed exam on test day. After the class, my scores increased significantly. Hint: Search for discount codes online.
    Kate Phelps | University of New Hampshire

Taking the GRE

  • Destress the day before the exam. Do something fun that has nothing to do with the GRE.
    Mallory Tvrdy | University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Sleep well and hydrate the day before your exam. You should also do this the day of your exam and the day after.
    Amber Nguyen | Minot State University
  • Do something active the morning of the test. You’ll be sitting for a while during the test, so get your wiggles out ahead of time.
    Morgan Zoeller | University of Minnesota
  • Utilize the breaks you’re given during the test. I scored better when I stepped outside of the testing room and did breathing exercises.
    Melissa Schenley | University of South Florida
  • Research grad programs prior to taking the GRE. Figure out a few programs you’re interested in attending and send them your scores on test day . . . doing this is free!
    Jayla Davis | Jacksonville University
  • Save money by sending your scores to the top 4 schools you’re interested in . . . even if you aren’t 100% sure which schools you’re going to apply to.Because after your test date, it’s $20 per school to send your GRE scores.
    Annie Hinker | University of Wisconsin – Madison

Final Words of Wisdom

Our final words of wisdom come from Kirsten Lovely at Central Michigan University, “Be kind to yourself. The GRE is just one objective measure of applying to graduate programs. It doesn’t determine who you are as a future clinician. If you don’t get the scores you hoped for the first time, reevaluate your study strategies and try again.

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