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Emphasis placed on GRE scores varies from school to school. Your exam results are an important part of your applications package, but the weight they carry really depends on the institution.
That being said, no student wants to submit an embarrassing GRE result! What’s more, a low score could hurt your chances at admission to a top school, or jeopardize your eligibility for merit-based scholarships.
So if you’ve decided to take the GRE, it’s worth giving it your all. But before you hit the books, make sure you’re not holding onto any misguided ideas about what it takes to master this challenging exam.
Myth #1: GRE Test Prep Can Be Crammed Into a Few Weekends
It’s true that you can take an intensive, weekend GRE course to jump-start your prep and learn problem-solving skills—but it will take time and practice to continue honing those skills, after the course has ended.
One or two months of study, just a few hours a week, probably won’t cut it. Actually, it’s better to think of GRE prep in terms of hours, not calendar days. Depending on your learning style and score goals, it could take anywhere from 50 to 200 hours to prepare for the exam.
Start with a practice test. Look at the results, see how far you are from your ideal score, and map out the hours of study you’ll need to get there.
Myth #2: You Should Use the Calculator for Every Quant Question
Students are usually really excited to learn that an online calculator is provided during the GRE exam. This will make solving those challenging quant questions much easier, right? Not exactly.
Ironically, access to a calculator often trips up test-takers, creating problems instead of simplifying them. Students end up using the calculator at every step, where mental math or a scratch pad would make more sense.
The consequence? More opportunities to hit the wrong button and make computational errors that could have easily been avoided.
Yes, there will be a handful of GRE problems that require a calculator, but in most cases, you’re better off applying manual methods.
Myth #3: Taking Many GRE Practice Tests Boosts Your Score
We mentioned earlier that practice tests are an important part of your GRE test prep strategy. But too often, students believe that simply running through sample tests will be enough to boost their quant, verbal, and writing scores.
That’s not how it works. In order to be truly helpful, each test result must be carefully analyzed, and your study plan adapted accordingly.
If you don’t know exactly where you’re going wrong, how can you improve your performance?
Effective test analysis entails reviewing both wrong and right answers, identifying bad habits, evaluating pacing, and uncovering ways of solving problems more efficiently.
And don’t forget to do something with all those insights! Make sure you’re continuously tweaking your study strategy based on practice test observations.
GRE Myth #4: GRE Verbal Is All About Memorization, Right?
No, not really. In fact, this approach will directly undermine your GRE performance. Rote memorization of thousands of obscure vocabulary words is simply a waste of time. In order to do well on verbal questions, you need to understand what words mean in context.
Quantum GRE instructor, Jason Hornosty, has this to say about underestimating the scope of GRE verbal problems:
“GRE Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion is not just a test of vocabulary. It’s true that if you don’t know what any of the words mean, you’ll have a very hard time answering these questions correctly.
That said, it’s equally true that identifying the relevant context in the question is an acquired skill and that the answer choices themselves have patterns that can be exploited. It’s equal parts knowledge and strategy.”
It’s that balanced combination of knowledge and strategy that is so crucial for GRE success—and often overlooked by students at the outset.
Mastering the GRE requires a specific set of test-taking skills; techniques for avoiding pitfalls, spotting traps, and applying step-by-step procedures. Learn these strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to a competitive score, and an excellent graduate program.
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