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Top 4 GRE Myths & Study Blunders: Our Best Advice for Test-Takers

GRE test prep

Read time: 5 minutes

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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GRE Test Prep: 4 Daily Habits for Much Stronger Verbal Skills

GRE test prep

Read time: 5 minutes

GRE test-takers are often divided into two camps. On the one side you have the math enthusiasts, and on the other, the wordsmiths.

It’s quite rare to see an equal balance between these two skill sets. And even when students have strengths in both math and verbal, they often need targeted practice to prepare for the unique ways these abilities are tested on the GRE.

Feeling a bit concerned about your own verbal skills? More at home with algebra than literary analysis? Learning English as a second or third language?

Start by making time for verbal prep each and every day. Daily practice is absolutely essential for improving your vocabulary and analytical skills in time for the test.

Use these four trusted GRE verbal prep strategies to get the ball rolling.

1. Time yourself when practicing GRE verbal questions

Time management is a significant challenge for many GRE test-takers. We’ve all experienced that terrible feeling of being “frozen” in front of a difficult question, unable to make a choice between options A and B. Meanwhile, time ticks away.

It’s very easy to lose precious moments throughout the verbal section of the exam—especially when you’re not mindful of pacing, second-guess yourself often, or take too long deliberating over each question.

Pacing is key. But it’s not something you can implement at the last moment on exam day. You’ll need to determine how many minutes to allot to each verbal question type: text completion, reading comprehension, and sentence equivalence.

Be sure to use a timer during your GRE test prep to get used to working within limits, and slowly improve your reading and response times.

2. “Actively” read one GRE-type article each day

Many GRE training tips suggest reading as much as possible leading up to the exam, to get used to tackling sophisticated vocabulary and concepts.

However, simply reading through challenging texts won’t be enough to prepare you for the GRE’s reading comprehension section. You must practice “active” reading to build the skills tested on the GRE.

Active reading means interpreting and analyzing the text as you go, picking out important information and mentally summarizing key concepts. When you read actively, you’re able to absorb complex and unfamiliar concepts more quickly and thoroughly—which is exactly what you’ll need to do on the exam.

If you make a habit of actively reading unfamiliar material leading up to the exam, you won’t feel panicked by an obscure topic on test day. You’ll know precisely how to scan for and identify the information needed to answer each descriptive, interpretive, and analytical question.

Not sure which skills are needed to practice active reading, or how to build them? A GRE course can be extremely helpful for learning how to develop and apply a range of targeted reading strategies.

3. Every time you meet an unfamiliar word, look it up!

Part of active reading is acknowledging terminology and concepts you don’t understand, and taking a moment to seek out explanations. Sometimes this can be accomplished through context. The sentence surrounding the unfamiliar word helps you decode its meaning. You take an educated guess and move on.

Other times, you simply have to stop and hunt down a definition. And when your goal is to expand your vocabulary for the GRE, stopping to look up words is non-negotiable! You should keep a running list of new words and their explanations, and try to use those words as often as possible, to help memorize their meanings.

You don’t always have to use new words while talking out loud. Just incorporating new vocabulary into your thoughts can be helpful for cementing understanding and retention.

4. Use a GRE test prep app for daily vocabulary practice

Many test-takers swear by their GRE apps for squeezing in extra vocabulary practice during the day. More than just convenient, really good apps offer a range of helpful features that can help accelerate learning, encourage daily prep, and help track progress.

Quality GRE vocabulary apps offer a wide range of features for different types of learners. Many offer vocabulary training systems that integrate:

  • videos to illustrate word meanings
  • flashcards
  • mnemonics
  • sample fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, and true/false questions
  • daily quizzes
  • detailed examples and even mini stories to explain each word

There are many GRE verbal apps to choose from, such as GRE Flashcard , GRE Vocab Trainer , and

GRE Vocab Genuis. It’s definitely worth trying out a few to find the ideal fit for your learning style and vocabulary goals.

Interested in learning more about effective GRE test prep strategies and resources? Looking for a professional GRE course in Toronto?

Click here to explore Quantum’s selection of GRE courses


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