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What Should You Expect From A Quality GRE Course? 4 Key “Takeaways”

GRE course

Read time: 3 minutes

If you’re seriously considering graduate school, you’re probably getting geared up to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

There are three prep options for GRE candidates:

1) Devise your own study plan and prepare by yourself

2) Enroll in a GRE course

3) Purchase private GRE tutoring sessions

Obviously, these three paths come with significantly different price points! And make no mistake, you can’t necessarily “buy” your way to a better GRE score.

However, not all students are cut out for self-study. It takes serious discipline, and considerably more time, to plot out your own GRE study plan.

You’ve got to hunt down the most reliable materials, identify (and learn) the most effective problem-solving strategies, and figure out how to accurately track your progress toward your score goal.

There are plenty of free resources online to help you along the way, but again, it will take additional time to sort through all the blog posts and GRE forums to find the answers you need.

GRE course
GRE self-study takes significant discipline & requires extra time to find reliable resources (Photo by Juliette Leufke on Unsplash)

Over the years, we’ve found that busy, working candidates—and certainly those with families—usually opt for a GRE course to expedite the whole study process.

But there are tons of test prep companies out there, and many, many GRE courses to choose from. What should you be looking to gain from a quality program?

These are the 4 key skills and competitive advantages you’ll walk away with after comprehensive, professional GRE prep.

1. Proven Problem-solving Steps for Every Topic & Question-type

A really good GRE course leaves no stone unturned. You will study each of the three main content areas on the exam (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing), and every single topic/question-type presented in those sections.

You will learn proven, step-by-step techniques for solving every type of problem—standardized approaches the instructor has tested and vetted, and knows will work every single time.

By the end of the course, you will have seen and worked through every kind of problem the GRE can throw at you.

2. Access to Hundreds of Authentic GRE Practice Questions

Once you’ve learned the theory and problem-solving strategies for each GRE topic, you’ll need to practice applying those steps, over and over again, right up to the exam.

This means you’ll need authentic GRE sample questions and practice tests to refine your skills and track your progress.

A quality course will include hundreds of genuine GRE questions, numerous practice tests, and all the other materials you’ll need to keep on prepping after training has ended.

You shouldn’t have to invest more of your own time hunting down study guides or practice questions. Everything should be included in the cost of your course.

Your GRE course should include all the study materials & practice tests you’ll ever need

3.  How to Cope with Questions You Don’t Know at the Exam

Most students suffer from some degree of exam anxiety. With the stress of test day, it’s normal to “blank out” and forget a problem-solving step you learned in class. But it’s crucial to have a plan in place for dealing with questions you can’t solve, and those inevitable moments of panic.

A good GRE course will teach you how to deal with unknowns on test day. You’ll learn how to guess strategically, when to flag a question for later, and when it makes sense to just move on.

These tips will be invaluable for remaining calm, and managing your time well during the exam.

Related: How to Handle GRE Questions You Don’t Know & Moments of Panic

4. Additional academic support, even after the GRE course is over

One of the biggest advantages a good GRE course will offer you is the option to take the class again, as many times as you need, before the exam.

Look for a test prep company with a robust course repeat policy. At Quantum, we give GRE students 6 months to repeat their entire course—or any individual module—after their date of enrollment.

This is a real game-changer for students who require additional academic support in weak topic areas. Access to the instructor doesn’t just end once the weekend course or bootcamp is over; you can keep coming back for assistance until your practice scores improve.

The option to keep repeating the class also grants you access to a GRE community—fellow test-takers you can connect with during the study process. This is a major confidence booster for many GRE candidates.

GRE course
Connecting with fellow GRE candidates can help reduce stress & boost confidence (Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash)

Are you planning to take the GRE in Toronto this year, and need more information about local training programs and GRE test prep resources?

Your best first step is to explore free GRE workshops happening in the GTA. Click below for a schedule of events.

Browse free GRE math and verbal workshops in Toronto

Or, we welcome you to explore Quantum’s comprehensive 30-hr GRE course, delivered at our training centre in downtown Toronto.  Click here to learn more about the course.


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GRE Prep: How to Handle Questions You Don’t Know & Moments of Panic

GRE prep

Read time: 3 minutes

No matter how hard you study for the GRE, you can expect to encounter questions you just don’t know come exam day.

And that’s ok! It’s realistic to assume that at least a few Quant or Verbal questions will trip you up. If you’ve prepared thoroughly, one or two stumbles won’t jeopardize your overall score.

This sounds reasonable enough—but what about when the pressure is on and the clock is ticking? What will happen when you come face-to-face with a question you can’t answer and feel completely frozen with panic?

The anxiety brought on by a particularly challenging question can seriously upset the poise and careful reasoning you need to score high on the GRE.

This is why students need a well thought-out strategy for handling unknowns and coping with those inevitable moments of stress.

Watch how you handle tough questions during mock GRE exams and practice tests.

Try a few different coping techniques to find the approach that works best for your learning style—and you’ll be far better prepared  for bumps in the road on test day.

These are 3 reliable techniques to get started with.

1. Systematically Eliminate Least Likely Answers

You’ll spend months learning proven, step-by-step procedures for tackling each type of Quant and Verbal question on the GRE, right?

Best case scenario: You’ll use those techniques to de-code every question, immediately see which answer option is correct, select it with confidence, and move on.

Reality: Certain questions will contain confusing elements (such as a vocabulary word you didn’t study), making it difficult to apply the right technique, and go straight to the correct answer.

At this point, panic will likely set in because you feel stuck, and only have a moment or two to make a decision.

Your best bet is to carefully look at the problem again. Identify the question-type, and recall the features, traps, and patterns present in all problems of that kind.

Based on what you do know, analyze the available answers and try to eliminate the least likely options. The more options you can eliminate, the better your chances of selecting the correct response.

You will not feel certain about your answer, but you’ll have done your best to remain calm, and apply a strategic approach to handling the unknown.

2. Make an Educated Guess

Just plain don’t understand the problem, and can’t remember any theory that helps you eliminate unlikely answers?

Ok, but don’t leave the question blank. On the GRE, points are not deducted for wrong responses, so if all else fails, you should go with your gut and make an educated guess.

Important tip: Don’t let the minutes tick by while you agonize over which answer option to select. Give yourself one to two minutes, choose the response that stands up best to logic, and then quickly move on.

Staring at the screen will not illuminate any hidden wisdom—it will only rob you of the time you need to successfully answer the remaining questions.

When you’re practising this technique during GRE mock exams, be careful not to “cheat” and give yourself extra time—you’ll be setting yourself up for serious pacing problems on test day.

3. Flag it for later

If you encounter a problem you feel you might be able to solve if you had a bit more time, it makes good sense to flag it for later.

This is likely a question-type you recognize, and are able to somewhat decode using a standard technique—but you end up going in circles, or torn between two possible answers.

Don’t get stuck on this type of “unknown”. It’s better to flag the question, move on to easier problems, collect those points, and then go back for round two, if the clock allows.

Important tip: Don’t understand the problem at all? See no possible pathways for solving it?

Don’t bother flagging it for later. Save your time and energy for questions you have a better chance of getting right. Take an educated guess and move on.

Bottom line: Like every other aspect of GRE prep, dealing with unknowns demands a strategic approach.

Integrate some reliable “plan B” techniques into your study routine, and you won’t get sidelined by panic on exam day.

Taking the GRE in Toronto, and looking for free study help, or a top-rated GRE course?

Click here for a list of totally free GRE workshops near you

Click here to learn more about Quantum’s top-rated GRE Course

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GRE Test Prep: 4 Steps to a Much Stronger AWA Essay

GRE test prep


Read time: 5 minutes

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section of the GRE consists of two separately timed writing tasks. How does it work?

You’ll have 30 minutes to write two different essays: one will ask you to present your opinion on an issue, and the other will ask you to evaluate the strength of an argument.

Both these tasks test your critical thinking skills, and ability to articulate complex ideas with clarity and precision.

This means your writing must be coherent, persuasive, well structured, and carefully planned. But how do you get there?

Just like the techniques you rely on to break down and solve GRE Quant and Verbal questions, there are specific strategies you can use to improve your AWA essays.  Start with these 4 steps.

First Analyze Top Scoring AWA Essays

Before you begin digging into sample writing tasks yourself, take some time to understand what a top scoring AWA essay actually looks like.

Read through a few strong examples, and compare them to lower scoring responses. Get the lay of the land—and crucially, get a firm grasp on what the GRE essay graders are looking for.

Take note of how the essay paragraphs are structured, how the writer supports his/her view, and the overall formality of tone and vocabulary.

ETS (the makers of the GRE) provide several examples of AWA essays (ranging from high to low scores) on their website.

Browse sample essays and grader comments right here.

Always Start with an Outline

Because time is short for the AWA task, it is very tempting to simply dive right in, and start writing your response without mapping out an outline. Very few test-takers will succeed using this strategy!

Taking a few minutes to note down your plan has several benefits. First, an outline will help you think through your argument or stance on an issue, and develop examples to support your position.

If you go in “blind”, you could end up writing yourself into a trap, change your mind, and have no time left to correct your approach.

Second, the very act of preparing a quick outline should help to calm your nerves. You will have created a roadmap for yourself—something to refer to while building out your paragraphs.

While working on practice essay questions, always budget about 5 minutes for an outline. Engrain the habit during GRE test prep so you’re not tempted to skip this crucial step on exam day.

Practice Defending & Improving Your Arguments

In the AWA “issue” essay, you’ll need to clearly and persuasively defend your opinion on a social, cultural, or political issue. For the AWA “argument” task, you’ll need to evaluate the strength or weakness of an argument that is provided for you.

Either way, you’ll need to take a stance, and back it up with solid reasoning, facts, and examples. You must thoroughly explain and support your view to earn a high AWA score. The best way to practice?

Reading effective AWA sample essays will help a lot—but you will also need to practice formulating, evaluating, and defending your own arguments. Here are a few ways to get started.

1. Talk through “hot” topics with friends and family. Take a side and see how persuasively you can defend it. Always aim to develop at least three solid examples to support your views.

2. Listen to the other side of the issue, and see if you can poke holes in your friend’s defence or rationalization. Explain how those holes weaken the overall argument.

3. Practice putting your thoughts into writing. Tackle the sample “issue” and “argument” questions provided by ETS. Start by outlining your position and three main supporting points, and then develop those ideas into a five paragraph essay (introduction, three main supporting points, and a conclusion).

Click here to browse sample “issue” questions

Click here to browse sample “argument” prompts

Struggling? Get Professional GRE Test Prep Help

Writing effective essays is quite challenging for many test-takers, particularly those who pursued quant-focussed undergraduate degrees.

If you’re struggling with verbal concepts, learning English as a new language, or simply can’t nail down essay structure and argumentation by yourself, it’s time to consider a quality GRE course.

Whether you opt for individual tutoring or a group class, you’ll learn proven, step-by-step procedures for tackling both issue and argument essay tasks. These are no-fail strategies you can rely on to “decode” essay questions, and structure every aspect of your response.

Remember: You don’t need to be a brilliant wordsmith or talented writer to score well on the AWA section. You just need a targeted set of technical skills, which can be taught and mastered through practice.

Pursuing the GRE in Toronto and need some extra support? We can help.

Explore Quantum’s 50-Hr GRE Course and private tutoring packages

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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.

Looking for a top-rated GRE course in Toronto?

Learn more about Quantum’s 30-Hr GRE course

Don’t need a course, but want help identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and devising a solid GRE test prep strategy?

Find out how to get a FREE expert analysis of your GRE mock exam results

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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


       → Click here to browse free GRE study resources and materials


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3 Good Reasons Professional GRE Test Prep is Worth Your Time & Money

gre prep course

Read time: 5 minutes

Many students are tempted to study on their own for the GRE General Test. Some are concerned about the cost of GRE prep courses and the time they take to complete. Others are high academic achievers who are used to scoring well on exams, and believe they’ll conquer the GRE using familiar study tactics.

But the GRE is quite different from the tests students take at the undergraduate level. It is not subject specific, but rather focuses on your general ability to solve problems, analyze data, synthesize information, and articulate complex ideas—across a wide range of subject areas.

Can you prepare on your own? Yes, but there are several key ways self-study exposes students to risk, lowering their chances of achieving their best possible score on the exam.

In this post, we examine those risk factors, and present three of the most compelling reasons professional GRE prep is worth the time and money.

Personalized Coaching From Experts in GRE Test Prep

Reputable GRE test prep companies hire instructors with many years of experience. They work full-time as prep coaches and are experts in every aspect of the GRE study process. Professional instructors understand precisely what it takes to earn a competitive score, where students often struggle, and which strategies work best for every single question type on the exam. An expert GRE instructor is your greatest asset when preparing for an exam that covers multiple content areas, and tests a broad range of skills.

Consider this: the GRE reading comprehension section may draw from topics in the social sciences, arts and humanities, the physical and biological sciences, or any number of everyday themes. The math section will test your knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, word problems, and more. Most students need help to learn detailed, proven strategies for approaching unfamiliar question types and material they haven’t seen since high school.

Without guidance from an expert, it is very difficult for students to know exactly how to tackle the wide range of math and verbal questions they will face on the GRE—and how to avoid common errors and traps.

Access to Real GRE Practice Exams & Free Study Materials

A few years ago, US News consulted with GRE test-takers and instructors to compile a list of six tips for GRE success. Both experts and students profiled in the article confirm that coaching combined with practice tests can dramatically improve exam performance. High quality practice materials are key for reinforcing the strategies learned in training, getting used to computer-adaptive testing, and addressing weaknesses.

In addition to classroom instruction, a good GRE prep course will provide students with a range of high quality materials they can use at home after completing the course. Instructors walk students through hundreds of real GRE questions in class, provide manuals which include questions for home practice, and pull together the best collection of available resources. These include:

  • the official GRE practice book with sample questions, strategies, scored responses, and helpful tips
  • the GRE math review packet which covers the four main areas of math tested on the exam, with definitions, solutions, and practice questions
  • a GRE software package, which contains full-length practice tests, scored sample essays, tutorials, and much more
  • a custom GRE study manual with strategies for each question type and topic
  • pre-course GRE mock exam to determine your baseline score and target weaknesses

No Wasted Time on Inefficient Research & Study Strategies

The ideal study time for the GRE is a bit different for everyone. However, common advice dictates that sophisticated test-takers spend 100+ hours preparing over a span of two to three months, and attend a quality, comprehensive 20-40 hour GRE course.

Students who choose to prepare on their own must find a way to squeeze in several hours of prep time each week—usually around a very busy schedule that includes full-time work, caring for a family, or both.

In this scenario, students must research and collect study guides on their own, and sort through them to identify the best learning materials and test-taking strategies. Quite often, they miss crucial information, find only generic strategies, and end up falling into negative study habits.

Ultimately, students who prepare independently waste more time and cover far less ground than those who take a GRE course, and are provided with the most relevant study materials for continued home practice.

It’s also worth noting that some test prep companies offer a free course repeat policy—meaning students can take the GRE course again, even multiple times, to strengthen their skills.

Looking for more information on what it takes to prepare for the GRE? Ready to find out your baseline score by taking a free practice test?

Click here for a list of free GRE information sessions and events happening in your area.

Click here to learn how you can get a completely free GRE assessment, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and how much prep you’ll need to achieve your best score.