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What Are the Best Tips for Taking the GRE®?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen

The best tips for taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE®) include answering every question on the exam, completing practice tests, and preparing ahead for the logistics of actually taking the exam. In many cases, those who plan to take the GRE® are wise to take a preparation course, either from a live instructor or online, as this can greatly increase a person’s comfort with the exam and the testing process. Finally, being in good mental and physical health on the day of the exam can increase a person’s chances of doing well on the test.

Understanding the structure of the GRE® can help the test taker significantly. Unlike some standardized tests, there is no penalization for wrong answers. Test takers should answer each question even if their answer is only a guess. Those who take computerized tests should answer each question in order, as it is impossible to return to skipped questions.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Many people who take the GRE® benefit from some type of structured test preparation program. In some areas, test takers can enroll in a classroom-based preparation course taught by an instructor who typically has firsthand knowledge of the test. Another option is to take an online or software-based course. Test takers should take at least one practice exam so that they can understand the format of the test and feel comfortable taking it.

It's important to practice good self-care prior to the test. If an individual suffers from test anxiety, for example, he may wish to see a counselor or hypnotherapist to help him overcome his anxiety. Eating right and getting enough sleep, particularly the night before the exam, can help the test taker focus and get a good score on the exam. As security measures generally prevent those taking the GRE® from bringing food into a testing center or taking long breaks, individuals with special medical needs or disabilities should contact ETS, the company that administers the exam, to arrange for any necessary accommodations.

Before the day of the test, a test taker should make sure that he knows where the testing center is located and how to get there. He should also find out about restrictions on bringing personal items into the building, as both ETS and some testing centers place significant restrictions on the possession of personal property during the testing process. Individuals taking the GRE® should also be prepared to provide appropriate identification to prove their identity and should ask which types of identification are acceptable for this purpose prior to the test date.

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