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Studying Tips For GRE


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If you studied geometry and trigonometry eons ago, like me, than Magoosh is the best website for studying for the GRE(also has sections for understanding how to answer a verbal question and tricks to help you eliminate wrong answers). It has practice quizzes and videos that explain concepts more clearly then than books do. I would also get the ETS official guide and one manhattan book since that will provide you with 8 full length practice tests. Don't forget that you can google GRE practice tests and get at least two. 

Also there are free GRE Vocab apps for your phone, which are really great to kill time on a the bus &c. Honestly I would suggest reading the new york times or any other news paper that covers world news. If you're not familiar with a word look it up. 

I set one month aside just for studying for the GRE..

Hope this helps,



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The best ways to learn are to (1) quiz yourself, (2) teach someone else, and (3) incorporate what you need to know into your life. My advice is to take at least a month or two to study and use a wide range of studying techniques. Take tons of practice tests that replicate the GRE. Quiz yourself on vocab. Make flashcards. Write stories that use your new vocab words. Read articles from newspapers that use the vocab words (Magoosh has a list of ones you should read). Actually use the vocab in your everyday life. Tell a friend (or your dog) something you learned everyday. Make outlines for the essay questions as quick as possible (the full list of all the essay questions that can/will be used on the GRE is online). Practice writing thesis statements for the essay questions. Write out whole essays several times, and get them graded online for a fee to see what you're scoring at.


Do NOT just try to read and memorize a list of vocab, or just look over answers to questions. These are super ineffective ways to learn.


I read somewhere that people do much better on the GRE the more times they take it, even if they haven't studied more. Getting used to the exam and getting over your anxiety is huge. I'd recommend taking several full length practice tests. Try to replicate the testing setting as much as possible -- see if the testing center you'll be taking the GRE at has free practice tests. Go at the same time that you signed up to take the test at.


A lot of the GRE is learning the most effective way to study for it.


Don't just force yourself to memorize thousands of words at random -- Magoosh has flashcards of the most frequently used words on the GRE (for free!). I only learned those, none of the "advanced" or "uncommon" words, and I got a 168 on verbal. Some people have a lot of success at learning the roots of words, so they can figure out what they mean without actually knowing the word. I did not enjoy this technique, but it might work for you.


The essays are graded by a computer, and only briefly checked by a human to make sure the computer didn't mess up. You do NOT need to learn how to write a good essay. You only need to learn how to get a good score. The most important things are length (the longer the essay, the higher the score), using GRE vocab words, structuring your essay to have at least five paragraphs (intro, three body paragraphs, conclusion), having transition sentences, and using phrases that signify critical thinking (e.g. "Despite the fact that..." "Nonetheless..."). I spent way too long trying to write really good essays that would earn an A in a class, only to have them graded at a 3. I got pissed off, and wrote a sloppy, dumb essay that followed the above rules, and immediately boosted my score to a 5. Seriously, learn how the system works.


For whatever reason, a lot of GRE study materials are not that great at preparing you. Most of the people I know that only did one study guide (e.g. used one Kaplan book or whatever) said there were a ton of questions they weren't prepared for. I used a few different sources and still had a ton of math questions that I had never seen before. Magoosh seems comprehensive and accurate, but it's pricey. Try to use many different websites and books to cover all of your bases.

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I forgot to add: I cannot learn vocab by just trying to memorize a word. If you can't, either, try using mnemonic techniques. I personally try to find parts of words that explain what the word means, or create an image in my head of the word. I noticed that words I didn't do this with, I had to relearn ten times before I could remember them. Words that I used this technique with, I only had to teach them to myself once or twice before I got them down pat. Find something that works for you.

Example of my technique:

Acrid (definition: sharp or pungent): looks like "acid", which would be biting or would smell bad

Polemic (definition: strong verbal attack on someone): I imagine someone screaming into a "mic" about how bad they want to hit someone else with a "pole"

Maladroit (definition: clumsy): I use my hands to remember the French words for left and right. Left is gauche because I can make a little g with my left hand, and right is droit because I can make a little d with my right hand. So with "maladroit" I think of myself being bad (mal is French for bad) at making these hand signs because I'm so clumsy.

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"For the Analytical Writing section, each essay receives a score from at least one trained reader, using a six-point holistic scale. In holistic scoring, readers are trained to assign scores on the basis of the overall quality of an essay in response to the assigned task. The essay score is then reviewed by e-rater®, a computerized program developed by ETS, which is used to monitor the human reader. If the e-raterevaluation and the human score agree, the human score is used as the final score. If they disagree by a certain amount, a second human score is obtained, and the final score is the average of the two human scores.


The final scores on the two essays are then averaged and rounded to the nearest half-point interval on the 0–6 score scale. A single score is reported for the Analytical Writing measure. The primary emphasis in scoring the Analytical Writing section is on your critical thinking and analytical writing skills rather than on grammar and mechanics. Read the "Issue" and "Argument" scoring guides below."


Source: https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/scores/how/


I received a 5.5/6 for my analytic score and I have to say that I doubt it was due to using GRE words (because I only knowingly used one). Although I obviously structured my essays into paragraphs and used transition words I would say that my score was probably due to the ability to properly support my argument as well as acknowledge and dismiss opposing arguments. I would strongly suggest practicing your writing if you feel that you are not a strong writer. Please learn how to write a good essay, if not for the sake of your GRE score than do it for your graduate/post graduate career.

Edited by C10H12N2O
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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey, I agree with @juiceboxrampage's comments. I took the GRE in December 2014 and started studying for it just two months before that. When I started, I thought it was going to be the challenge of a lifetime. I was not as intimidated on the quantitative section since I've always thought that my math was better than my verbal skills so I really drilled myself to study as much as I can on the format, common question types and patterns of the verbal section. What I realize now is that GRE is like anything else in life, the more time, effort and practice you put into it, the better you'll become. So first off, if you haven't already, get the Kaplan GRE book, it provides all the details on the exam itself so you'd have a comprehensive understanding of what you should expect on the exam. The practice tests in the book as well as online (comes free with the book) are by far the most helpful form to familiarizing yourself with the types of questions you'll see on the actual exam. Even the layout of the online practice tests almost 100% mimics the actual computer-based GRE test. 


Let me break down the verbal section first. There are essentially 2 types of verbal questions on the test: 1) vocab and 2) reading comprehension. The best way to study vocab is not to force yourself to memorize the words and definitions but to actually understand what the word means. Mnemonic devices are the best way to do that. I created a spreadsheet of all the common GRE words I didn't know and studied them everyday. It may not sound effect but you'd be surprised by what your brain can retain when it comes to actual test taking. With respect to reading comprehension, the Kaplan book does a very good job of explaining the types of questions and tips to tackle them. Since I knew this was my greatest weakness right off the bat, I forced myself to do sample questions on a daily basis. The GRE tries to add tricks into their reading comprehension questions to make the questions seem harder than they are, my advice is just to thoroughly read each question instead of skimming and trying to answer. And in the event that you really don't know, eliminate answers you know/think are wrong and just guess from the remaining choices since you don't get docked points for answering incorrectly. 


The math section, in my opinion, is a lot easier than reading. My suggestion is to understand the basic math laws/theorems (PEDMAS, pythagorean, etc) and always read the question carefully. I can't tell you how many times I've been burned on practice questions just because I didn't read the question in a detailed way. For some questions that seem to require an equation to solve with variables, it's simpler to just substitute in each of the answer values and see if the equation is equivalent. My weakness in the math section was probabilities and permutations, here is a great website that teaches the laws commonly seen on the GRE questions.


Anyways, good luck in your studies, the test really isn't that difficult. I know I was just intimidated at first because it was the SAT equivalent for post-grad and I didn't do too well on the SATs. If you put the time and effort into it, I'm sure you'll do fine. 

Keep it real.


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I would take a practice test (download the free Powerprep software from the ETS website - it's almost exactly like the real thing) before you study anything so that you know how much you will need to improve to get to your target score. When I did that, I realized that my verbal score was fine, so I mostly focused my studying time on math. I also read through the Princeton Review Cracking the GRE book to get a handle on format, and used the Magoosh GRE Verbal flashcards app on my phone. The verbal is really about two things: reading comprehension and vocab. If you're not great at reading comprehension, that will be much harder to learn in a short amount of time than vocab, but the best thing you can do is read as much as possible (news articles, scholarly journals, etc.). Having a large arsenal of vocab, on the other hand, is really just memorization. 

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