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How did you master the GRE?


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So, I've come to the conclusion that I might be rejected from all three schools (M.A and Ph.D programs) I applied to because of my poor GRE scores and I've come to terms with it. I know I need to retake the GRE if I want to be eligible for the next application cycle. So, I was wondering, if those of you that scored 325+ could offer advice on how you studied, what supplemental programs you used (e.g., Magoosh), and how long you studied for.


Thanks in advance!

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Take the two official computer practice tests (https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep2). The format is the exact same as the real thing. Take the full test including essays. Whatever score you get on the practice should be what you get on the actual test (+/- 1-2 points in my experience). These practice tests are limited (only two), accurate, and thus very valuable. I would save these computer practice tests until after you've practiced with GRE books. I liked the official ETS GRE book.

(Note that you technically have infinite pauses between sections. If you have to go to the bathroom often, confirm with your proctor before the test that it's okay.)

Download the Magoosh mobile vocabulary word app. Can learn and practice words on the go.


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Mastering a skill would take time, determination and practice. This goes to the same with GRE exam (instead of saying "master", using the word "prepared" would be much suitable).

If I may suggest, a minimum of 3 months should be a good time-frame to prepare for the GRE Exam. Within that 3 months, you should have studied every section of GRE.

Having a SMART objective can be great.

S - Specific: GRE Test Preparation for 3 months. The person should be able to fully prepare her/himself for the GRE Exam by taking mock/practice tests and reading every book available for GRE preparation. This way, he/she can be confident while taking the exam.

M - Measurable: A proper schedule should be created and maintained.

A - Achievable: You should see for yourself that the time allocated for each topic should be achievable. A schedule with defined time and activity is something needed for preparation.

R - Realistic: Provide each topic a realistic time to finish each one. Let’s say 3 weeks for each topic and the last 2 weeks should be reviewing everything you learn. Review can either be done by answering back all the mock test you made. (But that depends on you)

T - Time-based: Schedule, schedule, schedule. :)

For more help, we have asked a couple of GRE tutors and authors with the following questions. You may click on the following to see the video interview and hear them out.

  1. What Is The Best Approach In Preparing For The GRE?
  2. How To Avoid Cram While Preparing For GRE Exam
  3. How To Get Used To Stress and Time Pressure? (Quantitative Section)
  4. Helpful Tips For Anyone Interested In Taking The GRE
  5. Are Practice Tests Harder Than The Actual Test For GMAT or GRE?

Bonus: The Best Strategies for Recall (Vocabulary Section)

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I got a 337 on try one. I used the powerprep program on the ETS website to be familiar with the format. The biggest thing that caught me off-guard was the time limits being way lower than expected. (Like, I knew the numbers of minutes beforehand, but the practice tests felt dramatically easier.)

Relaxing is probably the most important move so you can get through quickly. Remembering all that stuff from high school is probably also a good move. 

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I got a 331 (170 Q, 161 V) on my first try. I used Magoosh, it was really helpful and generally the questions were harder than the actual test so it actually prepared me really well. The math section especially was a piece of cake after going through their practice questions. I decided to study before signing up for the exam because I had plenty of time. I only signed up for the exam when I felt ready to take it. and then I had two or three weeks beyond that to really make sure I remembered all the special exceptions and formulas. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't have great tips for the quant section, since I majored in Math and pretty much was offended by the thought of even trying on that part, but my vocabulary is only slightly more impressive than, well, I won't bring politics into this. Having a limited vocabulary hurts a lot in the Verbal section. I'm convinced you can improve drastically just by learning more words. The best way to do that, as far as I can tell, is by downloading the Magoosh app for your phone. I studied words probably about 5 hours a week for a month and raised my Verbal score from a 155 to a 165.

I also took a practice test, clearly, since I had a comparison. If you're concerned, take as many as possible. I think you can get a couple free ones from ETS, and Kaplan and Princeton Review probably have more as well!

I got a 6 on the Writing. Honestly, I think most of that is because I'm a trained mathematician. My writing isn't too interesting, but it's generally clear and organized. I threw some Magoosh words up in it, and I think those two things put together did it (fancy words + structured writing = 6).


I also relaxed a lot the night before. I read Hyperbole and a Half and did no homework.


So, in sum:

Writing is improved by having structure and fancy words. Sentence complexity/variation probably helps too.

Math, not sure, but you can get free problems sent to your email. Do that.

Verbal: Get the Magoosh app.

Everything: practice. Take all the practice tests. Read about common pitfalls and trick answers. Practice even more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I studied with Magoosh, I found it really helpful, the problems are usually a little bit harder than the actual exam, so that helps, and there are lots of questions, the videos are very clear, I really liked it in general. For the quant part I also bought the ETS Quant Reasoning Practice Book, its $20 or so, and I think is a good thing to have because the question are, well, the same kind of question since it is the official book and it also has a bit of explanation. For the verbal part, there is the app from Magoosh which I think is free and I found some videos in You Tube called "GRE vocab Wednesdays" which I think are absolutely great for increasing your vocabulary, well this part was really hard for me because I am not a native speaker and I was lacking a lot of vocab (well even more than now), and there are specific words that are typical to GRE so is good to know which ones. I don´t know what you did your major in but if you are not used to dealing with math problems or if you are not skillful in it I would recommend practicing a lot, everyday, the brain needs to get used to that kind of thinking. Also, try to do as many mock tests as possible, the exam is extenuating and it is a good idea to get used to it, it´s no easy thing to be focused for 4 hours straight and don´t skip the AWA part, if you can do them at the same time you will take the exam I think that is a good idea. Well I hope this is helpful. :) 

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