I remember when I wrote my GRE. It was the most stressful exam of my life. The first time I took it, I wasn’t worried at all since I had no idea what to expect. I was smart and I was sure that I would score decently. Wow! I totally misjudged the exam. First, you need your passport, you go into a little cubicle, you can’t go to the bathroom for hours, you can’t bring anything in, and the questions start and disappear once the time is up, there’s no time to think…. The second time around I literally was crying in the hallway floor before heading down to the exam centre. So much stress!!!
Eventually, I did master the stress and exam though. There are a few things you can do to help yourself too:
Give yourself 3-6 Months to Prepare:
Unlike most exams in high school or university, you can’t just memorize all of the material in a short period of time. You need to understand how the exam works, identify different types of questions, and know the content so that you can answer everything quickly without the stress of the situation getting to you.
Use the Library:
There are numerous exam prep books out there. Instead of buying them all, check them out from the library and do as many practice questions as you can. You can also find lots of resources online. The best bet is to go to official test sites for practice tests, as well as well-known exam prep companies for books. Make sure that you have the most updated versions for practice tests, but you don’t necessarily need the most updated exam texts for practice unless there has been a major change in the exam. The majority of the questions remain the same, so don’t worry too much about using older editions for drills, as long as you have a few up-to-date practice exams from the official website that you can use for a full practice.
There’s a ton of material to memorize in order to score well on the exam, particularly if there is a vocabulary section or math section. The best way to deal with it is to create flashcards and work on memorizing terms and equations while you’re riding the transit, working out at the gym, or waiting for an appointment. It is a good idea to keep track of what you remember and what you still need to work on by putting the flashcards aside that you feel you’ve already mastered and replacing them with others that you aren’t fully confident about. You can also find several free apps that generate flashcards and quizzes to help your review.
Do Short Drills:
Speed is a key element of succeeding on standardized exams. There’s no time to think about your answer, you just need to know it. Practicing sections of the exam under time pressure allows you focus on mastering certain types of questions while increasing your speed and accuracy. Different sections tend to require different skills sets, so once you feel comfortable with one section, you can move onto the next. By mastering one section at a time, it makes doing the full exam under time pressure a lot less daunting.
Note Your Mistakes:
Every time you get a question wrong, go to the back of the workbook and read the explanation. You will likely start to see patterns in your errors and certain types of questions that you struggle with. If you can identify those patterns, then you can slowly recognize the correct response in different cases. Don’t beat yourself up about making any mistakes, but take this as an opportunity to learn and improve. These exams don’t test your intelligence, but you’re ability to master the exam.
Cracking standardized exams isn’t easy, but it is possible. There is no secret weapon to getting a good score, but hard work, lots of practice, and understanding what the exam is all about sure does help. And remember, if you need extra help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to set up a free 30 minute consultation with a qualified exam prep tutor.
The content of this post is created by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. You are welcome to share this post, but please do not replicate any of this material without our permission. Thanks!