For a lot of undergraduate students, obtaining a master's degree is the next step in their academic journey. With graduate school ambitions come the nitty-gritty application process: the general application, personal essays, letters of recommendation, and testing scores. Most of the time, people worry the most about the GRE.
As hard as you prepared for the SAT in high school is how hard you should be studying for the GRE now, if not more. It's not an impossible exam, but the range of material you could be tested on is extensive. At first glance, it can easily be overwhelming. Some test takers have no idea where or when to begin studying, and because it is an expensive standardized test to take, most people want to obtain the score they need on the first go. Whether you're a seasoned test-taker or get a bit of those pre-exam nerves, here are a few ways to prep for the GRE that will help you get the best score you can.
Plan and prepare with a schedule.
While this seems like a no-brainer, a good portion of students don't begin studying for the GRE until a few weeks before test day. This can work out in some cases, but you don't want to bet on it. Plan ahead and give yourself at least three months to review the material covered on the exam. This gives you a few buffer days to relax and not fall behind schedule if life gets a bit chaotic.
Know your opponent.
Like any opponent in a sports match, you want to know a few things about them: their physical statistics, their win-loss ratio, the average amount of times they have scored, or the total number of minutes they have played in the game. The same is true for the GRE. In order to successfully beat the exam, there are a few things you should know: how long it takes, different sections, permitted and not permitted items, scoring, etc. Knowing what you're up against eases the testing anxiety and eliminates any surprises.
Purchase a GRE prep book.
There are a lot of free resources online, but they're scattered and never all in one place. GRE prep books are designed and written by individuals who have studied the exam backwards and forwards and know exactly what you will be quizzed on come test day. For twenty or thirty dollars, you have an all-access comprehensive guide. Not only does it include a cliff-notes version of the material on the GRE, but it provides great test-taking tips and additional resources for you to use should you need it.
Play to your strengths.
Everyone approaches studying differently, but one common approach to GRE prep is playing to your strengths. For example, if literature comes more naturally to you and you score higher on these than math questions, it's worth devoting your initial time to perfecting those scores because there is less material to become familiar with. Once you feel comfortable and have a near-perfect score in your best topic, you can move on to the others that will take up more time. This guarantees you those points and focuses your study time better. If you spread yourself out thin and study every topic at an average level, you'd probably miss out on some points in your best subjects.
Studying for standardized tests can be daunting and overwhelming, and unfortunately, the GRE is no exception. During your study sessions, have your favorite music playing in the background and a homemade snack at your disposal to help you feel calm and less stressed. When your brain feels a little fried, take a break and go for a walk around the block. If your body feels like it needs sleep, give it some. You perform your best when your body feels its best, so pay attention to its needs and give yourself little rewards along the way.
As long as you give yourself enough time and the appropriate resources to study, you'll feel more comfortable and at ease as test day approaches.