Though students have unique study habits and specific strategies work better for some than others, anyone preparing for the GRE can benefit from taking full-length practice tests. Yes, taking full exams can be strenuous, and they take a long time to complete. But when you sit down at the computer on the day of the exam and know exactly what to expect, you’ll be grateful that you did.
Where can you access GRE practice materials? Online, you can find exams from previous years, and the test administrator (ETS) offers complete practice exams on their website. You can also find GRE practice tests and resources from test-prep and tutoring companies.
1. Have the Right Tools
Test-takers can use a calculator on the mathematical sections of the exam, but the tool is limited in its capabilities. An on-screen calculator is built into the exam program and only has simple calculator functions. Especially if you’re used to using a TI-89 calculator, you’ll want to take practice tests with the official exam calculator instead. Studying this way will give you a better sense of when you can and can’t rely on the calculator during the actual exam.
2. Keep With the GRE Allotted Times
When taking practice tests, do not exceed the time allotted for each section of the exam. Though it’s fine to take your time answering practice questions in your early study sessions, you’ll want to simulate the real-time constraints of the exam when taking full-length practice tests.
Even if you finish a portion of the test before the timer goes off, you should also get in the habit of sitting for the entire allotment of time. Doing so will help you get acquainted with how long the test will really feel. If you finish a section of the practice test quickly, review your answers to make the most of your time.
3. Pace Yourself
Rushing through the GRE will likely lead to careless mistakes. Conversely, taking too long on difficult questions may mean you won’t have time to complete the entire section.
When taking full tests to prepare, practice your discernment of how much time you can give to each question. Remember, you can skip a challenging question and return to it if you have time at the end of the section. When practicing pacing, keep the score calculations in mind; on the GRE, there’s no penalty for wrong answers, so you might as well choose a random answer if you’re pressed for time and can’t figure out a question.
Pacing is not only relevant to individual sections of practice tests but also to your test-prep schedule.
Taking practice tests too close together can leave you discouraged if you don’t see much improvement in your scores. It’s better to take practice tests at pre-determined intervals along with your study schedule, so these simulations accurately reflect your growth.
4. Don’t Overlook Your Environment
White noise producers and music may help some people stay focused while studying, but they will not be allowed during the test, so you shouldn’t take practice tests with them either. You also want to simulate the level of comfort you’ll feel at the actual testing site. If practicing with a paper test, try doing so in a library with a similar comfort level and noise to what you will face on test day.
5. Analyze Your Results
Practice tests are not only useful for helping you measure progress; they also give you a clear map of where your weaknesses lie. Go over every answer you got wrong on the test until you understand why the correct answer is what it is. You’ll likely encounter a similar question on the actual GRE, so it’s essential to understand the methodology behind the questions you get wrong.
Walk Into the Exam with Confidence
Though taking numerous practice exams may feel tedious, it’s an effective preparation method. Aside from natural test-day nerves and the adaptiveness of the computerized exam, you can simulate all aspects of the test. The more accustomed you get to the experience, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be.