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How to Prepare for the GRE at home

Just as the SAT is a required component of undergraduate admissions, the GRE General Test is required for graduate admissions in the majority of fields. It is critical that you develop the necessary skills for studying for the GRE at home. The GRE is not discipline-specific, but it does assess your executive functioning abilities. Executive reasoning functions as the CEO of your brain, and the GRE test writers are interested in how well that CEO analyzes data, solves problems, and thinks critically. 

Success on the GRE is contingent upon your ability to prioritize and organize the information presented to you in ways that facilitate problem solving. The following GRE preparation tips will help you achieve your best score:

Read a substantial amount of analytical non-fiction 

Do you believe you can lose weight without avoiding snacks that contain more calories than they provide nutritionally? Proper mental nourishment follows the same principle, and the best prescription for the health of your GRE abilities is a well-balanced diet of reading material. Spending time studying for the GRE at home will become a chore if you do not supplement your studies with analytical non-fiction in your spare time. According to studies, students who excel on the verbal section of the GRE are frequently philosophy or liberal arts majors who become familiar with a variety of narrative and academic writing styles during their undergraduate coursework. 

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While reading about subjects unrelated to your primary areas of interest may not be your preferred pastime, the effort will be worthwhile. The GRE’s reading passages require you to develop a high level of proficiency in reading a variety of materials, and students who are familiar with a broad range of texts have a significant advantage.Even though it might be a struggle to prepare effectively for GRE at home, it’s also one of the best places to prepare for it if you can reduce the distraction.

Adhere to a consistent GRE study schedule 

While the precise amount of study time required for optimal GRE scores varies by student, all students must develop a strong command of the test, which typically takes at least three months of diligent GRE preparation. Five months would be even better if you have the luxury of additional time. The most critical aspect is that you develop and adhere to a structured GRE study plan at home. 

If you excelled in high school math and are an avid reader, you may not need to prepare as much as test takers with less aptitude in these areas, but your background can give you a leg up. Avoid becoming overconfident and underestimating the GRE. 

Create a workable daily schedule that allots time for each GRE section and ensures that you cover all of the ground. Finally, you are your own teacher and coach. Just as flossing your teeth regularly prevents inconvenient and costly dental problems, you must study in advance to ensure a smooth test-day performance.

Conduct practice tests 

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When it comes to preparing for the GRE, one of the most significant impediments is stress. While each section may be manageable on its own, completing the test in one sitting (3 hours and 45 minutes) is akin to running a marathon. You must be prepared and ensure that you exercise, stretch, and gradually increase your weekly GRE mileage over several months. Students who lack sufficient stamina risk receiving low grades. 

Practicing tests will also assist you in developing a sense of self-control. These will serve as valuable benchmarks, and practicing tests is an excellent way to build testing endurance. Practicing the entire GRE will help you develop a sense of the test’s mental and physical demands, which will eventually enable you to work confidently and effectively through the entire test. 

As much as possible, administer your practice tests under conditions similar to those of an actual GRE administration. You want to acclimate your brain to taking the test in realistic scenarios. If you decide to take these practice GRE tests at home, make sure the conditions are inline with a typical GRE test.

Recognize your weaknesses 

The sections of the GRE that present the greatest difficulty are almost certainly the sections that you dislike the most. If you’re a math whiz who has no use for verbose writing on esoteric subjects, you’re likely to find swimming through dense prose akin to wading through a quagmire. On the other hand, individuals who find integers and exponential properties tedious frequently struggle mightily to comprehend math concepts. 

Knowing your weaknesses and how to overcome them will enable you to maintain a balanced study pace. Make every effort to structure your study plan in such a way that you can more effectively target your weaknesses. It may seem inconvenient at first, but it will become less so. When it comes to areas where you are most comfortable, choose study materials that will help you expand your skills and knowledge rather than easy exercises. The objective is to compel yourself to focus in the face of adversity by working through material that you find weighty and difficult.

Keep track of your progress 

Employers look for evidence of applicants’ contributions to work projects during job interviews. They always appreciate statistical evidence of accomplishment (such as increasing sales by 5% or halving operational expenses). GRE preparation can also benefit from clear performance benchmarks. Charting your progress is critical because it provides a snapshot of your score improvement and allows you to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of your study techniques. 

Your improvement metric should follow a consistent set of criteria, and you should track your progress weekly, if not daily. Regular self-evaluation will reveal your progress on each question type and section, and by tracking your study routine, you’ll be able to correct any detrimental patterns.

Believe in your gut instinct. 

You’ve almost certainly encountered multiple-choice questions in which you’ve narrowed the options but are unable to choose between two plausible responses. You’ve analyzed the situation, gathered data, evaluated your options, and narrowed them down to two through the process of elimination. 

“Gut instinct” can be a frightening concept, as it is simply another term for intuition, or the capacity to grasp something without using cognitive information. When taking the GRE, hedging your bets on a 50% success rate (once your answer choices are reduced to two) can be unsettling. However, if you have studied the GRE material at home and practiced the exercises thoughtfully and purposefully, trusting your gut can become a shortcut to making a rational decision. As long as you have adequately prepared for GRE at home and are employing sound test-taking strategies, it is acceptable to trust your gut and proceed with your intuitive choice. Everyone processes information in their subconscious mind, and your gut instinct can assist you in solving a problem when your conscious mind fails.

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Our Take

Effective GRE preparation at home will increase your intelligence and adaptability. The principles for improving your GRE study habits are timeless and self-evident in retrospect. By establishing a dedicated study space in which you can concentrate without distraction, you can devote all of your energy to achieving optimal GRE scores. 

The GRE is the only general admissions examination that is internationally accepted by thousands of graduate schools, making it an extremely valuable test to have on your record. It’s best to view the GRE as an opportunity for admission and scholarship consideration, and a high GRE score can even compensate for a low GPA.If you follow the strategies outlined above, you will improve your GRE study techniques. With enough time and effort, you can expect to see improvements in your GRE scores as well as your overall reasoning abilities.

Five common blunders to avoid while preparing for the GRE 

Only two weeks of study 

This is a classic case of fallacy, because if passing the GRE were that simple, everyone would do it. (And, to be honest, the GRE would probably be less useful as a metric if that were the case.) Nonetheless, nearly everyone has heard a story about someone who studied until the week before the exam or who went in completely unprepared and aced it. Perhaps you are even thinking to yourself: I am that individual. Fortunately, there is an easy way to demonstrate that proposition. Take a practice exam right now at home to determine your performance (free trials of Economist GRE Tutor include a full practice exam). 

When you’re finished, check your score. Is this precisely what you hoped for? Are you certain you can replicate the outcome if it is? No? Studying for two weeks is unlikely to significantly improve your score or even guarantee the same performance, so whether you were hoping to do better or equally well, you should abandon this notion immediately. The GRE is not designed or scored in such a way that a two-week refresher course on its material will significantly improve the scores of the majority of people. 

If you truly want to improve (or maintain) your score, you must become methodical in your approach. And there is no two-week, foolproof method available. GRE preparation is a process. You can make yourself miserable by attempting to cram everything into two weeks and risk feeling even worse if it does not produce the desired result. Alternatively, you can begin preparing immediately, gradually and at a pace that is comfortable for you, and observe how gradual work results in significant payoff.

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Weekend studies 

I’ll live a normal life during the week and transform into a test samurai on weekends. After all, it appears to be a reasonable compromise, correct? This notion contains two implausible components: 1) You are not going to be tempted by more exciting ways to spend your weekends—going out with friends, concerts, or parties, to name a few. The weekend is when the rest of the world unwinds and celebrates, and by choosing to study during this time, you put yourself at odds with all of the good things that the world will continue to throw at you. 2) Anyone can become a samurai by spending their weekends swinging a sword around. Consider the fallacy from Mistake No. 1: if becoming a samurai were that simple, we would all be ninja fighters. 

When studying a foreign language, there is one factor that accelerates acquisition and fluency above all others: immersion. The more time you spend in and around that language, being forced to use it on a daily basis, the more you retain and the faster you can speak it. 

The same holds true for the GRE: the more immersed you are in the skills and concepts required to perform well on the test, the more likely you will be able to retain and apply them when the time comes. By reserving study time for the weekends, you will deprive yourself of the opportunity to maximize that effort. Even if you spent every Saturday and Sunday preparing, you’d end up getting more out of those hours by spreading them out over the week. Consistent immersion helps you retain more of what you need to know, which speeds up your progress and makes those skills more accessible when you really need them.

Not conducting debriefings following practice exams 

Practice exams are about much more than the grade you receive at the conclusion. While they can be an effective way to track your progress, delving into the individual questions can reveal so much more about what you need to study and how to overcome your obstacles. 

A thorough debriefing of practice exams enables you to begin sifting your performance for patterns, weaknesses, and strengths, which can teach you how to study effectively for the next one. These are excellent opportunities to begin quantifying your progress and developing a study plan that will benefit you the most. 

If you do not spend time reviewing these results, you may spend each day studying but not actually focusing on the work that will have the greatest impact on you. While it may appear that you are working consistently enough that you are “certain to improve,” if you are not tracking your performance and tailoring your study regimen accordingly, you may be preventing yourself from making an even greater impact. Reflection on your actions and performance can teach you just as much about the test as a thorough examination of study questions.

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