how to improve your gre score

How to Improve Your GRE Score: Top 5 Tips

Whether your official GRE score is lower than your target score or you aren’t scoring as high as you were hoping on your practice tests, there are steps you can take to change up your prep routine and see your score climb. Here are our top 5 tips on what you can do to improve your GRE score.

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GRE Tip 1) Take an inventory of how you have been studying for the GRE

You’ve recognized that you’re not quite hitting your score goal, so it’s time to shift the way that you’ve been conducting your GRE prep. Take stock of everything you have been doing. The key here is to be honest with yourself in assessing your process so far. How many hours have you put in to your prep over what period of time? How many practice tests have you taken? How often are you studying? Are there distractions that you can eliminate to make your study sessions more productive?

The solution to raising your score may simply be to put in more legwork. If you’ve been studying once or twice a week, consider adding an additional day or two. If you’ve only been at it for a month, realize that most students see the greatest progress after 2-3 months of dedicated prep. Consider following our 3-month GRE Study Guide

Take steps to fine-tune the way you are approaching your GRE studying. For example, if you’re sitting down to study, but are getting texts and emails that interrupt your focus every fifteen minutes, consider putting your phone on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode so you can apply 2-3 hours of undivided attention during every session. 

Perhaps you need to supplement what you are doing with additional resources. If you’ve been studying on your own, consider working with a GRE expert teacher or tutor who can help you identify your greatest areas of opportunity. Kaplan has both Live Online and In Person GRE classes that will structure your prep and teach you proven strategies. For the most personalized experience, you can work with a private tutor who will get to know your personal strengths and weaknesses and structure your prep to serve your goals.

GRE Tip 2) Craft a study schedule and stick to it

Once you’ve committed to improving your score, get organized. Choose your GRE test date if you haven’t already and work backward to plan your studying. Procrastination is tempting. If you don’t take the time to literally pencil in your GRE prep, you may find yourself consistently pushing it off and losing valuable time to do practice sets, review foundational material, or drill vocabulary words. Sit down and craft a study calendar—literally. Whether you are using a paper calendar, your computer, or your phone, schedule blocks of time several days each week up until your Test Day.

To add a layer of accountability and structure, be specific when crafting your study schedule, devoting each study day to a specific task. If you’re unsure of where to start, a GRE prep book can be helpful in giving you an overview of what’s tested on the GRE. Be sure to schedule a full-length GRE practice test every few weeks to build your stamina and experience with the structure of the test. 

Here’s an example of what one week in a 3-month study calendar might look like:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
Full-length GRE Practice Test Day Off Review GRE Practice Test Day Off Quantitative Comparison Review + Practice Day Off Text Completion Practice + Vocab

GRE Tip 3) Create an Error Log

When you get a question wrong, there’s a small part of you that should get excited. When you make an error, you create a valuable opportunity to collect data to learn from your mistakes. To make the most of your errors, create an error log.

Your error log will serve as a central repository of all of the mistakes you make throughout your GRE prep. You can create this log in whatever manner serves you best—paper or digital. You’ll want to record the following data:

  • The type of error you made: the question number and location (so you can find it again easily), the date, and how long you spent on the question.
  • The error: describe the error you made in detail.
  • The reason: figure out why you made the error and write that down. Some of the errors you make will fall into the category of “careless errors”—you may choose to omit these from your log and simply make a mental note. If you see a pattern with careless errors you are making, add it to your log.
  • The solution: figure out—and write down—what you can do to avoid making the same mistake again.

Simply engaging in the process of recording your errors as outlined above will help you avoid making similar mistakes in the future. To get the most out of your error log, take some time each week to review your log, paying attention to stubborn patterns and mistakes that you continue to make.

GRE Tip 4) Brush up on GRE Vocabulary

The Verbal Reasoning section has three question types—Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence, and Reading Comprehension. Students find Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions to be some of the toughest because they are heavily reliant on knowledge of vocabulary. Be sure to fold in GRE Vocabulary review at regular intervals into your prep schedule. We’ve compiled a list of the Top 52 GRE Vocabulary words that appear over and over again from one test administration to the next to help you get started.

As you tackle GRE practice sets, write down any word you encounter that you don’t know. They may be old fashioned, but flashcards are an excellent tool for studying GRE vocab. Create a flashcard for each word and drill it until you’ve embedded it into your memory.

GRE Tip 5) Take practice tests on a regular basis

The final tip to improve your GRE score is to take GRE practice tests on a regular basis. To get the most out of your practice tests, work to mimic the actual test-taking environment as closely as possible. Be sure to complete all of your practice tests in a single sitting using the timing restrictions of the real GRE. The more familiar you get with the structure of the GRE, the more efficient and comfortable you’ll be on Test Day—there won’t be any surprises and the practice of taking the GRE will be engrained in your body. Kaplan’s GRE Practice Test Packs give you access to up to 4 full-length GRE practice tests in a realistic test interface.

Setting aside time to review your practice tests is just as important as taking regular practice tests. First, note all of the mistakes you made in your error log, taking the time to fully understand which missteps you took and how you could correct your approach the next time you tackle the same type of question. Then, go over the questions that you guessed on or that took longer than you wanted. Last, review questions that you got right to be sure you fully understand how you got to the right answer. Reviewing your practice tests should take at least as long as a full-length GRE, so be sure to block out enough time in your schedule for these vital review days.

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