You’ve completed Kaplan’s Free Online GRE Practice Test or your Kaplan prep class diagnostic test. Now what? Whether you scored close to your goal or you feel the exam was written in ancient Sumerian, you have a lot to learn from reviewing your results. Remember, your score can only go up with practice.
How do you make the most of your GRE practice test or diagnostic results? Here are the top ten things to consider for planning your next steps.
1. Recognize this as a starting point
A diagnostic test is a tool. It’s meant to inform you of where you are right now, not where you’ll can be after studying. Check your schools of interest and set both a realistic goal and a much more ambitious goal for your score.
2. Review every question and every answer choice
Why? Standardized tests consist of patterns. Recognize the patterns by reviewing the questions on the practice test and your answers. During your analysis, consider the following:
- On what question types did you do well?
- Which areas of the exam were most difficult for you?
- When you selected an incorrect answer, what traps did you fall into?
Noting these wins and areas of opportunity for improvement will help guide your prep.
3. Think about your testing experience
Were you nervous? Were you surprised by the exam format? Did you feel rushed? Were there sections you didn’t complete? Take some time to reflect on the GRE practice test and use this self-analysis as a basis to learn more about the exam itself. Then develop a personal strategy for controlling your pacing and attacking every section of the exam. Remember, there is no need to take the questions on each section in order. Become familiar with the exam tools and learn how to harvest easy points and prioritize different question types to your advantage.
4. Plan your studies going forward
Organize your study plan by focusing first on sections where you struggled the most, but also remember to check the frequency of each question type. You don’t need to master everything to do well on the GRE, so pick your battles. Statistics don’t really matter, for example, unless you require more than a 160 in Quantitative. Focus your energy on high-yield areas of the exam, then come back to other areas if you still have time before Test Day. Remember to alternate your Verbal and Quantitative prep.
5. Set SMART goals
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and achievable within a set timeframe. You may be a little short of or exceed your goals when you reach that date, but whatever your progress, use your formulated objective to re-evaluate and re-prioritize your prep as needed, setting a new SMART goal along the way.
Consider for example trying to hit a measurable improvement in points every few weeks to a month in each area of the exam. There will be ups and downs as you study—especially in the beginning—because you are learning new skills and methods, but overall you should be on an upward trend.
6. Prep strategically
Do not study when tired. Instead, study in shorter sessions throughout the day and reserve any long blocks of time for new materials. Take breaks, at least ten minutes per hour of study. Repeat your review of the GRE material over days and weeks so that it gets committed to long-term memory. Cramming is not a successful study technique for the GRE. Study in test-like conditions—consider a library. Plan your GRE practice tests and some study sessions to coincide with the day of the week and time of your scheduled Test Day.
7. Schedule more practice tests
Adding even more GRE practices tests to your schedule can help you anticipate what to expect when it comes time to take the real thing. Mark these on your calendar and stick to your practice test dates as opportunities for self-assessment.
Kaplan students have seven full-length exams, one of which can be taken at an official testing site—part of our Official Test Day Experience. Every exam Kaplan offers provides full answers and explanations. ETS provides two free exams for download on their website and provides a review of the correct answer choices, but no explanations.
Every GRE practice test is a time for self-analysis and re-evaluation of your study needs, SMART goals, and exam strategy. Take a practice test every few weeks when you start studying and then weekly as you near your exam date.
8. Set an exam date
Setting a goal provides impetus to study. Be realistic about your schedule and commitments. How much time you have available for daily study is one factor in determining how long it will take you to achieve your desired score. You also need to consider how far away from your desired score you are and which areas of the exam gave you difficulty. Whether you struggle with vocab, algebra, or geometry, be pragmatic in estimating how long it may take you to improve in those areas of the exam.
Remember, a Kaplan prep course or tutoring, which both provide personalized assistance, can help you reach your goal much faster. As a guideline, most students need 100 to 150 hours of study to achieve their score goals, which are typically about ten points higher than their diagnostic score in both Quantitative and Verbal. Plan on two to three months of dedicated study time.
9. Motivate yourself and stay confident
The best results come from consistent study. Plan on six days a week, with one day off, and make sure that day off is fun and relaxing. That day off should be set aside to reward yourself for all you’ve accomplished during the week. Don’t be afraid to implement your own reward system for your studies—but no cheating.
With appropriate study, you can reach your goals. Kaplan is here to help, with classes or tutoring. Talk to one of our instructors to discuss what options Kaplan offers that are best suited to your goals and timeframe. Book an appointment for a call from a Kaplan GRE instructor to learn more.
10. Reap the rewards
When used appropriately, GRE practice tests are an invaluable study tool. They demonstrate where you are excelling and where you need more work. Practice helps you master timing and develop a plan of attack for every section of the exam, giving you the opportunity to hone the skills and methods needed to succeed on Test Day.
Sign up now if you still haven’t taken Kaplan’s Free Online GRE Practice Test and starting planning your path to a higher score.