27 Practical Strategies to Improve your GRE Score

Source- Kaplan Prep for Grad School

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a popular assessment tool for students seeking admissions to graduate colleges abroad. It is the largest examination conducted and taken by students worldwide for admissions to college after high school. The GRE test score is also accepted by almost all top business schools around the globe for MBA admissions. Many law schools also have started accepting GRE scores! 

Before we move on to the tips and strategies to improve your GRE score, here’s a quick overview of the basics on the GRE, in case you’ve just started studying.

  1. The exam tests the following skills of an aspirant: verbal, mathematical and analytical skills.
  2. For graduate students, a separate subject test is also conducted (in the field of their graduation expertise). This test aids the student in standing out from the crowd and also helps the college test the subject expertise in the field of graduation.
  3. The GRE is a computer-based exam. There is no pen and paper involved while taking the test.
  4. The basic criteria of the GRE exam are that the student must have an undergraduate (UG) degree or diploma from a recognized institution. Also, the passport has to be made available as identity proof by the student, as the exam is a cross-border centralized test.
  5. The GRE general exam is conducted all around the year. However, the specialized subject test (pen and paper-based) is conducted only thrice a year in April, September and October.
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Learn more about the GRE:

The GRE test has three sections, as mentioned earlier, which test the skill set of an aspirant on an all-round basis. Competitive exams have similar evaluation subjects; only the level of difficulty ranges from high to low in each exam.

The GRE General Test has the following sections:

  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section would have 40 questions and a time limit of 70 minutes. (35 minutes are allowed for each subsection of 20 questions.)
  • Verbal Reasoning: This section contains 40 questions and a time limitation of 60 minutes. (30 minutes are allowed for each subsection of 20 questions.)
  • Analytical Writing: The time allowed for this section is 60 minutes. It tests the writing skills of the candidate- a unique feature in a competitive exam. Most examinations test the quantitative, logical reasoning and verbal skills.
SectionQuestionsTime limitSkills tested
Quantitative Reasoning40
(2 subsections of 20 each)
70 minutesMathematical adeptness
Verbal Reasoning40
(2 subsections of 20 each)
60 minutesLanguage skills
Analytical Writing2 tasks60 minutesWriting and analytical ability
TOTAL190 minutes

The GRE exam is considered to be less difficult than the CAT, GMAT, or LSAT exams. This is because the learning curve experienced by students while training for the exam is high. The content which needs to be prepared is easier to grasp and less challenging for the students. This is good news for you. Now you can prepare for the GRE with an open mind and diligent attitude to succeed!

Now getting to the actionable part, we have prepared a list of some strategies that will work to help improve your GRE score. These strategies are executable and practical for the modern-day student. The GRE is not an exam to be prepared by rote learning or last day efforts. What is required is a smart way of studying and a consistent strategy devised and then applied on a daily basis. These tips are extremely simple and if followed, would go a long way in getting you the desired GRE result and the admission to your dream college overseas. Imagine the ecstasy you would experience- holding that admission offer letter in your hands!

On that dreamy note, here are 27 practical strategies that will help to improve your GRE score:

  • Know your strengths: After some months into preparing for GRE, you will realize your strength areas. There will be some topics or subjects in general that you are naturally good at. You may have a knack for math or a flair for verbal skills. Use that to your advantage by attempting your strength areas in the exam first.
  • Practice practice practice: A sure-fire way of success in the GRE is getting adequate practice before the big exam date. As the exams are conducted all through the year, you can plan well in advance on when to attempt the test. This will help you plan backwards and practice enough in time.
  • Know thy syllabus: A lot of students depend on coaching centres, or peers to get study material and then begin preparing for the exam. You must also research online on the testing syllabus and cross-check the topics for the exam period you are going to attempt. Knowing the syllabus is important- you should not waste time on a topic, not in the latest syllabus or end up ignoring a scoring topic you don’t even know was in the syllabus.
  • Prepare a roadmap:  Planning in advance is essential for any exam you wish to attempt. It makes the execution a whole lot easier. In competitive exams like the GRE, the syllabus is vast and difficult to even finish in usual circumstances. By understanding the workload and planning, you can save yourself the stress that comes with procrastination and complacency.
  • Go textbook: Invest in quality preparation material for your GRE. Depending on practice tests or condensed booklets for preparing is not adequate. There are some great books recommended for GRE aspirants available in the market. It is also a good idea to pick up books on building language and writing skills, as they form an important part of the exam.
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  • Find a good mentor: Every student needs a guiding hand and sage advice while going through the process of preparing for a competitive exam. Find a mentor who will understand your failures, egg you on for results and give you valuable insight on what to do with your shortcomings. It could be anyone- your Mom, your Dad, a teacher, a friendly neighbour, online counsellors, friends, or even online blog writers on ‘How to prepare for the GRE’. 😉
  • Always stay disciplined: Hard work and discipline always pay off and more so, in case of these competitive exams. These exams are different from the school or college exams where last-minute efforts could also work in your favour. In exams like GRE, a persistent and disciplined effort is essential. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
  • Be realistic: Students often get carried away in a fit of motivation or while planning activities about the strategy for preparation. Making goals is important, however, making realistic goals is even more important. Draft agendas on a plan of action that can actually be executed on a real-time basis, considering your work or your other academic goals.
  • Find a decent test prep source: There are various online test preparation agencies as well as coaching centres all over the world that provide coaching services for GRE aspirants. But it is really important that you choose a high-quality GRE prep course and use it to prepare as well as practice! Before the final few months of your exam, make sure to begin attempting mock tests and test series. These will help you sharpen your claws for the final exam, learn the art and science of time management and identify your strong and weak areas.
  • Read more: To prepare well for the verbal reasoning section, try and squeeze in some time for reading mandatorily. Make a conscious attempt to improve your vocabulary- flashcards, vocab building books, audiobooks, anything that works for you is fine. Reading is an art which has to be developed gradually.
  • Develop a writing style for AWA: The Analytical Reasoning section of the GRE would contain tasks to assess your writing style and analytical ability. Work on this by practising from mock papers, and developing your own style of writing. Have your mentor assess your work, and note the pointers for further improvement.
  • Find good company: A good peer group can do wonders for your preparation efforts. When you find like-minded individuals with the same goals and aspirations as you, the exam preparation can turn for the better. Besides, group studying and planning can really maximize your efforts of preparation.
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  • Cut back on entertainment: Reduce the time you spend on social media and the Internet or television. Engage instead with real people, expand your network to include alums from your dream colleges, and aspirants like you who are preparing for the GRE.
  • Research your colleges: Exams like the GRE are a gateway to your dream colleges for your Masters’ or other courses of your choice. Adequate research must go into the choice of your dream college based upon your parameters for courses, location, budget constraints, college ranking and reputation etc. Speak to alums and know more about the colleges on your target list.
  • Have a good SOP: For admission to colleges abroad, an SOP (Statement of Purpose) has to be prepared. Allocate time to peruse through good sample SOPs and take the guidance from your mentor for drafting your own SOP. Making an SOP in advance is advisable to avoid a last-minute rush.
  • Upgrade your reading a notch: You may be used to a certain level and style of reading, and familiar with certain authors. To challenge yourself and give an edge to your preparation than the rest, try to read some difficult to grasp text; and make sense of it. It could be a niche magazine, or international newspapers, editorial blogs, novels of different genres, the options are endless.
  • Be neat: Have organized notes arranged subject-wise and topic-wise. The value of well-planned notes and study material for a last-minute revision can never be de-emphasized. Imagine the stress you will face if you cannot find those condensed notes you had made with so much effort; on a difficult topic one day before the exam.
  • Breathe and relax: The various activities and efforts required to prepare for the GRE along with your job or other academics may take a toll and cause you stress. Find some time to clock out of the grind and unwind. It could be by yourself, just jogging in the park or playing with a stray cat; or with a group of friends at the beach on a weekend.
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  • Take a guess: One of the major blows for a student is when there is a penalty on a wrong answer in the exam. The good news for GRE candidates is that there is absolutely no negative marking in the exam. So go ahead, and take a guess! This is one strategy where not much work has to be done beforehand.
  • Maintain speed: While attempting the exam, keep a close eye on your watch. As every section is timed, maintaining a pace is important lest you lose out on unattempted questions. Don’t get stuck on something you don’t know, move ahead and come back to it later if there is time to spare.
  • Level up on your flaws: Learn from your mistakes and prepare with incremental efforts each day. All the mock tests, group studies and individual practice will help you gauge your weak areas, and give you an insight on how to tackle them in the exam.
  • Stay optimistic: Look at the bright side of things. After attempting the exam it is always better to hope for the best; but also prepare for the worst. A backup plan of action must be in place in case the GRE score is not favourable. For example: taking other competitive exams for studying in the country.
  • Develop a personal strategy: The biggest tip of all to crack the GRE; is to prepare a personalized strategy to tackle each section and subsection of the exam. Analyzing your strong and weak areas, managing time effectively and learning from your failures will help you craft a winning strategy for yourself.
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  • Stay calm: A lot hinges on your GRE score. The interview calls, the excitement on travelling abroad, the elation on gaining admission into your dream college. All this excitement can burden you with stress and a fear of failure. Stay calm and composed on your exam date, to maximize on all the efforts you have taken to prepare.
  • Compete with yourself: Don’t compare yourself with other candidates. Everyone has their own strong and weak areas. Everyone tries to capitalize on their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. It is of no use to compare scores or strategies with your peers after the exam is done. You must only aim to get better than you were yesterday.
  • Careful on the last day: On the day of the exam and the few preceding days, do not attempt to cover new ground. Focus only on revising the material that you have already covered well. It is also a great idea to prepare an LMR (Last Minute Revision) sheet for each subject. It could have formulae that you find difficult to memorize, or reasoning basics at a glance.
  • Avoid Negativity: For a student, one of the foremost strategies to succeed in any exam is to avoid negativity. It kills the spirit and the will to learn anything new in an individual. It also brings in complacency and procrastination- two of the most deadly combinations which work against the student in every way. Avoid negativity and stay calm and peaceful in your preparation journey.


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About the Author

Praveen is an edu-tech expert. After understanding the nuances of building solutions using technology at firms like Amazon and Facebook, he’s been employing his learnings in a diverse set of startup environments. Currently, he is tenaciously working to create solutions for students, everywhere in the world.

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