How to Improve My GRE Score?

Exam: GRE Test - Graduate Record Examination Test: Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing

So you want to improve your GRE score.  Maybe you’ve taken the test once or twice already and you’re not improving at all, or maybe you’re going to take it for the first time and you want to get your best score the first time.  There are a number of things you can do to get the best GRE score you can.

Preparing for the Test

Search the ETS website for information and resources.  They sell a number of test prep materials in their store, like test prep books or sample tests (  They also have GRE webinars in various languages to help you prepare (

Start studying early!  The GRE is not a something you can take on the fly, with no preparation or only a week’s worth of cramming.  Besides, you’re paying a significant amount of money per test you take, so make it count the first time.  Start preparing for the test months in advance, with a half-hour to an hour-long study session each day.

Take some test prep courses.  There are a number of places that give live and online courses or live, online, or telephonic tutoring.  In fact, these companies provide services for the GRE, SAT, LSAT, and MCAT, so if you’ve used one before for another test that you like, see if they have a GRE course you can take. Kaplan and Princeton Review are some of the major ones, but a quick Google search will find dozens of others.

PRACTICE TIME MANAGEMENT.  This is true of any test you take, particularly standardized tests.  The timing itself is part of the exam, so it is vital that you practice the test using the actual time constraints you would have.  Some people prefer to practice with less time than they’ll have in the actual test, just in case a question catches them off guard and takes more time than they hoped.

Create a strategy!  Don’t go into any standardized test without a plan, particularly the GRE.  Remember that the earliest questions carry the most weight, and are therefore most important in determining your score.  Know what kinds of questions you can answer easily – strategize so that you have more time allotted to questions you know you’ll have more trouble on.  Any organization that offers test prep can help you begin planning your strategy.

Create a few backup strategies!  You may have a strategy all worked out, but the test might throw you a curve ball.  Be ready with alternate strategies, just in case your first one hits a snag.

Take as many old GRE tests as possible to practice.  You can find these in test prep books, online, and on the ETS website ( BUT: Remember that the GRE changed radically on August 1, 2011, where many questions became free response and the structure of the GRE itself changed.  Make sure that any practice test you take is from after June of 2011 or that the type of questions you are answering are still something that could appear on the GRE you will take.

Take your practice tests at the same time of day that you will be taking your GRE and under the same conditions (as best you can).  If your GRE is scheduled for 4:00pm after you finish a seven-hour work shift, then practice your test at 4:00pm after a seven-hour work shift.  You can’t replicate everything, but you should try to recreate the testing conditions as much as possible.  That way, you won’t be surprised when the test actually happens.

For every practice test you take, save the questions you answer incorrectly and practice them often.  Figure out what the trend is, then study those types of questions to boost your skill.

Practice writing the essay as well as answering all the questions. Many people forget to practice the essay portion of the exam before taking the GRE.  Write several practice essays under the time constraints you would normally have in order to be sure you won’t be phased by it the day of the test.

Taking the Test

Use those strategies you created and keep an eye on the clock!

When taking the test and you don’t know the answer, don’t answer the question.  The GRE doesn’t take away points for incorrect answers; it only awards them for correct ones.  If the question is multiple choice, then you have a 15 – 20% chance of getting the correct answer.NOTE: This is only for the GRE General Test.  Subject Tests will take away 0.25 points for each incorrect answer you give.  It’s up to you if you think guessing is worth it.

If the question is free response and you don’t know the answer, it may be better to skip it.  The GRE doesn’t take away for incorrect answers, but since you don’t have multiple choice, the chances of you getting the answer right simply by guessing is much lower than with multiple choice.  Rather than wasting valuable time on a question you can’t answer, maybe skip it and move on to one you can.

Before you read the passage connected to the question(s), read the question(s) first.  This will save you a lot of time by telling you exactly what to look for as you read.

If you’re running out of time on the Reading Comprehension section, read the first and last paragraph of the passage and then the first sentence of every paragraph in between.  This is a skimming technique used by professionals in every field, and will help you answer the questions without having to read the entire passage.  Note: it’s always better to read the full passage and then answer questions.  This is only for when you are running out of time.

When answering math questions, use that scrap paper to help you solve the problem.  It may seem like a lot of time spent working it out by hand, but more often than not, that will help you answer the question correctly more often.  Also, sometimes there are several questions about the same problem, equation, or diagram, and what you do on the scrap paper will help you with all of those questions.

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