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Best Way to Crack the New GRE

Doing well on the GRE is tough, even for those fresh from the halls of academia. Compounding the difficulty of GRE prep is the fact that the test is probably very unlike others tests you’ve taken. Below are five important points to keep in mind on how to crack the GRE.

 

1. Use multiple resources

If you want to “crack the GRE”, don’t limit yourself to just one book. Some books excel in one area, while falling woefully short in others. Picking and choosing is important, since you don’t just want the best strategies, you also want the best practice questions. And by best, I mean those that faithfully simulate what you’ll see test day.

 

2. Quiz yourself often

It’s easy to fall into a rut of just opening a book and doing a few problems here and there. Or another typical rut you can fall in is to read vocabulary lists, yet never quiz yourself.

Quizzing yourself often—whether by randomly selecting twenty flashcards or by constructing a problem set out of a mix of verbal and quant questions—will keep you on your feet.

 

3. Don’t over focus

Oftentimes I find students trying to become a master at one topic. There are those who have learned to solve just about every variation of a combination problem but are unable to deal with easy rate questions.

At the same time make sure you do focus on only a few question types per week. After all, you need to build up some skill in a certain area. But remember to always come back to topics you learned in previous weeks. Review will not only refresh, but will also help instill concepts. All of which is unlikely to happen if you burrow into the integer properties tunnel.

 

4. Pinpoint your weak spots

This point flows into the last one. Do not continue working at what you are already good at, putting off those sections that you either dread of struggle at. Success on the GRE depends on being adept at the same level. Let me explain: the GRE throws a bunch of different concepts at you. By only being good at a few things, you will never be able to get beyond the medium section to even encounter the difficult questions (so if you are the combinations wizard, you are unlikely to get to use any of your magic).

 

5. Analyze the questions—learn the traps!

Both the math and the verbal section are full of traps. Luckily, they are also filled with shortcuts, meaning that if you know how to eliminate you will be able to save yourself a lot of time.

Becoming better at anticipating traps comes with plenty of practice. Remember, of course, if you really want to know how to crack the new GRE, you’ve got to use the best practice material. Such material will lay traps very similar to that found on the real test.

 

 

About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

8 Responses to Best Way to Crack the New GRE

  1. Nika September 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    Just wondering the best strategy for study without getting overwhelmed with so may resources. In terms of the full-fledged practice tests, how many should a person take prior to the real thing? How far apart should the practice tests be spaced, a week, a few days, etc?

    Also, in terms of practice tests, should I even bother with the ones by Princeton and Kaplan or should I just focus on the ones by Macgoosh and ETS?

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 1, 2013 at 10:56 am #

      Hi Nika,

      Good questions!

      Taking a practice test about once a week is a good idea, esp. once you’ve gotten a handle on the basics. If you are going to prep for as long as 4 months, you may want to spend the first months learning strategies and doing questions before taking a test (though it is always a good idea to take a baseline test at the very beginning of your prep).

      I’d stick to Magoosh, Manhattan GRE, and ETS. That’s almost 15 tests that should keep someone going for about six months, with about ten days spacing between tests.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Prachi April 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I am planning to give GRE in mid may for spring 2014,its less than a month and half left.Is it a sufficient time to complete all the maths and verbal material provided by magoosh if I become a premium magoosh member now considering that I am doing a full time job and could only spend 2-4 hours per day.

    Thanks,
    Prachi

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Prachi,

      I assume you mean spring 2013 – not 2014 :).

      I think mid-May is enough time for you to complete all the lesson and questions videos in the Magoosh product. Let say you spend 20 hours a week (an average of slightly less than 3 per day). Over a span of six weeks that is 120 hours. Magoosh has slightly over 1000 questions, which means you are averaging about 9 questions per hour. On average a question should take a 1.5 minutes. Which comes out to roughly 15 minutes. That leaves, on average, 45 minutes per hour for you to review questions, watch lesson videos, etc.

      Hope that helps :)!

  3. Jonathan March 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    The last 4 tests I’ve taken have been 310 311 311 310 so the range is very defined right now. I definitely need to review more vocabulary words. For math, I know I’ve always had a problem with integers, word problems, and combinations/permutations. These specifically I seem to get tripped up on and the concepts seem harder to stick.

    For some reason on these I seem to get stuck. I know for integers, as soon as I see “For Integer K”, or “If Z is divisible by Q” I start to think oh no….. for word problems it’s more I think I got it, but I did not. Finally for combinations / permutations I either cannot distinguish between either one or I cannot figure out how to use both correctly.

    The only time I have an Oh no! moment on the verbal is for tough reading questions. If I see 4+ paragraphs and the questions I get are inference or critical reasoning then the same thing usually happens: read passage, try to understand, write a note, read question, try to think of answer, can’t then start getting lost in the answers.

    It’s funny, now that I write this out, it sounds so easy in terms of deficiencies. But as it seems to go so far, I have other ones that crop up on the test along with these, otherwise I think my scores would be higher.

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Hi Jonathan,

      It sounds like you have a very solid grasp of your strength/deficiencies, as you point out. What’s stand out is the consistency of your test scores. Perhaps one thing that can help you to improve test to test is an error log. The log should consist of your answers to the following questions:

      1) Why did I choose the wrong answer (what about the answer tricked me)

      2) Why is the correct answer correct?

      3) What will I do differently next time?

      Keeping such a log will make you more aware of the type of mistakes you are making.

      The next thing I think may help is to do batches of difficult problems. For instance, the LSAT reading comprehension passages are really dense and the questions are difficult. Do an entire section, and then review your mistakes. For math, Magoosh and Manhattan GRE both have questions tougher than the actual test (none of the other publishers–save for Nova–have questions that are as difficult as those on the test).

      Finally, there may be some techniques you want to apply on math. Do you plug in your own numbers, when you see the remainder when Q divided by Z is X? And for that matter most word problems containing variables. Techniques like elimination, based on answer choices that are too big or two small, can also help.

      So try some of this stuff out and let me know how it goes. I’d like to help you break into the 320s :).

  4. Jonathan March 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    What if your weak points are not obvious? What if you are the mediocre jack of all trades, master of none?

    Do you have any advice on what to study then? I have less than one month left and this is my situation.

    Thank you for your time!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      Hi Jonathan,

      That’s a good question!

      Being “mediocre” at everything, as you put it, is not a bad thing. It might mean that you have to up the difficulty of your practice questions. So if you are somewhere in the middle range on both math and verbal, and you don’t typically make careless errors etc., doing increasingly tough practice questions is a good place to begin. For verbal, you will also want to learn more vocabulary words. I know that sounds obvious but incremental improvements on multiple fronts should make a difference.

      So in the month you have left, attack the tough questions (Manhattan GRE, Magoosh). That is make sure you are feeling outside of your comfort zone in terms of practice questions. That should help you get ready for the big day.

      Good luck!


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