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How to Improve Your GRE Score

Hire a GRE Tutor/Take a Class

The most obvious approach is to hire a tutor, if one is offered in your area, or take a class, if you find one nearby. One advantage of a tutor is he/she can help target areas where you need work, assigning practice problems and citing helping resources.

While a class does not offer as much individualized attention, concepts and strategies are neatly parceled out. Also, weekly homework assignments can keep you stay focused.

 

Change Your Prep Material

Most of my students for GRE are former Kaplan users. I know that is far from a ringing endorsement for the test prep behemoth, but many bought the Kaplan book thinking that test prep success could be had by simply opening the book.

The truth is you will want to prep with a variety of material. Some publishers offer excel in certain areas and are found wanting in others. Many are simply wanting.

So research the test prep cosmos to find the best GRE book. Actually, I’ve made this process slightly easier – read any one of my numerous reviews on the main prep books on the market.

 

Target Your Attack

When prepping for a test as diffuse and difficult as the GRE one can easily become overwhelmed. Where to prep and what to prep are just a few questions you may ask yourself.

Once you’ve found the best prep materials you will want to make sure that you become strong in all areas. Sometimes doing so means becoming pretty good in one area vs. trying to become really strong in one area while languishing in others.

If this is your second time around, make sure to come up with a study schedule that is a mix of practice questions and concept review. And make sure to cover new ground instead of becoming fixated in one area.

 

Tweak Your Strategies

Without a tutor by your side, you may find it difficult to tweak your strategies. A good idea would be to go through this blog and explore the recommended strategies for different sections. Do those strategies match up with your own? If not, you will seriously want to consider changing the way you approach certain questions.

 

Simulate the Test

Test day can be harrowing. But it can be a lot less so, if you’ve taken several practice tests under timed conditions. Make sure to simulate the test environment as fully as possible – no extended breaks. But don’t worry, you won’t have to raise your hand if you need to use the bathroom.

 

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

23 Responses to How to Improve Your GRE Score

  1. Animesh Paul November 13, 2016 at 3:56 am #

    Hello Sir,

    I have recently taken the GRE and scored 303 (Verbal: 144 and Quant: 159). I was pretty disappointed with the score as I had always scored between 310-320 in mocks. I work and study in parallel which makes it quite tough to find sufficient time for my studies. I have been preparing for 9 months and I am applying for MS in Computer Science and Engineering. I aimed for 315+. Could you please suggest on how to improve my score specially the Verbal as I find RC’s daunting. I understand that I would at least need to score a 150+ in verbal to score a 320+. How do I do that? Following are the sources which i have already completed:

    1. ETS Official Guide
    2. Barrons GRE
    3. Manhattan 5LB
    4. Magoosh Quant Problems (all) with 80% correct answers in quant
    5. Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis
    6. All Magoosh Flashcards.
    7. Barrons 300 High Frequency Words.

    Kindly Assist.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2016 at 8:20 am #

      Hi Animesh,

      I can see that you have done a lot of work, and I understand how frustrating it is to work so hard and not see the sort of score you want! However, it’s important to note that improvement, especially in the verbal section, takes time. It’s not enough to just memorize vocabulary and do questions–you must improve your overall reading comprehension skills! Knowing vocabulary and strategies is just part of the battle. If your reading comprehension abilities aren’t strong enough — if you’re not able to process complex sentences quickly enough — then even if you know many words, you will probably still struggle with verbal.

      So let’s look at the “big picture” for a moment. To improve your verbal score, it’s essential to read, read, read as much as possible. This will improve your knowledge of vocabulary in context, your ability to process complex sentences, and your reading comprehension skills in general. Make flashcards of key words you don’t know.

      Second, you need to practice focused, active reading. You need to read with purpose. Please see this article on how to read actively:
      http://magoosh.com/gre/2015/active-reading-strategies-for-the-gre/

      To really improve, you’ll need to read GRE-level material. You can see our Article of the Month Series for some ideas on what to read: http://magoosh.com/gre/2015/gre-article-of-the-month-roundup/

      And as for vocabulary–memorization isn’t enough! It’s important to learn vocab in context and really understand how vocab is used: http://magoosh.com/gre/2011/reading-vocabulary-in-context-where-should-i-start/

      And we have a Chrome plugin that will highlight GRE words in your browser so that you can always recognize them! https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/magoosh-gre-vocab-highlig/hlkndiknofmlmajfocifccmplknafjeo

      Take some time to improve your overall reading comprehension skills, and then start to solve practice questions again. I think you will be surprised by your improvement 🙂

      • Animesh Paul November 13, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

        Thank you for your advice. Cheers!

  2. Shruthi October 28, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

    Hello Sir,

    I have taken the gre and scored 305(Q:161,V:144).
    I want to apply for masters in Electrical Engineering and mainly targeting colleges like UCSD. My verbal score is on the lower side, however, I got a score of 108 in toefl and a 4.5 in my awa. My gpa is 3.6/4. Should I retake the gre? I don’t have much time in my hands to prepare well, but I also need to know if my toefl and awa score will compensate for my low verbal score in gre?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 29, 2016 at 7:07 am #

      Hi Shruthi,

      It’s hard to say given that every school may view your various tests differently. Given that your program is Electrical Engineering, your programs may focus more on your Quant score; however, it’s better to do your due diligience. I would recommend contacting your target school to discuss how much emphasis they place on the Verbal score, and you may be able to better determine whether you should retake the exam. The admissions team will be helpful and a more direct source. You can also use resources like thegradcafe.com. This forum may be able to better answer your question. Finally, if you are targeting top programs, in all honesty, they may want to see a higher Verbal score. Given your time issue, you may want to proactively consider a study plan for yourself (if you decide that you need to retake).

  3. Ayesha October 28, 2016 at 1:33 am #

    Hello Sir,
    I have taken my GRE and scored 303 (V-145 Q -158). This was a breakdown for me as my mocks were never less than 310. I always got scores between 310- 320. I am retaking GRE in January now. I am planning to score 330+ this time. What materials should I use ? I have already completed these things :-

    1. Kaplan MSTs and Sectional
    2. Manhattan 5LB
    3. ETS Official Guide
    4. ETS PowerPrep
    5. Majortest.com

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 28, 2016 at 6:51 am #

      Hi Ayesha,

      I’ll be honest that it’s not often that we see score increases like the one you’re talking about often; however, it’s definitely not impossible. You will definitely need to invest the hard work and time. With regard to your materials, you have some good material already. I would definitely recommend reutilizing the ETS and Manhattan material. If you want fresh new material, I would also recommend trying out Magoosh (if you haven’t already). You can get a free one-week trial here! In addition check out the Magoosh blog. It offers great resources for additional problems, tips, and strategies to supplement your studies.

  4. Kushal Hebbar April 16, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    Hey Chris,

    I will be taking the GRE for the first time in July,2016. I have learnt all the basics of problem solving for quantitative section. I have been using Magoosh from January,2016 and have taken around 7-8 tests till date. The problem I am having is my score never goes above 300. Quantitative section scores are around 151-155 and the verbal scores are around 141-145. I review the results after each test and find that in Math I make mistakes only in the “Very Hard” questions. My verbal skills are below average. My speaking English is good but when it comes to remembering 1000+ words I lose hope.
    I have a few questions:

    1.) Are the Magoosh practise questions tougher than the questions that will appear on the actual GRE?
    2.) Why don’t my scores improve even after I make sure to watch the lesson videos of the topics where I frequently make errors?
    3.) What can I do to know the maximum number of words come exam day? (I use the vocabulary builder app by Magoosh and I have finished the Basic words)

    Apart from Magoosh I use
    1.) “The official guide to the GRE revised general test” by ETS.
    2.) “Barron’s new GRE”
    3.) “Kaplan premier GRE”

    I really need help because I have 2 months for the prep and I cant figure out what I’m doing wrong.
    Would really appreciate it.
    Thank you. 🙂

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 18, 2016 at 9:25 am #

      Hi Kushal,

      You have some good questions! This is going to require a long response and it is too long for our blog. Since you are a premium member, I’ve sent this comment over to our team of test prep experts to answer and you should be getting an email from them soon. 🙂

      • CB August 21, 2016 at 2:44 am #

        I am going through the same struggle. My scores are not improving and is in the 148-153 range. I have taken the ETS practice I and my verbal was 145 and math 151. I am really losing hope at this point. I have been doing the vocabs and taken 2 full length practice exam on magoosh. Any suggestion?
        Thank You 🙂

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 21, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

          Hi CB. You’re also a premium member, so I’ll turn this comment over to our team of text prep experts as well. But I’ll also give you a general answer right here on the blog. For the benefit of our readers who aren’t currently Magoosh GRE Premium subscribers, here is what to o if your GRE scores just aren’t going up, even though you’ve been practicing and studying vocabulary:

          FOR MATH: Start really analyzing exactly which questions you’re getting wrong, and why. When you can’t find a way to improve your math score, there will always be a hidden pattern of weakness– a specific reason you can’t improve in certain specific aspects of math. find your weaknesses, and work to improve them. (Also think about your strengths. When addressing your weaknesses in math, you can build on your strengths.)

          For GRE Verbal, studying vocabulary word lists is good, but vocabulary alone will only take you so far. Once you’ve studied as much vocabulary as you can, the best, most efficient way to give your Verbal score an extra boost at this point is to work on your GRE Verbal active reading skills, build strategies for the different GRE Verbal Question types, and practice reading GRE vocabulary in context.

  5. Prasad N R November 4, 2014 at 3:58 am #

    Dear Sir,

    My problem has been with an inability to understand and comprehend what is happening. Your awesome post has luckily been stumbled upon. My date has been fixed on 28th November 2014 and honestly speaking, my scores are vacillating. To my utter dismay, between 313 and now 302. It has dropped by 10 points (Truly a record in Graduate Record Examination). Although my aims are hitting huge colleges, things like these are just driving me insane. While at times trying to console myself feel like MS is not really necessary (which is stupid), I would suffer from nightmares regarding this as option of jobs is not feasible for me (There is a belief in me that I can never ever get that chance to ever study).
    Feeling guilty about my bad scores now (Sorry. Bad to worse. Worse scores now).
    My aim is 325 or so (Feeling like the thing is fading. But, truly, the hopes are vanishing. Feeling like my parent’s money is getting wasted)
    Completely unaware of the situation as of now. Initially when I had not prepared, I had got 312 or so. Now after preparation, it has gone down to 302. It is overwhelming though.

    You are kindly requested to guide me. Thanks for your time and consideration.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi Prasad,

      Sorry to hear that your scores seem to be slipping. To really be able to help you though, I’ll need to know a few things:

      1) Which sources are you using to prep?
      2) How exactly have you been preparing? (Do you take practice tests and carefully review them, use flashcards to boost your vocabulary, etc.)

      3) What do you think your weakest areas are?

      Let me know the answers to those questions so I can better help you 🙂

      • Prasad N R November 6, 2014 at 3:50 am #

        Dear Sir,

        Thanks for your interest and your time in responding to me.

        1. My coaching centre is Manhattan Review.

        2. I was using “Essential words for the GRE” by Manhattan Review. But, now switched over to Magoosh and finding it really comfortable (very honestly. But, the scores are to be checked up now) and now gaining a very different perspective towards vocabulary. Thanks to this awesome site (in case everything else fails, I’ll atleast be left with an enthusiasm to pursue MS which seems like a necessary but, also fun and enjoyable on this site)

        3. My weakest area lies in vocabulary (particularly to the words which appear in GRE with reference to the context) and the second weakest one would be reading comprehension where sometimes multiple answers are to be answered to.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele November 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

          Hi Prasad,

          1) I’m happy you are using Magoosh now :). If something didn’t work for you (in this case, Manhattan Review), then it is good to try something else.

          2) Great you are enjoying the site! Have you checked out our ebooks? They are basically taken from the blog but are broken up into topic so they are easier to navigate:

          http://magoosh.com/gre/gre-ebook/

          You might also want to check out our product (we still offer a trial membership). The main point is to know that there are other tools out there to help you, and that your score can and will improve.

          3) For vocab. remember to do a lot of in-context reading. Our vocab ebook elaborates on this:

          http://magoosh.com/gre/2012/gre-vocabulary-ebook/

          Reading comp. the key is to try to understand what made your answer wrong and why the test writers consider the correct one correct. I guess this goes back to our product: we have video and text explanations for each question, so you can better understand what you missed.

          Hope that helps!

  6. Abhi June 29, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Hi Chris!

    I gave a mock today(Manhattan free practice test) and score 306 in it (Quant 157 and verbal 149). What I saw during the review of the practice test was that I scored low in Text Completion and I couldn’t attempt the long RC. These two things have become my weakness in GRE preparation and no matter how much I practice for the same, I’m unable to improve. Just FYI, I’m doing the Magoosh flashcards for Text completion and just randomly practicing RCs available online. Please help! I want to get 320 in GRE anyhow. My GRE is scheduled on 23rd Sept.

  7. Champ September 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Hello Chris,

    If I want to raise my verbal score by at least 5 points in about a month of prep, what should I do? I took the GRE and my score on the Verbal section was 155, but my goal is to get at least 160. Your advice (or any one’s from Magoosh team) would be greatly appreciated.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

      Hi Champ,

      Well, generally speaking, I would try to assess your weaknesses. Are there any specific areas in which you are missing a lot of questions? If so, which areas are these and why are you missing those questions?

      The answers to these questions will help determine which material and question types you use. For instance, if you struggle with vocabulary, then you should definitely get Magoosh or Manhattan GRE flashcards (the Magoosh flashcards are free, btw). If you struggle in RC, then figure out why. Are you struggling understanding the passage? Are there certain types of passages you struggle with? Let’s say you struggle with science passages. Find science passages in Magoosh, MGRE, ETS material, or even GMAT or LSAT official material. Learn how to process that information more effectively.

      Of course many of these scenarios are addressed in this blog, so I would recommend going through this blog as much as possible to address your weaknesses (my guess is there are a combination of areas in which you struggle).
      Once you start becoming better at these specific areas, you can learn to pace yourself better by going through practice tests.

      I know the above is somewhat vague, but I’d be happy to give you more specifics if you let me know areas in which you currently struggle :).

  8. Tee July 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    For the past week or so, I’ve been trying to prepare and study hard for the GRE. So far, I have touched upon most of the verbal section in the Princeton Review book. I have also bought Barron’s verbal workbook (which is really good for practice!) and the 500 flashcards to go along with it.
    I’m kind of overwhelmed of how much materials, prep books, and sources are available out there. My application for the winter admission is due on September 1st. So it’s mid-July now, I’m thinking I only have about a month (maybe even less) to prepare.
    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit what my score was, based on the first EST practice test (from the powerprep software) I took. Both my verbal and quant score was very low.
    Now…this is what is ironic. I do have a bachelor’s degree in communication/journalism (graduated just a year ago).
    And yes, English is my native language. I just have a weak vocabulary and a hard time applying words in context.
    I honestly don’t think that the GRE or any standardized testing is a fair and accurate way of judging someone’s intelligence or success in graduate work.
    I’m sure you have heard that either some people are good at taking tests and there are some who aren’t….I’m sadly one of these people.
    Should I be worried about my low score? Maybe it’s because I took the practice test cold cut, and not knowing anything (format, questions) about the GRE. I just wanted to use this score as a reference to see what I knew…apparently not much lol.
    Also, I did skip alot of the questions, so that maybe added to my low score. I know now not to do that 🙂
    Gahh, I’m not sure if I should just give up or not…especially with the time frame that I have. Do you think that this is realistic for me to raise my score that much?
    On another note…I haven’t even touched upon studying for the math portion of the test yet….I’ll probably bomb that section as well.
    Oh, and I bought the Kaplan book unfortunately…I wish I could have read your blog sooner. Since so many people were raving on their reviews that the Kaplan online tests have helped them, I was convinced to buy it, hoping that it would be my main source for improvement and preparation.
    Please help!!! I really want to apply to my graduate school (I want to be a journalist…I know…my score doesn’t justify this lol) before September, but I am now reluctant because of this insipid, time-consuming GRE.
    What are my options and is it pragmatic for me to keep on studying?
    Thanks so much in advance!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Hi Tee,

      Whatever you do: Don’t Despair :).

      You can definitely do it. I don’t believe there is anything such as an inherently bad test taker. Often people feel they are bad test takers because of unpleasant experiences with past tests, a lack of formal test prep training, or even something as seemingly innocuous as an uninspiring high school geometry teacher.

      So first step as you embark on your GRE studies: knowing that you are capable of getting a competitive score.

      With this positive attitude in mind, you should begin with the basics. For Verbal that is understanding the question types and how the wrong answers are meant to trap unsuspecting test takers. Book-wise Manhattan GRE has an excellent approach to cracking the Verbal Section (their practice problems are a bit absurd though because they contain absurdly difficult vocabulary). The Princeton Review is also a good book to start off verbal wise. You’ll learn strategies to avoid basic traps. The questions are easier than those on the actual test, but TPR is great stepping stone for someone just starting off.

      I of course always recommend Magoosh’s product. We do a good job of discussing the basics and then allow you to apply the concepts that you learned to actual questions, which range in difficulty from easy to very difficult.

      A good place to start Verbal-wise is with our ebooks. The best part these are free. I’ve attached them below. Of note, the vocabulary Ebook will lay out an approach to help you attack vocabulary (The Princeton Review does not really do a good job of this). The general ebook, which contains study schedules, will help you create a study plan that will help you achieve the scores you need.

      At the same time, books and even Magoosh aren’t always enough. If you find an excellent tutor in your area, he or she can often times help facilitate the learning process.

      Good luck, and remember that with a little work and the right resources you can become a good standardized test taker.

      http://magoosh.com/gre/gre-ebook/
      http://magoosh.com/gre/2012/gre-vocabulary-ebook/

      Best of luck, and don’t hesitate to ask any more questions :).

  9. April July 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I am a third time GRE taker and have major anxiety re: this “stupid test.” I have already completed my masters, and have been working in my career field, but in order to get tenure, I need that phd from at least a moderately decent school.

    My question is; in your opinion, do you think it is okay for me to mentally “skip” the math portion? The first two times I took it the best I got was a 490, and I was pretty pleased. Yes, I am that bad at math. I am a history major and find it truly unnecessary to test humanities students on math.

    I’d like to think that graduate schools will only look at verbal and writing scores, but I am not sure. I know that history students have the second highest average verbal and writing scores according to the ets, so this leads me to believe that most selection committees will ignore the math portion as it is all but irrelevant to our area of study.

    Any thoughts or opinions? Thank you.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Hi April,

      Hmm…that is an interesting question (and I never did know that about history majors, though it makes perfect sense. No shortage of examples on the Issue task :)). I’m not sure what any one history program thinks, but I doubt they’d have a uniform response to a low math score. Some may deem the quant extraneous; others may simply be unable to ignore the 140 and be wowed by the student with a 165.

      I say work on math as well so it is not an issue. Meaning if you get 150+, your math score will probably not hurt your application. You may also try contacting the departments of the schools you are interested in. See what they say.

      Hope that was somewhat helpful :).

  10. nevin January 26, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I have a new problem for you.

    Q. Pure spirit costing $60 is mixed with water and the mixture is sold for $75 thereby making a profit of 37.5%. Find the ratio of the mixture.

    Please help me out!


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