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The Secret Weapon to Success on the GRE

Over the years, I’ve expatiated on a number of techniques to help you improve your GRE score—from the most granular (three-blank, one sentence Text Completions) to the general (improve your reading brain). But there may be a very effective means to boost your GRE score that I’ve yet to mention: meditation.

At the mere mention of this word, many of our minds conjure up monks in robes, high up in the plains of Tibet chanting Om  (or worse yet, cults of bedraggled hippies in Mendocino chanting who-knows-what). But before you navigate to another page, you might want to take a look at the results of a recent study on meditation and performance on the verbal section of the GRE exam.

This study took a group of undergraduates at the University of Santa Barbara and had them take the verbal section of the GRE (I’m sure a few demurred and fled at the first triple-blank Text Completion). Next, the subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the nutrition group or the mediation group.

The nutrition group learned about the importance of healthy eating and was encouraged to keep a food journal, in which they wrote down what they consumed daily. I’m guessing that the study didn’t want a control group with propensity to indulge in weekend beer benders and triple-cheese pizza runs at three in the morning.

After all, the other group was given special treatment: through a series of workshops they learned how to meditate and be more mindful. After two weeks of learning to focus their thoughts on the present, they were given a GRE reading comprehension passage.

The results are actually shocking: the average score before the meditation workshop was 460. Afterwards: 520. This is with zero GRE prep! (I should mention this score is based on the old testing score, but that increase is similar to an increase from a 151 to a 154).

Now, don’t forever close your web browser on Magoosh and go join the Dalai Lama. GRE prep makes a huge difference–but that’s been long established. Meditation, on the other hand, is something that we are just learning can make a huge difference. I would encourage you to pursue meditation and mindfulness exercises, in conjunction with your GRE study plan. There are plenty of books on Amazon, and I am sure there is a youtube video on the how-to (I’m guessing it’s one of the less action-packed entries in the youtube canon).

So you’re probably wondering about the nutrition group. Well, their scores on the GRE verbal section did not change whatsoever.  (I guess the keg-fests were too enticing). So next time you feel you’ve hit a wall on GRE prep, or are just stressing out, relax. Get into a meditation posture and be learn to be mindful of the present. That ability to ground yourself will definitely be important come test day.


For a follow-up read on the topic have a look at the New York Times article.

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4 Responses to The Secret Weapon to Success on the GRE

  1. taru April 22, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Hello Chris

    U mentioned something really important here.ur absolutely right that meditation helps keeps focus and keeps thoughts away that can work in a great way to shoot up the gre excellent website is by osho which teaches a variety of meditation exercises that are tailored for the modern man.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendation, Taru! I’ve never heard of this particular brand of meditation, but I intend to learn more :).

      • Chris October 13, 2015 at 10:10 am #

        As an FYI, study participants wouldn’t have fled at the first triple blank – the exam was modified to only show RC questions.

        I found mindfulness meditation helpful. My mind still wandered during the exam but it was manageable, unlike during my ACT days.

      • Tarun August 9, 2016 at 4:21 am #

        There are many Indian yoga guru’s that can help you in meditation, which can be very economical !! 🙂

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