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Last Minute GRE Tips

After weeks of preparation, the GRE sits on the horizon. You’ve spent hours and hours studying our tips for taking the GRE, attacking practice problems and testing out strategies in mock tests. Now the time has come to apply all that you’ve learned. And there is a lot you can do to optimize what you’ve learned. But there is also a lot you can do to derail what you’ve practiced. So before you start putting your final GRE prep plan into motion, take note of these GRE tips and tricks for last-minute prep.

gre tips

Last Minute GRE Prep is a Game of Odds

Do you play poker? Do you love taking calculated risks? Then you, my friend, will be GREAT at these last-minute GRE tips.

Test-taking is as much a game of skill as a game of luck. When you prep for an important exam, like the GRE, you have to spend time learning all the concepts that are tested on the exam. You need to carefully evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and address the weaknesses without ignoring your areas of strength.

But when it comes to the day of the test, you get what you get. If your exam contains mostly topics that you’re very comfortable with, then you’re in luck! If not, then you do the best you can with what you get. And that means using the multiple choice format of the test in your favor.

Let me explain.

If your GRE exam is in the next week or so, and you have a busy schedule, then you probably don’t have enough time to do a lot of new skill-building. That’s okay. You can still improve your odds of getting a good score by using your remaining time wisely.

Now, if you’re like many GRE students who have been prepping for a long time, then your math skills are probably pretty solid. And you probably haven’t focused too much on verbal recently, which means you’re probably considering spending the next week doing vocab flashcards. And that’s not a terrible idea, but committing a lot of new information to memory right before a test can have diminishing returns. You’re only going to remember so much, you might not even see any of those new words on the exam, and you’re just getting more tired and stressed in the process.

Getting tired before your exam is the worst thing you can do. You’re just increasing the odds that you’ll make a silly mistake, thus wasting the time you spent prepping for challenging questions.

Here are my top two tips for you at this point.

Best Last-Minute GRE Tips & Tricks

#1. Know the format of the GRE backwards and forwards

gre tips and tricks

The GRE is a multiple choice test. Calculate how much time you have per question, and then give yourself slightly less time, on average, to complete each one. When you notice that you’re spending too long on a question – skip it and make a notation so you can remember to come back to it later. Don’t allow your self to waste time on hard questions when you could be getting more questions right.

#2. Trust in what you already know

tips for taking the gre

Above all, stay calm! If you’re reading the question, and you have an idea of what the answer is in your head, look for that answer in the choices. If it’s there, then go with it. If it’s not, then eliminate any answer choice that is definitely wrong. If it’s a 50/50 guess, it’s okay to go with your gut unless you have a factual reason to go with the other answer. Don’t second guess yourself, and don’t spend too much time on questions that are too hard or confusing. Come back to them if and when you have time at the end.

One Week Until the GRE Tips

Keep the intensity high and continue to study. If you are unsure what to do in your final week, here are some suggestions:

  • Take a practice test 5 – 7 days before the actual exam so that you can practice your pacing and build up your stamina for the long test ahead. Make sure to include all the essays and an experimental section too.
  • Review your notes, especially problems and concepts that you have struggled with. It’s important to have everything you’ve learned fresh in your mind on test day.
  • Any practice you do at this point should be timed.
  • Work on your weaknesses as much as you can.

GRE Tips and Tricks for When You Have One Day Left

Do nothing! That’s right. It might seem counterintuitive and it might seem like the last thing you should do, but you need to rest up for the big day. Cramming is not going to help you one bit on the test.

  • No test preparation all day! Seriously!
  • Eat a large, healthy, leisurely dinner—no alcohol!
  • Lay out all that you will need for test day.
  • Go to bed earlier than usual.

The Day of the GRE

  • ABSOLUTELY NO LAST MINUTE TEST PREPARATION!
  • Eat a large breakfast, full of protein.
  • Do relaxing, fun activities to pass time until the test.
  • Light exercise is a great way to burn off anxiety and prime your mind for the test.

Tips for the GRE Test Day: What to Bring

  • A valid ID that includes your full name, photo and signature
  • A liter of water
  • Healthy energy-packed snacks (nuts, protein bar, etc.)
  • On breaks, make sure to get up and move. Moving and stretching the large muscles of the body (legs, torso, and back) will get oxygen flowing, which will help keep you awake and keep you thinking clearly.

Some Final Tips for Taking the GRE

tips for the gre

The power of positive thinking is profound. Every person at every moment freely decides their attitude. Regardless of all else that is happening or will happen, we all choose how we react and deal with struggles, challenges, and adversity. Now you are faced with quite a challenge—the GRE. So choose to walk into that testing center with some swagger. Stand tall and choose to be positive. Decide that you will totally dominate the GRE. Be confident in your abilities and trust yourself. At that point, you have no other recourse. You first must believe that you can dominate the GRE and reach your target score. After that anything is possible.

 

Note: This post was originally published in January 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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.

26 Responses to Last Minute GRE Tips

  1. Chinmay November 6, 2016 at 2:47 am #

    hey. I am in a weird situation. Please help me. I gave 15-16 mock tests, ( manhattan 5 , princeton 4, couple of kaplans and ets and all) I had a projected score of 309-314.
    Now , yesterday at around 10 pm I dont know why I decided to give ets power prep 2. and as the test is for 4 hrs , it went till 2 am. ( AN ABSOLUTELY FOOLISH DECISION)

    and i scored really bad 295( 150q, 145 v). Now I have my gre tommorrow.. and I am a bit scared. and my morale is a bit shaken. what should i do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

      Hi Chinmay,

      Don’t be discouraged! It sounds like you had a bad mock test experience because you were tired and stressed. This is NOT a good indication of how you will perform during the actual GRE. If you were consistently scoring in the 309-314 range, then that will be a much more accurate prediction of your actual score! So your job now is to make sure that you don’t have a repeat of that final test–get enough sleep, try to manage your stress level, eat a good breakfast and make sure that you go into the test mentally and emotionally prepared. You have done the work and have shown that you are capable of a much higher score, so you can be proud of the work you have done! Best of luck 🙂

  2. Sam November 3, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    Hi Kevin,
    Good evening.

    I have my exam in a couple of weeks. As much as I can sense the confidence in Quant with almost a cent percent, I think I haven’t practiced the Verbal section enough. Could you kindly guide about resources for the same?

    It would be a great help.

    Heartiest regards,
    Sam

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 3, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

      Hi Sam,

      With regard to content, I would definitely recommend utilizing Magoosh or ETS content for your continued Verbal studies. If you would like free resources, I would definitely check out practice problems, strategies, and tips on our blog!

  3. Soniya Shettigar October 4, 2016 at 5:55 am #

    I don’t feel like doing anything today. My test is tomorrow and I think I’m just going to relax today.
    I have this qualm which is not letting me relax. Am I doing the right thing? You sure there’s nothing I can do today that’ll bolster my score?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 4, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

      Hi Soniya,

      You are doing exactly what you should be doing! You have done the work and learned all that you can for the test–now your job is to relax, sleep, eat well, boost your confidence and walk into that test as prepared as possible 🙂

  4. B July 31, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    I have my GRE in two weeks and I have given three tests till now. I improved from 299 to 310 ( in Manhattan GRE practice test) to again drop to 306( in Kaplan’s test). Needless to say,I am disappointed.

    I tried the trial version of Magoosh and even the hardest of the quant questions were solvable. The quant questions on Kaplan were ridiculously difficult. How accurate are the Kaplan’s score to the actual GRE score?

    I do plan to give the Princeton Review’s tests too within this week and the ETS one in the next. 306 is way too less from my targeted score 🙁
    Please advise.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 8:51 am #

      Hi there 🙂

      I’m sorry to hear that your Kaplan practice test didn’t go as well as expected. However, it’s good to keep in mind that any practice test is a single, isolated instance with a number of factors that can make it somewhat inaccurate. Considering those factors, I wouldn’t worry about a 4 point difference. Overall, the most accurate predictor of your score is looking at the average of a number of different practice tests 🙂

      Also, we typically don’t recommend Kaplan for GRE prep, as you can read in our review of the company’s prep book. The difficulty level of the quant practice is typically lower than what you’ll see on test day, but it may be that you faced concepts that you’re more unfamiliar with. I’d recommend focusing on the concepts that are most difficult for you these upcoming weeks before your exam. The instructional videos from Khan Academy could prove very useful. The relevant videos are organized to correspond to the GRE Math Review from ETS. And you can find these video lessons here:

      ETS GRE: Khan Academy Instructional Videos

      Also, I definitely agree that taking the ETS PowerPrep exams is a good idea! They should provide you with the most accurate score prediction. The free tests were created by the same company that makes the GRE, so the questions are similar to the test, the adaptive nature of the test is similar, and the scoring algorithm matches that of the actual test.

      I hope this helps! Happy studying 🙂

      • B August 6, 2016 at 10:10 am #

        I just have this last week for my prep. My exam is scheduled to be on the 15th August.

        I did not use the Kaplan material for the prep,just for the tests. I think I was just not as well prepared to sit continuously for the long period. Hope to work upon that this week.

        I plan to give the two PowerPrep tests and the two tests from the ETS guide this week,while simultaneously practicing questions from Manhattan 5lb

        Thank you so much!

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 7, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

          On behalf of the entire team here, good luck on the 15th! 🙂

  5. Heli July 29, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

    Hie , I hv my exam on 17th august.What i sholud do for two week preparations? N any ways i cn predict my score range? I hv been studyin for one n half month….good at maths n verbal is weak.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 2, 2016 at 10:33 am #

      Wow, you’re in the home stretch! What you do in your final two weeks of study depends a lot on where you’re at right now. If you’re really confident in math but still struggling in Verbal, I recommend using your final two weeks to build p your Verbal skills as much as possible.

      The absolute best way to predict your score range is to self-test with real practice exams form ETS, the makers of the GRE. I recommend Powerprep (free practice tests) or Practice exams and practice question sets from the GRE Official Guide book and the official book for GRE Verbal. You can find these books through the online ETS store.

      To predict your score range, convert your percentage of correct answers to a number on the GRE’s scale. Both the math and Verbal sections are score on a 130-170 scale. This is a 40-point range. So if you get 75% of your Verbal questions right on a practice test, multiply 0.75 X 40 to get 30. Then add thirty to the lowest number in the score range. 130 + 30 = 60; getting 75% of your Verbal questions right means you could score at about 160 on the GRE.

  6. Kesavan July 8, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    Hi,

    I am planning to apply for the Phd programme in Economics. I am struggling with my GRE scores where I could not go beyond 149 in QR and 143 in verbal. I did four times but still I could not improve my scores. I have to get at least 158 for the GR. Pls let me know how I can improve my scores. I think I have one more chance to do the exam.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

      The best plan for improving your scores depends a lot on what is hardest for you on the test. If you haven’t done so already, I’d start keeping a “mistake journal.” Note the kinds of mistakes you’re making in practice. Check both the answer keys and answer explanations so that you can also figure out why your’e making mistakes, and what is causing you to choose wrong answers. Doing this will help you see the patterns in your mistakes, so that you can address specific weaknesses and build certain kinds of skills.

  7. Belinda June 18, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    Hi! I am premium member using the 12 week study guide. I have a few more weeks left, but my last practice exam is on a Sat and my exam is the following Tuesday. I noticed that you suggested taking your last exam 5-7 days before. Should I omit the last practice exam?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 19, 2016 at 8:33 am #

      Hi Belinda 🙂

      These are general suggestions for student who may or may not be following a study plan. I’d recommend adjusting your schedule a little and taking the practice exam Thursday or Friday, if possible. If not, it’s ok to stick to your plan and to take your last practice exam as per the schedule, the Saturday before your exam. If you take the exam on Saturday, you’ll want to to review it that same day, so that you can spend Sunday reviewing the topics that you may feel least comfortable with. And, as mentioned in this post as well as the study plans, I’d suggest taking Monday as a rest day, so that you arrive to your exam fully charged and ready to face the challenges that await you 😀

      Hope this helps!

      • Belinda June 19, 2016 at 10:10 am #

        It does! Thanks so much! 🙂

  8. Shraddha March 21, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    What is the score required for MS in marketing?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 23, 2016 at 10:49 am #

      Hi Shraddha,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly as much expertise and experience in graduate school admissions as we do with GRE prep, so I’m afraid we can’t be of much help. Here are a few blog posts to help you evaluate your scores:

      What is a Good GRE Score?
      GRE Scores by Program Major
      GRE Scores for Top Universities

      Additionally, I’d recommend directly contacting the schools/programs you’re interested in to see if they can offer any insight, or check out the programs’ websites to see if they have any info!

      I hope this helps at least a little 🙂

  9. Khob Raj Bhandari October 15, 2015 at 7:52 am #

    i am going to sit for my exams tomorrow! Here i am writing! i believe we should not cram at the last minute! still, reviewing the strategies and turning pages to visualise question patterns, will of course be handy! hoping for the best scores! Thanks a lot Magoosh team!

    • Dani Lichliter
      Dani Lichliter October 15, 2015 at 9:44 am #

      Best of luck on your exam tomorrow! 🙂
      Dani

  10. Nupur October 7, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    Hello Kevin,

    I’m planning to go for a PhD in Philosophy, e.g. Yale, Colombia University- could you suggest me an expected score for philosophy! I would start now to appear in December. Will it be possible to get a good score within the this time ?

  11. vani September 25, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    Thanks for the great tips, Kevin!

    • Kevin Rocci
      Kevin September 25, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Happy to help! 😀

  12. Sarah Ghabrial August 21, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    Great blog! I’m getting to write the GRE tomorrow. I’m going to walk in with a lot of swagger and aim for the scores I want! 🙂

    • Kevin Rocci
      Kevin August 22, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      YES!! Swagger in there and show that test who’s the boss! 😀


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