Magoosh Expert

Are GRE Practice Tests Harder Than the Real Exam?

A student practicing for the GRE

If you’re prepping for the GRE, you might be wondering if the practice tests are tougher than the real deal. It’s a fair question – after all, you want to know what you’re up against and how ready you really are. So, let’s break it down and see how practice tests stack up against the real GRE.

What’s the point of a practice test?

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GRE practice tests let you simulate the actual exam experience as closely as possible. The test itself may be uniquely created by test prep experts or educational organizations, and also ETS, the organization that develops the GRE, often makes past versions of the test available. A good practice test familiarizes test-takers with the content, format, and timing of the real GRE.

How do practice tests help?

Several factors make practice tests worthwhile:

  • They mirror the real test: Practice tests mimic the GRE’s content and question types – including the trickier ones. They will help you feel comfortable recognizing solutions at a variety of difficulty levels.
  • A mixed bag of questions: Practice tests throw a mix of easy, medium, and tough questions at you. This mix helps you prepare for the challenges the GRE might toss your way.
  • The race against time: Just like the real GRE, practice tests come with a ticking clock. Managing time effectively is key to acing both a practice and the actual GRE.
  • Subjective perception: Difficulty can be subjective – what feels tough to you might be a breeze for someone else, and vice versa. Recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses will be invaluable for your prep.

Is the real GRE more difficult?

How hard the actual GRE feels can vary from person to person. It can depend on how well you’re prepared, how familiar you are with the test format, and how good you are at taking tests. Some might find the real GRE a notch harder than practice tests due to test-day anxiety, unfamiliar surroundings, or the pressure of the exam environment. Others might find the real GRE easier, especially if they’ve boosted on their weak areas and fine-tuned their test strategies.

So why bother with practice tests?

Regardless of how hard they feel, practice tests are a not-so-secret weapon for GRE prep. They help you identify strong and weak areas, figure out where you need to improve as you prep, and polish your test-taking skills. Each of these gains alone is a priceless insight into boosting your performance on the actual test by guiding your prep.

How to Make the Most of Practice Tests

  1. Variety is the spice of prep: Don’t take just one practice test. If possible, take more than one to get a well-rounded view of your readiness, and also to measure your gains as you prep.
  2. Make it realistic: Take practice tests under timed conditions and in a distraction-free zone to mimic the GRE experience.
  3. Learn from your mistakes: Review your practice test performance and pin down your recurring mistakes and weak areas.

The perceived difficulty of GRE practice tests can vary for each person. The goal of these tests isn’t to scare you but to prepare you for the real GRE by exposing you to a range of challenges. Practice tests are crucial tools to gauge your progress and sharpen your skills. By taking multiple tests, simulating test conditions, and analyzing your performance, you’ll build the confidence and readiness you need to conquer the GRE.


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