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 test, you’ve got to use the best practice material. Such material will lay traps very similar to that found on the real test.



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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

15 Responses to Best Way to Crack the New GRE

  1. Dee July 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I recently score for verbal 159, Quant 161 and I am trying to get above 160, something like 162. I am going to take it again in one month. I wonder if I should try to start reading very difficult academic journals to train my speed in reading? What do you think? Or just practice a lot of questions and really nail the vocab?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 24, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

      With just one month to go, practicing questions and building your skills in question strategy might be the best approach. Test-specific skills can be learned and improved on more quickly, compared to general academic skills and knowledge.

      If you do practice reading, I’d recommend sticking with GRE-like sources of reading practice, and with GRE texts themselves. Advanced academic journal articles often have structure, content, and vocabulary that is different form what you’d see on the GRE. So those kinds of texts– even if you can learn to read them faster– do not necessarily prepare you well for the exam.

  2. Roshan Mark July 22, 2016 at 1:59 am #

    Hi Chris,

    My name is Roshan, and I plan on sitting for my GRE in the next couple of months. My verbal skills aren’t so bad, so to speak but my math is below average to pretty bad. How would you suggest i approach my mode of study in order to achieve a decent test score?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 22, 2016 at 7:39 am #

      Hi Roshan 😀

      First, I’d recommend reading this blog post to help you determine how much time you will need to study to achieve your target scores.

      With those ideas in mind, I’d also recommend you check out our suggested study schedules here. It sounds like you’ll want to review both verbal and math as you prepare, even though you’re a bit stronger in the verbal section. So, our 3-month beginner’s plan is definitely a good choice 😀 You don’t have to follow the plans exactly but rather you could use one of the plans as a base and customize it to your needs 🙂

      You mentioned that your math is not quite up to par. With that in mind, I’d recommend that you first review your math basics. Basic math concepts make up the foundation of harder math questions, so it’s essential to be very familiar with these topics 🙂

      I’d also recommend checking out the instructional videos from Khan Academy that review the general topics tested on the exam. The relevant videos are organized to correspond to the GRE Math Review from ETS.

      And to improve your verbal score, we at Magoosh cannot stress enough how important it is to read as MUCH as possible. Aim to read for at least 30 minutes a day from GRE-level reading materials, such as our selections for our “GRE Article of the Month” series. I’d also recommend using our GRE Vocab Flashcards, learning about 10-15 new vocabulary words a day.

      Don’t forget to go through practice problems for both sections and really analyze your mistakes! 😀

      I hope these tips help! Happy studying 🙂

  3. Amit November 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi Chris and the entire Magoosh team ,
    So 5 days back, I gave my GRE with a mere pittance of 14 days of preparations from the scratch ! (Scratch– Learnt the 1st word of GRE on my 1st day)
    I was average with my Maths and equally horrible with my verbal skills !
    It was only because of the Magoosh 100 words and the impeccable vocab builder app, because of which I could memorize 1000+ words !
    Thank you !
    Had your app been not there, I would have never decided to take GRE this year.
    Well the score I got was not much ,307 (Q-158,V-149) .
    Had to endure 3 unwanted Verbal section,had it been Quants definitely I would have reached 310+ score !
    I don’t know if this is enough score to get a mediocre university with other factors of my profile being ‘decent’.
    I am here just to thank you people 🙂
    Would have definitely subscribed for Magoosh’s premium plan , but considering the amount of time I had, I couldn’t go for it !
    Recommending it to fellow GRE takers 🙂 \m/
    @Chris –> You are the best tutor !
    I will never forget the meaning of the word ‘aboveboard’ ever in my life !
    Thanks to prodigious examples ! The selfless work which you guys are doing is astonishing.
    All the best to Magoosh team .
    Looking forward to work with you guys once I am done with my masters 🙂

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 24, 2014 at 10:46 am #


      Thanks for all the positive words 🙂

      Very glad that we were able to make your second attempt at the GRE much more successful (you should have no problem getting into a “mediocre” university).

      Best of luck with your masters, and we’ll be here when you get back 😉

      • Amit November 24, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

        Thanks 🙂
        And this was my 1st attempt to gre.
        Not second.

  4. 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?


    • 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!

  5. 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.


    • 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 :)!

  6. 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.


    • 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 :).

  7. 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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