I’ve Hit a Plateau and I Don’t Know What to Do

No matter the skill you are trying to hone there will come a moment when you feel you’ve hit a plateau. By no means should you give up. Your brain could very well telling you that you need to take a break, or that you at least have to mix it up a little.

The GRE is no different. Your practice test scores, even after you study diligently for weeks, may not be going up. It is easy to come to the conclusion that all you work means nothing. But do not despair. Below are some important pointers when you feel you’ve hit the proverbial wall.


1. Break the monotony

Perhaps, GRE prep has become a very regimented routine for you. You maybe even have your favorite GRE spot, where you roost for a few hours. Having structure and discipline is critical to success, up until a point. After awhile, your brain may simply be getting bored.

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One great way to break the monotony is to study in a different place than you are used to studying. Switching spots alone can make implementing the next piece of advice easier.


2. Change your study routine

Perhaps you start by doing a few practice exercises from the verbal. You review your mistakes then you move on to a set of math problems. After following this pattern for a month your brain starts to become bored. Surprise it! If you find yourself always doing GRE math practice, definitely switch it up and try some verbal.

Any of the following should do the trick:

  • Do a mini-test in which you mix up doing five math problems followed immediately be a long reading passage.
  • Pop open a new, reputable prep book. There is no one magic bullet for GRE prep. So don’t get stuck using one book – that will definitely ensure plateau-ing. For the best GRE books of 2013 click here.
  • Review material from a day or two before. Do you remember what you learned that day? Revisit questions you missed.


3. Take a break

Our brains, like our muscles, need rest. And like our muscles, need time to grow. By taking a break from something you are learning, your brain will have time to process all that you’ve learned. Understandably, you don’t want to take too much time off. But even a three- to four-day break from studying vocabulary won’t cause you to forget all you’ve learned.

Coming back after a few days rest, on the other hand, will give your brain a renewed perspective. Suddenly, the word ‘polemical’, which you were having so much difficulty learning because you couldn’t get the image of a pole out of your head, conjures up news—and more pertinent—images.


4. Focus on different parts of the test

Many become too fixated on doing just one question type, or just one section on the test. Taking a break, not just from the entire test, but also from a section can also give your brain time to process what you’ve already learned. There is the AWA section, for instance. By flexing your writing muscles you can try out some new vocabulary learned and right with the aplomb and sophistication of a Text Completion.


5. Do something totally different

Ever heard of forums, such as urch.com or gradcafe.com? Well, you can post questions there, especially Urch. You can even answer other students’ questions. That way you are not just ensconced in your own little world, toiling away at the GRE test. You can offer insights and have any of your own pressing questions answered. Speaking of which, what strategies work best at keeping you from plateauing? Let me know below!


P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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