GRE Tips for Test Day

You’ve selected a date, you’ve registered for the GRE, and you’re ready for your GRE test day! But wait—what should you do to ensure you perform your best on test day? GRE tips for test day range from practicing Issue and Argument essays, to memorizing GRE vocabulary words for Verbal Reasoning, to determining probability and standard deviation for Quantitative Reasoning. Needless to say, there is plenty to keep track of.

How can you make the process run as smoothly as possible? Here are five simple GRE tips for test day:

GRE Test Day Tip #1: Thoroughly prepare beforehand

This is an obvious one, but it must be said—study for the GRE! Do not go into this exam cold; the odds will not be in your favor. Take several GRE practice tests, and consider a GRE prep book if you’d like an additional resource. The ETS website also provides a Math Review document that helps you prepare specifically for the material covered in the Quantitative Reasoning section. Learn the structure of the exam and the material covered in each section so you know what to expect on GRE test day.

Additionally, visit the test center ahead of time. Prepare alternate routes to the location, and account for traffic. When you arrive, introduce yourself to the person in charge. Familiarize yourself with the resources, including parking if necessary, lockers, restrooms, and water fountains. Ask if there is any other information about the center that you should know before your GRE test day, so that you won’t be thrown off on the day of the exam.

GRE Test Day Tip #2: Save time to relax

Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and the night before that—this means two nights of sleeping well so that you have the energy necessary to do your best on the GRE. Do not try to memorize a ton of new information the day before your exam. Cramming extra GRE vocabulary words or geometric formulas into your brain that you haven’t studied previously will be unlikely to help your performance, and it might actually fill you with anxiety.

Instead, spend this time doing something you enjoy. For outdoorsy students, take a hike, ride your bike, or go for a jog. For students who prefer indoor pursuits, read a favorite novel, draw in a coloring book, or listen to music in a peaceful environment. Set up your mind and body for success the following day.

GRE Test Day Tip #3: Know all the details of your testing center and time

In many ways, this is the most important step: if you’re not at the test center, then you can’t take the GRE. Arrive early, at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test time. Wear comfortable layers incase the room is too hot or too cold for your liking. Bring your photo ID and your confirmation email. Know which graduate schools you would like to send your GRE scores to so you can submit that information at the end of the exam. Also, bring water and a snack to store in your locker to consume during your break. This can help provide you with energy to perform well on the second half of the exam.

GRE Test Day Tip #4: Get comfortable

When you sit at your assigned computer, get your bearings. This will be your GRE home base for the next four hours. Arrange your pencils and paper on the desk, raise or lower your seat, and adjust the monitor if needed. Then, start the test and take the tutorial section. This will help you acclimate to the environment, get accustomed to the computer, practice typing on a new keyboard, and relax for a few minutes. Finally, take a deep breath, and begin the GRE.

GRE Test Day Tip #5: Focus on one question at a time

During the test, pace yourself. Here is a breakdown of how the test is split up:

Analytical Writing

  • 30 minutes for the Analyze an Issue essay

  • 30 minutes for the Analyze an Argument essay

  • For each essay, consider spending five minutes brainstorming and outlining, 20 minutes writing, and five minutes editing.

Verbal Reasoning

  • Two sections

  • Each section consists of 20 questions to answer in 30 minutes

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Two sections

  • Each section consists of 20 questions to answer in 35 minutes

Focus on the section and the question on the screen, one at a time. It is advised to select an answer for each question, even if you have to make an educated guess, since there is no penalty for wrong answers. Don’t let yourself get stuck on any one question for too long; keep moving through the exam. After each section, ask for new pencils and new paper if you need them, and don’t forget to take your breaks! This is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no bonuses for finishing early, so use all of the time available to you.

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Remember, the way you practice for your GRE test day is likely the way you’ll perform, so incorporate these five tips into your study plan. If you prepare for all aspects of the GRE, relax the day before, and focus on what is in front of you, you will be on your way to a promising GRE test day.

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