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Master the GRE

by Brian R. McElroy
Harvard grad, 99% GRE scorer and professional GRE tutor since 2002.
copyright 2018 McElroy Tutoring Inc.
contact: mcelroy@post.harvard.edu

“So who are you,” you might ask, “and why are you qualified to write this book?”

You can call me Brian if you’re one of my GRE or GMAT Students, or Mr. McElroy if
you’re one of my SAT or ACT students. I’m 38 years old--originally from Providence,
RI--and I live with my fiancée and our two daughters in beautiful San Diego, California.
Ever since graduating from Harvard with honors in the spring of 2002, I’ve worked as a
private test-prep tutor, essay editor, author and admissions consultant.

I’ve personally taken the GRE 5 times, with personal bests of 337/340 composite
(99%), 168/170 on Quant (95%), 169/170 on Verbal (99%), and 6/6 on AW (99%). More
importantly, however, I’ve coached hundreds of students to significantly better GRE
scores over the last two decades, with an average score improvement of over 15 points.

Unlike so many other shady characters and money-grabbing content providers in the
GRE prep business, I’m no con artist out for a quick $19.99: I simply know this test
inside-out. And to prove it, I’ve abandoned the profit motive and published this GRE
book for free as a publicly accessible Google document, for the benefit of any and all
potential readers.

What is the GRE? What Skills does the GRE test?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a standardized test for college graduates
who are looking to attend graduate school in a variety of fields, from physics to real
estate to philosophy. GRE Wikipedia Page Although there is a paper-based test, 98%
of GRE test-takers choose the computer adaptive version, sometimes referred to as a
CAT (computer adaptive test).

On the Verbal portion of the GRE, you will be presented with Reading Comprehension,
Critical Reasoning, Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence Questions. Many of the
questions will require multiple responses (boxes), but most questions will be
single-answer multiple choice (ovals).
Reading Comprehension: These questions require you to read a short, medium or
long passage (often requires scrolling), and include such question types as main idea,
author’s purpose, tone, inference, reason, detail, likely agreement by author, example,
and definition.

Critical Reasoning: These questions require you to analyze an argument and consider
its possible assumptions, and they include such question types as strengthen, weaken,
identify assumption, supports which conclusion, logical completion and supports
author’s reasoning.

Text Completion: These questions, which usually involve 2 or 3 “blanks,” ask you to
choose the correct word to complete a sentence or group of sentences.

Sentence Equivalence: These questions are similar to text completion, but you must
choose the two answers that are not only correct but also equivalent in meaning.

REMINDER: If you see boxes instead of ovals, then the question requires multiple
(potential) answers. In these types of questions, at least one of the answers must be
true. If you see ovals, then there is only one answer.
--
On the Quantitative (Math) Portion of the GRE, you will be tested with Problem Solving
and Quantitative Comparison questions. Some of the questions will require multiple
responses, or for the test-taker to enter the answer yourself.

TIP: On the GRE Quantitative Portion, geometric figures are not necessarily drawn to
scale.

Problem Solving: These are your typical multiple-choice math questions. Some
questions (again, boxes instead of ovals) might have multiple answers, and in some
cases you might be asked to enter the answer with your keyboard.

Quantitative Comparisons: These questions take a bit more preparation in advance


for the question type.

CHOICE A: Quantity A is always greater.


CHOICE B: Quantity B is always greater.
CHOICE C: Quantity C is always greater.
CHOICE D: The relationship cannot be determined.
First, write down “A/B/C/D” vertically on your scratch paper. The general strategy for
Quantitative comparisons is to 1) first try to solve using algebra, 2) if that doesn’t work,
try picking numbers and testing, 3) pick numbers and “make it true”, then 4) try to get
another pair of values with a different relationship. If you can create more than one
relationship between the two quantities (greater, equal, or less), then the answer is D. If
you can’t, then stick with the original answer.

For example, if I first choose one pair of numbers that makes Quantity A greater than
Quantity B, then I make a mark next to A. Cross off B and C--these can never be the
answer. Now, try to make either B or C true in one instance. If you can, then the
answer is D. If you can’t, then stick with Choice A.

Let’s say, for example, that Quantity A equals “x” and Quantity B equals “2x.” If x = 1,
then the answer is B, because 1 < 2. If x = 0, then the answer is C, because 0 = 0.
Thus, the answer to the question is Choice D.

The Structure of the GRE Computer-Adaptive Test

The Computer-Based GRE is taken by 98% of test-takers, although there is a


paper-based option for test-takers who require it. Here is the structure of the GRE
Computer Adaptive Test (CAT):

First Hour: Analytical Writing

1) 30 Min - Essay #1 (“Analyze an Issue” task)


2) 30 Min - Essay #2 (“Analyze an Argument” task)

Next Three Hours: Multiple Choice

3) 30 or 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section

10-Minute Break

4) 30 or 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section


5) 30 or 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section
6) 30 or 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section
7) 30 or 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section

End of Test
At the end of the exam, you will see a screen that gives you the option to “Accept
Scores” or “Cancel Scores” before your scores flash on the screen. 99% of the time, it
makes sense to accept your scores, no matter how badly you may have performed,
because the GRE ScoreSelect Policy allows you to send only your best GRE scores to
graduate schools.

The Structure of the GRE Paper-Based Test

First Hour: Analytical Writing

1) 30 Min - Essay #1 (“Analyze an Issue” task)


2) 30 Min - Essay #2 (“Analyze an Argument” task)

10-Minute Break

Next Three Hours: Multiple Choice

3) 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section


4) 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section
5) 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section
6) 35 Min - Quant or Verbal Section

(There is no experimental section on the Paper-Based GRE.)

I have heard that the GRE is an “Adaptive” Test. What does this
mean?

Yes, the GRE is what’s known as a “Section-Level Adaptive” test. Depending on your
performance on the first section, the GRE selects either an easy, medium, or hard
second section to present to you:

Quant cutoffs:

0-7 correct: Easy


8-14 correct: Medium
15-20 correct: Hard
Verbal cutoffs:

0-6 correct: Easy


7-14 correct: Medium
15-20 correct: Hard

For more information on this, check out my free guide to the GRE PowerPrep Online
software, which also includes links to answer keys for both tests: How to Navigate the
Free PowerPrep Online Software

Can you skip questions on the computer-based GRE?

Yes. Unlike the GMAT, for example, the GRE allows you can skip questions and move
around the test. This is a feature of which I suggest you take full advantage! It allows
you to save the toughest questions for later, and to focus on “easy points” early on the
test (on the GRE, every question has the same impact on your score, regardless of its
difficulty level). For example, one common piece of advice I give my students is to
always skip the long reading passage and save it for last. Psychologically, it’s better to
build your confidence with easier questions, and work your way out to the harder ones.
It’s also a better way of maximizing your score: the hard questions are the ones you are
least likely to answer correctly, so why would you spend the most time on them?

What is a good score on the GRE? Where can I find my Composite


Percentile?

Frustratingly, ETS, the creator of the GRE, does not provide composite score
percentiles, only section percentiles. This can be problematic for students, because it
often makes your scores look less impressive than they really are.

For example, even a perfect score of 170/170 would not appear to be 99th
percentile--though it clearly is--because although a Verbal score of 170 is 99%, a Quant
score of 170 is 97%. Although the average of these two scores would appear to be
98%, it is in fact far above 99%, because the same test-takers who are very strong in
one subject are unlikely to be equally strong in the other.

On the GMAT, for example, a composite score of Q50 (86%) and V42 (96%) is still
enough to earn a 99% composite score, despite the fact that neither of the individual
scores are 99% scores, because of the high difficulty involved in earning elite scores on
both sub-sections in one sitting. Check out this table for a better idea of what I mean.
Source: ETS Website 2017

Required Math Formulas

You don’t need to know too many math formulas for the GRE. Below is a full list of all
the formulas and concepts that you need to know (or might need to know, just to be
safe).

1) Percent change (this works for both percent increase and percent decrease):
(difference/original) x 100. Please note that “original” signifies that the number
we are comparing to (usually follows the word “than”). For example, to answer
the question “2 is what percent less than 3?” You would subtract 2 from 3 to get
1, then divide by the original, 3, to get ⅓. Then, multiply by 100 to get a 33.3%
decrease.
2) Percent of = (part/whole)
3) Average = total / # of things, or (Average)(# of things) = total
4) Direct Proportion: (A1 / A2) = (B1 / B2) or y = kx and Indirect Proportion (A1 / A2) =
(B1 / B2)
5) Area of a triangle = [ (base)(height) / 2 ]
6) The 30/60/90 (x, x√3, 2x) and 45/45/90 ( x, x, x√2 ) side ratios of special right
triangles, and that equilateral triangles are 60/60/60 degrees.
7) Pythagorean Theorem a2 + b2 = c2 with a, b, and c representing the base, height
and hypotenuse of a right triangle. Also, just in case, the Super Pythagorean
Theorem for 3-D shapes (helps for determining the diagonal of a rectangular
solid): a2 + b2 + c2 = d2
8) Area of a circle = π r2 , Circumference of a circle = 2πr
9) Exponent rules (same base) for multiplication, division, and taking an exponent to
a power, as well as the “same exponent” rule (last 2 examples) for multiplication
and division:

ab × ac = ab+c
ab ÷ ac = ab−c
(ab )c = abc
(2ab )c = 4abc
ab × cb = acb
ab ÷ cb = (a/c)b

10) All 3 Quadratic Identities (unfactored to factored form)

x2 − y 2 = (x + y )(x − y )
x2 + 2xy + y 2 = (x + y )2
x2 − 2xy + y 2 = (x − y )2

11) The Formula for a Line (slope intercept y = mx + b format, standard form
Ax + B y = C , and point-slope format: y-y1 = m(x-x1), and the slope equation (y2-y1)
/ (x2-x1).

12) The Third Side Rule for Triangles a − b < c < a + b if c represents the “third side”
and b and a represent the lengths of the other two sides. In other words, the
value of the third (unknown) side of a triangle must lie between the sum and
difference of the other two sides.

13) How to solve absolute value inequalities.

14) Volume of a rectangular solid = (length)(width)(height). Volume of a cylinder


V = π r2 h when r = radius and h = height. (π = approximately 3.14)

15) Probability = (# things you want) / total possibilities. Also know how to calculate
permutations and combinations.

16) The Compound Interest Formula when P=principle, r = interest rate, and t=unit
of time:
T otal = P (1 + r)t

17) Arithmetic and Geometric Sequences

18) Surface area of a cube = 6s2

19) Distance = (rate)(time), job = (rate)(time)

20) Area of a trapezoid = [ (a + b) / 2 ] (height)

21) Number of degrees in an n-sided shape: (n - 2) (180)

Required GRE Math Concepts

1) PEMDAS AND THE ORDER OF OPERATIONS. The “order of operations” in


math is exactly what it sounds like: the correct order to perform specifical
mathematical operations such as adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying.
The correct order is 1) Parentheses, 2) Exponents, 3) Multiplication, 4) Division,
5) Addition, 6) Subtraction, which can be remembered with the acronym
“PEMDAS.”

2) MEAN, MEDIAN, MODE. Mean is the same as average. Median is the number in
the middle after rearranging from low to high. In the case that the list has no true
middle because it has an even number of terms, find the average of the middle
two. So the median of the list { 1 1 5 5 } is (1+5)/2 which equals 3. MODE is quite
simply the number that appears the MOST. Multiple modes are possible if there
is a tie for greatest frequency: the example I just listed, for example, has two
modes, 1 and 5. To calculate the median of an odd number of terms, simply add
1 and divide by 2. To calculate the median of an even number of terms n, take
the average of the (n/2) term and the following term. 


3) INTEGERS. Integers are whole numbers, including zero and negative whole
numbers. Think of them as hash marks on the number line. (For those who don’t
know what hash marks are, picture the while yardage markings on the grass of a
football field.) Don’t forget that zero is an integer and that negative whole
numbers are integers too. Remember that -3 is less than -2, not the other way
around (sounds simple but is a common mistake. If I fooled you initially with that
one, think of “greater than” as “further to the right” on a number line, and “less
than” as “further to the left.”



4) PRIME NUMBERS. Prime numbers are positive integers that are only divisible by
themselves and the number 1. Be able to list all the primes you between 1 and
50…remember that 1 is not a prime and there are no negative primes. By the
way, 51 is not prime…that question actually showed up on a recent SAT. 17 x 3 =
51. What, you forgot your times tables for 17?

2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29,31,37,41,43,47,53, etc…

Also, be able to use a factor
tree and find all the factors of a number and perform a “prime factorization” of a
number (this means you find a series of prime numbers that multiplies together to
equal that number). The prime factorization of 18, for example, is 3 x 3 x 2.



5) PYTHAGOREAN TRIPLES. These are particular types of Right Triangles that


just happen to have exact integers as sides. The SAT loves to use them, so know
them by heart and save yourself the trouble of calculating all those roots. Here
are the ones they use:

3/4/5, 5/12/13, 6/8/10, 7/24/25, 8/15/17

Please note that
Pythagorean Triples are not the same as 45/45/90 and 30/60/90 triangles.

6) “Y LESS THAN X”
(for example, “x-7” is the correct mathematical translation of “7


less than x.” Be careful because many students will write this as “7-x”, which is
incorrect.)



7) THE WORD “OF”: “Of” always means multiply.

8) DIGITS. Digits are to numbers what letters are to words. There are only 10
possible digits, 0 through 9.



9) MULTIPLES. The MULTIPLES of x are the ANSWERS I get when I MULTIPLY x


by another INTEGER. For example the multiples of 5 are 5,10,15,20 etc. as well
as 0 (a multiple of everything because anything times zero is zero) as well as -5,
-10, -15 and other NEGATIVE MULTIPLES.



10) FACTORS. The factors of x are the answers I get when I divide x by another
integer. For example the factors of 60 are 30, 20,15,12,10,6,5,4,3,2,1, as well as
-5,-6,-10 etc.


11) REMAINDER. Remainder is the whole number that’s left over after division. For
example 8/3 equals 2 remainder 2. Remainder is particularly helpful on pattern
and sequence problems.



12) CONSECUTIVE INTEGERS. Consecutive integers are integers in order from


least to greatest, for example 1,2,3. The ACT may also ask for consecutive even
or odd integers. For example -6,-4,-2, 0, 2, 4 etc (yes zero is even) or 1, 3, 5
etc.

-SUM. Sum means the result of addition. The sum of 3 and 5 is 8. I know,
duh, but you’d be surprised how many students will say “15” if they are not
paying close attention.



13) DIFFERENCE. Difference is the result of subtraction.



14) PRODUCT. The result of multiplication. Do not confuse with sum!



15) ODD AND EVEN NUMBERS. Even numbers are all the integers divisible by 2,
and odd numbers are all the other integers.



16) POSITIVE and NEGATIVE NUMBERS. Be aware that if the problem asks for “a
negative number,” that does not necessarily mean a negative INTEGER. -1.5 will
do just fine. Zero is neither negative nor positive. Be aware of strange tricks with
negatives, and that negatives taken to EVEN powers are positive and that
negatives taken to ODD powers are negative.



17) GEOMETRY and TRIGONOMETRY. You’re going to have to remember basic


geometrical concepts (180 degrees in a line, 360 degrees in a quadrilateral, 360
degrees in a circle, all radii of a circle are equal 180 degrees in a triangle, rules of
parallel lines and transversals, trapezoids have two parallel sides, vertical angles
are congruent, perpendicular lines have slopes that are negative reciprocals of
each other).

18) NUMBER PROPERTIES. You will need to understand the inherent logic of math
and numbers, including such concepts as: x2 is always positive, if xy = 0 then
either x = 0 or y = 0 or both, that a (f raction)>1 is always going to become
smaller, that a (negative)even = positive and that a (negative)odd = odd .

19) STANDARD DEVIATION AND THE 34/14/2 RULE (OR 68/28/4 RULE).
20) MAXIMUM AREA OF A TRIANGLE WITH FIXED LEGS, OR A RECTANGLE
WITH A FIXED PROPORTION. The maximum area of a triangle with two fixed
legs is a right triangle. The maximum area of a rectangle with fixed proportion is
a square (which is a specific form of right triangle).

21) CIRCLES, RADII, INTERNAL ANGLES AND PROPORTIONALITY: All radii of a


circle are equal. Angles formed in the center of a circle have the same measure
on the arc. Angles formed inside the circumference of a circle have double the
measure on the arc.

Also useful concept is what I like to call the “circle proportionality equation,”
which states that the (part/whole) ratio of a circle is going to be the same value,
regardless of the type of measurement (angle, area, or arc):

part/whole = inner angle/360 = arc/2πr = area of sector/πr2

22) TRIANGLE SIMILARITY AND LEG PROPORTIONALITY. If two triangles share


two of the same angles (AA), or two sides and an angle (SAS), then they are
similar. The proportion of distance that you travel along the one leg of a triangle
is equal to the proportion of distance that you travel along both other legs.

23) INTERQUARTILE RANGE. There are questions on this concept in the Official
Guide to the GRE, but I’ve never seen it tested on an actual exam.

24) The degree measure of an arc formed by an angle with its vertex on a circle is
double the measure of the angle, or equal the measure of the circle if the vertex
is on the center of the circle.

The Importance of Using Official GRE Materials Cannot be Overstated.

When preparing for the GRE, one must remember to use official materials (materials
written by ETS, the maker of the GRE) whenever possible. Third-party strategy and
learning guides certainly have a place in the GRE prep process, but far too many
students waste their GRE preparation time by using non-official test questions from
companies such as Kaplan, which are often far different than the real thing--particularly
on the GRE Verbal section, where it is difficult, if not impossible, for 3rd-party questions
to fully replicate the wording, tendencies, and “feel” of official ETS questions.
All GRE official materials from ETS

Here is an exhaustive, frequently updated list of all of the GRE official materials from
ETS that you can currently find:

1) PowerPrep Online (Free): 2 free computer-adaptive tests (CATs) containing 160


real GRE questions per test (320 total), along with a Test Preview Tool (18
additional questions and 2 more essay questions).
2) Powerprep Plus Online ($40 per test with 90 days of access): 2 more CATs ($40
each with 90 days of access) that you can only take once per purchase. 80 real
GRE questions per test, and 320 real GRE questions total, along with a Test
Preview Tool (18 additional questions and 2 more essay questions).
3) Paper-Based GRE Practice Test (old version): Beware: only 22 questions on the
old paper-based test are unique: the other 78 questions overlap with the free
PowerPrep Online test #1. Do not take these paper-based tests until after you
take the PowerPrep online tests, or your diagnostic scores on the CATs might be
less realistic due to question repetition.
4) Paper-Based GRE Practice Test (new version): Beware: only 37 questions on the
old paper-based test are unique: the other 53 questions overlap with the free
PowerPrep Online test #2. Do not take these paper-based tests until after you
take the PowerPrep online tests, or your diagnostic score might be less realistic
due to question repetition.
5) The Official Guide to the GRE General Test, 3rd Edition: 296 real GRE practice
questions, including 57 additional math exercises.
6) Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, Second Edition, Volume
1: 150 additional GRE Quant practice problems, along with answer explanations /
test info.
7) Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions, Second Edition, Volume 1:
150 GRE Verbal practice problems, along with answer explanations and
information on the test.
8) The Official GRE Super Power Pack (includes books #5, 6 and 7 in one bundle,
sometimes at a lower price than the individual books).
9) The Official GRE Value Combo (includes books #6 and 7 in one bundle,
sometimes at a lower price than the individual books).

3rd-Party GRE Preparation Books - Recommendations and Rankings


If you add up all the unique questions in these official resources, then it equals about
1,300 official GRE questions, which for many students is more than sufficient for a full
GRE preparation. However, some students need more learning, practice and topic
repetition than the ETS official materials can provide. While 3rd-party GRE learning,
practice and strategy materials can be helpful, the practice questions and advice are not
always perfect. These books often teach material that is not on the GRE, for example,
and neglect to teach material that is in on the test. Some are good, but they vary highly
in quality! With that in mind, here are some of the best 3rd-party GRE strategy and
learning guides that I can recommend (I have linked to my own Amazon customer
reviews of the books when applicable):

1) Manhattan Prep 5-Lb Book of GRE Practice Problems


2) Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides
3) GRE Prep by Magoosh
4) Barron’s GRE, 22nd Edition
5) McGraw-Hill Education GRE 2018
6) Cliff’s Notes Math Review for Standardized Tests, 3rd Edition
7) GRE Vocab Capacity (disclaimer: co-authored by me)

You might also want to consider purchasing the Manhattan Prep GRE CATs, which do
not include real GRE questions, but are still (mostly) realistic and make for good
practice if you need more than 4 CATs. The first exam is free, and you can buy 6 more
for $39.

I do NOT recommend Kaplan or Princeton Review books, which are decent for
mid-level scorers, but too simplistic for the student who aspires to high GRE scores.

Online Study Programs - Cautions and Recommendations

In general, I would caution against preparing for the GRE using only online tools,
because watching a video on your computer (passive learning) is is not as helpful as
actually working your way through practice questions (active learning). Still, these types
of web-based programs are undoubtedly convenient and cost-efficient--and in some
cases they offer additional third-party GRE practice questions as well. Here are my
current recommendations:
1) Vince Kotchian (friend and co-author)'s GRE prep course on Lynda.com:
https://www.lynda.com/Higher-Education-tutorials/Test-Prep-GRE/461916-2.html
$20/month
2) Greenlight Test Prep: $98. https://www.greenlighttestprep.com Also includes
some free videos.
3) Quantum Grad Prep (math only, but excellent): $89. Also includes some free
videos. http://www.quantumgradprep.com
4) Magoosh ($149 or about $100 when they have a promotion). It's not the greatest,
but has a large question bank and is slowly improving. The score guarantee is
especially helpful if you have an official GRE score already on file.
https://gre.magoosh.com

There is plenty of good free stuff out there, too. A guide that I co-wrote with Vince to the
first 40 questions from the free GRE PowerPrep software, for example:

There is also a free website called GRE Prep Club that lists thousands of real and
imitation GRE questions, along with forum-style explanations. GRE Prep Club is a
sister site to the exponentially more popular GMAT Club. The main problem so far with
GRE Prep Club is that there are not enough active users to provide a significant
knowledge base in terms of question explanations, but it’s a great way to access lists of
real and synthetic GRE practice questions in a convenient online format. One warning,
however--most of the GRE questions on this site are not real GRE questions! For
the purposes of realism, make sure to filter your search to include only real GRE
questions from Powerprep, or the Official Guides, whenever possible.

Online Classes: 1) Manhattan GRE 2) Your local college class offerings (potentially). I
teach classes for UCSD Extension, for example, and you can find good GRE instructors
in similar places. Make sure to ask the instructor how many years and hours of GRE
teaching experience he/she has.

Private tutors like me are the best option, but can be cost prohibitive. Many tutors will
be willing to tutor you via Skype or other types of VOIP software. This means that you
can access a GRE expert from anywhere in the world, rather than being confined to
your local neighborhood, which, unless you live in New York, San Francisco, Los
Angeles or San Diego, is probably lacking a GRE expert. : )

I know that there are a ton of other GRE prep offerings out there. I can't speak to all of
them, but I do hear things from my students. If you want to know about one program in
particular, then let me know and I'll try to respond with any information I might have.
Stay away from the big companies, too: Kaplan and Princeton are not the places to go
for serious GRE prep--their materials are watered down to appeal to the average
student.

Again, I would strongly recommend that you pay close attention to experience: precisely
how many years the company or tutor whose services you are seeking to utilize has
been around, and precisely how many hours of teaching experience your instructors
have. In my opinion, a teacher needs at least 2,000 hours of teaching experience to
master the GRE.

GRE Action Plan - How to Study for the GRE

There is no one “right way” to study for the GRE. Some students prefer to jump in
head-first and take a diagnostic practice test right away. Others are much more
cautious, wanting to learn the topics well before taking an exam under test-day
conditions.

In general, I would make a few suggestions:

1) Start slowly, and don’t worry about your timing right away. If you’re a bit
intimidated by the computer test, then use a book instead.
2) Study frequently and for short durations. I suggest studying 3 times a day for 50
minutes each, or 2 times a day for 75 minutes each. Spend most of your time
trying practice problems (active), not just reading or watching videos (passive). If
possible, check the correct answer / answer explanation to each question right
away for optimum learning--learning is best done when your thoughts are still
fresh.
3) When you get something wrong, it’s a precious opportunity to improve. Don’t rush
it! Avoid the temptation to just check the correct answer, and move on. Instead,
force yourself to evaluate all the answer choices, and to try the questions again
from scratch, as many times as needed, until you’ve mastered them. Check the
correct answer only after you’ve tried the question again. Repeat this process as
many times as possible until you’ve mastered the material.
4) Don’t take too many full practice tests, and don’t always practice with time
pressure--you need to learn how to crawl before you can learn how to walk.
5) Try to use real GRE questions whenever possible, but be willing to use 3rd-party
materials if you need extra practice in a specific area.
6) On Quant, be willing to go back to the basics if necessary, by drilling certain math
concepts over and over until you are more confident. The Cliff’s Notes Math
Review for Standardized Tests book is helpful in this regard. Many math
questions on the GRE quant section can be solved easily through a strong grasp
of math theory and number properties.
7) Improve your vocabulary. Vocab is very important on the Verbal section of the
GRE. You may have heard (also linked above) that I co-wrote a popular GRE
Vocab Book.
8) Don’t give up. Most people have to take the GRE several times before they
reach their desired score, and the GRE ScoreSelect policy allows test-takers to
hide any GRE scores that they don’t want their potential grad programs to see.
9) If you’re taking periodic full GRE practice tests as part of your practice regimen,
then good job! But don’t bother trying to review your results afterward. Instead,
wait until the next day, when your mind is fresher, to review your results.
Remember, it’s the careful, deliberate and untimed review of each question you
got wrong that leads to actual improvement, not just the act of taking the practice
test itself. Force yourself to retry each question, even if the correct answer
“already makes sense”...especially on Quant. For Verbal, focus on writing down
why all the wrong answers are wrong, not just why the right answer is right.

-------

Good luck on the GRE and beyond! I hope that you found this doc helpful. This is a
free, publicly accessible Google Document that I will be continually updating, so please
check in frequently for new information.

-Brian McElroy
Contact: mcelroy@post.harvard.edu
GRE Action Plan
GRE Blog
GRE AMA on Reddit
Guide to Navigating the PowerPrep Online Software

Last updated 12/27/17