Comprehensive 27-Step Guide for the GRE Test Day
You are all prepared for the GRE test in a day or two, and have done your preparations to the best of your potential. But are you worried about the results (even before the test)? There are thousands of more students having the same concerns as you, but you should not let them get on your nerves and spoil your performance. Those 4 hours of your test day will decide whether you are going to choose a top school or an average institute for your Master’s degree.
Getting through the GRE successfully is much more than just mastering Verbal and Math. In order to score high in the test, you will have to take care of various other things. However, with the right knowledge of everything related to the test as well as an awareness of exactly what to do and when to do, clearing the GRE for the required score won’t be difficult.
Below are some of the strategies and tips shared for the GRE test day to help you control your composure and perform better. A chronological arrangement of these tips & requirements will further help you know exactly what to bring and what to do on the test day.
Take a note of the list in the same order, so as to have a predefined checklist before finishing the test.
Prepare a List of Universities you are Targeting –
Before finishing your GRE test, you will be required to choose & submit 4 universities to send your scores for free. You will be shown a list of universities, their respective countries and states on the computer and most students start thinking of their target names only at that moment.
Be a pro and figure out the list well before appearing in the test, which you can do during your breakfast on the test morning. While you are likely to have your university preference list, make a quick search and remember the state/country of your top 4 targets. With this, you will finish this task in a minute’s time, unlike others. Moreover, you only need to remember the college names instead of the codes, what most students think they need.
Give the Test Center a Visit, a Day Before –
If your test center is in the same city as you are in, it is recommended to visit the location a day or two before the actual test date. With this, you will know exactly how much time you need to reach the center, saving time as well as any delay or hassle. A common mistake that most students make is underestimating the power of traffic.
You won’t like to reach late for the important GRE test, so better figure out the distance of the center from your place & time required to cover it, the usual traffic behavior, and the right time to start your journey. Do check schedules of all the public transport options, if you are going to take one, and leave a 15-30 minutes earlier than the actual time to cover up for any unexpected delay on the way.
Ask a Friend for Company to the Test Center –
Avoid traveling alone to the test center, especially if it’s far. You might start thinking about your test and performance, and disturb your own mental composure. Ask a friend to drop you or company you on the way, as a random chat or a funny interaction will distract you from the tension of the exam. Also, do ask your friend a couple of days before the date of the exam and not just an hour or 10 minutes before, as they might be busy or have other plans on the same time.
Consider this important – don’t ask your parents to accompany you to the test center. Being your parents, they will be more worried about your performance, will surely start a test-related discussion, and might impact your mental composure.
Stop Studying a Day Before Exam –
Don’t take GRE same as your regular college exam, where you can cram things at the last moment to answer a few more questions. Avoid studying a day or two before the exam, as the same will only increase pressure on your mind. All the practice you have been doing for months is enough for the test, and it that doesn’t feel enough, a day won’t make any difference.
Relax, watch TV, listen to music, play a game outdoor or indoor, take a steam bath, and have fun so as to stay calm & composed before you appear for the test.
Go Through the Rules –
Read the rules and undergo tutorial guidelines using preparation software like ETS GRE PowerPrep II. The software will present you with the exact same guidelines as you will see before your test. Get familiar with using the software, how it works, the tutorial section, and some shortcuts to help you during the test. Getting to know anything new just before the test starts might add to your tension and dip your performance.
Get the Things Ready –
Start packing a day before the exam, and not an hour before it. Make a checklist of all the things that you need for the exam, like your ID card or any other printout, snacks or any other thing.
Set a Busy Alarm Schedule –
You are lazy waking up early and you know that, and you are not alone like that. Set up your alarm clock to start ringing well earlier than normal, and set multiple alarms, to avoid missing any wake-up call.
Start Your Day by Stretching –
Practice some yoga or any other physical exercise on the test morning. If you have a membership, you can go to a gym, but avoid stretching your muscles to the exhaustion level.
Eat Healthy –
Healthy food improves performance during the test, so go on with some salad and fruit juice. This isn’t the time to stuff your tummy as you might feel sleepy and start yawning during the test.
Avoid Work with a Game –
Play Sudoku or any other logic-based puzzle or game to warm up your brain before the test. This way you can activate your mind without the worries of getting a wrong answer. Some students choose to pick up some random questions and solve them, just before the exam. You can do this, but it isn’t recommended as not being able to solve a question right is likely to upset your mind, and you need to avoid any such tension before the test.
Don’t Cram –
As already stated above, cramming is not going to work here, so leave your books back home, avoid studying or memorizing anything on the day of the test. At the center, you might see many other students studying. Don’t start panicking as they might not be confident enough or might not know that this will impact their performance.
Prefer a Layered Dressing Style –
Since the test centers usually maintain cold temperatures, you should wear layered shirts/tops to stay warm and comfortable. However, dressing in layers is preferred as you can’t guess the temperature/environment inside without going in. Wear a shirt with a jacket that will keep you warm, and if you feel comfortable without the jacket, you can remove it anytime.
Turning back isn’t an Option –
Make sure that you got everything you need for your test, as running back home to get anything you forgot might make you miss your exam.
Being Punctual Helps –
Reach your center at least 45 minutes before the appointment time. This is advised to finish the entry process and checkups well in time. However, if there are fewer test takers, you might get some free time to relax. You can use this time to find the nearest water cooler and the bathroom near your test place.
Get Rid of the Books –
Bringing any of your books to the center may harm you in two ways. Firstly, the anxiety will pull you towards them and studying at the last moment isn’t good for you. Second, you aren’t allowed to bring books inside the testing area. And, if the officials found any book in your locker, this might result in your scores getting cancelled. So, you need to be careful with carrying your books, which are your friends during your preparations and enemies during the test.
Speak up if you need something –
If you feel something isn’t right and you can help correcting the same, you should speak to the invigilator. Get your doubts cleared with the proctor before the test begins, and also ask him for any special medical attention or anything else that you need during the test.
Take a Deep Breath –
Now, you are sitting before your computer and feeling stressed, and its okay to feel the thing. Relax your mind by meditating for a minute or by doing some breathing exercises. Flush out all the negatives from your mind, assume to be sitting in the University of your Choice, and be confident about it.
Don’t Skip the Tutorial Part –
You have experienced the software, how it works, and also undergone the tutorial section using the preparation software. But, you should not skip the tutorial section, as you can put those 5 minutes to use, to relax. Another important thing that you can (and must) do during these 5 minutes is type something randomly on the keyboard. Imagine how difficult is typing on your friend’s laptop, just because the keyboard style is different than what you regularly use. This is exactly why you should type something random on the keyboard so as to let your fingers adjust to the new layout.
Don’t Let AWA Impact Your Performance –
As you might know, AWA is the first section that you will attempt, but it shouldn’t set the tone for other sections. If the AWA part goes great, you are likely to feel confident (or sometimes, overconfident) about the rest of the test. On the contrary, if the AWA section doesn’t go good enough, it might affect rest of your performance negatively. Prevent the AWA from making any impact to the result, as you are the tone setter for your performance and not just a section of the test.
Stay Focused on Your Test Only –
During the test, you will observe different types of students and scenarios. A student sitting next to you might be typing like he knows every answer and is going to crack the exam without any doubt. On the other side, you might see another student quit the test and start crying. Don’t let any of such incidents get on your nerves and disturb your focus. Use earplugs to block off the noise around, or do anything you can to avoid losing your focus and stay calm.
Keep Your Hatred at Bay –
You might get your first section from the subject that you hate (math or verbal). Instead of losing hope, start thinking that the worst part of the test will be over first and the best will be next, and stay focused. This is the reason why students are advised to practice for the test by starting with their most hated section, so as to be prepared for such a scenario in the real test.
Every Minute Counts –
As all the questions on your GRE test carry the same value, you should focus on getting more marks by solving more questions. Since both easy and tough questions carry the same score, avoid wasting time on a difficult one and attempt every easy question you get in your test. For difficult ones, make a guess, mark for review, and move on to the next one. This helps you score higher with all easy questions attempted, while focusing on the difficult ones if you get enough spare time.
Use Scratch Paper as much as you Can –
More effectively you use the scratch paper in the test, the higher you can score in the GRE test. Learning the effective use of the scratch paper is one of the most underrated tips of GRE preparation. You should ask for an additional paper if you need one, without hesitating.
Don’t Even Think of Cancelling Your Scores –
If you wish to cancel your scores, just because you couldn’t meet your target, you might regret doing it later on. Once the test ends, your final score will be displayed to you with a question asking you if you wish to cancel it. Cancelling the score on not getting expected results isn’t a good idea at all as you have paid a lot of money, time, and efforts for this.
However, you can choose not to send the score to any of the schools you wished to apply for, prepare better and write the paper again for desired results. Cancelling the score is irreversible, so you can think of it later on instead of cancelling the scores straight away.
Don’t Skip the Break –
Some students avoid taking break during the test, especially if they are performing well in the test. Not taking the scheduled break from the tedious environment of the exam hall might be more bad than good for you. Continuous exposure to the screen, prolonged concentration, test anxiety, some tedious questions, and the cold environment are some of the factors that might make you feel tired. This is why you get a scheduled break to refresh your mind, visit the bathroom, drink some liquid or have a quick bite, wash your face, and return afresh. Skipping the break can increase the level of stress on your mind.
Utilize the Complete Time Slot Available –
Rushing out or finishing the test early is not going to get you a special award or score. So, you should stay inside the center and utilize the complete 3 hours 45 minute time slot given to you. If you sit through the exam, you can get the best bargain. Thus, go in prepared to spend the complete time in the center.
The Ultimate Tip: Keep Moving On –
Don’t lose your pace in the test due to one troubling question. Since you can mark any number of questions to be reviewed later on, you can create a proper answering strategy for your GRE test. It is advised to divide the total time available into 3 segments, like 15, 10, and 5 minutes for the verbal section (30 minutes) and 15, 10, and 10 minutes for the math section (35 minutes).
Give a quick start and solve all the easy & quick to solve questions in the first go. Come back to the start and solve some difficult ones in the second go, and so on. This helps you avoid wasting time on any difficult question as well as understand the situational urgency.
Thus, by following these 27 tips in the chronological order (as given), you can easily master the GRE test and boost your score. Though practice is an essential part of scoring well in the exam, getting mentally prepared for the test is more important than improving your skills, which this strategy will help you with.