What are the best ways to score higher in GRE?

posted at May 30, 2019, 4:22 p.m.

Preparing for the GRE can be a daunting process. Apart from the exam itself, the conversations with your friends and the uncertainty can add to the pressure. A lot of people push themselves to achieve a 325-330 and put undue pressure on themselves. Is a 330 required? Can you not get into a top university with a 310? How can you score a 320? Are these questions on your mind?

If they are, then read on. You will be much better off by the time you're done.

Understanding how universities perceive the GRE

First things first, if you score anything over a 315–320, you are fine. Whether you get into a top-notch school for a masters program will only depend on the rest of your profile once you cross a 320 on the GRE.

Typically, anything over a 315 and the GRE matters less and less to universities. For instance, getting a 295 v/s a 305 makes a massive difference in terms of the kinds of universities that would consider your application. The difference between 320 and 330 is non-existent. You could apply to the same universities with a 320 or 330 if the GRE were the only criterion. If you are being rejected from universities with a score of 315+ on your GRE, it's probably due to the rest of your profile. At Gradvine, we've had students with 312 make it to Stanford and hence we know this for a fact!

Here's how you should think about your GRE scores and your application process -

While the GRE is an integral part of your application, often, universities only view the GRE as a filtering parameter.

Universities get thousands of applications and reading every one of them is impossible. Hence they use the GRE to figure out whether the application is worth reading. Rarely are decisions between two strong profiles taken based on the GRE. (A lot of top Canadian and European schools don't even require the GRE). However, keep in mind that it could still be used​ as a filtering parameter.​ If you apply with a 305 to a top 20 University, there is a chance that your application won't be read in the first place. With a 320, you probably won't receive a rejection because of the score. Making it or not making it to a university with a 320 will only depend on the rest of your profile. However, here are some tips on how you can get to the 320 mark.

Have a GRE Study Plan

I scored a 323 on the GRE on my first attempt. From my experience, I must tell you that you can’t or rather don’t have to “learn” verbal and math for the GRE. It is an aptitude test and hence all you can do is prepare for it. Keep in mind that the GRE is a test of your ability to concentrate for long periods of time. The questions are not difficult. Sitting down for over 4 hours and performing at your best is a task. Here are important things you need to keep in mind.

Figure out the patterns of questions: While simply attending a coaching centre and blindly doing what you’re told won’t fetch you a great score. Some level of initial coaching will be required by most. A prep centre will help you understand various sections and the types of questions that will appear in each section. Coaching will also give you a basic idea of how you can approach certain types of questions. These could be methods that you might not have thought of. For instance, the “eliminating extreme options” may be a technique that one can figure out in plain sight. Another tip that coaching centres give you which works well is that one must skip questions that can take time (one whose solution does not seem very clear to you at the outset. It’s best you come back to such questions later. If you feel a particular technique taught at the centre isn’t working for you, you don’t have to follow it. However, that’s where this avenue ends. Figure out what methods work best for you as you go.

DO NOT sit down to learn 3000–4000 words: There’s a list of a 1000 words which most websites and coaching centres provide. Those are more than enough in the verbal sections. Preparing 5000 words doesn’t mean you can crack a great verbal score. Often, people struggle with the sentences in the verbal sections. One has to be able to critically analyse the conditions in the sentence and its formation. Prepare the basic 1000 words and practice breaking down the parts of a sentence more.

Prepare, but in a smart and a tactical way

Mock Tests!- The best preparation pattern for the GRE is to give as many mock tests as possible. It will only take 30–45 days of prep to crack a good score. In a period of 30 days take a test every alternate day. So that's 15 tests. On the remaining days, practice the questions you’re doing badly in. Try and take the mock tests in the same time slot as your actual GRE (If you know your date). That will help you develop a pattern that will see you give your best performance. The quality of the test doesn’t matter. Attempting the entire thing does. That takes me to my next point.

What is GRE AWA? ​ Why is it important?

Do not skip sections in practice tests. Especially AWA!!- This is a classic mistake that a lot of students make. The AWA is often ignored because the actual score is considered more important. However, writing mock tests by skipping the AWA is stupidity. As mentioned earlier, the GRE is a mental test. It tests your ability to slug it out over 4+ hours and give the best demonstration of your aptitude. The real challenge is to attempt the main sections of the GRE after you’ve written the essays for an hour. You can skip the AWA on practice tests but obviously won’t on the day of the actual exam. Hence skipping the AWA sections on the practice tests means your preparation for the test itself is inadequate.


Relax while writing the exam: Keep this in mind. No university cares about the number of times you give the GRE. So don't go into the test centre thinking that it is D-Day. It doesn't have to be. Go in with the attitude that you will give it your best shot and will come back another day if things don't go according to plan. As long as you go in with this attitude, your ability to perform goes up a notch.

That was my two cents on what works with the GRE. If you're looking for application guidance after the GRE check out Gradvine. 98% of Gradvine students make it to a top 50 university, 88% to a top 30 and 56% to a top 10. So you know who you want handling your applications!

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Meta Description: Preparing for the GRE can be a daunting process. The best ways to score higher in GRE is to have a smart Study Plan.