Your GRE test is less than 24 hours away, and you have prepared as well as you can. But you are worried about your performance. So what? So are thousands of other students. It’s okay to be worried. But you should keep it under control. Why? Because no matter how well prepared you are, your composure during those 4 hours decide where you will study your Master’s degree.
Conquering the GRE is more than just about conquering Math and Verbal. If you want to score higher, you will have to take care of other things as well. If you have the knowledge, however, of everything that concerns the test; and if you know exactly when to do what, then there won’t be any hassle on test day.
Here are a few GRE test day tips and strategies that will definitely help you on test day. We have written these test day tips and requirements in a chronological order, so you know exactly what to do and what to bring on the GRE test day. Also, these things have to be taken care of in the same order, so you can consider this as an ultimate checklist before you finish the test.
1. Make a list of target universities.
Before you finish your test, you will be asked to choose four universities to which you can send your test scores for free. The computer shows you a list of universities along with the respective countries and states. Normal students start thinking of universities then. But because you are a pro, you must have already figured these out before entering the test center. This won’t take much time, and you can do it on the morning of the test day during breakfast. You already know your target universities. Search for them online, and remember the country/state they are in. If you do this, it won’t take a minute during the test to give your list to the computer. Also, contrary to what most students think, you don’t have to remember college codes. Names will do.
2. Visit the test center the previous day.
Unless your test center is in another city, in which case you can’t really help it, we recommend that you visit the test center a day before, so you’ll not only save time, but also know when to start so as to reach in time. Students usually underestimate the power of traffic. You wouldn’t want to end up late at the test center, would you? So, it is better to figure out how far the test center is from where you live, and how busy the traffic usually is, and when you need to start off so you can reach on time. If you’re taking the bus/metro/subway, better check schedules and avoid hurrying in the last minute.
3. Travel with a friend.
Don’t plan to travel alone. You will be bored, and hence start thinking about the test. It is better if you ask a friend to drop you at the center. A small random chat or a funny discussion will do you a world of good. It will act as a necessary distraction so you won’t be thinking of the exam. Also, it is better if you ask your parents to not accompany you to the test center, because well, they are parents. They are sometimes more worried about the test than you are, and this will definitely affect your mental composure. If you’re asking your friend to go with you, ask them a day or two before. Don’t ask them ten minutes before you start. They may have other plans.
4. Stop Studying!
Don’t study at all, on the previous day. The GRE isn’t your regular college exam, so you can’t cram things. Studying now will only increase the pressure. You have done enough practice till now, and even if you haven’t done enough, one more day won’t help you much. So, it is time to relax and have fun. listen to some music, watch TV, play an outdoor game, take an ice/steam bath. Stay calm and composed before the D-day.
5. Read the Rules.
Use the ETS GRE PowerPrep II software to go through the tutorial guidelines. These will be the exact same guidelines you will see on the test the next day. So, it is better to get acquainted with the tutorial section, as well as the software. Get a feel of how the software works, and learn some shortcuts through the tutorial, so it won’t be new to you during the test. Learning something new just before the first question may also add to the tension.
6. Pack up!
Get all the things required ready the night before the test. Don’t start packing right before you leave the house. Make a note of the things you will need for the test, i.e your ID, any printouts, snacks, bag, etc.
7. Keep the alarm busy.
Set your alarm to at least one hour earlier than normal. You know how lazy you are, and you don’t want to be late for the test. Also, set multiple alarms. Just in case.
8. Stretch your body.
Do some physical exercise or yoga on the morning of the test day. Go to the gym, if you have a membership. Stretch your muscles, but not until you get exhausted.
9. Healthy food = Healthy performance.
Eat healthy. You can take your revenge after the test, but this is not the time to gorge on. You don’t want to yawn and feel sleepy during the test. Have some salad, and some fruit juice.
10. All play and no work.
Warm up your brain by solving a puzzle like Sudoku or any logic based game. This will help you put your thinking cap on, without worrying about going wrong. Some might choose to practice a few questions by randomly choosing from books, on the morning of the exam day. Do this if you want to, but it is usually not recommended, because if you cannot solve a question or if you get it wrong, it might upset your mind, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid before the test.
11. Good students don’t cram.
Don’t study or try to memorize anything on the test day. Leave your books at home. Don’t bring them along to the test center. If you see someone else studying at the test center, which you will, don’t start to panic. Maybe they aren’t as confident as you are, or maybe they didn’t read this article.
12. Dress in layers.
Wear layered shirts/tops. The test centers maintain very cold temperatures inside, and you would want to feel warm and comfortable. Since you don’t know how you’ll feel, dress in layers, so it is easy to adjust. Wear a shirt and a turtleneck/jacket over it. If you are feeling warm, you can remove the jacket.
13. No turning back.
Check if you have all the things you need to take for the GRE. See if you have forgotten anything because you don’t want to go back running once you’re out of your home.
14. Punctuality is the best policy.
Reach at least 45 minutes prior to your appointment. The test center needs you to undergo a few processes, which will take some time, depending on the number of test takers. So, it is better if you are in time. If you are done with the processes quickly, you will have some buffer time to relax. Use this time to find out where the nearest bathroom and water cooler are.
15. Banish the books!
Don’t bring any books to the center. The anxiety will compel you to study at the last moment, which is bad for you. You are not allowed to open books inside the testing area, and if they find books in your locker, your scores might be cancelled, even if you haven’t opened them. So, be careful with the books. They are your friends when you’re studying but enemies when you’re giving the test.
16. Speak up!
Talk to the proctor if something isn’t right and if you can do something about it. If you need any special medical attention, or if you need something, ask the proctor before the test begins. Get all your doubts clarified, and enter the testing room with a clear mind.
17. Deep Breathing Helps.
Relax. It is okay to feel stressed when you are at the computer, and the test is about to begin. Do some breathing exercises, and meditate for a minute before the proctor begins your test. Weed out all your negative thoughts. Imagine yourself attending your dream university and feel confident about it.
18. Skipping is bad.
Use the tutorial. Do not skip the tutorial section, even if you know everything about it. Yes, you have already gone though it on PowerPrep the day before, and you are aware of everything about the software. So, why not use the time to relax? The tutorial section is about five minutes long. Five priceless minutes that you can use to relax. Also, a very important thing you must do during the tutorial is, to type something on the keyboard. The keyboard at the test center may be different from what you are normally used to, so it won’t hurt to get used to it. You know how difficult it is to type on your friend’s laptop just because the keys don’t feel right to you? Exactly, my point.
19. AWA shouldn’t affect you.
Also you already know, you will face the AWA section first. Don’t let the AWA section set the tone for the rest of the test. Sometimes AWA goes great, and you’ll feel extremely confident (or overconfident) about the remaining sections. Sometimes, you may not do well on the AWA and feel gusted about yourself, which affects the other sections. So, stay unaffected by the result. Remember; you are the one who sets the tone, not the AWA.
20. Focus on your test.
Don’t compare yourself with other students. The guy next to you may be typing like there’s no tomorrow or somebody may have taken an early break, or another guy may quit his test and walk out crying (Don’t laugh! Such things do happen). Don’t let such things bother you. Stay focused and think about the test. If you think you are disturbed by the noise around you, you can use the earplugs at your desk and block off the noises around you.
21. Don’t be a hater.
If you hate Math/Verbal and it is your first section, don’t get disheartened. Think that the worst will be over first, and the best is saved for last. Keep your focus. Also, this is exactly why we ask our students to start off their practice with the section they hate the most. It prepares you for the worst.
22. Time’s worth a dime!
Contrary to popular opinion, all questions on the GRE are of the same value. It doesn’t matter if it is an easy question or a very difficult question, they all carry the same mark. So, if you come across a tough one and are not able to figure out how to do it, guess the answer, mark it for review, and move on. Don’t waste time trying to solve a tough one, when you can easily score with the easier ones.
23. Ask for additional scratch paper.
Use the scratch paper to the fullest. Your effectiveness on the GRE depends on how well you use the scratch paper. Remember that one of the most underrated but important test day tips is knowing how to effectively use the scratch paper on the GRE. Also, request for additional paper, if needed. Don’t hesitate.
24. Don’t cancel scores!
Do you want to cancel scores? You’d be irrational if you do. At the end of the test, you will be shown the final score, and then you will be asked if you would like to cancel the score. Most students tend to cancel scores if they don’t get their expected scores. That’s not a good idea at all. You’ve paid a lot of money to prepare for the test, it’d be a shame if your score is not even registered officially. You can always write again, and send that score to your target schools. If you get a low score, so be it. Leave it at that, and don’t choose to send score reports. You can come back home later and think about it. But if you cancel the test outright, you may regret later on. So, don’t cancel your score unless you are really sick.
25. Use the break.
Yes, it may not seem like a great advice, but some students simply don’t want to take a break, especially if they’re doing well on the test. This however, does more bad than good to you. The scheduled break is a necessary respite from the tedious testing environment. There are so many factors about the test that make you feel tired. Test anxiety, prolonged concentration, continuous exposure to the computer screen, the cold temperatures, not to mention some of the questions. So, use the break effectively, visit the bathroom, wash your face, have a quick bite or drink some liquids, and come back afresh. The bottom line is, don’t skip it and get stressed out.
26. Don’t Rush!
There are no brownie points for finishing the test early. So, there is no point in rushing yourself to the finish line. You can, and hence should, stay inside the testing center for the full 3 hours and 45 minutes. You can only get the best bargain from the test if you sit through the exam. Don’t leave early.
27. Learn to move on. (The Ultimate Test Day Tip!)
Pace yourself. Don’t keep staring at that one troubling question. Here’s a good test day tip for time-management: Because you can mark questions and review them later, devise a proper answering strategy. Divide the available time into three innings (15+10+5 minutes of a total of 30 for Verbal and 15+10+10 minutes of a total of 35 for Math). Start off quickly and solve as many questions as you can during the first innings, and come back and start off again in the second innings, and so on. This helps you understand the urgency of the situation and you won’t find yourself wasting time on difficult questions.
Now It’s Your Turn
So, those are the top 27 test day tips to help you ace the GRE.
What do you say? Do you think they are helpful? Or do you have any other test day tips that you’d like to share?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.