Have you ever asked yourself why some students study so little but still end up getting very high GRE scores? And why the vast majority of students are unable to increase GRE score despite studying rigorously for the test? 🤔
It’s because successful students apply what is known as the 80/20 rule when they’re studying for an exam like the GRE.
The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto principle, which originally was an observation by Vilfredo Pareto that 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by only 20% of the population.
Now, we’re not here to discuss economics, but the 80/20 rule is applicable to many things in our daily life. Think about it: 80% of the work in a typical business is done by 20% of its employees. 80% of your problems are created by 20% of the people in your life, etc.
Turns out that this rule can also be applied to your GRE prep, because it can help you increase GRE score by eliminating the unnecessary. 🚫
The 80/20 rule to increase GRE score ☝️
At CrunchPrep, we have observed learning patterns of thousands of our students, and have realized that the most successful students – those whose GRE scores are in excess of 320 – study in such a way that 80% of their success stems from 20% of their efforts.
Now you may be thinking, ‘that’s impossible!’. But the beauty of the 80/20 rule is that it’s true and it works. Even you can turn around your GRE prep strategy using this rule, and see amazing results in just a few weeks. By making 20% change to your GRE preparation approach, you can see 80% improvement in your results. 😁
If you apply the Pareto Principle to studying in general, you will find that you get 80% of your studying done in 20% of your time that you actually spent studying. This might sound shocking at first, but think about it. What do you usually do when you sit down to study?
80% of your studying is done in 20% of the time you spend on studying.
If you’re the typical student, your study session would involve a lot more than just studying. You spend a lot of time being distracted, re-reading the same concept because you weren’t being very attentive, thinking about other things, daydreaming about your future, checking social media updates, texting on the phone, attending calls, talking to friends or family who interrupt you, leave to go grab a coffee, etc. 👎
So as you can see, your version of studying doesn’t just mean studying. If you take a typical 2-hour study session and break it down, you will find out that 20% of 3 hours is 24 minutes. Let’s make it an even 30 minutes.
So, according to the Pareto Principle, you only need 30 minutes to finish studying what you usually take 2 hours to study. The rest of the time is usually spent on your checking your phone, grabbing something to eat, getting distracted, or simply zoning out in moments of lost focus. Does this make sense to you now? Is this something that happens to you too?
This is what happens to the vast majority of students. And this colossal wastage of time results in stunted GRE scores, because you only have a couple of hours to study every day, and most of the time you’re not actually studying at your 100%.
Interestingly enough, we at CrunchPrep have observed another phenomenon among GRE test takers and how the 80/20 rule applies to them.
We have studied the difference in behaviors of students who get average scores on the GRE, compared to those who get the really high scores on the test.
What usually takes 2 hours to study, can be completed in just 30 minutes using the 80/20 rule.
The average student’s approach to increase GRE score
The average student does one or more of the following:
- Collects tons and tons of material from the internet – never even opens most of them
- Downloads every GRE related video they find – never watches most of them
- Gets multiple GRE practice books at once in hopes of finishing them all – doesn’t have a dedicated study plan
- Spends several hours every day to study each and every concept – ineffectively, as discussed already
- Solves questions that they already solved – doesn’t learn anything new
- Takes practice tests they already took – doesn’t find any new improvement
- Joins every GRE related forum and group – wastes time with unnecessary information
These steps are collectively the opposite of what you should be doing. These do not constitute the 20% work that brings 80% results.
They are in fact quite the opposite. They constitute the 80% work that brings just 20% results. They waste 80% of your study time and give you only 20% improvement in your performance. You can call it the 20/80 rule. And the 20/80 rule is a recipe for poor performances on the GRE. 👎
This is exactly what you would want to avoid if you have any hopes of getting a really good score on the GRE. In fact, test takers who get the top GRE scores do not do any of these things and they still end up getting the top scores.
Why? Is it because they are super smart and you’re not?
No. Maybe some test takers are really smart and they can get great scores without studying much. But most top scorers are just like you, but the difference is that they don’t study different things, they just study differently.
Top scorers don’t study different things, they just study differently.
Think about it. In the limited time that you have, how many of those downloaded videos do you think you can actually watch? How many of those nameless practice books and material can you actually utilize for your prep? How many of those books you already have can you actually read? Do you have any idea how long it would take to do all those things? 🕰️
Do you really have that much free time? Even if you do, this is not the best way to use it.
Then what should you do? Simple – stop being average, and start studying smarter.
The smart student’s method to increase GRE score
If you do what the average student does, you’ll end up with an average score. If you want to be among the top scorers, you need to do what they’re doing.
If you do what the average student does, you’ll end up with an average score.
Here’s what you need to do:
• Sign up for a quality prep course, and use the material completely:
Whichever prep course you sign up for, you should make sure you make 100% use of it before thinking about any other material. If you have already signed up for a quality prep course, then stop looking for study material and practice questions elsewhere. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing focus and getting confused with too much material. 📚 😕
If you haven’t signed up for any prep course yet, you should definitely think about joining a quality online prep course, because only then you’ll be able to keep your focus on what needs to be done and increase GRE score. A large number of top scorers sign up for a prep course because they don’t like to spend the time they have on searching for questions and strategies and formulae when they can find them all at one place.
• Create an effective study plan and spend 1-2 hours every day studying for the GRE.
Understand that ‘studying’ in this context means only studying and nothing else. You must ensure that when you sit down to study, your phone must be off, your doors closed and no people around to interrupt you. Have a zero tolerance policy for any distractions. 🚫
When you’re studying, your phone must be off, your doors closed and no one to interrupt you.
If you are unable to focus on one task for a long time, then break down your study session into mini sessions of 15-20 minutes each. Once a mini session is over, get up, move around, relax for a few minutes and start another mini session. But each mini session must not include anything else other than studying for the GRE.
This way, even if it may seem that you’re spending less time studying, you’ll quickly realize that since you’re 100% focused on the task at hand, you are actually learning a lot more in a lot less time. 🔍
• Spend 80% of the time on your weakest areas. Learning things you already know won’t increase GRE score
Many test takers make the mistake of studying what they already know. They believe that repeating these concepts will help them do better, but in fact they are only wasting time. As a typical GRE test taker, you only have a few weeks of time on your hands, and you should spend most of the time – at least 80% of it – on the topics that you find challenging.
Use the 80/20 rule even when figuring out what you’re going to study, and what questions you’re going to practice. If you still have a lot of time left when you’re fully confident of every topic, then you can think of repeating a few concepts. Otherwise, stay focused on your weak areas and try to improve them as much as you can.
• Solve only those questions that challenge you
Stop giving yourself an ego boost. Sometimes, solving easy questions, or questions from concepts that you know very well, may seem fun because you keep getting the answers right, and this makes you feel good.
Giving yourself an ego boost doesn’t help you in the long run.
But you must realize that you’re ultimately not doing yourself any favor, because the time could be spent on questions that give you a tough challenge. Solving questions that are really hard will help you learn new concepts, and new strategies, which will ultimately help you increase GRE score. If you’re already getting good scores on your practice tests, then the only way you can improve even further is by taking on the hard questions.
• Dedicate lots of time to review thoroughly after every test 📋
One of the mistakes most test takers tend to do is that they take one practice test after the other, without actually going through the results, or just skimming through the results.
Successful students actually spend a lot of time reviewing their performance on a test or practice session. If you’re unable to learn from the mistakes that you make during a test, then there’s a great chance that you will repeat the same mistake all over again in your next test.
• Learn from every mistake and practice until you don’t repeat the same mistake
If you want to increase GRE score, then you will have to first make sure that you avoid making silly mistakes during practice – mistakes such as calculation errors, misreading the question, misunderstanding what’s required, misapplication of a concept, etc.
Make sure to avoid silly mistakes during practice tests.
In order to avoid silly mistakes, you need to examine your mistakes thoroughly, solve those questions once again and see where you made the mistake. If it is a silly mistake which you could have avoided, you should remember where you made the mistake so you don’t repeat it again. If you made a mistake because you weren’t sure about the concept or the formula or the method, then you need to go back to the concept and learn it thoroughly.
These strategies may not seem obviously powerful, but if you can do these things successfully over time, you will get to the top. Subtle changes like these would help you a lot in the long run, and makes the difference between a 300 score and a 320 score.
We’ve analyzed and interviewed hundreds of CrunchPrep students who scored in excess of 325 on the GRE, and especially those who scored 170 in math, and these are the common strategies that they followed during their prep. So if you want to be one of those top scorers, you need to do what they’ve done.
Now It’s Your Turn
And those are some prep strategies to help you study for the GRE exam, and get closer to the highest score in the math section.
If you know of any other ways to increase GRE score overall, or if you have any tips to avoid wasting time while studying for the GRE, then let us know in the comments, and we’ll share them with everyone else.
But if you’re still studying for the GRE, and you need help with your prep, then we at CrunchPrep are here to answer any questions you may have. We’ve helped hundreds of our students score 320+ on the GRE, and we can help you get a great score as well. Reach out to us if you would like us to assist you with your GRE prep. 🙂