The process of achieving any goal has some essential steps. First, you must know what you want to achieve – the destination you want to reach! Second, you must know where you currently are. Finally, identify what stands between you and your goal, map a path to bridge the gap, and get to work.
Step 1: Learn About the GRE and Figure Out Where You Stand
Certainly, your goal is a great score on the GRE! The first step towards this goal is to learn about the GRE–its structure, the different question types, the scoring system, and what it tests. An essential part of this process is to take a full-length diagnostic test. This will give you a baseline score. The difference between your diagnostic test score and your target score is an indicator of how much work you need to do.
Step 2: Analyze the Gap
After taking any test or drill, you must review and analyse it. This process is probably more important than the test or the drill itself. Start a scratch paper register or file before this first test and use it for all subsequent tests and drills too.
Do the review while the questions are still fresh in your mind. Otherwise you are likely to forget many things, even with the scratch paper handy. Review all the questions and record the details in a test and practice log.
For each question that you got wrong, identify why you got it wrong. For example, it could be that
– you could not understand the question or misunderstood it
– you narrowed down to two possible answers and picked the wrong one (Do you now understand why it was wrong?)
– you did not know what a word meant
– you did not know how to do the question
– you made a calculation error
– you ran out of time.
Review each question you got right too
– was it, by chance, a lucky guess?
– did the question take too long?
Read explanations for all the answers. You may learn something new.
Step 3: Bridge the Gap
At each stage of your preparation, decide what you need to do in order to improve your score. What do you need to learn? What do you need to practise? What bad habits do you need to discard? What new habits do you need to acquire? How does your pacing or approach need to change?
Seek help for anything that you do not understand. Practise regularly and diligently with good quality material from reliable sources.
Be prepared to change your methods and techniques. If you continue to use the same methods and techniques, you may make the same mistakes and see the same results.
Remember, practice, review, and goal setting form an iterative process. Your goals can change with time. The focus of your practice will also change.
Beyond a point, the GRE is not a test of content or knowledge. Possibly, even before you started your preparation for the GRE, you already had good reading and reasoning skills and knew enough words and mathematical concepts to get a good score on the GRE. What really matter are your test-taking temperament, attention to detail, discipline, alertness, and adaptability.