The 80/20 Rule For Your GRE Preparation

Application of the 80/20 Rule, aka The Pareto Principle, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, appears to be all-pervading. Although it has its roots in Pareto’s work in Economics (specifically, landholding), the term “Pareto Principle” was coined by Joseph M Juran, when he discovered the applicability of the 80/20 Rule to Management Consulting. Later on, it was found to apply to several other fields such as Computing, Sports, and Occupational Health and Safety. The Pareto Principle has been used in quality control techniques such as Total Quality Control (TCQ) and Six Sigma. It is widely used in Logistics and Inventory-Management. It can even be applied to betting. Examples of the Pareto Principle are abundant. For example, 80% of crimes are found to be committed by 20% of the criminals; in the USA, 20% of beneficiaries are found to be using 80% of the healthcare resources. Even many natural phenomena have been found to exhibit “Pareto distribution” as mathematically derived on the basis of the 80/20 Rule. Why not apply the 80/20 Rule to your GRE Prep?


What is the Pareto Principle?

Let’s start at the very beginning! What is the Pareto Principle? In simple terms, it states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When extended to your GRE Prep this principle has some important implications.

The 80/20 Rule Of GRE Preparation

  1. 80% of your GRE score improvement comes from 20% of your efforts.
  2. 20% of the material you use contribute to 80% of the improvement in your GRE Score.
  3. 80% of the questions are based on 20% of the concepts and techniques.

However, just knowing all this may not lead to success. You must also do something to put this knowledge to use. Here is what you can or should do.

Related Blog Post: 7 Most Common GRE Maths Misconceptions to Consider


Create a plan and stick to it

  1. The GRE is not a test for which you can prepare overnight or even over a few days and succeed. You need to have two to three months to prepare well for the GRE. This applies even to those who may have scored around 320 in aggregate in the first diagnostic test because score improvement at this high a range becomes more challenging.
  2. Do not prepare for only GRE Quant or only GRE Verbal. You must prepare for both simultaneously.
  3. If Verbal is your weak area, spend time on building vocabulary and reading skills. Practice a lot over one or two months.
  4. If Quant is your weak area, identify the concepts you need to learn and learn those concepts systematically one by one.
  5. Do not study continuously over long stretches of time, certainly not more than 2-3 hours at a stretch.


Use authentic study material

  1. These days, there’s a plethora of material available to you, particularly on the internet. Do not just pick up any material that you come across.
  2. If you are learning words, make sure that you learn the most relevant words. For example, the online Membean account provided by Manya-The Princeton Review has a repertoire of 1475 GRE relevant words, words that appear frequently on the GRE.
  3. GRE Reading Comprehension passages come in specific hues. Even the questions are of a few specific types. It’s, therefore, important that your Reading Comprehension material has GRE-type passages and GRE-type questions. Old GRE passages are a good source of authentic practice material.
  4. As regards Math, just doing hard math will not help. I find that many test-takers who are good at Math miss the magical 170 scores because they miss a few questions that they know how to solve. GRE Math questions have some specific characteristics. Twenty GRE Math questions can be solved correctly in 35 minutes. You must know how to solve those questions accurately in the least possible time.
  5. Do make use of GRE official test-prep material such as the Official Guide and POWER PREP. Those are the most authentic GRE Test prep materials. And then, you also have the thoroughly researched practice material from Manya-The Princeton Review.

Related Blog Post: Be Pragmatic While Preparing For the GRE


Use your time to master what matters most

  1. Assuming that there are a hundred Math concepts that may be tested on the GRE, you will need just 20 of those to solve 80% of the GRE Math questions. Make sure that you master those 20 concepts first. There is no point frittering away your valuable time and energy trying to master the 80 concepts that may show up in 20% of the questions.
  2. The foregoing doesn’t mean that you will not learn the remaining 80 concepts or that you will leave the remaining 20% of the questions unanswered. All the more, you will find that the 80/20 rule continues to apply; you will find that 20% of the remaining concepts will apply to 80% of the remaining questions. Hail Pareto Principle — the 80/20 Rule!
  3. Let’s look at the applicability of the 80/20 Rule to the Critical Reasoning questions that are categorized by GRE under Reading Comprehension! You will find that just four question types — Assumption, Weaken, Strengthen, and Inference questions — comprise 80% of the GRE Critical Reasoning questions. Master these question types first.
  4. Even at the cost of repetition, I would emphasize that you focus on the high-frequency GRE words rather than on a few hard-to-remember, archaic GRE words that will rarely appear on the GRE. This will give you a better ROI — on the time and energy you invest.
  5. Continuing with vocabulary, knowing 80% of the words that you may come across on the GRE is as good as knowing 100% of the words when it comes to Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion. Sounds strange? Well, let me explain this in one of my forthcoming blogs.

Now that you know about the 80/20 Rule — how it applies to your GRE preparation, make the best use of it to maximize your GRE score with minimum effort. That’s the smart way to go.

Learn top experienced tips to ace the GRE: Download our FREE, Complete Study Guide to the GRE!

By Bandy – Manya-The Princeton Review

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