No Test prep is complete without solving some sample papers and taking few full length mock tests. After having understood the GRE test pattern and practiced sufficiently, it becomes extremely important to assess one’s progress by solving a few GRE sample papers. An online search will yield a number of sites offering GRE sample papers/tests. Some of these are full length tests and others are based on the different types of question found in GRE. However not all of these are authentic. Educational Testing service (ETS), the organization that develops and administers GRE, provides two powerful tools for GRE Prep – POWERPREP™ Online and POWERPREP PLUS™ Online. Both these tools are best suited for self-evaluation and should be ideally used after preparing sufficiently well.
POWERPREP™ Online contains two free full length timed practice tests that simulate the actual test. It includes all test features such as moving back and forth between questions, changing answers within a section and the on-screen calculator. It provides scores for the Verbal and Quantitative reasoning sections it also provides the correct answers to the questions in the Quantitative and Verbal sections. The scored sample essays for the essay prompts help students to evaluate their performance. There is also one untimed full length practice test 1 which provides correct answers to the test questions but does not provide scores to the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections.
POWERPREP PLUS™ Online provides two paid full length tests with all the features that the free test provides. It generates scores for all the three measures – Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing within minutes. Along with explanation to the correct answers it also provides the difficulty level for each question and problem solving strategies used to determine correct answers in Quantitative Reasoning measure.
The Princeton Review portal provides eight full length tests which have all the test features that are available in the Power prep tests and they mimic the actual test quite accurately. Both the Quantitative and Verbal reasoning are section level adaptive. The test also includes one experimental section which is an essential part of the actual GRE. The experimental section, which could be in either the Quantitative or Verbal Reasoning measure, is not included in the Power Prep tests. The addition of the experimental section in the Princeton Review tests helps in building the right mindset and stamina for the GRE. The comprehensive score report generated covers aspects such as –
- time taken for each question
- weak and strong areas
- solutions to the questions
- the usage of strategies
- topic-wise and question type-wise analysis
- Analytical Writing score and tips.
These tests are best suited for self-evaluation at different stages of the test Prep and to work out strategies for score improvement.
Some of the strategies which a student should adopt while taking these sample papers/tests are as follows –
- The practice papers must be done in a timed manner only as the purpose is to gauge the preparedness at the various stages. The drills or the practice questions should be done without worrying about the clock ticking away. While learning concepts or practicing techniques it is better to slow down and focus on accuracy.
- As GRE is a section level adaptive test the performance in the first section determines the difficulty level of the second section. In short, it is important to get as many questions correct as possible in the first sections of both the Quantitative as well as the Verbal Reasoning in order to get the second section of a relatively higher difficulty level than the first one. Within each section, all questions contribute equally to the final score.
- The scratch paper work while taking the tests should be neat and organized. All important information must be jotted down on the scratch paper and mental calculations must be strictly avoided. The long duration of GRE (approximately for 4 hours) can cause mental exhaustion and hence no step should be skipped in a hurry.
- It is important to maintain a diary to note down all the takeaway learning points and errors committed in the tests. An analysis of all the questions answered incorrectly is to be done immediately after taking the test. This will ensure that the mistakes are not repeated in the subsequent tests.
- Knowing the different types of questions and having a technique to handle them can ensure that the time is managed effectively throughout the test. Getting stuck in killer questions can cause havoc in managing time. So it is prudent to do all the easy questions first and ‘Mark’ and move the difficult ones to be done later.
Solving sample papers/tests will not only help the students gain confidence but also get rid of test anxieties. They help in building the right mindset for the actual test.