10 Steps to Earn a High GRE Score

The following is a guide to scoring high on the GRE test. If you follow these steps, your GRE score will improve.

1. Relax:

Preparing for the GRE can be stressful. Try to focus on the task at hand and not so much on everything else you have to do. If you take GRE test prep step-by-step, day-by-day, and give yourself breaks when your body needs them, you’ll be able to concentrate on GRE studies a lot better.

2. GRE Diagnostic Test:

Begin GRE test prep with a GRE practice test ¬†to find out what you’re good at, and more importantly, what you’re not good at. Correct your completed practice test and evaluate the questions you missed. What kind of questions did you miss? Are they mostly Quantitative or mostly Verbal? What score would you give yourself on Analytical Writing? Did you miss a lot of analogies but do well on reading comprehension? With this information you’ll be able to focus your GRE test prep studies on your weaknesses.

3. GRE Study Plan:

With your GRE weaknesses in mind, make a very specific study plan for yourself. You should know what, how, and when you are going to study for the GRE test. Put your study plan somewhere in plain view, and make sure you stick to your plan.

Try to keep GRE test prep interesting by planning to study different things in different ways. For example, study GRE vocabulary from flash cards one day, from a list the second day, and by reading and learning words in context the third day.

4. GRE Vocabulary:

The single-most effective way to improve GRE Verbal score is with GRE vocabulary. Start studying GRE vocabulary now. Study a word list, use flash cards, learn with software, or learn words in context with The Wall Street Journal. Do whatever it takes to learn new words. Improve your vocabulary skills and watch your GRE score improve.

5. Active Reading:

Practice reading every day, but don’t read like you would your favorite book. Read actively. Ask yourself, “What is the main theme?”, “Report or opinion?”, and “What is the author’s purpose?” You’ll see these questions on the GRE, so you should be on the lookout for the answers. You should also use GRE-level material, such as The Wall Street Journal, to practice your GRE reading comprehension. You might not like the articles, but most likely you won’t like the passages on the GRE either, so you should get used to it.

6. Math Language:

Learning GRE math is like learning a new language. To improve your GRE Quantitative score you have to practice, and the more you practice the more fluent you will become. If you don’t practice, you’ll never improve.

Hence, do as many practice Quantitative problems as you can and learn from your mistakes. When examining your wrong answers, don’t move on to the next question until you understand the current one. The whole point of math practice is so that you can learn from mistakes during practice and not on the real GRE.

7. Essay:

Get used to writing an outline before you actually start an essay. You’ll save time and know exactly what to write about if you have an outlined plan. Your paper will flow better and surely, you will score higher on the GRE Analytical Writing section.

8. GRE Practice Tests:

A GRE practice test is one of your most useful tools during GRE test prep. It’s an excellent indicator of what you need to work on. Take GRE practice tests every couple of weeks to find out your weak areas, and focus your GRE study plan on those things. Also, remember to learn from your mistakes on each practice test.

9. Do Not Procrastinate:

Start preparing for the GRE now. If you start GRE prep early enough, you’ll have the luxury of being able to study just an hour or so per day. When your time is limited, you have to study more hours per day, which will get tiring fast. Cramming for the GRE doesn’t work, so don’t procrastinate. I repeat, if you want to improve your GRE score, do not procrastinate.

10. Mentally Prepare:

Time yourself during GRE practice tests to get a feel for the length of the test and the pace you need to be answering questions at. Act like the practice test is the real GRE. The last thing you want on test day is to feel tired when you’re only half-way through.

If you follow these 10 steps, your GRE score will improve. If you don’t follow these 10 steps, you still might score high on the GRE, but I wouldn’t risk it. Happy preparing.


Reading Comprehension explained

A common mistake is to avoid GRE reading comprehension during GRE preparation and to just suffer through reading passages on test day. However, the last thing you want to be when you’re applying to graduate school is common. RC questions make up roughly 25% of the GRE verbal section, so don’t take this part of the section lightly.

Practice Reading Comprehension Daily

Reading comprehension will seem difficult at first, but like most things in life, with practice, it’ll get easier–much easier. Practice reading GRE-level materials, like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, on a regular basis. Articles from The Journal and The Times are of the same caliber as the GRE, and since it’s daily, your reading source will be endless. Make sure you get the online version so you’ll get used to reading long articles from a computer screen (since the GRE is strictly a computer adaptive test except in a few select regions).

If The Journal isn’t for you, try Kaplan Verbal Workbook or ETS Practicing to Take the GRE.

Read Actively

While you’re reading, ask yourself, “What is the main theme? Is this the author’s opinion or is the article all facts?” This will better prepare you for the RC questions following a passage as the GRE usually asks questions that pertain to the main ideas of the article. Asking yourself these questions will also help you stay better focused on the passage. Don’t get caught asking yourself, “What did I just read?”

Read for the Main Idea

Remember, you can go back to the passage all you want. Don’t try to memorize every detail. Instead, try to figure the main idea of the passage and pay attention to how everything is set up. For instance, is the author for or against something? Does the author refer to a historical event and then look to the future or does he just look to the past? In other words, do your best to see the passage as a whole. You can look back at the parts when you’re answering questions.

Summing Up

Practice actively reading GRE-level material daily, and eventually, real GRE passages will seem easy. Also, don’t sweat the details. You can refer to the passage as much as you want.

Sentence Completion strategies

GRE sentence completion questions involve a sentence with one or two blanks, and it’s up to you to fill in the blank(s) so that the sentence makes sense. You’re given five answer choices, but the key GRE strategy for sentence completions is to not look at those answer choices until you’ve come up with one of your own.

Step 1: Read the Sentence Carefully

When you are given a GRE sentence completion question, make sure you read the sentence carefully. Pay special attention to important words like but, however, or therefore. Words such as these will help you get a feel for what the sentence is trying to say. If you miss one of these important words, it’s likely you’re going to answer incorrectly.

Step 2: Fill in the Blank Yourself

After reading the question carefully, try to fill in the blank without looking at the answer choices. Think of your own word to complete the sentence. When you have a word in mind, find the answer choice that matches your guess the best. Mark the best-matching word and move on to the next question. No need to second guess yourself.

Why You Should Use this GRE Test-taking Strategy

If you predict a word before looking at the answer choices, it is more likely that you will get the right answer. Why? Instead of examining each choice to see if it makes more sense, you’ll just be looking for a word that matches your prediction. Your prediction doesn’t even have to be a “GRE word”. In fact, it’s better if you keep your predictions simple. This GRE strategy will also cut back on the time you would spend second guessing yourself if you were to examine each answer choice.

Strategy for Analogies

There are two steps in solving GRE analogies: (1) Find the relationship between the two words in the question; (2) find an answer choice that shows the relationship most similar to that of the question.

Finding the Relationship in the Question

The best way to find the relationship between the two words in the question is to use both of them in a sentence. Consider the following GRE analogy example:


(A) election: voter
(B) anthology: poet
(C) cast: actor
(D) orchestra: composer
(E) convention: speaker

Now try to use CHOIR and SINGER in a sentence…How about

A CHOIR is made up of many SINGERS.

So now we have a relationship between the two words in the question. The next step is to find the answer choice that shows the same relationship.

Finding the Correct Answer

To find the correct answer choice, first remove the original words from the sentence you made in part one. In our example we remove CHOIR and SINGERS. We are left with a sentence with two blanks:

A <blank> is made up of many <blank>.

Plug the answer choices into the sentence and find the answer choice that makes the most sense. You will find that answer choice (C) fits our sentence the best.

A CAST is made up of many ACTORS.

Answer (C) is the correct choice!

As you practice this GRE test-taking strategy on practice questions you will find that this analogy strategy saves you time and effort as well as earns you more points on the GRE test.

GRE Verbal Section Format

Those who have taken the SAT will be familiar with most of the Verbal section. Like the SAT, there are analogies, sentence completions, and critical reading. However, GRE vocabulary and passages tend to be more difficult than on the SAT, and as a bonus, the GRE also has antonyms.

When you get to the GRE Verbal section, you will get 30 minutes to answer 30 questions that will randomly be of the question types previously mentioned.

GRE Antonyms

For antonym questions, you are given a word, and you need to identify the best answer choice that is the word’s direct opposite.

GRE Analogies

You are given two words in the form word1:word2. There is a relationship between the two words e.g. word1 is the opposite of word2. After you determine the relationship between the two words, you need to find the answer choice that most closely reflects the relationship.

GRE Sentence Completions

These types of questions are exactly how they sound to be. There is a sentence with one or two blanks, and you have to identify the answer choice that best completes the sentence.

GRE Critical Reading Comprehension

Critical Reading questions test how well you comprehend reading passages, and usually take the most time. You have to read a passage (which might be 1-4 paragraphs long), and you are asked questions based on the reading. Usually Critical Reading questions will ask you the main idea of a passage or refer you to a line in the passage that you have to interpret.

GRE Score Percentile and why it’s Important

GRE score percentile is important to graduate admission committees so it’s in your best interest to find out what percentile is and what you should be striving for.

What is GRE score percentile?

GRE score percentile is used to compare you to the rest of GRE test-taking population. For example, if you scored in the 90th percentile, then you scored better than 90 percent of test-takers. The highest percentile you can possible have is 99th percentile since you are part of the testing population and so it’s impossible to score better than everyone in the test-taking population.

What are good GRE score percentile marks?

Average percentile is 50th percentile. The best of the best score above 90th percentile while the worst score below 50th. A 500 on a GRE section is about 50th percentile. A score above 700 on the GRE Verbal section could put you above 90th percentile while a 790 on the GRE Quantitative section might put you around 90th or below.

Students generally don’t score equally high on all sections of the GRE, so your primary goal should be to score high on the section that most relates to your field, and then work on the rest.

Why does GRE score percentile matter?

Percentile adds meaning to GRE scores. It provides a way for admission committees to evaluate your potential as well as how you measure up against other applicants.

GRE Scores explained

The most important part of the GRE? Your score. You’ll receive a score from 200 to 800 on Verbal, a score from 200 to 800 on Quantitative, and a score from 1 to 6 on Analytical Writing.

GRE Verbal And Quantitative Scores

For the GRE Verbal and Quantitative sections, you will receive a score from 200 to 800. Your score depends on how many questions you answer correctly and the level of difficulty the questions are.

GRE Analytical Writing Score

The GRE Writing section is scored holistically, which means you will receive a score from 1-6 for each essay, Perspective and Analysis.

Each essay is scored by two trained readers. If there is more than a one-point difference between the two readers’ scores, then a third reader will grade your essay, and your score for that essay will be the average of the two highest scores. The same grading process is followed for your second essay.

GRE Percentile Scores

In addition to scaled scores, you will also receive GRE percentile scores (0-99th) for each. Percentiles show how you compare to other GRE test-takers over the past three years. Percentiles are equally important to admission committees, because they provide another way to gauge your academic performance.

Summing Up

In short, you will receive one score (200-800) for Verbal, one score (200-800) for Quantitative, and one score for Analytical Writing.