The Ebony Tower’s Six Tips for GRE Success

by The Ebony Tower Contributors

The GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, is the first of many hurdles to successfully obtaining a graduate degree. Generally, standardized tests strike fear into the hearts of potential takers, and that fear sometimes results in poor performance and/or delaying graduate school.  At The Ebony Tower, we know that failure and deferred dreams are not viable options; we also know that the only way to overcome fear is to acknowledge it and take action.  Therefore, we have outlined six useful tips for taking action and slaying the GRE:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the test’s format.  The GRE is a computer-adaptive test that is broken down into three major sections: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. The analytical writing section is scored on six point scale (0-6), and scores for both verbal and quantitative sections range from 130-170. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) website provides a wealth of information about the test and how to prepare for success. 
  2. Figure out your target GRE score range.  Set a score target based on the average GRE range for your prospective school(s). is a great website for identifying the GRE score range for top-ranking universities. The US News and World Report’s Annual Graduate School Report provides GRE averages for an extended list of schools.  Note: Your GRE score matters, but it is not the end all be all.
  3. Sign up for a GRE test preparation course. Before you ask, no, you don’t need thousands of dollars to enroll in a good test prep course. Check the website of local universities and community colleges to see if they offer a GRE prep course. For instance, my former roommate and I signed up for an 8-week GRE prep class through Georgia State University for a few hundred bucks per test section (math and verbal).
  4. If you can’t afford a test prep course, create a structured study schedule using the various free and inexpensive resources available to you. Download the math refreshers and study guides from the ETS website. Sign up for games and apps that will help you practice vocabulary (Magoosh is a great app).  For the math section, you should purchase a test prep book (ETS, Kaplan, or Princeton Review) that includes math lessons, practice questions, and practice tests. Also, YouTube instructional videos are your friend; just search and find videos aligned with concepts in your prep book.
  5. Be sure to take a timed practice test. POWERPREP II, offered free through ETS, includes two full-length tests that simulate the actual testing experience.  They will also provide you with an idea of your possible score range.
  6. If you don’t achieve the score you wanted, don’t freak out and certainly don’t be afraid to try again. Because ETS now allows you to select which score(s) to send to schools, past, not-so-stellar, scores don’t have to haunt you.  If you don’t have the time or money to retake the GRE, then make sure that your statement of purpose, CV, GPA, and etc are on point since they can balance your application.

Overall, if you want to achieve GRE success, it best that you keep calm and follow The Ebony Tower’s Guide to GRE Success.  Be sure to check out what happens when you don’t keep calm.

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