As you prepare for the all-important GRE exam, you might be focusing on all the strategies that you should utilize. But are you also paying attention to the mistakes you should avoid? If you have a friend who has successfully passed the GRE, you might be thinking to yourself, “If they succeeded without studying in a conventional way, why can’t I?” Keep in mind that everybody is different. For some, passing exams without much studying – even those as difficult as the GRE – comes naturally. On the other hand, other people might literally feel the need to study every single day, weekends included. But for most people, it is important to strike a balance. In other words, there are certain strategies that the typical person ought to follow while there are also things they should avoid.

This article will focus on strategies that only work with 1% of the population and would cause the other 99% to fail. By looking at these mistakes that you should avoid and instead focusing on methodical, practical and achievable approaches, you will be far more likely to succeed.

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What Should You Avoid?

Mistake #1: Putting off Studying Until the Last Couple of Weeks before the Test

You might be thinking, “What is the point of studying over the period of several months? Haven’t I already learned all that I will need to know?” But the truth is, if the exam were so easy to ace, everybody would be coming away with perfect scores. Not to mention the fact that it would not serve any purpose, since the whole point is to separate the students with the most potential from the rest. You may have antidotal evidence that somebody managed to do amazing without doing any amount of studying, but are you certain that you would achieve the same score? There’s actually a way to find out. The official GRE website offers two full, free practice exams. Take one of them right now and see how you score.

If you have taken a practice test without studying, check out how you did. Did you get the high score that you had wanted? Are you sure you would be able to ace it again? You really are better off putting together a long-term study plan rather than devoting a week or two. Allocating a short amount of studying is not going to do anything to make a difference on your score. The GRE was not designed to be something you can quickly study for.

But if you really are serious about maximizing your results, you need to develop a method that is proven to work. For instance, most students plan to study between 3 and 6 months before they take the exam. As you can see, this is a fairly wide gap, which indicates that some need more time than others. But in any event, almost everybody would benefit by spreading it out over the course of months. Pace yourself properly and you will find that studying in a patient, gradual manner will get you the results you are looking for.

Mistake #2: Only Studying During the Weekends

During the week, you will focus on your full-time job or classes and during the weekends, you will devote yourself to studying for the GRE. That sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? In reality, this simply is not going to work. After all, are you really going to turn down an opportunity to go to the movies, hang out with friends, and attend concerts on a Saturday night? The weekend is the time when everybody is getting together and enjoying themselves. Regardless, if you are sacrificing your Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays by cramming, you are going to be miserable in the end. Plus the fact that nobody successfully accomplishes anything by only studying during the weekend.

If you are going to study for the GRE, you really need to immerse yourself in it. It is a lot like trying to learn a foreign language. If you want to become fluent, it is not enough to just chat two days a week and then not use it on any other day of the week. If you speak a language every day, you will pick it up more quickly and easily. This is also the case with the GRE. After all, what makes more sense: studying 10 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday or spreading it out over the course of the week? The answer is obvious. By immersing yourself in the exam on a daily basis, it will seem like second nature once you actually take the real test. You will be able to retain the information better and therefore answer the questions more accurately.

Mistake #3: Studying Only One Section at the Expense of the Other

Are you really good at math? If so, you might be tempted to focus less on the Quantitative section and devote almost all of your efforts to the Verbal section. In fact, it would almost seem intuitive to focus less on what you perceive as your strengths while spending more time on your weaknesses. But this would be a huge mistake. Unless you have taken several practice tests and have already shown that you can ace the quantitative part without studying for it, you would be well advised to focus your energy on both parts. After all, if you truly utilize a balanced strategy, you will be able to maintain and hone the skills connected to the section you are stronger at while improving your skills on the section that is “weaker.” Consider this analogy: if as a basketball player you were strong on offense but lacking on defense, do you think your coach would allow you to skip the offensive drills? Of course not. You always want to keep your skills sharp. When it comes time to actually take the GRE, you will feel less stress if the exam feels fully familiar to you. This can only be the case if you focus on the entire test and not simply on one section.

Mistake #4: Focusing Only on the Scores after Taking Practice Exams

When you take a practice exam, you might be tempted to measure your improvement solely on whether you have gained a couple of points versus the previous practice exam. Did you improve your score by 3 points? High-five! But sorry, this is definitely not the right approach or attitude. While the score serves as a useful way to chart your progress, you need to dig deeper. This means studying the questions that you got wrong and determining why they were wrong. You might even consider looking at some of your correct guesses and assess why you got them right. Anyway, the point of examining the wrong answers individually is so that you can truly figure out what steps you need to take to improve. For instance, do you need to brush up on geometry more? Or perhaps you should spend more time looking over vocabulary words? Look for patterns, weaknesses and strengths as you look through your answers. You will be able to modify your studying strategies accordingly.

It is also important to realize that if you are not taking the time to look over the individual questions, you could study really hard and still not find the solution to your biggest problems. Spend some time reflecting on your practice tests and see them as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.

Mistake #5: Only Reviewing Incorrect Answers

This was somewhat alluded to in #4, but it is worth really stressing the importance of looking at questions even if you got them right. There are several reasons for this. First, if you merely took a guess, then chances are it merely means you got lucky. Who is to say that you would repeat this luck when taking the real exam? You are not going to succeed if you are only getting answers correctly randomly or by accident. You should also consider whether you would have needed to make a lucky guess if you had used a better strategy. In addition, the thing you want to do is not only guess correctly, but find ways to identify answers more quickly. Therefore, if you look through the questions that you got right, you might be able to use this knowledge to answer the questions in less time when you take the actual GRE.

Has this article been helpful? We hope that by pacing yourself and looking for ways to improve your study strategies, you will be able to gain crucial points that might make a difference between being accepted or rejected from the top university of your choice. Keep in mind that everybody is different, which means what works well for one person might not work for other. But nonetheless, you need to focus on the strategies that will best prepare you for the GRE. The best way to make the most of your time is by incorporating our recommendations into your broader study strategy.