So, you want to score 330 on the GRE? There’s no question that a GRE 330 score will help you maximize your chances of being accepted to top graduate programs, business schools, or law schools. Of course, scoring 330+ won’t be easy. To break the 330 barrier, you’ll need to study hard and have a solid GRE strategy in place. In addition, you’ll need to make some sacrifices along the way.
Although I could write an entire book on the subject, this article will provide any grad school hopeful with ambitious GRE goals with key strategies, expert tips, and proven techniques for GRE mastery. From starting the study process to gearing up for test day, we’ll cover it all!
Here are the topics we’ll discuss:
Before we discuss how to score 330+ on the GRE, let’s talk about why a top GRE score matters for many graduate programs.
The Importance of a Great Score on the GRE
If you’re wondering how to get a high GRE score such as 330, then you’re probably planning to apply to some pretty competitive programs. The thing about applying to top grad programs or business schools is that almost all applicants will have a stellar GPA, impressive recommendations, and a compelling personal statement. So, one thing you can do to make yourself stand out from the pack is to wow admissions committees with fantastic GRE scores.
Your academic and professional backgrounds are what they are; your GRE score is something you can control right now. So, why not put your best foot forward and earn the best GRE score you can?
One thing you can do to make yourself stand out from the pack is to wow admissions committees with fantastic GRE scores.
So, we know why earning a great score on the GRE is important. Now let’s take a look at how to start the study process to ensure GRE success.
5 Tips for Starting the Study Process
GRE preparation can quickly become frustrating and unproductive if you don’t start off on the right foot. So, before we get into specific study strategies, let’s review some key tips for setting yourself up for success throughout the preparation process.
#1: Determine Your Baseline GRE Scores
So, you know what your GRE goal is; now it’s time to figure out what your current abilities are. After all, if you don’t know where you currently stand, you won’t be able to develop a strategic GRE study plan.
If you’ve taken an official GRE practice test (or real exam), you already have an accurate baseline indicator of your abilities. If you haven’t taken an official GRE, it’s important to take one of the free GRE practice tests from ets.org. Make sure to take the test in a quiet place where you can concentrate and simulate test-like conditions. And, above all, try your best!
One thing to keep in mind about this practice test is that you should interpret the results carefully. A full-length official test can give you an overall sense of how long you may have to go to score 330+, but you don’t want to draw detailed conclusions based on the results of a single practice test.
For example, does incorrectly answering one rate-time-distance question indicate that you struggle with rate-time-distance questions in general? Probably not. Similarly, if you correctly answered one probability question, should you assume that you’re well-equipped to answer every probability question you’ll encounter? Probably not.
So, use your baseline GRE score as a rough estimate of your current abilities, not as a hard-and-fast roadmap for what you should and shouldn’t study.
TTP PRO TIP:
Before you begin studying, take a full-length official practice test to get a sense of how close you are to your GRE 330 score goal.
#2: Be Realistic About How Long GRE Prep Takes
Often I hear GRE students ask how to get a high score on the GRE in a month, how to score 300 on the GRE in 10 days, how to earn GRE 98th percentile scores with only 6 weeks of studying, and so on. Here’s the thing: students often underestimate the amount of time it will take to reach their target GRE scores.
Even if you’re starting with a solid baseline score, it’s improbable that you’ll be ready to score 330 after just a week or two of studying. In fact, it’s not unusual for a GRE 330+ scorer to spend several hundred hours preparing for test day. Hard work and devoted study are the norm, not the exception.
So, be prepared for some hard work in the coming months. Let your friends and family know that you’re pursuing a top score. Their support will help you stay positive after long nights of studying. If you start to get discouraged by all the work that lies ahead, remember what you’re working toward. An awesome GRE score will help open doors to top grad programs. In the end, your long-term success is worth some temporary discomfort.
Trust me, if you go into your GRE prep expecting that it will take a few months, rather than a few weeks, you will save yourself unnecessary stress, worry, and disappointment. Mentally prepare yourself for the work ahead, and get excited about the rewards it’ll bring!
It’s not unusual for a GRE 330+ scorer to spend several hundred hours preparing for test day.
#3: Be Proactive About Making Time for GRE Prep
How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time for XYZ.” We hear such statements constantly. Here’s the reality: there is only time for the things we make time for. Even with a demanding job or other commitments, if you’re preparing for the GRE, you have to make time for your personal growth and development. Otherwise, you may find that your days become occupied with your immediate concerns and your broader goals fall by the wayside.
So, do what you have to do to create time for studying. Many busy students who go on to earn 330+ scores study early in the morning before work, during lunch breaks, while running on the treadmill, and late into the evening. In addition, these students maximize weekend study time. If you carefully organize your schedule so that GRE prep is a top priority, you may be surprised to find that you can rack up an impressive number of study hours each week.
Remember, this schedule won’t be in place forever. So, if earning a top GRE score is really important to you, you can probably put some other things on the back burner for a while.
TTP PRO TIP:
Use early morning hours, lunch breaks, and weekends to strategically fit GRE prep time into your week.
#4: Use Top-Quality GRE Preparation Materials
To earn your best GRE score, you need to prepare with the best GRE materials. Nowadays, however, there are a TON of test prep resources to choose from. The thing is, not all study resources are created equal. The materials you use while you study can be either assets or liabilities.
So, do your due diligence before choosing GRE prep materials. See what other test-takers who earned 330+ scores recommend. Check out course reviews on sites such as GRE Prep Club. Most online courses offer a free or low-cost trial (Target Test Prep included!). So, pick a few top-rated courses and give them a test drive. Your goal is to find a course that presents clear, practical, actionable content in a way that makes sense to you, along with skills, strategies, and techniques for acing the exam.
If you pick up the first GRE prep book you come across or purchase a course without having a solid understanding of what it offers, you could end up wasting a lot of time on a resource that simply doesn’t provide the tools necessary for scoring 330+.
TTP PRO TIP:
Read course reviews and sign up for free or low-cost trials before you settle on a study resource.
#5: Don’t Worry About What Others Have Done
We already discussed the fact that GRE preparation often takes longer than people expect (or hope). Nonetheless, if you read some of the stories on GRE forums, you can be easily convinced that many people who take the GRE score 330 or higher after only a few “hard weeks” of studying.
First, statistically speaking, the number of people who score 330 or higher is small. Second, the number of people who score a 330 or higher after studying for a few “hard weeks” probably approaches zero. If you focus on these rare animals and convince yourself that they’re the norm, you’ll drive yourself bonkers and probably throw in the towel.
Instead, focus on yourself. Do the best job you can do. Don’t listen to the guy in class who claims he scored 330 without studying or to your friend’s sister who supposedly scored 335 by doing nothing more than reading a prep book for two weeks. You have no way of assessing how exaggerated these stories may be or whether, in the afterglow of their success, people are looking back on their study time with rose-colored glasses.
It’s easy to begin feeling that the process is taking longer than it “should.” But the fact is, you don’t see other people’s late nights of studying. You don’t see the dozens of hours they spend with private tutors. So, don’t preoccupy yourself with what other people have accomplished. As Teddy Roosevelt said, comparison is the thief of joy!
TTP PRO TIP:
Don’t compare your GRE progress to the study experiences of others. You have no way of assessing how “easy” GRE prep really was for them.
#6: Plan to Take the GRE More Than Once
For many students, planning to take the GRE more than once is a smart move.
First, if you plan to take a GRE, say, a month or two before you must take it, you could end up earning the score you need earlier than you expected. Great! Now you have an extra month to focus on the rest of your applications or take a much-needed break.
Second, if you don’t reach your target score early, you’ll be better positioned the next time you sit for the exam. You’ll have an increased understanding of the test, and you’ll be more comfortable with the testing process. Moreover, you won’t have the feeling hanging over you throughout your GRE preparation that test day is “do or die.”
Planning for a retake is much less stressful than needing to take the GRE again when you haven’t planned to!
TTP PRO TIP:
Build some extra time into your GRE timeline, so you can take the GRE more than once if necessary.
Now that we have some tips for starting the study process right, let’s discuss some important strategies for studying with an eye toward a 330 score.
GRE Strategy for Scoring 330+
The following are 10 strategies that you can use to study for the GRE in a manner that will allow you to reach your 330+ score goal.
#1: Create a Framework for Your GRE Study Plan
To cross the 330 barrier on the GRE, you’ll need to:
- understand the content tested (have conceptual knowledge)
- be able to apply your knowledge and skills to practice questions (have procedural knowledge)
- be comfortable performing under test-day conditions (have operational knowledge).
Thus, a strategic GRE study plan is one in which you divide your studying into 3 major phases, with some overlap between each phase.
During the first third of your study timeline, spend 75% of your time building conceptual knowledge and 25% building procedural knowledge.
During the second third, spend 50% of your time building more conceptual knowledge, 25% building more procedural knowledge, and 25% building operational knowledge.
During the final third, spend 50% of your time building operational knowledge and 50% building the remaining conceptual and procedural knowledge you need.
For further detail on building this framework for your GRE prep, check out our article on the 3 Critical Types of Knowledge for a High GRE Score.
Now, as you probably know, your GRE Total Score is the sum of scores in the Quant and Verbal sections. (GRE AWA is not counted in the Total Score.) Of course, shooting for a Total Score of 330 doesn’t mean you have to score 165 in both GRE Quant and GRE Verbal. But should you? Let’s discuss.
#2: Aim for Balanced Section Study
When setting goals for your GRE scores, you should always consider the type of program you’re applying to. For example, you’re better off applying to top Journalism programs with a V170 and a Q160 than with the reverse. On the other hand, earning that 170 in GRE Quant rather than in Verbal would make sense for top Engineering programs.
But what if your major is somewhere in between English and Math, for example, Psychology or Business? In these types of programs, verbal and math are both necessary for success. So, V165/Q165, or something close to that split, would make you highly competitive.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you earn a great score in one section, if you tank the other section, scoring 330 won’t be in the cards. So, even if one section is more important for your chosen programs, focusing the overwhelming majority of your study time on just one section isn’t a great plan.
Instead, aim for a fairly even split between your math and verbal study. For example, you could do an hour of Quant studying and an hour of Verbal studying each day. In fact, this approach is recommended because the GRE itself alternates the two math and two verbal sections. So, your mind needs practice performing left-brain, and then right-brain activities in relatively short time frames.
Of course, if you’re struggling with one section far more than the other, you can try a 60/40 or 65/35 split in favor of your weak section. Remember, if one of your section scores is already high, you can adjust your study ratio to better suit your needs. Just be wary of going too far in one direction!
TTP PRO TIP:
Alternate your study time between Quant and Verbal.
#3: Master Content Before Solving Practice Questions
Too many students make the mistake of solving tons of practice questions without first taking the time to understand the fundamental skills that GRE questions test. Instead of wasting your time solving questions without understanding their foundations, build your conceptual knowledge first. Once you’ve developed your conceptual knowledge, it makes sense to put that new knowledge into practice by solving many realistic practice questions.
When you practice with a lack of understanding of what you’re practicing, or worse, when you practice improperly, you can actually become less rather than more proficient. Imagine hitting golf balls at the driving range without ever learning the proper technique for swinging a golf club. Will you be a better golfer after a few months of “practicing” that way, or will you simply have ingrained bad form?
On the other hand, if you understand how to swing a golf club properly, and you put this understanding into action with each swing, you can improve substantially in a few months.
So, don’t do practice questions with the expectation that they’ll teach you the GRE. Master GRE concepts first, and then solidify your knowledge by completing practice questions that test those concepts.
Don’t do practice questions with the expectation that they’ll teach you the GRE.
#4: Build a Strong Foundation First
Too often, students spend an inordinate amount of time working on the most difficult GRE material they can find, tackling topics such as probability and advanced combinations and permutations before they take the necessary time to master fundamentals. Don’t adopt this inverted strategy. Instead, take the time you need to build a strong foundation before you move on to more complicated material. Learn the basics!
Many students think they already know the basics, and then when they skip ahead to more complex material, they wonder why their progress is slow or stalled. Nine times out of 10, these students need to brush up on fundamental concepts and skills, if not relearn them.
The added benefit of mastering the fundamentals first is that once you’re ready to attack the more difficult material, you’ll be more efficient because you’ll have a rock-solid foundation. So, instead of rushing to the most challenging concepts because they’re “what you need to know” to earn a high GRE score, first ensure that you have the basics down cold.
TTP PRO TIP:
Master the fundamentals before you tackle more advanced GRE topics.
#5: Employ the Tabula Rasa Rule
When you study for the GRE, your goal is to learn the material well. You won’t be rewarded just for putting in the time. Putting in the time is certainly necessary. However, it isn’t enough. You can’t expect to earn a 330+ on the GRE if you’re simply letting information wash over you. If you blaze your way through a chapter just to say you “read” it, are you really any closer to your goal score?
So, be honest with yourself. Read deliberately and methodically. Strive to understand the material. If you fail to do so the first time, make yourself repeat the material.
The same goes for practice problems. Plenty of students “binge” problem-solve, burning through dozens of practice questions only to realize that they’ve learned little that can be applied in the future. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, squeeze as much juice out of each practice question as you can. If you get a question wrong, stop and analyze why. Ten thoughtful attempts at 10 practice questions will help you far more than answering 50 questions just to get them done.
In short, focus on the quality of your studying, not on the quantity.
Here’s a simple, effective guideline for your studying that I call the Tabula Rasa Rule: If you can’t sit down with a pen and a blank sheet of paper and teach a concept to somebody else, you need to keep studying that concept.
When you study a new topic, use the Tabula Rasa Rule to help hold yourself accountable and gauge whether you’ve sufficiently learned what you’re studying.
TTP PRO TIP:
Use the Tabula Rasa Rule to hold yourself accountable and gauge whether you’ve sufficiently learned a GRE topic.
#6: Focus on Eliminating Your Weaknesses
Understandably, we all want the instant gratification that comes with an easy win and don’t want the discomfort that comes with struggling. However, when it comes to the GRE, high scores are often largely attributable to students’ willingness to work on their weakest areas.
Turning your weaknesses into strengths offers you the biggest opportunity for growth and GRE score improvement. So, one of your major goals throughout your GRE prep should be to identify weak spots. Once you’ve determined what your weaknesses are, attack them with gusto. You’ll be amazed at how dramatically your GRE performance improves.
In fact, one of the most powerful tools for any student’s GRE preparation is an error log. Logging your errors on practice questions can not only help you uncover the topics and concepts you’re weakest in but also show you your most frequent mistakes and uncover damaging patterns in your question-answering behavior.
Of course, tracking and organizing all of the information yourself can be too time-consuming to be practical, particularly as you get further into your GRE prep. So, I recommend ensuring that the GRE course you use for your prep has a built-in error log that will do the tracking for you. For example, the TTP GRE course features a robust error log that tracks the types of mistakes a student makes, how often the student makes each type, and on which questions those mistakes were made, all in a highly accessible and actionable format.
TTP PRO TIP:
Use a GRE prep course that features a built-in error log, so you can more easily identify your weak areas and the types of mistakes you make on GRE questions.
#7: Get Better to Get Faster
It’s quite common for students to be anxious about the GRE’s time constraints. After all, the way students pace themselves through the exam can make or break their GRE scores. However, you don’t get faster at solving GRE questions by simply going faster. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the best way to get faster is to start slow. Invest your time into learning the material thoroughly. Master the concepts. Allow the techniques to become second nature. Ensure that all important facts, figures, and formulas are at the tip of your fingers. Spend ample time practicing these concepts, strategies, and techniques.
You’ll find that as you become more comfortable with the material, you get faster. In other words, you need to focus on getting better at solving GRE questions before you can get faster at solving them. That’s why when I hear students proclaim that they know the material, but their GRE scores are low because they “just don’t have the timing down,” I generally recommend they take a good hard look at their conceptual and procedural knowledge levels.
In fact, in my more than 15 years of teaching the GRE, I can count on one hand the number of students who actually had the content down cold but had a legitimate problem with test-day timing. Thus, plan to improve your knowledge of the content.
So, focus on learning the material inside and out and consistently achieving high accuracy on practice questions before you begin to impose time constraints during your practice. If you know how to answer questions well, you’ll be much better prepared to answer them quickly.
TTP PRO TIP:
Focus on consistently achieving high accuracy on practice questions before you begin to impose time constraints during your practice.
#8: Review Past Material Regularly
Often, students work hard at mastering some GRE material and, in fact, get quite good at it. Then, they happily move on and master new material. At some point, they realize that they’ve forgotten the earlier material. Don’t let this information spoilage happen to you.
Instead, incorporate regular review sessions into your GRE study plan. Flashcards are an excellent tool for conducting this review. As you come across concepts, formulas, or strategies that you want to remember and practice, add these valuable nuggets to flashcards that you can periodically review to ensure that these key bits of information stay fresh in your mind.
It’s also a good idea to take notes as you study, not only to help solidify your learning but also so you can review those notes later. For instance, when studying Geometry, you might jot down “look out for 3-4-5 and 5-12-13 right triangles!”
Another important form of review is completing practice sets of questions on past topics. For example, if it has been 3 weeks since you studied Weaken and Strengthen the Argument questions in GRE Verbal, it would be a good time to complete a practice set of those question types. Then, based on your performance, if you notice that certain skills related to those question types have become rusty, you can return to your notes or prep materials to brush up those skills.
Remember, GRE skills are perishable. Use them or lose them!
TTP PRO TIP:
Flashcards are an easy way to incorporate regular review sessions into your GRE prep.
#9: Save GRE Practice Tests for the Final Stage of Your Prep
We know that taking a practice test to establish a baseline score at the beginning of your GRE prep is a smart idea. However, you don’t want to make the mistake of taking multiple GRE practice tests before you’ve adequately learned the material and drilled those skills. If you make this mistake, the practice tests will simply tell you what you already know: you haven’t mastered the content yet.
So, rather than spending your valuable time taking practice test after practice test and hoping that higher GRE scores will magically appear, work hard to master to achieve GRE mastery. Once you know the content well and are skilled at correctly answering practice questions at test pace, you can begin taking the remaining official practice tests that ETS offers.
At that point — the final stage of your GRE prep — the practice tests will serve as a barometer of whether you’re truly ready for test day and help you gain comfort with the test-taking experience.
TTP PRO TIP:
Taking full-length GRE practice tests before you’ve mastered the material is not productive.
With that said, appropriately spacing out full-length practice tests is also important. Let’s discuss.
#10: Leave Ample Time for Practice Tests Before Test Day
You now know that it’s a mistake to jump right into full-length practice tests before you’ve put in study time. Some students make the opposite mistake: they study content and solve practice questions until right before their GRE, but they don’t take a sufficient number of practice tests. Most of these students end up finding the test-taking experience uncomfortable. Either their timing is off, or they get tired in the latter half of the test, or they just generally don’t feel on their game. Don’t let this happen to you.
In an ideal world, you’d finish your content study and related practice a month prior to your GRE. During the final month before test day, you’d take a practice test roughly every 5 days. After each test, you’d spend time analyzing which questions you answered correctly and incorrectly. Then, you’d return to your notes or course materials for further study of concepts and question types that tripped you up. You’d also assess how many questions you answered incorrectly because of careless mistakes and how many you answered correctly because of a lucky guess. Additionally, you’d note your pacing and how you felt while taking the test.
Your goal would be to fine-tune your test-taking skills, correcting any issues from one test to the next, in order to get yourself into fighting shape for test day. Following this schedule of test-taking, self-assessment, and correction, you’d get through the remaining official practice tests with about a week to spare before your actual GRE.
TTP PRO TIP:
In the final month before test day, take an official practice test roughly every 5 days, and analyze your results between each test.
You now have 10 strategies for your test preparation that will set you up to score 330 on the GRE. Let’s now turn our attention to an aspect of test performance that stands in the way of GRE mastery for many students: careless mistakes.
10 Strategies to Nip Careless Mistakes in the Bud
Careless mistakes can destroy your GRE score, and in my eyes, these errors are the worst type a student can make, for two big reasons. First, it’s a shame not to get credit for a GRE question that you are able to solve but didn’t answer correctly simply because of a careless mistake. Second, focus and practice usually can substantially reduce or eliminate careless mistakes, thereby boosting your score considerably.
So, let’s discuss some strategies for avoiding the most common causes of careless mistakes on the GRE.
#1: Slow Down
When you try to calculate faster than your brain can process, you will make mistakes. So, to cut down on the number of careless mistakes you make, slow down. Take your time. Focus. It makes little sense to spend an hour rushing through 50 problems only to get 30 of them wrong. Instead, work at the fastest pace you can while still approaching practice questions effectively and methodically. Remember, the goal is to learn, not to speed through a bunch of problems so you can say you did them.
TTP PRO TIP:
Work at the fastest pace you can while still approaching practice questions effectively and methodically.
#2: Be More Present
Sometimes a student’s mind is clearly someplace other than on his or her GRE practice. It’s easy to lose focus, but real learning requires that a student develop the skill of compartmentalizing. To compartmentalize is simply to stop yourself from thinking about anything before the present moment and from worrying about what will come after the present moment. When you compartmentalize, you can fully devote yourself to the task at hand. When you allow your brain to be fully immersed in whatever you are doing at that moment, you’ll be amazed at how much your accuracy improves.
Some students really are focused on their GRE practice, but their pens are not in sync with their brains. For example, a student may be writing a line of a solution to a problem while her mind is already visualizing the next step in the problem. It would be great to always be a step or two ahead, but that’s just not practical for most students. It’s difficult to be accurate when the pen and brain are out of sync.
The way to fix this problem is to focus intensely only on the step you’re on at that moment. In fact, watch carefully as you write. Focus on each letter, number, and variable. When you focus as you write, your brain has the opportunity to catch simple yet score-eroding errors that you’d likely otherwise miss. If you’re thinking one or two steps ahead of what you’re doing, you’re bound to make mistakes. Keep your pen, eyes, and brain in sync at all times.
If you’re thinking one or two steps ahead of what you’re doing, you’re bound to make mistakes.
#3: Read More Carefully
Being a strong reader will help you significantly on all sections of the GRE. So strive to read everything carefully and methodically. Make sure that you understand the main point of each sentence and the key concepts in each problem. It’s not unusual to have to reread Quant and Verbal questions, so if you don’t fully understand what you just read, read it again.
Visualization can also help you to read more carefully. When you read, imagine what you are reading unfolding as if you were watching a movie. Picture what you read. By engaging in this visualization process, you’ll help your brain better assimilate and connect the information.
If you get stuck on a math problem, you may have overlooked or misread a critical piece of information given in the question stem. The question-writers almost never give extraneous information in a question stem. So, if you find yourself stuck on a math problem, reread the question. Have you used every given piece of information? Did you read in the stem that, for example, angle ACD is equal to 37 degrees? If you haven’t used this piece of information, look at what you’ve done thus far in your solution, and see how that information can be used. It wasn’t put there to confuse you; it must be used somewhere in your solution.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you get stuck on a problem, reread the question stem to see whether you’ve overlooked an important piece of information.
#4: Write Neatly and Legibly
It’s easy to make silly mistakes when your own writing is illegible. For example, if your numeral 2 has a funny habit of morphing into the letter Z, you’re likely to make mistakes. As someone with shockingly poor handwriting, I’ve found that by writing in capital letters, my handwriting has become much less prone to misreading. You may like this penmanship strategy as well.
In addition to writing neatly, it’s important to organize your work carefully. Get in the habit of using well-defined regions for each problem. Don’t spread your work across the page haphazardly. On test day, you will be provided with a limited initial supply of scratch paper. If you have learned to organize your work, using the scratch paper strategically will keep you organized while you’re under stress. And if you use your scratch paper carefully, you won’t have to waste valuable test time asking the test proctor for another supply.
TTP PRO TIP:
If your handwriting is hard to read, try writing in capital letters.
#5: Regularly Practice Multiplication and Division by Hand
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen students elegantly power through a tough math problem only to mess up a multiplication or division step. Don’t be this person. Each day, solve one or two ugly multiplication and division problems by hand. Review your multiplication facts, and don’t use a calculator for simple calculations. Yes, there is an onscreen calculator provided to you on test day, but it’s unwieldy, and using it is time-consuming. Save its use for tough calculations, not basic arithmetic.
TTP PRO TIP:
Don’t use the GRE calculator for basic arithmetic.
#6: Don’t Perform Calculations in Your Head
Want a surefire way to make careless mistakes? Do mental math. Moreover, do mental math during a stressful, timed test.
For most people, doing calculations in their heads is a bad move. Instead, do as much work as you can on your scratch paper.
TTP PRO TIP:
Do as much work as you can on your scratch paper.
#7: Watch Out for Unit Conversions
Many GRE Quant questions involve unit conversions. For example, a rate may be presented in miles per hour, but the answers are given in miles per minute. It’s very easy to choose a trap answer with incorrect units because the number looks correct. So, be on the lookout for unit conversions in GRE Quant!
TTP PRO TIP:
Be on the lookout for unit conversions in GRE Quant questions.
#8: Watch Out For “Except” Problems
The “except” problem is one of the trickiest problem types for many GRE students, whether they come across it in Quant or in Verbal. These questions say things such as, “All of the following would weaken the argument except” or, “n is divisible by all of the following except.”
If you don’t notice the “except” in the question stem, you can end up selecting an answer that is the opposite of what you really need. So, pay close attention to the language in the question stem. If you see that a question asks for “all of the following except,” you can say to yourself, “I am looking for the wrong answer,” or “there will be 4 right answers and 1 wrong answer.”
Another great strategy for “except” questions is to write down A through E on your scratch paper. Then, mark each answer choice that does fit the criteria with a check and mark the choice that doesn’t fit the criteria with an X. That way, you have a visual reminder to pick the odd one out. So, your work might look like the following:
In the “except” problem above, choice (B) would be the correct answer.
TTP PRO TIP:
When answering “except” questions, remember that you’re looking for the one answer that does not fit the criteria outlined in the question stem.
#9: Double-Check Whether You’re Answering the Question Asked
Imagine a Quant word problem involving two Shiba Inus, Blaze and Molly. Now say you carefully and elegantly solve for Molly’s age, which (not coincidentally) is among the answer choices. However, the question is actually asking for Blaze’s age.
This type of careless mistake is extremely common among GRE test-takers. Luckily, it has a simple fix. If you notice that you frequently solve for the wrong thing or forget exactly what a question is asking for, reread the question stem before you select your answer. Make sure you’re actually answering the question being asked!
TTP PRO TIP:
Before you select an answer, double-check that you’re answering the question that was asked.
#10: Pay Attention to Restrictive Information in the Question Stem
Quite often, particularly in Quantitative Comparison questions, there is restrictive information provided in the stem. For example, we may be told that “k is an integer” or that “ 0 < m < 1.” Pay close attention to such information. In the heat of solving a problem, it’s easy to forget about a small but important piece of information that may change the outcome. Sometimes taking a second to write this information down can help make it stick in your mind.
TTP PRO TIP:
You may want to jot down restrictive information if you’re prone to forgetting it.
Check out our guide to improving your accuracy on the GRE for more tips for avoiding careless mistakes.
Now, let’s discuss another key aspect staying on track to a GRE 330 score: managing stress.
6 Strategies for Managing GRE Stress
Some amount of stress is inevitable during the GRE preparation process. After all, for most of us, the road to GRE success isn’t exactly smooth. Moreover, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to never make mistakes or have setbacks during our GRE prep because the GRE is so important.
Now, some stress can be motivating–exciting, even. And trying to eliminate stress completely is a losing endeavor. Nevertheless, the stress associated with preparing for and taking the GRE can become overwhelming if we don’t actively take steps to manage it. So, let’s discuss some simple strategies for keeping GRE stress at bay.
#1: Schedule in Self-Care
Though I’m a huge proponent of rolling up your sleeves, making some strong coffee, and working until a task is done, there is something to be said for balance. It’s hard to thrive when you live a spartan life of nothing but GRE study. It’s difficult to make yourself sit with a prep book or course all day, every day. In fact, for some, such a colorless few months can be downright depressing. Burnout is real, and it can seriously set back your GRE prep.
Unfortunately, “me” time tends to fall by the wayside when people are preparing for the GRE, especially when they have to fit study time into a busy schedule. So, if you find yourself frequently running on empty, or the stress is starting to mount, it may be time to schedule in some relaxation. Have you ditched your weekly yoga class? Start attending it again. Miss your morning meditation sessions or your evening run? Remind yourself that taking the time to care for your body and mind will make learning and retaining GRE material easier.
Study for the GRE on a Saturday morning. Go for a hike on a Saturday afternoon. See a movie or two each month. I’m not saying to return to the pre-GRE days of happy hours and Netflix marathons. However, if you don’t take good care of yourself during this study process, you may find over time that your study sessions become less and less productive.
Add a couple of fun activities to your calendar each month, schedule in 20 minutes of physical activity each day — ensure that you have some release from the pressures of GRE study. You’ll feel much more refreshed during your study time!
TTP PRO TIP:
Schedule in small breaks from the pressures of GRE study.
#2: Join a Study Group
Peer learning can be a great way to stay motivated and even have some fun when preparing for the GRE. First, you can commiserate with others who understand the stress of studying for the GRE. Second, you can find ways to “gamify” your GRE prep, for instance, by quizzing each other with flashcards.
Study groups are also a great way to pick up new tricks and techniques for solving GRE problems. For example, during a weekly study group session, your group might pick 5 or 10 GRE questions to solve. Each person in the group could try the questions individually, and then the group could discuss them. That discussion would give you an opportunity to see how different people solve problems differently.
Also, having to explain your problem-solving process is probably the best way to fix it in your own mind. Don’t worry if the group is composed of students with varying abilities. If you’re the strongest member of the group, you’ll learn a ton by showing others how to do things well. If you’re the weakest member of the group, you’ll benefit from the knowledge of the stronger members.
Studying for the GRE can be a lonely process, and that isolation can exacerbate feelings of stress. So, if you’re feeling stressed about the GRE, joining a study group — or starting one yourself — could be a big help.
TTP PRO TIP:
Join or start a GRE study group to combat the stress of studying alone.
#3: Avoid Negative Nellies
When you’re studying for the GRE, one of the best things you can have is a positive network of people who support and encourage you. Maybe you know some people who have negative perceptions of standardized tests such as the GRE. Maybe some of your friends think it’s “pointless” to take such tests or “overkill” that you’re spending so much time studying. Maybe some of your family members “don’t get it.” Ignore them! Not everyone will understand your goals or why you’re devoting so much time to your GRE prep. Stay close to the people who do understand. As much as possible, avoid negative and discouraging talk. It’ll only add to your stress!
TTP PRO TIP:
As much as possible, avoid negative and discouraging talk about the GRE and lean on the people in your life who support and encourage your goals.
#4: Cut Out the Self-Criticism
We all experience bad days and encounter problems that are tough to solve. It’s important not to magnify the bad while discounting the good. Try to view your progress objectively. Try not to criticize yourself over one unproductive day. Instead, look at the big picture. Look at how your progress is trending over time. Be fair and kind to yourself.
Likewise, don’t tell yourself the story that you’re bad at standardized tests. That story will make you defeat yourself before you have a chance at winning. Maybe you didn’t do so well on the SAT or ACT. Maybe you don’t like taking tests. Maybe you’ve bombed a practice GRE or two, or you’re finding some aspect of the content tough to learn. So what?
Past performance does not have to predict future performance. You have the ability to alter your behavior and your trajectory. You’ve been learning and growing your whole life. You’ve learned many new skills before. Training yourself to do well on standardized tests is no different from training yourself to make any type of change: difficult at first, but easier as you gain steam.
Instead of defeating yourself ahead of time by telling yourself that you can’t do well, start telling yourself that you can do well. Then, tell yourself that you will do well. When you make mistakes, remind yourself that mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. If we already knew how to do everything perfectly, there would be no learning necessary! Self-criticism is only going to get in the way of your reaching your full potential. Treat yourself as you would a friend, not an enemy.
TTP PRO TIP:
When studying for the GRE, try to view your progress objectively and treat yourself as you would a friend.
#5: View the GRE as an Opportunity
Stress can become productive, rather than destructive, when we view a stressful thing as an opportunity instead of a curse. If you spend your days disgruntled over the fact that you have to deal with this thing called the GRE, you turn your study time into an even greater torture. Conversely, you can look at the GRE as an opportunity to separate yourself from peers and as a tool for personal and professional development.
It can help to be inquisitive and curious about what you’re learning. Try to cultivate a genuine interest in learning GRE content. Appreciate the ways that it’s clever and challenging. Remind yourself that you’re gaining new, impressive skills. Reframing your study time in this way can have a profound impact on your performance.
In fact, research out of Harvard and other universities indicates that students who reframe their stress about taking the GRE as excitement actually perform better on the test than students who don’t use that mental trick.
So, pump yourself up about taking the test! Either way, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your GRE study materials. Why poison that time with unnecessary misery?
TTP PRO TIP:
View the GRE as an opportunity to separate yourself from peers and as a tool for personal and professional development.
#6: Don’t Give Up!
Here’s a secret: when smart, hardworking students don’t reach their goals on the GRE, it’s typically because they threw in the towel too soon. So, if you’re stressed because you’ve worked hard for a number of months yet still have not earned the GRE score you need, the best advice I can give you is to keep studying!
As we’ve already discussed, quite often, complex tasks take more time and energy than we initially expect. It’s easy to throw your hands up and tell yourself you’ve done everything you can. More often than not, there’s more to do.
Many GRE students find themselves in the situation of feeling like they’ve reached a “ceiling” in their capabilities. The ones who don’t give up but who work past their seemingly permanent plateaus are the ones who finally reach the summit.
Remember, you haven’t failed if you’re still trying!
TTP PRO TIP:
The solution to not reaching your GRE goal is to keep studying until you do!
So, we know how to properly prepare to score 330 on the GRE, how to nip careless mistakes in the bud, and how to manage our stress levels along the way. Now let’s discuss how to handle the final days leading up your test.
The Week Before Test Day
All your hard months of preparing for the GRE come down to test day. So, you want to make sure you’re not sabotaging your efforts in the 11th hour. Here are 5 simple but important tips to help you stay on track to a successful test day in the week leading up to your GRE:
- Don’t take full-length practice tests.
You want to be well-rested and mentally fresh for test day. Taking full-length practice tests too close to your real GRE can leave you drained on test day. If you follow my earlier advice about spacing out your GRE practice tests, you will have completed them by the time your 7-day countdown begins anyway.
In the days leading up to your test, you’ll want to wind down your studying, to give your brain a rest. Continue to do some light studying and review, but don’t attempt to cram. Chances are that at this point, attempting to learn a lot of new material will do more harm than good.
- Get exercise and proper sleep.
You may feel some nervous energy in the week before your exam. Getting some physical exercise can help get rid of the jitters and stay mentally sharp. Exercise can also help regulate your sleep and allow you to sleep more deeply. Try to get to bed at the same time each night this week and ensure you’re getting a full night’s sleep.
- Eat nourishing food and stay hydrated.
You don’t want to make any drastic changes to your diet right before your test, but it’s a good idea to eat nourishing food and stay hydrated in the week leading up to test day. Remember, sugary foods may give you temporary energy, but they can also cause you to crash and feel more tired and hungry in the long run.
- Prepare yourself for some ups and downs on test day.
Test day does not have to go perfectly for you to earn a great score on your GRE. Mentally prepare yourself for some ups and downs, but be confident in the work you’ve done to get to this point. You’ve got this!
Now, let’s talk about what to do on test day.
On Test Day
Here are 5 tips to help you get into test mode on the day of your GRE:
- Eat a healthy breakfast and hydrate well.
Again, now is not the time to experiment with new foods or slam energy drinks if you’ve never tried them before. Eat a breakfast that leaves you feeling satisfied and energized. Drink coffee if it’s part of your normal morning routine. Make sure you’re hydrated, but remember, you won’t have a break during your exam, so don’t go overboard. It’s a good idea to pre-plan what you’ll eat, so you don’t have to think about it on test day.
- Listen to some inspirational music.
Listening to some of your favorite tunes is a great way to get pumped for your test. Have a test-day playlist ready to get your energy up and elevate your mood.
- Get to the test center early.
If you’re taking the in-person GRE, give yourself extra time to make the commute. You don’t want to have to worry about traffic or unexpected delays on your route. Plus, it’ll take a little time to complete the check-in process at the test center. If you’re taking the at-home GRE, prepare your testing space the night before your test, so you don’t have to worry about it on test day.
- Complete a few GRE questions to get warmed up.
Before you enter the test center or start the check-in process for your at-home test, complete a (small!) handful of Quant and Verbal questions to get your brain warmed up. That won’t you’ll already be in test mode when your GRE begins. You can also take one last look at any math formulas or vocabulary words that you’ve had trouble remembering. But remember, no cramming!
- Say some positive affirmations out loud.
Even if you feel a little silly doing it, saying some positive affirmations out loud can help put you in a more confident and optimistic head space before your exam. Tell yourself you’ve got this. Tell yourself you’re going to own the GRE. Trust me, it can’t hurt!
Now, let’s discuss some tips for when you’re actually taking your GRE.
Top 3 Test-Taking Tips
Here are 3 essential tips for performing at your best during your GRE.
#1: Don’t Worry If You Struggle With the First Couple of Questions
Often, students who don’t hit their GRE score goals say that they struggled with the first few questions on the test or in a particular section, and as a result, they lost their focus.
Of course, it would be ideal to recognize and easily solve the first few questions you encounter on your GRE. But if you can’t, don’t worry. Just maintain your focus. Put your energy into the question on your screen at that moment; don’t ever think back. Stay engaged in the task at hand.
Remember, you can get a number of questions wrong on the GRE and still score high. So, having trouble with the first few questions doesn’t mean you’ve blown your chance. On the contrary, you have many opportunities to improve. And if you have time at the end of the section, you can always return to questions that gave you trouble. It’s quite possible that at that point, you’ll be able to see them in a new light.
TTP PRO TIP:
Don’t get discouraged if you struggle with the first few questions on your GRE. You still have plenty of opportunities left to drive up your score.
#2: Never Leave a Question Blank
There is no penalty for an incorrect answer on the GRE. So, even if you have no idea how to answer a question, you should always guess an answer rather than leaving the question blank.
This strategy remains true regardless of your ability to flag questions for later review.
Of course, you should always flag a question if you’ve guessed the answer to it. However, you must prepare for the reality that you may not have time to return to all your flagged questions. In that case, if you haven’t selected answers, you have no chance of getting the questions you can’t return to correct. Even if you make a wild guess or simply select any “placeholder” answer choice, you still have a chance of getting that question correct. And if your selection is incorrect, no harm, no foul.
So, whether you want to say, skip around in a Verbal section to answer 1-blank Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions before tackling more involved multi-blank questions or Reading Comprehension passages, or you simply aren’t confident in some of your work, select an answer to each question that is presented to you as it is presented. Flag the questions you guessed on, are unsure about, or selected random answers to. Return to as many as you can at the end of the section, knowing that if you run out of time, at least you gave yourself a shot at getting those questions correct.
TTP PRO TIP:
Answer every GRE question as you encounter it, even your answer is a pure guess. Then, mark the question for later review, in case you have time to go back to it.
#3: Don’t Self-Assess During Your Test
While taking the GRE, you should never try to determine how well you’re doing. Besides the fact that you are almost certain to be mistaken, anything that distracts you from the question in front of you can only be a drag on your performance. Forget what has already happened in favor of focusing on doing your best from that point on. A baseball player who can’t forget his last at-bat has a lot more trouble hitting the pitch coming toward him!
TTP PRO TIP:
Never try to determine how well you’re doing during your GRE. You have no way of knowing!
Let’s wrap up with some key takeaways.
How to Score 330 on GRE on Test Day: Key Takeaways
To ensure GRE mastery and better your chances of scoring 330+ on test day, use the following key strategies:
- Be realistic about how long you’ll need to prepare for test day, and plan to take the GRE more than once.
- Make GRE prep a top priority in your schedule.
- Use a top-rated GRE course with a built-in error log.
- Create a structured GRE study plan that allows for alternating Quant and Verbal section study.
- Master GRE content before solving practice questions, and master fundamental concepts before tackling advanced material.
- Focus on eliminating your weaknesses and nipping careless mistakes in the bud.
- Review past material regularly.
- Set aside time to de-stress, stay active, and get adequate rest.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself during the GRE process, and whatever you do, don’t give up!
These 10 GRE Quant practice questions offer practice in all 4 math question formats, while these GRE Verbal practice questions include not only Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence but also standard and Critical Reasoning-style Reading Comprehension questions.
Looking for a GRE preparation course? Try the TTP GRE course for 5 days for just $1!