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How Many GRE Practice Tests Should You Take?

Gre | Practice | indore

Taking full-length GRE practice tests is an indispensable part of preparing for the GRE.

How many of them should you take, though? And how often?

Let’s use a sports analogy to shed some light on these important questions

What Sports Teams Can Teach Us About GRE Practice

Consider an elite soccer team. What if all they ever did was practice but never played any games? They could spend weeks on end practicing the fundamentals, working on their conditioning, watching film, and scrimmaging against themselves, but they’d never know how much they were improving (if at all) if they never tested themselves against a live opponent. That’s what games are for, to show us where we stand and enable us to apply what we’ve been practicing in a real-time environment.

On the flip side, imagine that same soccer team playing three or four games every week! That seems like overkill, doesn’t it? I mean, they’d never get significantly better just playing games because they’d never be able to work on the mistakes they were making in those games or work on new plays and strategies — not to mention the mental and physical fatigue they would experience. So over-emphasizing games isn’t the right answer, either


There’s a sweet spot for a soccer team, then, between practice and games. It’s a balancing act. They need ample time to practice, but then they need to occasionally test themselves with games. Sometimes they may play two games in the same week, but almost never more than that. More often they only play a game every couple weeks. They still get better from the game experience, but most of their improvement comes from practice.

Tips for Maximizing Your GRE Practice Tests

One quick note about that last point. It’s very important that when you do set aside the time to take a practice test, that you re-create the testing environment as accurately as possible. As I said earlier, practice tests are designed to help you gauge your current abilities and to get an accurate approximation of what your score might be on the real thing. As such, you want to take them as seriously as possible.

1)Take your GRE practice tests on the same day of the week and at around the same time of day as you plan to take the real thing-. If you’re going to take the real GRE on a Saturday morning, then take your practice tests on Saturday mornings. That will help you get a feel for your fatigue level, how often you need to use the bathroom, your state of focus, etc.

2)Complete all sections. There’s a temptation to skip the essays and just focus on the more important quantitative and verbal sections. But you won’t be skipping the essays on test day, so don’t skip them during your practice tests. You need to get a feel for what it’s like to have already done an hour’s worth of work before getting to the quant and verbal sections. Prepare for that extra mental stress and how it impacts your ability to concentrate during the rest of the exam. Don’t short-change yourself.

3)Don’t pause the exam. You won’t be able to press pause on the real GRE, so don’t pause your practice tests. If you get stuck on a question, use it as an opportunity to practice making an educated guess or marking it to come back to later. That’s how you hone your time management skills, a crucial part of scoring your best on test day.

4)Honor the breaks. Hydrate and eat during the breaks. Use the bathroom within the allotted break time.

5)Go to an external location, like a local library, to take your practice tests. Our own homes are usually too comfortable and too distracting to simulate a real test-day experience. A library, by contrast, has a little bit of ambient background noise like you’ll have at the test center, but it’s still quiet enough to focus and get in a good zone.

6)Decompress afterwards. Don’t immediately dive into more practice. It’s a mentally-draining exercise to take a full-length practice test, so take the rest of the day off. But then the next day, spend some time reviewing your results and going through all of the questions you got wrong. Use it as a learning opportunity. Reach out to a coach, like myself, for help with any questions you’re unsure of. Then dive back in to your studying!

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