How to Study: Reviewing a GRE Practice Test


Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - How to Study: Reviewing a GRE Practice Test by Chelsey Cooley

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You’ve been studying for the GRE for a while now, and you’ve taken at least two GRE practice tests. (If not, start with this article instead!) Last time, we started discussing how to review a GRE practice test at a high level. This time, we’ll go even further: you can learn something from every single question on your GRE practice test. Here’s how.

How Do I See the Questions from My GRE Practice Test?

If you’ve just taken a Manhattan Prep GRE practice test, your results are on the same page you used to launch your test. Here’s how it looks:

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - How to Study: Reviewing a GRE Practice Test by Chelsey Cooley

Click on ‘review results,’ and you’ll see a list of the sections that appeared on your GRE practice test. When you click on an individual section, you’ll be able to see a list of all of the problems you did.

Which Questions Should I Review?

Ideally, all of them.

But some questions are more important than others. The best questions to review are the easiest ones you missed, not the hardest ones. A strong score on the GRE doesn’t come from getting the hardest questions right; it comes from getting as many questions right as possible. Every question in a given section is worth the same amount.

If you put a ton of time into studying the very hardest topics, you might be a little more likely to get those super-hard questions right. But you’d be ignoring the opportunity that’s right in front of you: the questions that you could get right with just a little more work.

Review the questions from topics you’ve already studied. If you haven’t learned your geometry rules yet, you don’t have to review every geometry question on your practice GRE. But if you just studied percents, and then you missed a couple of percents questions, the test is trying to tell you something!

Finally, review every problem that you had to think hard about—not just the ones you missed. If a problem was really easy for you, and you got it right, it’s fine to just glance at it when you review. But if a problem seemed tougher, review it regardless of whether you got it wrong. There’s always a chance that you got it right with a lucky guess, or that you missed a faster or easier strategy.

How Do I Review a Question?

Don’t just read the explanations. Start by clicking on the first problem in the first section. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - How to Study: Reviewing a GRE Practice Test by Chelsey Cooley

(I’ve blurred out the text to avoid spoiling the problem for anyone who hasn’t taken this GRE practice test yet.)

See the ‘show explanation’ button at the bottom left? Don’t click on it yet. Focus on the problem and on your scratch work. Work through the problem again if you’d like. It’s even okay to look up the definitions of words, or double-check your math rules. Your goal here is to figure out the right answer, which might or might not match what you picked originally.

By figuring it out on your own, instead of just reading the explanation, you’re getting something more out of the problem. You’re making your own brain do the heavy lifting. That kind of hard work is much more memorable than passively reading an explanation.

If you can’t figure it out, you can still get something out of the problem! Try to meet the problem halfway. For instance, you can click the ‘show explanation’ button, just to check what the right answer was. But don’t read the explanation! Instead, try to convince yourself that the right answer is right. Look up the definition of the word, or plug the number back into the math problem. If you can prove that a right answer is right, you’re halfway to finding that right answer on your own next time.

If you read the explanation, do it cautiously. Read the first couple of sentences, then stop and think. Can you take the next step on your own? Use the explanation as a hint or as a guide for your own work, not as an all-knowing oracle. When you take the GRE for real, you won’t have answer explanations to help you—so the more work you can do without them, the better.

What Should You Learn from Reviewing a GRE Practice Test?

The last step of reviewing a problem is always to take notes.

Taking notes isn’t about beating yourself up over errors, or about writing down the exact solution to this particular problem. Taking notes has two purposes: one, it forces you to think about the problem in an organized way. Two, it will help you remember what you’ve learned later on.

Here are three things to include in your notes:

One: In general, what did you need to do in order to get this problem right?

That doesn’t mean copying down the exact solution. Instead, you might take some notes on the math rules you were supposed to use, or on what made the wrong answers wrong.  

Two: How would you know to solve the problem in that way?

Every GRE problem includes clues. These clues tell a savvy test-taker exactly how to find the right answer. You just need to learn to spot them.

As you review a problem, think about what should have stood out to you. In a Sentence Equivalence problem, you might take notes on the “evidence” in the sentence. In a Quant problem, you might write a description of when to use a particular math rule.

Three: Do you want to do the problem again?

If a problem was just a bit too hard for you this time, make a note to try it again in a week. If you immediately get it right when you try it again, you’ve learned what you needed to learn! If not, keep it on the redo list. Doing problems over again is a great way to reinforce new things you’ve learned. It’s often even more useful than doing a brand new problem.

Once you’ve finished reviewing, set the GRE practice test and your notes aside for a week or two, and set some new study priorities based on what you’ve learned. But make sure to return to your notes regularly! Review them before your next practice test, and if you don’t repeat any of the same mistakes, you’ll know that you learned as much as you could from this one. ?

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Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

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