Train The Brain, Nail The GMAT [Or GRE]

Listen to the show!What do sports and graduate admissions test have in common? More than you’ve ever imagined.

Have a GMAT or GRE coming up? Listen to our talk with Brett Ethridge, founder and CEO of Dominate the GMAT and Dominate the GRE for invaluable test prep insights and advice – – and a healthy dosage of sports allegories.

00:02:45 – How Brett got involved in test prep. (The honest answer.)

00:05:51 – The online education style at Dominate the GMAT.

00:08:23 – What happens when a student at Dominate the GMAT is just not picking up the info.

00:10:27 – Looking for test prep? Dominate the GMAT’s unique value.

00:14:44 – Comparing the GRE and GMAT.

00:17:20 – GMAT vs. GRE: Which test to pick!

00:28:21 – Brett’s top test prep advice. Prepare to un-teach.

00:33:44 – A surprising tip for raising your GMAT score.

00:39:13 – How much time to do you need to study to increase your score by 50 points?

00:43:18 – “Get dressed up” and other final words of advice.

Click here to listen to the show!*Theme music is courtesy of

Related links:

• Preparing for the GMAT: Video Tips to Live By
• Your 3-Part Game Plan to Dominate the GMAT

Related shows:

• How To Think Like A Dean Of Admissions
• To GRE or Not To GRE? That Is The Question
• The GMAC, the GMAT, and the MBA Degree
• The GMAT, the GRE, and the Guy Who Knows them Well
Chris Ryan of Manhattan GMAT on What MBA Applicants Need to Know

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Watch our webinar and learn Your 3-Part Game Plan to Dominate the GMAT

How To Study For The GRE (Part II)

Register for the webinar "5 Killer GRE Prep Tips" this Thursday, June 11

As you start to improve, it will get harder to improve. But don’t give up!

Click here to read “How To Study For the GRE (Part I)

Think like the test writers

You may have noticed the wording that accompanies many questions: “choose the best answer.” That phrase points to the somewhat subjective nature of the test, and yes, I’m talking primarily about the verbal section. (Don’t worry, number sense doesn’t become subjective on the GRE.)

Many interpret this phrasing as arbitrary and unfair. Often, we find an answer that sort of works and feel cheated that it is not credited as being the correct answer. It is best, though, not to become upset or resigned; rather, try to understand why the test writers consider one answer the best. On the flip side, figure out what made your seemingly logical answer turn out to not be the best according to the test writers’ thinking. There is a certain logic to the way the test writers construct the “best answer,” and conversely a certain logic to the way the wrong answers are written.

Wrapping your head around this notion and thinking like the test writers is one of the most effective strategies to improving on the test. That is not to say that this is the magic bullet. After all, you’ll still have to deal with dense, convoluted questions where wrapping your head around the question is half the battle. But overall, understanding why the right answer is right and the wrong is answer wrong will go a long way toward helping you on test day.

Use official material as much as possible

Writing test answers—both math and verbal ones—is something of an art form. Constructing an answer so that it is sort of right but just wrong enough so that it is not unassailably correct, as well as writing an answer that is unassailably correct, is tough.

Nobody does it better than the test writers themselves (the reason for this is not that the test writers are the Michelangelos of test prep—they use sophisticated statistics to determine answer validity). For this reason, you’ll want to stick to official material as much as possible. In this case, you’ll want to stick with ETS, the creators of the test.

The downside is ETS hasn’t released too much material: it has a few practice tests and about 100 practice questions scattered throughout its few books. That doesn’t mean that you should eschew other sources altogether; there are still decent sources out there. You just have to be careful, since poorly constructed questions will disrupt the logic you’ll have been fine-tuning by studying the official material.

Stay positive

Prepping for the GRE and even taking a practice test is in large part mental. There is quite a bit of stress (and boredom) attending both practices. But instead of just telling you to stay positive—a cliché wrapped in bromide and served on a platitudinous platter—here are a few tips to help make GRE prep interesting, rewarding, and (most importantly!) effective.

1. Getting better is a struggle

As you start to improve, it will get harder to improve. It is important to keep this in mind, since you’ll likely hit a plateau after an initial score increase. Though you might start to wonder if you can improve any more, don’t become dispirited. The better you do, the more difficult the material will become, since the test section is adaptive. To keep things in perspective, it’s also helpful to remember that others are also struggling to improve.

2. You’re not learning Swahili

This is my way of saying that what you’re learning on the GRE is something that is relevant to what you’ll be doing in grad school. (I’m assuming you don’t have any plans to visit the southern half of Africa soon!) Essentially, you’ll be fine-tuning your ability to use logic, sift through dense texts, and, in some cases, work with numbers and number logic.

3. Take a break

Sometimes what you’ve learned takes time to incubate. Take a break from studying for a couple of days to let things sink in. Often, it is during this supposed “downtime” that your brain makes little connections regarding what you’ve recently learned.Join our upcoming webinar: How to Get Accepted to Top B-Schools with Low Stats!

Magoosh This post was written by Chris Lele, resident test prep expert at Magoosh and a leader in GRE prep. For more advice on taking the GRE, check out Magoosh’s GRE blog.

Related Resources:

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips
• To GRE Or Not To GRE? That Is The Question
• Making Friends with the GRE: How To Overcome Test Anxiety and Perform at Your Best 

How To Study For The GRE (Part I)

Tip 1: Maximize your study time!

Sitting down to prep—seems pretty obvious what you are going to do. Open up a GRE prep book and start reading. But what exactly does that mean? Do you go through a book sequentially, a page at a time, so that by the end of the book GRE mastery is yours? Or do you read just those areas in which you don’t feel confident? Or do you do a mixture of both, or something else entirely?

While there is no clear answer to these questions, you may want to keep some points in mind. First off, becoming better at the GRE is about learning techniques and then applying those techniques to questions that are similar to the ones you’ll encounter on the test. Secondly, GRE material is often more like a reference book than a textbook. While you should read the beginning to get a sense of the entire text, you’ll want to skip around and revisit—often many times—areas to which you are new. It is this combination of targeted practice and repetition that will yield the most gains.

Maximize your time

Each GRE session will differ. After all, sometimes you won’t have two hours to devote to studying. Other times, you’ll have an entire afternoon—just you and the GRE. However, even if you have just one hour of interrupted prep time, you should plan to do the following:

Apply what you’ve learned

Some fall prey to the temptation to read technique after technique, without tackling any questions that will actually allow them to apply the technique. This temptation is understandable since reading about a technique gives you false confidence; the writers often apply the technique to the problem so that everything seems deceptively straightforward. You’ll likely think, “I got this!” or “That makes sense!” after reading about a new technique. However, it is only when you try a problem “in the wild” and attempt to apply these techniques that you’ll have a better sense of how well you truly understand them.

At Magoosh, we want to ensure our students are aware of this approach (we have little pop-up windows and the like). Otherwise, many will watch hours of lesson videos (where you learn the techniques and strategies), and only do one or two practice questions.

When prepping from a book, you won’t have any pop-up windows. So always make sure to do questions that relate to whatever strategy you are learning that day, or have been learning in the last few days. For example, if you’ve been reading about the properties of a circle, make sure to do practice problems relating to circles. And don’t try to learn every aspect of a circle without first practicing some of the basics. If you’re reading a book that is six pages of concepts, don’t try to read the entire thing and then answer the questions pertaining to those six pages. Instead, read a few pages at a time and attempt those questions relating to the concepts about which you just read.

Learn from your mistakes… and your successes

Given that you’ll be completing many problems, it is easy to fall into the mindset that more is better. Indeed, many students correlate the number of questions they complete with their score on test day. Many will trawl the web desperately looking for questions, as though they were vampires looking for blood.

However, whether you answer a question incorrectly—or even correctly—you shouldn’t deem the question to be of no further use. Understanding the reason why you answered the question incorrectly is a skill that will help you both to avoid similar mistakes and to think the way the test writers do. This applies even to questions that are correctly answered. Often, you’ll be wavering between two answers and will end up picking one that turns out to be correct. Understanding why you weren’t 100% sure about the question is very helpful to improving. You’ll get a deeper sense of why you were drawn to one of the incorrect answers as well as your thought process for why you ended up going with the correct answer.

The insights you gain from this process can be applied to future questions, and future study sessions. For instance, if you notice after answering a series of reading comprehension questions that you tend to struggle with science passages, then you would know to include more science passages in your upcoming study sessions.


Effectively preparing for the GRE isn’t just a question of sitting down to study. How you prepare will go a long way to determining your score on test day. Make sure to learn just a few new concepts or strategies at a time. Doing related practice questions will help you reinforce these concepts before you move on to something new. Remember also to revisit these concepts a few days after initially learning about them. Finally, don’t forget that the best teacher can oftentimes be your mistakes. Take the time to review your problems and to understand why you missed the question. An awareness of what went wrong will help you avoid similar mistakes in the future.Join our upcoming webinar: How to Get Accepted to Top B-Schools with Low Stats!

Magoosh This post was written by Chris Lele, resident test prep expert at Magoosh and a leader in GRE prep. For more advice on taking the GRE, check out Magoosh’s GRE blog.

Related Resources:

Navigate the MBA Maze
• To GRE Or Not To GRE? That Is The Question
• Making Friends with the GRE: How To Overcome Test Anxiety and Perform at Your Best 

To GRE Or Not To GRE? That Is The Question

Listen to the show!Before your dream of getting accepted to graduate school comes true, you’ll have to face – and conquer – the GRE.

Listen in on our conversation with Dr. Lydia Liu, Managing Senior Research Scientist at the ETS and Tom Ewing, Director of External and Media Relations, for GRE advice, their perspective on the GRE vs GMAT debate, and more.

00:03:22 – An overview of the GRE.

00:05:18 – Don’t stick with your first instinct: The GRE’s changing score feature and how it helps you snag a higher score.

00:09:13 – Paid and free GRE study tools.

00:12:16 – The GRE as a predictor of success in b-school.

00:13:18 – Why MBA applicants should take the GRE and not the GMAT.

00:17:24 – GRE prep strategies.

00:19:57 – Ongoing research studies at ETS.

00:21:09 – The latest news from ETS (and it doesn’t reflect well on US grad students).

00:25:58 – Tips for graduate school applicants.

Listen to the show!

Related links:
Should You Take the GMAT or GRE?
GRE vs. GMAT: Trends
GMAT vs. GRE: Harvard Business School Weighs In

Related Shows:

The GMAC, the GMAT, and the MBA Degree
The GMAT, the GRE, and the Guy Who Knows them Well
GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep
Interview with Chris Ryan of Manhattan GMAT 

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Check Out Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes! Check Out Admissions Straight Talk in Stitcher! View a recording of the webinar now!