Everyone knows that studying is necessary for a good test score. But there are plenty of other tips and tricks to boost your score into the next range. Make yourself more competitive at your dream school by following some of our favorite test prep strategies in this post!
1. Pick the test that plays to your strengths.
Did you know that some business schools accept the GRE instead of the GMAT? Or that some law schools are considering allowing the GRE instead of the LSAT? (The University of Arizona College of Law has already green-lighted the GRE for its applicants.) If you’re having a difficult time hitting the score ranges you need on traditional standardized tests, look into what other options might exist for you. It could be worth taking the alternative test!
2. Read as much as you can.
Dense, challenging texts are going to be part of any standardized test for graduate school or professional school. The best way to prepare? Incorporate these kinds of texts into your everyday reading material. Try picking up a few copies of The Economist, The New Yorker, or The Wall Street Journal (either in print or online). Don’t just skim, though – discern the author’s argument. Criticize main points. Find loopholes in the author’s conclusion. Identify counterarguments. You’ll find that any reading comprehension or critical reading section of your standardized test will be much easier once you’ve had sufficient exposure to difficult texts.
3. Pay attention to detail.
Standardized tests are full of questions that might appear to be “trick” questions, or traps. But for students who are prepared, these trick questions are easy to spot. Oftentimes, standardized test questions follow a pattern – and this pattern repeats itself across the test’s history. When prepping for a test, make sure you isolate how the test writers phrase difficult questions, and pay attention to any “easy” questions that you miss. One common trap that many students fall into is not reading the question stems carefully enough. A question might ask “All of the following support the author’s statement EXCEPT…” Paying enough attention to know that the question is asking for an exception is crucial to answering correctly!
4. Don’t let any one question sink all your time.
While taking practice tests, note how long it takes on average for you to complete both individual questions and sets of questions. If you find that a question or section is costing you a significant amount of time over that average, circle what’s giving you trouble, move on, and come back only if you have time at the end. We know it can be tough to walk away from a question that you’ve invested a lot of time in, but you might find easier points to pick up throughout the rest of the section. Give yourself enough time to find out!
5. Master the fundamentals.
If you’re just starting out with test prep, it’s important that you lay a strong foundation for your skills. That means if you’re a little rusty on basic formulas, equations, or vocabulary words, review these fundamentals until you’ve got the basics down. Leave the medium-level and tricky “challenge” questions for later, when you’re equipped to tackle them.