GRE tutoring: your most effective study strategy

GRE tutoring is the best way to improve your test score. I'm a Stanford University graduate student who scored in the 99.7th percentile on my verbal GRE a couple of years ago. The key to success is getting the right help, knowing the test, and planning ahead.

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Top tips for studying

Many organizations offer classes, too, and you may choose self-study as well. My advice for best results is to combine the study strategies most effective for you over a long period of time--six months or more. If you do well with one-on-one support, go for it! Then follow up with a class or peer study group.

What it's like to take the GRE

If you've been out of school for a while, you'll be surprised to find how different today's GRE is from yesterday's SAT. For one thing, most people now take the GRE on a computer in a testing center. The program calibrates itself based on your answers--if you get it right, you get a harder question next time. If not, the question will be easier. (Yes, this can be stress-inducing.)

There are three components to the test: verbal, quantitative, and writing. I strongly recommend taking the Education Testing Service's free diagnostic tests (they come with the exam) to see where you stand and what you need to improve. However, don't stop there. Any bookstore can provide a wide variety of test-specific study guides. Buy a couple of good ones (The Petersons Guide is a classic) and take those diagnostic tests, too. Work with your tutor and periodically take additional tests to track your progress.

Will GRE tutoring help my score?

In short: YES, if you do your part. A tutor can act as a coach, providing inspiration, motivation, and expertise. But you'll have to do the studying in addition to your sessions.

Find a tutor with experience in test preparation and high standardized exam scores. (If he or she won't reveal test scores, move on--there are plenty of tutors out there who have done well on these measures.) If you know, for example, that you're likely to do well in math but not in verbal, choose a tutor who knows the verbal test inside and out. You'll likely do fine on math with good self-study.

What to ask your prospective tutor

A few questions to ask a prospective tutor:

1. What experience have you had helping students raise test scores?

2. What did you get on the GRE? (Make sure the tutor performed well in your weakestarea.)

3. How do you measure test performance for your students?

4. What, in your experience, is the most effective strategy for raising GRE scores?

The truth is, you can raise your score if you're willing to work at it. Our minds absorb information over time, so don't cram in two weeks and expect a miracle. Work slowly and methodically, get the best materials, and find people who help and support you. The rest will happen!

Here's to your GRE tutoring success!

Useful links to related subjects

Here's my page on math anxiety.

The pro's and con's of working with a tutor online

How to get help from tutoring centers.

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