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How To: Improve Your GMAT and GRE Scores

Your performance on the GMAT or GRE is an important indication of potential success in a rigorous graduate program. As such, you’ll spend weeks, or even months, preparing for your entrance exam. And despite all that preparation, mistakes are inevitable. The GMAT and GRE take roughly four hours to complete, and no amount of preparation can prevent mistakes from slipping through.

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There are, however, ways to minimize mistakes. Consider the following tips to improve your likelihood of success on test day.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

This is an obvious one. With all the test prep services and practice quizzes available, there’s no reason you should be unpleasantly surprised by the types of questions you face on test day. The amount of time you put into preparation is up to you, but 49% of 2012 GMAT test takers spent at least 51 hours studying and only 23% spent less than 20 hours total on prep work. Perhaps more significantly, the average number of hours spent studying was reflected in higher test scores. In 2012, test takers who scored a 700 or higher spent an average of 96 hours preparing for the GMAT.

Set aside time every day or week to get familiar with the type of questions you’ll be expected to answer on test day. The more familiar you are, the less likely you’ll be to make silly mistakes under comfortable conditions.

Make a List — and Check it Twice

Show your work, especially when it comes to math. Jotting down the problem can help you work it through correctly, and give you a record of steps to backtrack through if the numbers just don’t add up. The easiest way to correct a mistake is to catch it, so work a problem out on paper before committing to an answer. Don’t wait to show your work on test day. Showing your work throughout test prep can reveal issues you have with particular questions, allowing you to resolve them prior to the test.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Rather than speeding through the test or focusing solely on a complete answer sheet, answer as many questions as you can, to the best of your ability. Test questions will vary, as will your preparedness to complete them, but level of difficulty matters little if you stay calm and focus on your strengths.

Develop and practice test-taking strategies to improve the ease with which you make decisions, eliminate bad answers, and pace yourself on test day.

Stay on Track

Finally, keep in mind that the GMAT and GRE require planning, time, and focus. Develop a test prep strategy and schedule to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. It will help you study and address the concerns you need to tackle, ensuring you’re comfortable, relaxed, and ready for your entrance exam.