GRE Test Taking Tips and Strategies


Contextual clues are words or phrases used in the sentence that help you to identify some significant fact about what the sentence refers to – the setting for the sentence’s action, the nature of the subject that is being written about, or the period of time in which the action takes place. This type of clues helps you to identify the “context” of the sentence within a larger body of information.


Reversal indicators, the second type of clue most commonly found in sentence completion questions, are words or phrases that indicate that one part of the sentence will be reverse of what the other part of the sentence led you to expect.


Expectation intensifiers, the third type of clue, are words or phrases that indicate that the second part of the sentence will follow logically from the first part of the sentence – what you expect is what you will get.. (Expectation intensifiers are the opposite of reversal indicators.) Here are some of the more common expectation intensifiers found in sentence completion questions: therefore; because ; as a result ; consequently ; since; hence.


Stylistic clues are the fourth type of clue found in sentence completion questions. These clues are usually elements of style – punctuation marks, capitalized words, grammatical arrangements – that suggest that a certain type of sentence construction will follow or give you some hint about the sentence’s intended meaning. For instance, the use of the colon can indicate that what follows will be a list, a series of similar things, an illustration of what has just been said, or an explanation of the statement prior to the colon.

Reading comprehension

There are a number of different categories of GRE® reading comprehension questions; however, certain general solution procedures can be applied successfully to most or all of them. Here is one such procedure that many test takers find helpful.

Step 1: Skim the questions quickly.

Skim over the questions at the moderately fast rate. This quick inspection should help you determine which of the questions ask you about information directly stated in the passage, which ones call for the use of inference , which ones ask you to make evaluations, and so forth. Once you have skimmed the questions, you should have some idea of what to look for as you read the passage. Make sure you skim the questions quickly! This is a preliminary step, so you should’t spend too much time on it. You will be rereading the questions more carefully in a later step.

Step 2: Read the passage at your fastest rate.

Read the passage at your fastest rate-without skimming. You shouldn’t worry about full comprehension of the passage at this point. The purpose of this step is to give you an idea of the structure of the passage and to familiarize you with the locations of keys words, facts, and ideas. As you read, try to keep in mind the questions you just skimmed. If you come across material that seems related to a question, remember the line number , then check that question’s wording. Don’t worry if at this point you can’t recall all of the questions or if you can’t find materials relating to all of the questions in the passage. You will see the questions and the passage again during the course of later steps.

Step 3: Reread the questions at your best rate for comprehension, and check the materials you found during your first reading of the passage in Step 2.

The purpose of this step is to enable you to answer the more accessible questions quickly so that you may concentrate on the more taxing questions during the next two steps.

Reread the questions one at a time. This time, as you read, do so at your best rate of reading for comprehension. After you have read a question, think back to the reading of the passage that you did in Step 2. If during that reading you noted materials that were relevant to the given question, find those materials again and reread them to see if they provide the answer. If they do indeed do so, mark the answer in the appropriate place.

If you come to a question for which you did not find any relevant materials when you read the passage, go on to the next question! Don’t read the passage again to find answer material unless you are fairly sure that you know where that material is. If you have no idea where the answer material is located, reading the passage again to find it can cost you valuable time.

Step 4: Reread the passage at your best, most comfortable rate for comprehension.

Your purpose during this reading will be different from that of your first reading in Step 2. This time you will already be aware of the overall structure of the passage, so you can concentrate instead on finding subtler meanings. Also, by this time you should have fewer questions to think about since you have probably already answered several of them during Step 3.

This step will be your final complete reading of the passage. This time read the passage at your most comfortable rate for comprehension, but don’t stop and backtrack at any point. As you read, keep in mind the questions that remain unanswered. Then follow the same process as in Step 2: if you come across material that seems related to a question, remember the line number , then check that question’s wording. Resist the temptation to break off your reading and backtrack. Keep on reading!

Step 5: Reread the questions that are still unanswered and check the materials that you found when you reread the passage in Step 4.

This step calls for a third reading of the questions that you have not answered yet. Follow the same process as in Step 3. After you have read a question, think back to your rereading of the passage in Step 4. If during that rereading you noted materials that were relevant to the given question, find those materials again and check to see if they provide the answer.

Multiple-choice math

Read the question carefully. If your answer matches one of the choices given, your answer is not necessarily correct. If the answer choices are close together , you will need a fairly precise answer. If, however, they are far apart , feel free to work with approximate numbers. You’ll probably come up with an answer that is close enough to pick the right answer.Some of the choices given correspond to answers you would obtain by making simple errors, such as adding instead of substracting or confusing area and perimeter.

Quantitative comparison

Do not waste time performing needless computations in order to eventually compare two specific numbers. Simplify or transform one or both of the given quantities only as much as is necessary to determine which quantity is greater or whether the two quantities are equal. If both columns of a quantitative comparison contain the same variable, like x, try plugging in a few values for the unknown.

Analytical Writing assessment

Make some of your sentences fairly long and complicated in grammatical form, as we’ve done with the sentence you’re reading now. Keep others short, like this one. The changing rhythms of your writing will help keep your reader alert and interested and give your prose a snappy, intelligent tone.

Overall Test Strategies:

  1. Remember that each section of the GRE® has a time limit.
  2. Try to develop a pace that will permit you to finish each section without losing accuracy.
  3. Learn the section directions now. Use the time saved during the test to work on questions. Make sure you thoroughly unders tand the directions. The sample math section will familiarize you with the directions for each type of GRE® math question, but be sure to check ,before you take the actual test, that no changes have been made.
  4. Be especially careful in the first portion of every section. Successful answers to the earliest questions will lead to higher scores.
  5. You can write on the scratch paper provided. Make quick, simple diagrams and figures if they are helpful in solving a problem.
  6. Easy questions usually precede hard ones.
  7. Double check your work and answer before you click on the screen bubble. You cannot skip any question and you cannot go back after you’ve answered a question.
  8. Answer every question, making educated guesses if you have to. Just try to eliminate one or more choices before guessing.
  9. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. You should spend only seconds on the easiest questions, and hesitate to spend more than 1-2 minutes on even the hardest ones.
  10. Practice, practice, practice!
  11. It is a good idea to bring a watch with you to the test so that you can check your pace.
  12. Don’t bring a calculator since you’re not allowed to use one.
  13. Do not become alarmed if you are not sure about some answers or if you do not finish every section. You can still achieve a good score on the GRE® Test without answering every question on the test.
  14. Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and not the question you recall from a practice test.