10 Test Day Tips

When it comes to getting great scores on the GRE, knowing how to answer the questions is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to know how to optimize the conditions needed to achieve that great score.

So, here are some things to consider for the big day.

1.      Get a good night's sleep before the test. This one is pretty obvious, but getting a good sleep does not mean jumping into bed and hoping for the best. A long, deep sleep the night before your test is far too important to leave to chance. You need to do whatever it takes to maximize the likelihood of a restful sleep. If that means refraining from caffeine all day, performing mental imagery exercises, or sleeping with earplugs and an eye mask, do it. If it means booking a hotel closer to the test center so that you can sleep in peace, do that. On a similar note, do not wake up early on test day for a last-minute cram session. At this point, 2 extra hours of sleep will have a much bigger return on investment (ROI) than 2 hours of cramming.

2.      Eat a good breakfast an hour before the test. Studies show that doing so will sharpen your cognitive skills and give you more stamina. Also, be sure to eat something during your breaks.

3.      Dress in layers. First, you never know what the temperature of the room will be. Second, stress can elevate your own body temperature. Third, your comfort is of utmost importance. So, save your suit and tie for another day.

4.      Arrive early. Very early. The last thing you want to do is begin the day anxious about reaching the test center on time. Give yourself a big buffer to account for any delays such as traffic and vehicle breakdowns.

5.      Scope out the facilities before the test. Remember, the entire testing process can last up to 4 hours, and during this period you’re allowed one 10-minute break. So, you certainly don’t want to spend any of those precious minutes trying to locate the restrooms and water fountains.

6.      Have strategies for stress reduction and time management. Well before test day, you should identify techniques that will help you remain calm and focused during the test. The techniques that work best for you may be different from what works best for other people. So, be sure to find the techniques that work best for you and practice them . . . a lot! The same goes for time management strategies.

7.      Speak up if your conditions are less than perfect. If there’s something that will impede your ability to effectively focus on the test, speak up . . . before the test begins. Is your chair adjusted properly? Is it quiet enough for you? Are there any distractions? If there’s some way to make your test experience better, see if the test-center personnel can help. 

8.      Use the tutorial time wisely. The GRE begins with a tutorial. If you’ve practiced with mock tests, you need not pay attention to the information on the screen. Instead, use this time to calm your nerves, clear your head and remind yourself of the relaxation techniques and time management strategies you will employ during the test.

9.      Pace yourself. Yes, it’s easier said than done. You have a perfectly viable time management strategy; just don’t forget to use it. 

10.  Breathe. . . . deeply. This not only keeps a healthy supply of oxygen flowing to your brain but also helps to reduce your anxiety.  


These simple, common sense tips will help you maximize your performance on test day.

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