If you are planning to take the GRE subject test, then probably you either have completed or are near to completing your first degree. The tests are designed to measure the level of knowledge you have achieved in a particular field, most of which might have been gained by you in your first degree. However, the assumption that you know everything from your lectures and from what you have already studied and therefore the test shouldn’t be a problem, is a fatal mistake to make. I have taken a GRE subject test twice, scoring in the 85th and 87th percentile rank, respectively. In my opinion, the following are some of the key steps towards achieving good grades in the test:
Start Preparing During First Degree Course
First of all, if you have not graduated yet, pay full attention to each lecture, taking notes of everything mentioned. Quite often you may not be able to completely get what has been said during the lecture and if it happens do one or more of the following: (a) ask the lecturer to explain it again, (b) catch them afterwards to ask about it and (c) consult the textbooks recommended by your school to clarify the point. I would always do the ‘c’ anyway after each lecture to make sure whatever I have written down is correct.
Go Through All Topics Listed in Test Content
Familiarise yourself with the test content and structure, most of which should have been taught as your first degree curriculum. However, if you find a topic which was not taught at your school, then study it yourself. You MUST have studied each topic at least once prior to the GRE exam. There will surely be questions in the test from each topic and if you have not studied it, you won’t know it!
Regularly Check Your Progress Using the Official Test
A full-length GRE practice test for each subject has been provided at the official ETC website. It is good idea to go through it right from the beginning of your prep, so that you know what sort of information to look for during your preparation for the test.
An easy way to check the level of your preparation is to go through the practice test and see how many questions you can answer. The actual GRE exam on the test day is very likely to give you a similar score as you achieved in the practice test.
Strategies During the Test
During the actual test, do not spend too much time on one question if you do not know the answer; just mark it and carry on because there may be easier questions afterwards. Once you have gone through all of the questions, then come back to the left overs.
When marking an unanswered question to come back to it later on, distinctly mark those ones where you know the subject, but are unsure about the correct answer. When it comes to wild guessing (see below), start from these questions first because here the chances of a correct wild guess are higher than the questions where you have no clue what the subject matter is about.
There is no harm in wild guessing. A full mark is awarded for a correct answer, whereas 1/4th of a mark is deducted for a wrong answer. As there are five options to choose from in the multiple-choice answers, even a monkey would score zero for randomly answering all questions!
Very important: Should you know one or more answers cannot be true, make a wild guess from the remaining options. This will increase the chances for your answer to be correct.
Finally, if you change your mind for an answer, make sure you completely erase the first filled oval in the answer sheet. A double-marked answer may not get a credit.
If there is any issue with your question booklet or answer sheet (misprint etc), raise the concern before the officials, however, do not stop and wait for its resolution. Just carry on with the rest of the questions because you will not be given a grace extra time to compensate for the delay caused by any mishap.
To book your test or for further information, please visit the official site.
Good luck with your test and let us know if these tips helped you.
The author himself scored in the 87th percentile rank of GRE B22