We have always stressed on the importance of taking GRE practice tests. After all, nothing comes quite as close to the actual exam. Time management, question types, exam structure – all of these can be mastered with the help of these awesome resources.
However, just taking the exam and hoping to progressively get better will not take you anywhere. You need to squeeze every little drop of insight you can get into your own preparation.
You should take a GRE diagnostic test as soon as you start preparing for the exam. It is difficult because you take the exam without any real preparation. But the score on this exam will set your base score which can be used as a jumping board for reaching higher scores. Your sectional scores would give you a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses across sections. Use them to devise a solid study plan.
Once you start your preparation, you should ideally schedule practice tests in your study plan. Take the next practice test half-way through your preparation stage and then schedule one in frequent intervals till one week before the exam. Shoot for atleast 6-8 practice tests.
Also, approach the practice tests with utmost seriousness. You should never take an untimed practice test. Shut off all distractions (mobiles, iPads) and take the exam seriously. Follow the instructions of the exam. You want the practice test as a mock for the real thing.
After the practice test, spend time with the answer explanations. The best students give equal importance to the test and the analysis. The test assesses three things:
i) Your current preparation levels
ii) Your exam taking strategies (time management, different approaches to a question)
iii) Areas which need more attention
Do not just look at the questions which you solved wrongly. Also, look at the correct answers and see whether your approach was the correct one. An incorrect approach can lead to wasted time which could have been better utilized elsewhere.
Practice tests are key towards achieving a good GRE score. Make the most of them!