10 Tips For Taking Graduate School Entrance Exams

By Jessi Stickel on May 10, 2016

For those college students who are planning on attending graduate school after they earn their bachelor’s degree, grad school entrance exams are probably on their mind.

However, these entrance exams, such as the GRE, GMAT, MCAT or LSAT, can be super nerve-wracking and stressful for upcoming graduates. The results of these exams can determine whether you go to graduate school and possibly your whole previously planned career.

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To help ease your mind, and maybe increase your test score, here are some helpful tips to take into consideration during and after these types of exams.

1. Start studying early.

Graduate school entrance exams are taken very seriously, so they are not the type of tests that you can get away with cramming a few days before. Start studying a month before the exam; professors claim that studying just 15 minutes everyday can improve your learning and test scores. If you spend the time studying in these small increments everyday, learning and memorizing will be easier and less stressful for when you really bunker down and study the week before the exam.

2. Create a study group.

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Study groups can be very useful, especially with large exams like these. When you have such a wide variety of information to study, it is easy to accidentally leave something out; this is where meeting with other students and going over their material can be helpful. It is also a great way to learn new ways to study; many students have different ways of learning or memorizing things, so you might pick up a neat trick to help you study and retain information for the exam.

3. Take online practice tests.

Most of grad school entrance exams have practice tests you can take online before taking the actual exam. Take advantage of these exams! You can take them as many times as you want, so take them several times to prepare yourself for the real thing. Taking a practice exam at least once a week before the exam can be a great study strategy. You also may want to check to see if you can find practice tests on multiple websites, in order to get a variety of questions.

4. Get lots of sleep and eat well.

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I know teachers and professors have been telling you this for years, but that is because it really is important for test taking. You want your mind and body to be in tip-top shape in order for you to perform your best on the exam. I don’t know about you, but I can get “hangry” when I’m hungry, so you definitely want to make sure you eat a good meal to avoid any distractions during the test.

5. Bring a watch to the exam.

Most of the exams are timed, so you will need to pace yourself to ensure you’ll have enough time to complete the exam. By bringing your own watch to keep the time, you will relieve the stress of waiting for the instructor to write it on the board or having to look up at the clock every two seconds.

6. Complete the easy problems first.

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If you are struggling with a certain problem, just skip it and move to the next; you don’t want to waste time on one question. Once you get through the whole test, you then can go back to the more difficult questions and spend the remainder of the time working through those. This method will utilize your set exam time.

7. Don’t rush yourself.

Usually when tests are timed, many students feel rushed and pressured. Try to ease your mind and relax; rushing through the test is one of the worst things you can do. Just take a deep breath and take time for each question.

8. Read everything.  

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Speaking of not rushing, you NEED to carefully read the whole question and every answer option. Many times when I go through a question I answered incorrectly, it was clear that I did not read the whole question or option. You should read everything on an exam, including the directions. Sometimes if you don’t read the directions, it can cause you to answer the questions incorrectly, so take the time to READ.

9. Bring mints or gum.

Mints and gum are known to help people focus during exams. It also can calm your nerves if you are worried about not doing well on the test. Bring a few mints or chew a piece of gum during the test to ease your nerves and focus your brain on the task at hand.

10. Don’t stress afterwards.

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Once you have completed and turned in the exam, try to not think about it too much afterwards. I know waiting for test results can be the most nerve-wracking thing on the planet, but what’s done is done, so just breathe and hope for the best!

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