How do I prepare for Standardized Tests

Howdy, folks!

For the last few articles in the series, we have covered much ground on various study abroad topics. Let’s now learn a bit more about a core aspect – standardized tests. In this mini-series, we will cover the most common tests and learn how to go about preparing for them. Before that, let’s get started with the basics!

Get An Overview Of The Test

Most standardized tests have three sections – Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The exact test pattern, question types, and difficult level vary from test to test, but the following areas of testing are common.

SectionArea of Testing
Quantitative ReasoningArithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Data Analysis
Verbal Reasoning Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence, Grammar, Verbal Logical Reasoning
Analytical WritingWriting essays that analyzes or critiques an issue or an argument

Comprehensive details of the test can be obtained on the official website of the test i.e. ets.org for the GRE, mba.com for the GMAT, and collegeboard.org for the SAT, etc.

Take a Practice Test

For any standardized test, it is a great idea to take a diagnostic test, before any preparation, to know where you stand. It is best to start with the official practice tests as those are closest to the actual test. Do not get disappointed if you do not score well of the diagnostic! It is just for you to get a feel of the test and understand where your weaknesses lie. Do not forget to review each answer so you align your thought process to the test’s approach. Document all questions, areas, concepts that you struggle with. This is where you must begin your preparation!

Prepare a Study Plan

The above step must have given you some idea of where you need to work the most. Using this knowledge, prepare a study plan. Generally, standardized tests take 3 months to prepare, with a fixed 1.5+2 hrs set aside every day. If you scored poorly on the diagnostic test, you may want to extend it to 4-6 months. First, cover the basic syllabus before moving on to specific areas. Most time should be spent solving test questions, and not memorizing formulae or vocabulary. Prepare a journal of your errors and revise them frequently to ensure you do not repeat earlier mistakes.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It is possible to have a big improvement in your diagnostic score if you practice well. Remember, standardized tests are different than academic exams because they focus on problem-solving and not theory. Thus, it is of utmost importance to keep taking practice tests. Note a few things while practicing – time your tests, revise each and every answer whether you get it right or wrong, and document your mistakes for a later review. Make good use of tools such as flashcards. Also, do not neglect your Analytical Writing section. Only regular writing of analytical tasks will familiarize you to the writing style expected in these tests.

Prepare For The Test Day

The test day is the most important day! Make sure you take care of the following.

  • Be relaxed and follow all provided instructions for the test day.
  • Dress comfortably, carry all documents that are required, and be on time. During the tests, use the ear-plugs provided to help yourself focus.
  • If you are stuck on a question, do not despair – make your most educated guess and move on.
  • Keep steady pace e.g. since the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section has 20 questions to be done in 35 mins, make sure that you do 10 questions in roughly 17 mins. This will ensure that you are neither going too fast nor too slow.
  • In the worst case, if you run out of time, make random guesses at still unanswered questions as unanswered questions may have a huge score penalty.  
  • Use all allowed breaks so you do not build up stress.
  • Also, prepare a list of target universities where you can send your score for free after the test.

Preparing for the GRE, GMAT, or SAT is a fairly involved undertaking,  but the above tips are sure to get you started. And watch this blog for more tips in the coming weeks!


At Beyond Consultant, we help you bring your dreams to life, by guiding in your overseas education journey. For a free consultation, please get in touch with us here.

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