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Should I take a diagnostic test before preparing for the GRE?

Yes. An assessment of your current skills is integral to the process of developing a study plan that is unique to your individual abilities. Research shows that students who are successful in their educational endeavors have an explicit awareness of their ability to “think about, talk about, and write about their own thinking abilities” (called metacognition). A rich understanding of critical thinking skills begins with a self-assessment as you begin to develop a cognitive working relationship with the subjects on the GRE®revised General Test. Before you plunge into this learning relationship, you must organize a plan of action starting with a diagnostic test to help you:

    • identify pre-existing knowledge in each subject area
    • establish your base-line starting point
    • grasp a comprehensive “big picture” of the GRE®revised General Test subject matter
    • develop short and long-term study goals
    • establish an ongoing review procedure to monitor your progress
    • start self-regulating (this strengthens positive attitudes, thoughts and beliefs about the GRE®revised General Test)

Approach your GRE®revised General Test preparation with an attitude of organized curiosity, both about the test and about your current knowledge of the exam areas. Your current knowledge is based upon knowledge acquired throughout your educational history. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t remember concepts or topics from high school or college. Try to remember that you did your best based upon the many variables that life throws at you. And remember that it is never too late to learn to think critically and self-regulate your learning experience. The skills and strategies you are learning today can help you throughout your academic lifetime.

Once you have completed a diagnostic test, you can organize GRE®revised General Test subjects into sub-categories, and identify areas that require an in-depth, moderate or minor review. For example, topic areas in the quantitative reasoning section of the GRE include these categories: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis, word problems and data interpretation. To check your progress, you can develop a checklist for each sub-category similar to the one below. The page numbers reference Cliffs Notes GRE®revised General Test Study Guide where an arithmetic diagnostic test starts on page 211. A complete diagnostic test is included in Chapter 1 starting on page 18. Note: If you are reviewing with another study guide, make sure that the book includes illustrated examples and explanations.

Continue to monitor your progress, and refer back to the checklist as often as necessary. In this quantitative example, remember that studying arithmetic is a preliminary stage of your review, and that repeated review and practice is a normal step to build interconnected associations to advanced math concepts of algebra and geometry. After you review each mathematic topic, reinforce what you have learned by taking practice tests.

For more information about preparing for the GRE®revised General Test, get a copy of Cliffs Notes GRE. The book has one diagnostic test and four full-length practice tests and is available at amazon.com (ISBN #978-1118057605) for about $20. It is also helpful to complete the practice problems in the Official Guide to the GRE (ISBN #978-0071791236). Look for the new edition to be published in August 2012.

~ BTPS Testing Team
“Reach Your Potential”

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