Last Updated On: December 1st, 2020
Where to find free GRE practice tests
Practice tests are the most significant feature of any test prep. In order to identify strengths and weaknesses test takers should take a practice test before beginning GRE prep, and throughout test preparation they should be taking practice tests to monitor progress. In fact, one of the most common reasons why GRE test takers don’t get scores they want is because they take too few practice tests, or don’t take the tests seriously. As such, access to practice tests is important for GRE study. Below is a list of resources you can use to take free full-length GRE practice tests.
Tier 1: GRE practice tests by ETS
Since the GRE general test is online, interactive format along with content are going to be important factors in making a good practice test. The ETS practice tests are the best source of practice you can get for the GRE. The reasons are pretty obvious. Since ETS (Educational Testing Service) makes the GRE, ETS’s practice tests are going to be the most accurate representation of what the real thing will look and feel like. At the end of the test you will also be given an analysis of your performance which will help you prioritize your preparation.
Tier 2: CrunchPrep, Manhattan Prep, Kaplan
CrunchPrep tests are about as close as one can get to the actual GRE. In addition, the big benefit to CrunchPrep is that at the end of the test, you will get a more thorough evaluation of your performance than you would with ETS. This analysis includes skill data, accuracy, time management, and weak areas, among others. In addition, your essay responses on the test will be graded. The ManhattanPrep GRE practice tests are on par with CrunchPrep in terms of question quality and test analysis, although this analysis isn’t as thorough as with the CrunchPrep test. Kaplan tests are good if you are looking for a challenge since the questions on this practice test are slightly tougher than those you will see on the actual test questions. This may depress your score predictions, but some prefer this method of test-prep to improve their chances of picking the correct answers.
It’s worth noting that Princeton Review provides a practice test that would land in this tier, but it’s only available for a $5 fee.
Tier 3: McGraw Hill, Peterson’s, 4test.com, Testden
When it comes to difficulty and scoring, McGraw Hill, Peterson’s, 4Tests, and Testden are on par with practice exams from tier 2. The difference is in the evaluation of your performance, which is not as robust as other tests. In fact, of the four tests in this tier, McGraw Hill provides the best explanations.
Tier 4: My GRE Tutor, GRE Guide
My GRE Tutor and GRE Guide have a lot of deficiencies. They’re a little easier than the real GRE and comparable to the GMAT, but do not come with good evaluations. In fact, the My GRE Tutor test is based on the older version of the GRE. As such, if you use them, use them only to practice time management and other strategies. But, remember, compared to the real test, your GRE scores will be somewhat inflated, so you shouldn’t take them too seriously. Not surprisingly, this least useful grouping of tests is also the most numerous grouping: GRE Guide provides you with twenty free tests, while My GRE Tutor provides four.
How to use the tests
You should start by taking one of the ETS practice tests to get a baseline for where you’re at. If you’d like to do a little brush-up on your GRE math and vocab before taking the test that’s fine, but it’s not necessary. Before taking the test, just be sure you’re aware of the structure, timing, and commonly tested topics. Use the test analysis to determine what topics you should focus on during your test prep, and what topics need little to no review. Note that even if you’re familiar with a topic, you may still need to improve your ability to efficiently do questions from that topic.
The number of additional tests you should take depends on a few primary factors: how much time you have to prep, how much prep you need to do, and the amount of study you’re doing per-week whether that be with a study guide, flashcards, FAQ, or practice tests. But, no matter what, the first practice test you take should be the ETS version, and the last practice test you take should be the other one by ETS. In between those tests, you should prioritize the tests in Tier 1. If you can only take one of them, do CrunchPrep, if you can only take two, do CrunchPrep and Manhattan Prep.
Just taking test after test after test is not an efficient way to improve your score. Be sure that you’re actually doing prep in between taking these tests, and using the analysis from those tests to guide what you should be working on. Additionally, the day before or morning of a practice test day, review what you had focused on and what improvement you’re hoping to see on the next practice test. As such, you should be taking a test every week, or every other week. That rate is determined by the amount of prep you’re doing in a week. If you’re doing 10 or more hours of prep in a week, that would qualify for a once per-week test. If you plan on doing less hours of prep per-week, consider taking a test every other week.
Only consider including the tests from Tier 3 and 4 if you’re planning on prepping for 2-3 months and taking a test per-week. In fact, Tiers 1, 2 and 3 provide enough tests for you to take a test per-week for nine weeks. Note that this would be a pretty intense prep schedule, and it’s generally not recommended to take more than ten practice tests, but if your score needs a lot of improvement, and/or your scoring goals are especially high, such a schedule may be necessary.
The Tier 4 tests should likely not be included in your weekly testing schedule. Since these tests are not good representations of the real GRE, they are better used as a feature of your weekly prep. For instance, if you want to take a break from content prep, you can use one of these tests to practice any of the specific techniques you’re planning on using or to practice time management.
Tracking GRE practice test scores
Don’t panic if you’re not seeing significant, immediate improvement. While leaps of five or more points are possible, they are also not common. Expect to see gradual improvement in all areas such as analytical writing and quantitative reasoning: 1-3 points at a time. Additionally, after raising your score a little, don’t be disappointed if that doesn’t go up again on your next practice test. For example, let’s say you brought your Verbal reasoning score from a 155 to a 160, and then on your next test repeated the 160. Improving your score, and then being able to repeat that improvement, is an accomplishment in itself. However, if that score plateaus for two or more tests, you’ll definitely want to diagnose why you’re not seeing additional improvement.
Also, note that the improvement of lower scores comes quicker than at the higher ranges. Specifically speaking, raising your score from a 145 to a 155 is going to be easier than raising your score from a 155 to a 165.
Time to get started!
Make sure you’re familiar with the structure and timing of the test and take one of the two practice tests from ETS. You may discover that your score is high enough that you will not need to take a prep course or even buy a prep manual. Alternatively you’ll get a great sense of what it is you need to work on and get an idea of whether you can self-prep or reach out for instruction.