Best GRE Practice Tests

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The GRE practice tests are over three hours long. Therefore, I understand how difficult it can be to sit and take one. The struggle is real, but taking practice GRE exams is one of the best decisions you could make in order to prepare for your test. Students who do not tend to be thrown off by the structure of the GRE, and inevitably do not get the score they were hoping for.

What Characteristics Make up the Best GRE Practice Tests?

There are many full-length practice GRE exams available. Almost all mega-test prep companies make practice exams with “GRE like” questions. This means the questions were written by their GRE instructors or content developers. As realistic as these exams are, they will never truly mimic the intricate GRE questions ETS writes.

Therefore, at the end of this article you will find information about the practice tests by ETS (the company that creates and administers the GRE). The exams that made the list are considered the best GRE practice tests because they have most of the following…

  1. The same number of questions and amount of time allotted per section as the actual GRE
  2. Similar structure to the actual GRE: Analytical Writing composed of two essays followed by four to five sections made up of Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning
  3. The exams are section adaptive. This means how well you do on your first Verbal section will determine the difficulty level of your second Verbal section (same for Math).
  4. Provide at least an answer key with the ability to go back and view the exam. Not all tests will have explanations as well.
  5. Reflect the actual GRE questions as much as possible.

The fifth reason is the hardest one to find in exams outside of ETS. Often, companies will word questions differently than ETS, test concepts that do not actually appear on the GRE, or make questions too hard or too easy.

You might be thinking “aren’t difficult questions a good thing?” If the questions are more challenging than what you will see on test day, or difficult for different reasons than the actual GRE, then the answer is no. You will not have an accurate representation of how prepared you are for the exam. The GRE questions are more like puzzles that require strategy over advanced knowledge of concepts. For example, if a question makes you feel you should be studying trigonometry over learning how to be a critical thinker, you will end up wasting precious time.

How to Properly Take Full-Length Practice GREs

Due to the fact taking full-length GREs can significantly determine how well you do on the actual test, you want to make sure you utilize these exams efficiently. I always stress to my students that they should be doing the following…

  1. When taking practice exams, it is important you space them out accordingly. You want your practice exam scores to reflect your progress. Therefore, determine the practice GREs you will take at the beginning of your prep and evenly space them out. I have my students take their last GRE practice test about one week before their actual exam.
  2. When you take a practice GRE, make sure to complete the test in one sitting and only break when the test tells you to. A huge part of doing well on the GRE is being able to keep up the mental endurance needed in order to stay focused for over three hours. You can only build this endurance by forcing yourself to take exams in one sitting.
  3. Try to take the practice test during the same time of day you will take the actual GRE. If you come home from an eight-hour workday, absolutely exhausted and hungry, and then sit for a practice test, odds are your score will not be very accurate.
  4. Review your tests and keep an error log of your missed questions. Rework your missed questions in a notebook and make sure to write out an explanation of why you missed the question. If you try to review your exam the same day you take it, you might succumb to mental fatigue. However, you do not want to wait too long because it will be important to remember how you approached questions. The optimal time is within 24-48 hours of taking the practice test.

Best GRE Practice Tests: Manhattan Prep

Best GRE Practice Tests

Manhattan Prep has a free GRE General Test for students to take. They also offer six-month access to five more exams for $49.00. You will need to create a Manhattan Prep account in order to access the practice exams.

I feel Manhattan Prep’s written questions come closer to the actual GRE than any other company in the industry. The explanation they provide are in-depth and there is a heavy focus on the strategy behind answering the questions.

Includes…

  • Free full-length practice GRE written by Manhattan Prep
  • Replicates structure and timing of actual GRE
  • Section adaptive
  • Personalized Assessment Report
  • Data on difficulty level and timing
  • Detailed explanations for every question

Does Not Included…

  • Although the exam will provide students with the Analytical Writing section, it will not score this part of the practice test
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Best GRE Practice Tests: Kaplan

Best GRE Practice Tests

Kaplan not only offers a free practice GRE exam that will provide you with a score report, they

also give students the option to sign up for an online exam that has been pre-scheduled. I think this was such a creative idea on their end. Even though it is still free, having an exam that is pre-scheduled can be just what you need to follow through with taking it. You will have to create a Kaplan account in order to access the exam.

Some of Kaplan’s questions are a bit harder than what you would find on the GRE. With that said, Kaplan is a wonderful resource because they have so many options for students when it comes to how and when they take a practice test. Also, Kaplan has done an immaculate job at having their practice online exams visually look like the actual GRE.

Includes…

  • Free full-length practice GRE written by Kaplan
  • Replicates structure and timing of actual GRE
  • Score Analysis
  • Answers and Explanations through video instruction

Does Not Include…

  • The test is not section-adaptive like the actual GRE
  • Although the exam will provide students with the Analytical Writing section, it will not score this part of the practice test

If you want an even more realistic situation, Kaplan offers one of their practice GREs in a proctored setting, called The Official Test Day Experience. This will be an opportunity for you to go to a testing center and experience exactly what you will go through on test day.

Includes…

  • Realistic test-taking environment
  • A section-by-section breakdown of your performance
  • Answers and explanations to the questions you missed
  • Analytical Writing section score–however, you have to submit your essay to their graders and it will take 3-7 business days to get a score.
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Best GRE Practice Tests: The Princeton Review

Best GRE Practice Tests

The Princeton Review offers a free practice GRE for students to take once you create an account. Although this is not a full-length practice test (see bullets below) if you enroll in one of The Princeton Review’s test-prep programs, the practice exams will include the Analytical Writing section and a score.

Includes…

  • Practice GRE composed of Math and Verbal sections written by The Princeton Review
  • Section Adaptive
  • Score report for Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections
  • Answer Key

Does Not Include…

  • Analytical Writing section
  • Explanations to questions

Although the free practice test does not come with explanations, the exams that are part of The Princeton Review’s prep programs do. In their explanations, they do a wonderful job showing the math steps required in order to solve Quantitative Reasoning problems. The Princeton Review does not go straight to plugging numbers into formulas; first, they show students what the formulas are. However, unlike Manhattan Prep, The Princeton Review does not necessarily stress test-taking strategies in their explanations.

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Best GRE Practice Tests: ETS

Best GRE Practice Tests

ETS, Educational Testing Service, writes and administers the GRE. They not only have Official GRE Guides for students to study from but also offer four practice GREs. These are full-length online GRE practice tests, referred to as POWERPREPS, that can be purchased through your ETS account. Since ETS created the POWERPREP tests, these exams are as close to the actual GRE as you’re going to get prior to test day.

How to Access the POWERPREPS

Once you create an account, on the left side of your home page you will see a header that reads “Test Preparation.” Under that header will be the option to click “Shop for Test Preparation.” After you click the link, you will be taken to an area where you can purchase the POWERPREP exams and the official ETS study books (although the books are on Amazon as well). The first two exams are the POWERPREP Online Test 1 and POWERPREP Online Test 2. The other two are the POWERPREP PLUS Test 1 and POWERPREP PLUS Test 2.

The main differences between the POWERPREP online tests and the POWERPREP PLUS online tests is that the  POWERPREP Online exams are free and the POWERPREP PLUS exams will each cost $40.00. The extra perk with paying the $40.00 is that you will receive an Analytical Writing score and explanations, which are not provided for the free practice tests.

POWERPREP Online Tests 1 and 2 – Free

Includes…

  • Full-length practice GRE written by ETS
  • Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning score
  • Answer Key

Does Not Include…

  • Analytical Writing score
  • Explanations to correct answers
  • Experimental Section that could appear on your actual GRE

POWERPREP PLUS Tests 1 and 2 – $40/each

Includes…

  • Full-length practice GRE written by ETS
  • Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning score
  • Analytical Writing score
  • Answer key and short explanations

Does Not Include…

  • Experimental Section that could appear on your actual GRE

Once again, I know the struggle is real when it comes to finding the time to take a practice GRE. However, I hope this article provided you with the guidance and motivation needed in order to take this crucial step in mastering the GRE.