What is it that makes some students stand out from the crowd and generally perform better on standardized tests? No doubt, talent is innate, to a certain extent. However, mere hard work and smart thinking will get you a long way. Here, we have compiled a list of things that you should do in order to maximize your chances of a good score on the GRE.

Start early

It’s no use starting your GRE prep in the last minute and complaining that you don’t have enough time to prepare. The advantage of taking the GRE is that you can see it coming from a long way off. After all, the format of the test doesn’t change too often, so you can rely on the existing books and prep material to prepare months or even years in advance.

Understand the basics – don’t cram

Your focus should be on understand the topics, rather than on cramming facts into your head. The key difference between the two is that when you understand something, you come to know how the parts fit to make the whole. Of course, there is a place for brute force memorization, especially in learning vocabulary. However, even there, you can use a more systematic approach by learning word roots, prefixes and suffixes, rather than memorizing individual words in an unrelated manner.

Analyze your strengths and weaknesses periodically

Due to the competitive nature of standardized tests, it is not enough to merely learn the material, or even learn it well. You need to be smart about your efforts, by focusing most on the areas in which you are weak. To do this, you have to periodically analyze your strengths and weaknesses by taking diagnostic tests and using the appropriate practice material.

Ask questions when you get stuck

It can be frustrating to get stuck in places when you are learning new material. You can overcome this frustration by taking advantage of the plethora of resources on the internet. Use message boards and the copious amount of freely available educational content to clarify your questions, and help you with your problem areas.

Stay balanced by eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep

Ensure that you maintain a balanced diet, and get adequate exercise, as well as sleep. The last of these is especially important when you are studying, as sufficient sleep is important for the process of re-wiring of nerve cells which lies behind memory formation. In other words, get enough sleep and you will be able to retain what you learn a lot more effectively.

Study in a group and teach each other

There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that goes “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” This is a good maxim to go by, since explaining concepts to someone is a good way to test if you truly understand them. Form a study group where you teach each other the material for the GRE. Take turns at being teacher and student, and you will see a dramatic improvement, not only in your comprehension of the material, but also in your motivation to learn.

Use mnemonics to remember important information

Remember that song that went “Doe a deer, a female deer; Ray a drop of golden sun..”? There’s a secret message behind that song for every GRE student, and that is: Use mnemonics! A mnemonic is merely a memory aid. It could be an acronym or a song made up of words that you need to remember, or even a limerick. The more creative you get, the more memorable the mnemonic will be.