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Getting the Most Out of Your Test Prep Class

Taking a test prep course may help you get into the university or graduate school of your dreams. However, if you're not taking the necessary steps to ensure that you are retaining everything you've learned, those classes may be a waste of your time and money. Here are some easy tips to follow when you're feeling stressed about the million and one things you're doing plus studying for those oh-so-important exams.

1. Make sure you're not practicing/studying on an empty stomach

Yes, Mom was right! If you're in a prep course with your tutor and you're hungry, nine out of ten times you're oblivious to everything around you that doesn't involve sustenance. It may also help to bring a healthy snack such as almonds or a granola bar with you to help keep you focused and energized during your prep class.

2. If you don't understand something, keep asking for help until you do

It might sound like common sense but your tutors are there to help you. It makes them feel 10 times better when they've explained something to you 102 times and you understand it the 110th time!

3. Practice at Home

Most students only practice with their tutors. Your tutors can only help you achieve so much-the rest is up to you. The best time to study is right after a test prep class for 10-20 minutes and repeat this for the rest of the week and the week preceding. It refreshes your memory on what you have just learned and you're more likely to remember it come test time!

4. Read, Read, Read

If you're not much of a reader (as most of us have fallen victim to the internet, text messaging and smart phones), common phrases such as, "LOL, OMG and WYD" won't be on the verbal section of your SAT, GRE or GMATS. Pick up some easy grammar books from Barnes & Noble to refresh your memory. Books such as, A Writer's Reference and Rhetorical Grammar by Diana Hacker and GRE Vocabulary Builder Flash Card Book by Staff of REA if you're preparing for an after college exam and Barron's SAT Flash Cards by Sharon Weiner Green & Ira K. Wolfwill for high school students. These simple books can help you brush up on your punctuation and sentence structure. Try to read as much as possible. Reading reputable newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post will expand your grammar and vocabulary.

5. Keep A Dictionary Handy

Another great tip is to keep a dictionary within arms length-- or in our day and age-- a dictionary app. While you're reading, if you're not sure of the meaning of a word you can highlight or underline it and then find the meaning as you're reading. It will help you to remember the new word you've just learned. In an article published by the U.S. news staff on their website they state, "During your time in school, be sure to read as much as possible to expand your vocabulary so that you can decipher unfamiliar words, testing experts say. You can assimilate far more diverse vocabulary over four years of college than you could ever hope to by cramming for a few weeks or months prior to the GRE." This can be applied to both college graduates and high school students.

6. Take a Break

Yes, we know that finally getting that perfect score is desirable, so is taking a much needed break. Your brain can only take so much at once. If you're studying non-stop you may not be retaining that information. Especially with big exams such as the SAT, GRE, GMAT and TOEFL taking breaks are essential to your study time. It helps to refresh and re-energize your brain. Though it isn't in exact reference to studying for exams, according to an article on, "Fresh air combined with a change of scene can boost productivity... Like walking around the block... give your mind a break and the exercise will get your blood flowing."

While test prep classes may be a big investment, it is greatly encouraged especially if you're planning on taking the GRE. According to, "No matter how much cramming you might've done in college or how stellar your grades were, thinking critically might not come naturally. The tutoring classes tend to pay off, but are a sizable investment." (This piece of advice can be applied to any student taking an impending exam. Practice makes perfect.)