Practice tests are one of the most important tools to use for GRE prep, but, unfortunately, many of the practice GREs available online aren’t high quality. When you study with a low-quality GRE practice test, you can actually end up lowering your GRE skills by studying topics you don’t need to be and neglecting the actual skills you should be studying.
#1: High-Quality Questions
Above all, your free GRE test needs to have practice questions that are as close as possible to what you’ll see on the actual GRE. That means they are worded similarly, test the same concepts, have the same difficulty level, etc.
It’s not easy to consistently create high-quality practice GRE problems, and many free practice GREs have questions that aren’t all that close to what you’ll see on test day. If you use them for practice, it could cause you to study the wrong things for the GRE.
This is why official practice tests are the best free GRE practice tests to use. They’re made by the same people who make the actual GRE, so you can be sure the questions are high quality.
#2: Similar Format to the Real GRE
One common feature in many low-quality GRE practice tests is that they’re not actually tests, but rather short quizzes with 10 or twenty questions. GRE quizzes can definitely be a helpful study tool, but they don’t replace full-length GRE practice tests.
The GRE is a 3.5 hour, fast-paced exam, and you want to know exactly how a test of that length and intensity affects you well before you sit down to take the real test. Your practice GRE tests should have the same format as the real GRE. This means the same number of questions, same number of sections, same timing rules, etc.
The first section of the GRE will always be Analytical Writing, where you’ll have two 30-minute blocks to write two essays: “Analyze an Issue” and “Analyze an Argument.” The next five sections can occur in any order. They’ll include two sections of Verbal Reasoning, two sections of Quantitative Reasoning, and one section that won’t count toward your scores (you won’t know which section this is, so try your best on all the GRE questions).
For each Verbal Reasoning section, you will have 30 minutes to answer 20 multiple-choice questions. For each Quantitative Reasoning section, you will have 35 minutes to answer 20 multiple-choice and write-in questions. Your practice GRE tests should match this format as closely as possible.
#3: Strong Answer Explanations
It’s not enough to have great GRE practice questions; those questions also need to be accompanied by in-depth answer explanations. If the answer explanations are brief or non-existent, that can make it difficult for you to understand what you’re doing wrong and learn from your mistakes.
The best answer explanations will clearly explain how to get the correct answer while also going over common mistakes students can make that lead them to an incorrect answer.
#4: Easy to Use
Finally, GRE practice tests should be easy to use. If a practice test has a clunky interface or requires a lot of steps before you can access the test, that increases your frustration and takes time away from actual GRE practice. The GRE exam is already nearly four hours long; you don’t need to spend extra time struggling with a poorly-designed practice GRE.