A Perspective on GRE Score Fluctuation
Practice tests are an indispensable component of GRE prep, and also a source of stress for many of you. “My score went down on Test 4! I’m discouraged!” is something I hear, sadly, way too often. Here are a few ideas I can offer that will help you overcome the emotional hurdle of score fluctuation.
#1: It’s not weird for scores to zig-zag — it’s impossible for them not to.
I know that you instinctively feel your GRE score should go up every time you take a practice test — after all, you’ve been working so hard, right? But that doesn’t actually make any logical sense. If practice scores went up every single time you took a practice test, all anyone would have to do is take the GRE fifty times and we’d all be popping 170s. The gravy train has to stop somewhere, and that’s not odd — it’s mathematical fact.
#2: Your score doesn’t actually drop.
When you get a 155 on one test and a 150 on the next, it’s a convenient linguistic shortcut to say, “My score went down.” But your score didn’t actually go down. That 155 isn’t going anywhere. Nobody’s going to take it away from you. Your top score rests as unassailable proof that you are capable of performing at a certain level. If you don’t meet or exceed that peak on your next test, review the test thoroughly to find out where you went astray, why your performance flagged. Which leads me to…
#3: Your score is a snapshot of your performance at a given moment of a given day, not a measure of your general skill.
When your favorite pitcher or quarterback has a bad game and performs badly, you don’t think, “Huh, I guess that guy sucks now!” You might say he played terribly that game, not that he suddenly became an incompetent player in general. That seems commonsense, right? Yet in the heat of GRE prep, many of you have a tendency to become consumed with illogical thoughts like, “My score went down WHICH MEANS I’M HORRIBLE OH GOD OH GOD AHHHHHHH.”
That makes no sense! If your score on one test is lower than an earlier score, it means you performed at less than your peak, not that you inexplicably lost the ability to perform at all. If you get discouraged by a bad performance and give up, then the GRE hasn’t beaten you — you’ve beaten yourself. Conduct a thorough review and learn from your mistakes instead — that way, in the long run, you’ll leave your low scores behind for good.