Jun 21, 2018
Before I took the test...
I was told by my adviser that people from our college tend to do well and that it was no big deal.
I read stories of people merely reading a psychology textbook before taking it and scoring above the 90% percentile.
People generally see this part of the admission general as the least worrying, it seems like everyone does well on this test.
I have a avid interest in psychology and regularly seek out new information that goes beyond my classes.
I studied hard two weeks before the exam, practically every hour of my waking day. I also studied before these two weeks, although not as intensely.

And yet I scored a 630 which is in the 49% percentile and I just don't understand. What did I do wrong?


2+ Year Member
May 27, 2015
How were you studying for the exam? Many people do read an introductory psychology textbook before taking the test, but they may have been using additional strategies to retain the material.
Dec 4, 2014
I bought a study book that was specifically for the Psych GRE and did great; I basically just memorized that book. Didn't use any other study materials. Maybe you were studying the wrong stuff, or too much of the stuff that's less likely to be on the test (so... studied inefficiently)?
May 16, 2018
I think that doing well on the psych GRE goes far beyond just being a good psychology student. I did a BA and an MS in psychology, attained excellent grades during that time, and still felt like I was not prepared in the way that I needed to be in order to do well on the exam.

Yes, the exam is broad-spectrum/general knowledge for many of the questions, but there are plenty of specifics (especially in regard to knowing certain researchers by name and what they have contributed to the field). Additionally, the course of one's studies may not cover all fields. I had no focused exposure to personality or abnormal psychology beyond psych 101, which means my ability to score well on those types of questions was severely hampered.

Doing well isn't about just studying basic psychology. It's about studying for the psychology test. The kinds of questions they ask. The way they ask them. The way they score them. That's why lots of programs don't put much weight into how well people do on the exam. It definitely should not be considered a complete reflection of a person's training in psychology. If you want to take the test again and try for a higher score, I would say that it's certainly possible. But you may find that the programs you apply to either don't want, or don't really care, about how you scored.

In case you do want to try again, here was my exam preparation regimen:

I began studying approximately two months ahead of the test. Like you said, I did read a copy of an introductory psych textbook (Gleitman, 8th ed.) from cover to cover. This meant about 1/2 to 1 chapter per day (depending on length) and only taking one, maybe two break days per week.

I also got the Kaplan psych GRE test prep book. After finishing the textbook, I did one of the prep book's practice tests so that I would know how much further I had to go. I think I got a scaled score of around 80. Then I moved on to getting through one section of the prep book each night. This was beneficial for two key reasons: it reinforced what I had read in the textbook and it stressed some key facts that are known to frequently appear on the exam.

Once done with the prep book sections, I did the 2nd practice exam that it included. As with the first one, not only were the correct answers listed, but there were also in-depth explanations for why one response was correct and, equally important, why the other options were wrong. This allowed me to make note of the questions I missed and make mental cues for myself so that I wouldn't get tricked again. This time I think my score was in the high 80s or low 90s (which makes sense considering the questions were targeted toward the info provided in the prep book).

While all of the reading was going on, I studied large flashcard sets on Quizlet in my spare time that were specifically meant for the psych GRE. There was no need to bother making them myself because there's already tons of sets with hundreds of cards made by other people. Many even included mnemonics or other helpful tricks to improve recall. Once the app was on my phone, it was easy to go through the cards whenever I had an extra moment. I did the normal flashcards and the matching game loads of times, paying particular attention to the names so that I could keep all of the researchers straight.

Lastly, I did the official psych GRE practice test a few days before the exam. This gave me a great idea of where I would score on the actual test and if I had any last weaknesses that I could cram for before the real deal. I calculated my scaled score to be firmly in the 90s percentile-wise. I trusted that score more than the prep book's and, in the end, it was more accurate. I ended up scoring almost exactly the same when I took the actual test.

I hope that helps if you decide to study further and that you feel better about things no matter what direction you take.
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