I fully admit that this blog is based on my own experience.
I took the GRE a few years ago and I had a plan for how I would prep for both the Verbal and the Quantitative sections. But I figured that I didn't need to practice for the Analytical Writing section because I wrote all the time - at my job and as a hobby - so why would I need to practice writing? It was in the bag!
BIG mistake. I did well on the Verbal and Quant sections, but I bombed the Writing section.
Well, I didn't totally bomb it, but I certainly didn't get the score that I needed. The essay writing sections on the SAT, ACT, and GRE test your ability to think quickly and to produce clear and concise commentary in a very compressed amount of time. And these skills only come with practice!
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Simulate test day circumstances
The SAT essay section is 25 minutes long, the ACT essay section is 30 minutes long, and the GRE writing section has two 30-minute essays. So you need to practice writing essays in that amount of time and, in the case of the SAT and ACT, you need to practice writing them by HAND! Most people don't write much these days, so you want to flex those finger muscles during practice to avoid any hand cramps on test day.
Practice outlining essays
Planning, outlining, and writing an entire essay in under half an hour is hard to do. The key is organizing your thoughts quickly, because once you have a game plan, all you have to do is just execute it. So practice outlining essays. Take the list of essay questions from past years and go through as many as you can - sketch out quickly your main argument, your supporting paragraphs, and your closing statements.
But also practice writing full essays
Don't forget to also practice writing out some full-lenth essays in the allotted time. The only way to learn how to write under time pressure is to do it often. I strongly recommend that you practice writing out a full-length essay at least once a week during your test prep to get you into the groove and rhythm of churning out essays quickly.
Save time to proofread
No one can write a perfect first draft, especially when under time pressure. So you need to make sure to leave a few minutes at the end to proofread - correct misspellings, fix grammatical mistakes, clean up your handwriting, clarify your wording, etc. These little things can make a big difference!
So back to my story. I ended up having to retake the GRE just so I could bring up my writing score. That was a huge bummer, but a good lesson learned.
So learn from my mistake. No matter how comfortable you are with your writing skills, you need to practice if you want a top-notch score on the SAT, ACT, or GRE essay writing sections!
Have a great weekend!