How much can I expect a GRE prep course to impove my score?

Took the GRE after 10 years out of school, with very limited preparation. I scored a 640 verbal and 710 math.

I am looking at a masters in philosophy of religion, so verbal is the most important score for me. I would really like to get it up around 700 to really compete for scholarships.

Is it reasonable to expect a testmasters course (or some similar suggested course) to be able to do that?

Thanks for any help you can give.

Bear in mind that the computer-based GRE is an adaptive test, meaning that subsequent questions will become more or less difficult depending upon how you perform on previous ones. This is the single major failing of the preparatory tests, none of which (as far as I know) is actually able to simulate this process. I managed to score a 720 on the verbal, and I can distinctly recall making two silly mistakes on reading comp questions, but I would typically score 740-780 on the practice tests (I used the PowerPrep software and the Kaplan tests).

I don’t think a course would be of much use to you, given the strength of your scores. ETS points out that more people score perfectly (800) on the quantitative section than score over 660 on the verbal, so you did pretty well for yourself given the long hiatus. I would however recommend that you avoid using paper-based tests to prepare: I personally found the computer test is really a different animal altogether.

I would say do self prep first. That really isn’t a bad score since you didn’t really prep for it. Get some good books and tests (Cracking the GRE, Word Smart for GRE, Official Guide (practice questions) and Powerprep practice tests (free from

Go through those materials, and then see how you’re doing.