Monday, January 2, 2012

The dreaded GRE...

I know I have been a complete slacker on posting on my blog ever since I got back from Thailand. This is in part due to the fact that I was attempting (key word) to focus on studying for the GRE and my graduate school search. Sadly, it was more due to the fact that what I have been spending my time on is not very interesting.

Let's be honest--how many people want to read about my days spent researching master's programs, studying vocabulary and math, and completing very tedious (and often dreadful) Econ assignments? Yeah, didn't think so.

But now that most of that is over with, I can share what might be of interest to some of you. It pertains to my experience with Graduate Records Exam (GRE). As some of you know, the test was dramatically changed in August 2011. The scoring system is different, as is much of the material they test you on (for more information click here). I won't go into the particulars, but for those of you thinking about going to graduate school and taking the GRE, here are some tips that I found in my time preparing for and then taking the test:

1. Don't study too much or too little. Remember 2 things to help you strike a balance between overdoing it and being a little too lazy. One- this is JUST a test! Two- This is a test that could change your life.
I studied for a little over 2 months. For me, this was the perfect amount of time to completely relearn algebra, geometry, statistics, etc, and brush up on advanced vocabulary.

2. Study to eliminate weaknesses and build on existing strengths. Math is my weakness. English and writing are my strengths. I spent 85+ percent of my time studying for the quantitative section. I spent zero time studying for the analytical, as I always found that studying how to write well is a waste of time. And I spent all my verbal studying time on vocabulary.

3. Don't underestimate the power of PRACTICE. Seriously this is the best tip I can give you. Take practice tests AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I wish I would have done this more. Practice the things you are studying over and over again. If you don't, you'll just forget them come test time.

4. Accept that the GRE is a standardized test, and as such is supposed to test your knowledge AND your natural abilities. As much as I studied for math, I didn't get close to a perfect score. And this is because I can't make myself brilliant at math in 2 months. I probably can't do it in 6 months. The GRE has too many potential things it could ask you, which is why you must rely on your accumulated knowledge. This, I believe, particularly applies to the Verbal section, since reading comprehension is not something one can study, but something that is built up over time.

5.  Buy or use resources that you won't dread studying from, then set a study schedule and stick to it. I  bought or borrowed numerous books, some of which I hated (and so barely used). Others I loved because they were user friendly.

My hated book(s)/resources: Barron huge GRE book. The math study guide by ETS.
Books/resources I found helpful: Barron's Essential Words for the GRE, Kaplan's free practice tests online, the free practice test by ETS, and any free test I found in borrowed books.
My favorite GRE study book: Cliffnotes Math Review for Standardized Tests

And a few things to keep in mind about testing day
  • The test is long. I mean REALLY long. If you aren't used to sitting in one place for 4 hours straight, you will be in trouble if you don't take enough practice tests in actual testing conditions. I took about 4 practice tests, none of which I completed in test-like conditions. Big mistake. Around section 4 of 6 I reached my tolerance point for reading yet another endless passage. This induced me to guess more, and care less. 
  • Remember the difference between a square and a circle. Some questions require just one response, others allow you to choose more than one. The shape of the button you click on will indicate which type of question you are dealing with. 
  • Pay attention to the clock. During practice tests I had no problem completing the verbal sections with time left over, but on actual testing day I spent more time on each question, and found myself having to guess on the last few per section. So look at the clock!
And that's it. While I won't post my scores on my blog (sorry people), I can report that I did very well on the verbal, did exactly how I expected on the math, and was slightly disappointed with my analytical score. 

All in all, I feel content. We'll see if that changes once I get responses back from my potential graduate programs. Wish me luck! 


readingcare said...

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Webb said...

I wouldn't worry too much about your GRE score... I'm willing to bet you did better than our entire graduate class.

Good luck in grad school!!