By Gianina, IvyWise Master Tutor
Just as in undergraduate admissions, the graduate admissions process often requires standardized testing as part of the application process. Whether you are a current college student considering your postgraduate options, or a professional looking to advance in your current field or make a career change, studying for the GRE is an important way to prepare your strongest application to graduate school.
Pursuing a graduate degree is a worthy endeavor that will broaden your academic and professional horizons. It is worth keeping in mind that the GRE is only a single facet of a holistic application process and that your score will not define your ability to succeed as a graduate student! While your GPA, honors, and extracurriculars can really speak to your strength as an applicant to the graduate program of your choice, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is used by admissions committees as another measure of your academic aptitude. While graduate programs have different application criteria and not all of them require the GRE, a vast majority of programs do require a GRE score. Over the past few years, even some highly ranked law schools have started accepting the GRE instead of the traditional LSAT.
Preparing for the four-hour, computer-based format can be a daunting prospect for many prospective graduate students, especially if the GRE is the first standardized test they have taken in several years. When preparing for the GRE it’s important to take the necessary steps in order to become familiar with the test and find ways to improve your score. Here’s how to prepare for the GRE.
Start With a Practice Test
Before developing your study plan, take an initial practice GRE to establish a baseline and research the minimum and/or average GRE scores of the institutions to which you are applying. Amassing some reliable test preparation materials is also important – PowerPrep, Kaplan, and Magoosh all publish excellent GRE preparation materials that mimic the format and tone of the test. At IvyWise we work with students to help them achieve their best possible score on the GRE, including guiding them through the practice test process.
Identify Areas of Growth
After taking your first sample practice test, review your answers. Can you identify any areas of growth? If your quantitative skills are not where they used to be (what even is a PEMDAS?) or if you are struggling with antediluvian (solid GRE word) vocabulary, make a note. For example, if you notice that your grasp of triangle geometry is not as strong as it was when you were in your freshman year of high school and that the concept appeared in multiple questions, set that topic as your learning goal for a couple of hours of study. It can be tempting to practice everything all at once, especially if one section is giving you more trouble than the others, but having a more focused approach will make it easier for you to create a list of your challenges, set more manageable study goals, and track your own progress.
Learn the Question Types
As you start to do more practice GRE problems, you will begin to recognize the different question types as soon as you see them. The sooner you are able to identify question types, the easier it will be to know exactly how to answer. In the Verbal section, Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions are fill-in-the-blank questions that heavily rely on your knowledge of vocabulary – “pre-phrasing”, or anticipating an answer by thinking of a synonym, is an invaluable strategy for tackling these. On the other hand, Reading Comprehension questions come in multiple choice, multiple answers, or sentence selection varieties. These questions may require you to evaluate, strengthen, or weaken an argument, and necessitate close textual reading. Understanding the various question types in the Quantitative section, as well as familiarizing yourself with the rubric used to score Analytical Writing essays, will allow you to demystify how the GRE is testing you.
Watch the Clock
Timing on the GRE is everything. The GRE Quantitative sections have 20 questions in 25 minutes, the Verbal sections have 20 questions in 30 minutes, and the Analytical Writing section has 2 essays in 60 minutes. It is important to keep track of where you are in a section at all times. As all questions within a section are weighed equally, your goal should be to efficiently and accurately answer as many questions as possible. One way to get used to the breakneck pacing of the GRE is to complete timed practice sections. Making a mental note of how many questions you are able to complete in the allotted time can help you set goals to improve your pacing.
Having a study plan with a minimum number of hours per week and sticking to it is essential for success on the GRE. Like any other standardized test, the more time you spend familiarizing yourself with the format of the test, the more likely it is you will improve. Don’t rush into this exam! Setting aside time to prepare for the test and employing strategies to do your best can only help your application – and your peace of mind.
At IvyWise we can help you make the most of your GRE prep by creating a customized test prep plan and guiding you through all areas of improvement. For more information on IvyWise’s test prep services for the GRE and other exams, contact us today.