The Grad School Chronicles, Pt. 1 (Study for the GREs)

Posted on November 25, 2008. Filed under: Everyday Me | Tags: , , , , , , |

The time has officially arrived – I have decided that I am ready for Graduate School. It is a little frustrating – I am fresh out of college and could not have decided even a few months sooner to pursue this great task, but I decided now, and I am jumping in!

I knocked off the GREs that was the first big thing out of the way. I thought my scores came out well – mostly average with above average writing scores. I could have reported that result to the graduate schools myself but, it’s ok.  Anyway, for any of you that are looking to take the exam in the future (near or far) here are some books, tips and website that I found very useful in my preparations:

Book Cover Kaplan is your friend, get used to it. They put out a ton of books, study guides, courses, and so on for every test dreaded by students. They are very helpful! Their handy website is:

Personally I used this book to the left and CD-Rom during a big chunk of my studying. This book had a handy CD that was loaded with a ‘study program’, it basically helped you set up time lines and guidelines for your studying and also had you work through section by section of the questions and material that you needed to learn for the GRE. You were also able to do a GRE practice exam that was timed and allowed you to break down your right and wrong answers at the end of the exam. This was most helpful because the on-line practice version they offered you the opportunity to see how a computerized CAT test was set up so on the day of the exam you were able to anticipate what the screen prompts would look like.

Item CoverThis was another great pick as far as study guides go. This book similar to the Kaplan bookseemed a bit more challenging to me. This seemed to offer more practice problems and exams, full length & partial, but all in a bookformat.  The problems in this bookwere more difficult and really challenged me more, but I used this bookand the other book as partners to really give me a more well-rounded view for studying.

This book had a large vocabulary section and was very helpful for writing out flash cards from. The book also tended to use ‘less popular’ words in the examples which helped reinforce the meanings of new words that I needed to know.

The Kaplan bookreally allowed me to understand the concepts – see exactly where I was going wrong and what I was doing right and how to do better. After going through a section in Kaplan I would work my way over to this Barron’s book and put what I learned from Kaplan to work on the practice setsin this book. Let me tell you, I felt I could ace all of the Kaplanproblems after working through the lessons, but then I would come over to Barron’s for some tough love. It was a really helpful piece in the studying process though because I felt as though Barron’s kept me grounded. It proved that I did not know all of the answers to all of the problems and really exposed me to more examples than I though possible. I don’t know if I would’ve liked the Barron’s bookas a stand-alone though, it would seem more discouraging to me if I had to learn the lessons and complete the examples all out of this book. Both are definitely worth purchasing, and both offer two very different opinions and angles that they work perfectly hand-in-hand.   

    These are the folks that run the exam. Their website is: . Since they run the exam they are a very valuable tool when preparing for the exam. They offer example problems on their website and also help you prepare for the exam by knowing the format and what will be expected of you on test day. It is very important to get familiar with the exam before you show up that day. Know how the scoring works and know the format, this way you are completely confident on exam day with the tasks you will be given.

*FlashCards & Vocabularly:
     Just like the SATs vocab is very important! Make flashcards, both the Kaplan& Barron’s book have handy word lists in the back – cross reference and do up some cards! I made about 200 (which may or may not be overkill) and I was able to study during my commute (I metro and don’t drive don’t worry I’m safe!!), and really just carried various piles of them around with me so I could study whenever the mood struck! It really did help me on exam day, and almost relieved some anxiety when I was given a word that I learned from my card (really put a smile on my face!).  Also, look up the roots to words, if you are a Latin or romance language student this will also come in handy. Just keep in mind some of those words and associations you used when learning Latin and use them to help steer you in the right direction on the GRE. You are not able to skip questions on the GRE, so an educated guess is better than an haphazard one!
   It may also be advisable to sign up for a word-of-the day email. Or just flip through random dictionary pages daily to learn a new word. You really never know what words they will ask and use so the more you are exposed to the better off you will be!

     If you know you are not a disciplined person in general you may want to consider paying a few extra dollars for a GRE course. Personally, I knew that if I made up my mind to study for x amount of hours each week on certain days then I would, but I know some of my close friends say they could never exhibit that kind of discipline and really needed a structured course to get all of the study time required in and to fully go through many of the concepts tested by the GREs. I did ok without a course, and to be honest I don’ t think I would use a course if I were to re-take the GREs. They do offer knowledge of people who have not only taken the GREs but are also hired to teach them – making them really good resources if you feel like you want a personal in-depth ‘study guide’.

Last off: Don’t stress.
     Like they say for all exams – get good rest, eat a good breakfast and do your best! i think repetition of the questions as practice is the best type of studying for this exam. You really need to be comfortable with the concepts to succeed in the GREs, and it is attainable, trust me. It’s good to stress out in moderation but definitely don’t let it affect your performance on test-day, and if it makes you feel better you know immediately upon finishing the exam how you did!

If you are serious about Graduate School, then you should be serious about the GREs. Pick a date to take the exam and sign-up for it ; if you know exactly when you have to be ready then you will have a time-line ready for yourself and will have no excuse when test-day shows up for not being prepared. Study early, and hard and they will be cake!


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