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Sitting for GRE? This is my advice :)

Andean Pat

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Dear future applicants and current GRE candidates,


I was thinking how terrible the world looked like when I was preparing for GRE and now that my application process is over and I am starting a graduate program in the fall, I wanted to give you my humble advice, the same way another student gave it to me. 


GRE is not the end of the world. Believe me, it is not. However, you should behave as it is because although it is not (in my opinion) the decisive factor in your application, it is used to compare you to other students and, as many people in this forum have explained to me, it helps to cut off a pool of candidates. So do take it seriously.


You will probably need to sit for it twice. Many people don't, but the majority does. I know many bright people who had to do it twice, including myself hahaha :P . No, seriously, bearing in mind that you have another chance is a good option. It helps you plan ahead (so that you have your results on time) and it helps you learn from your mistakes. So, just in case, plan to sit for it early enough just in case you need a second time, and save the money for that. If you do well on the first sitting, excellent!!! then you can spend that money on something more interesting ;)


Address the AWA section. Now, this is from my own experience so forgive me if it is not general enough. Apparently, students tend to devote more time to Q and V because it is what most POIs look at. I have learned from an excellent teacher that AWA is as important. If you address AWA properly, you will be addressing V as well. All sections are aimed at testing your ability to analyse, reason, present an argument, etc. I was trained in the AWA section so effectively that my V score was higher than I expected. If you can write it, you can read it. NOTE: She was American (I am international) and so maybe this is something current in the US, it was not here, that's why I point it out. :)


Make a plan and study with someone. I did exercises everyday. I bought the books (the official guide, a kaplan activity book and another one full of exams) and I read a lot from the official guide, went to private lessons and got together at least once a week to study with other students. In fact, they were preparing GMAT, but getting together implied that I was going to spend 4 hours studying. 


It costs money. do not pretend to sit for it without expending a penny. This is a business. Now, maybe you can buy used books or have a private tutor for no money, that's great. However, if you get used to the idea that you need X amount of money, the same way you plan you applications, then it won't hurt that much when you pay for it. Now, if you can save some of that money, great!!! :)


Celebrate. Sit for the exam and then go out!!! :D You made a lot of effort so you deserve to relax!!!


This is my experience: I began a course on June 2012. The maths section was OK but the V was a complete disaster and I did terrible in the AWA, I sat for it in early September. I went to another institute where the approach was completely different, more professional (and expensive) and sat the second time in late Novemember. 


In conclusion, you can't fight it, you need and you need to do your best. Go for it!!!! :D :D :D


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I agree with almost all of those points except for doing it twice .For me once was more than enough ;) If you prepare with the mentality that this is your only Chance you Will be diligent and more productive At the Same time when taking the exam try to act as if it is another practice test . ( easier said them done I Know :) ) and if you feel that you can do better and Can Spare the money, time & Effort then go for it. Moreover, This test cannot be crammed for .

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would definitely suggest preparing as if you could only take it once. I told myself that and ended up with 99th V and 78th Q (78 was an amazing score for me, much better than I did on my SATs). If you go into it with the idea that you will need to take it twice, the first may become, psychologically, a practice exam.

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I think your mentality should depend on how you respond to exams. For someone with test anxiety, I agree that thinking of the exam as a practice run or knowing that you have a second chance is the way to go. Thinking that you've only got one shot at an exam really doesn't help when you're in the middle of taking it. On the other hand, I do think it's important to study as if you're only taking the exam once. Personally, I never wanted to see another GRE study book again after walking out of that testing center  :)

Edited by dat_nerd
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Good comments!


In my case, it was the first time I sat for a 4-hour exam in front of the computer. However, the only difference between my first and second time was not the V or Q (just a couple of points) but the AWA for the reasons I've mentioned. It is probable I needn't sit for a second time if I had known what I needed to do in this section. 


Besides, also in my case, I tend to be very self-demanding and knowing that I had another chance when my results came in (78Q, 82V and 30AWA, for those of you that asked) although my advisors did not seem to care (they only told me: give a good impression, do not present a low percentage). My scores were better, I do not remember Q and V, but my AWA was 5 score (what percentage is that?). Now, I stressed the second-chance factor because I know people who sat for GMAT too close to application deadlines and therefore could not apply when they got in poor results (in this case, they were applying to Ivy league schools that would not have even looked at their scores, or so they've told me!).


On another topic--- Books I've used: Official GRE guide, Kaplan and the third one I didn't remember when I wrote the post: Barron's practice test. Barron's has difficult tests so when I scored 60% it was a high score!!! :D

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