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How did you prep for GREs?


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I got a 720V/800Q/6.0, and I didn't pay anyone a dime. Went to university library and picked up every one of their old GRE books, photocopied the exams, did them all ... at least one or two sections (those little 40 min chunks) a day. I didn't prepare the verbal because I read a lot of books and I figured that'd be enough. I think I got lucky because there were a lot of words I didn't know on the test and I guessed. I probably should've prepared it, in hindsight.

I did prep the math a lot (did all the math tests from every book). Here's what I figured out:

a) Ignore all their crap about how to solve the problems, it's just there to make the book thicker. All you want are the questions. You'll find your own best way of solving problems by doing lots of problems.

B) Read the question. Seriously.

c) Don't try tricks. The dumb, straight-forward, brute force approach works best. Imagine yourself to be a student with no guile or creativity. How would you solve this problem? Make tables, list out numbers, etc. If it takes 60 seconds (which is a LONG time), you're totally on target.

Most important:

d) Reflection. Give the problems names (the same problems show up again and again ... once you nail a fast algorithm for solving, it's easy). Once you've done a section of problems, find out why each wrong one was wrong, and think of faster ways you could've done the correct ones. Circle the wrong ones, put them somewhere, and do them again the next day.

Warming up before you take the exam (I got this from a friend for the SATs, and it worked wonders so I do it for every exam):

Find 5 or 10 easy EASY questions that you have solved (maybe that you derived satisfaction from figuring out the trick for). Do them about an hour before the exam, and then just relax. Take an iPod and chill out, ignore the other people who are stressed because they're going to fail. You'll do well, no worries.

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  • 2 weeks later...

sorry to bump, but I just took my first practice gre cold and bombed it. its been like 5 years since I took the sats, and i am pretty terrible with standardized tests. so i got 500q and 560v. I plan self studying with Kaplan and Barrons. Do you think it reasonable for me to increase my score into the upper 600s for both if i have about 2 and 1/2 months to prepare?

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I have no idea about this. I'm one of those crazy people who actually use semicolons casually, but I remember trying to keep myself simple (not stupid, just simple), so I have no idea to what degree my personal style helped or hurt.

I got a 6.0, and really, it was one of the least imaginative essays on the face of the planet. I doubt it would have even gotten a B from my undergrad college. Even if you're nervous about essay writing under a time crunch, or essay writing in general, you can absolutely nail this thing. Three tips--

1) It's going to be graded in about five minutes, probably less. Remember the little things that make your readers' lives easier--indent, indent, indent--and don't make any glaring grammatical errors. Use a straightforward essay structure: introduction with thesis, three body paragraphs, conclusion. Remember to use transitions. Do whatever you can to make your essay slide down smoothly.

2) Address the question. Don't let the time crunch distract you from the purpose. In the same vein, I do suggest outlining, and leaving about three minutes at the end to skim everything.

3) When in doubt, don't. Don't try to impress with complicated sentence structure or fancy-pants vocabulary. If you're not a billion percent sure how to use a word or an example, don't waste your time with it. The goal's to get in and get out. Noojens, you asked about sentence structure--I definitely used semicolons, and I imagine I used prepositional phrases, too . . . the main thing is, though, to make sure you use each grammatical feature correctly.

The assignment is to write a thing in thirty minutes. They're not looking for something awesome, or even great--they're looking for a command of the language and the ability to write out an argument. Just do whatever it is that'll yield you the best result given the time that you have.

And, to Certain_Entropy: it's definitely, definitely possible to increase your score to your target, especially with lots and lots of practice tests and practice problems.

Good luck!

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