Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I'm not sure whether or not this requires an entirely new thread, but I figured it might help out some people who were in the same boat as me. I apologize for this rant in advance!

 

I only had about 1 and 1/2 months to prepare for the GRE General test, and I wanted to share some tips for anybody who is in a similar boat (strict timeline, not able to rewrite because of finances, etc.) or has simply just slacked away their time (we have all been there!). If you have any other suggestions for General (how you studied, your timeline, etc.), please share!! I'm sure it could help some lonely and frightened soul lurking from behind their computer at three in the morning.

 

I purchased the Kaplan GRE General book (2014) and also took out the Princeton GRE (2014) from the library. In terms of quality - to be honest, both were quite similar (different techniques, but the same points in general). I preferred Princeton Verbal to Kaplan, but I'm sure this was just a matter of taste. In other words - there really is no difference, and it's a question of semantics.

 

I did not study for quantitative, which I scored in the 65th percentile for. (LOL CANNOT HELP YOU THERE)

 

VERBAL:

It is very easy to score a low 80 or high 70 just running on luck alone and guessing - this is the main reason why everyone claims the GRE is an 'easy' test. However, boosting your score into the 90s was the difficult part, at least for me. I actually found it very stressful.

 

I didn't realize this at the beginning of my studying (when the raw panic sets in and you're staring at two massive tomes that you have to get through in a short period of time) but ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS MEMORIZE THE WORDS. This is a bit of a blanket statement, but for me it was incredibly accurate. MEMORIZE MEMORIZE MEMORIZE. Once you have all of the words down (they call them GRE Hit Lists), cross reference in different books and add to them. I completed a total of 6 practice exams and all of the online quizzes for Kaplan, which I found helpful. At the beginning of my studying, my scores were ricocheting all over the place - one day I'd be getting 60s, then next high 90s. The reason for this is that you are guessing. Once your scores start to ironically lower and stabilize (at least in my case) - this means that your vocabulary is starting to improve. By the time that you have memorized all of the words in the books, you'll be scoring easily (minimum) in the 80s.

 

In terms of reading comprehension/critical reasoning, there isn't really much that you can do other than start reading more on the side (as I'm sure most of us English majors already do). I started reading the New York Times almost every day (online, just a couple articles) and started finding myself recognizing certain GRE words that were used in the articles themselves. Make sure to practice online reading - it's different from being able to grab a highlighter or use your finger to read along. Also - make sure to take notes as you read through the longer passages - how you organize them will differentiate between which guide you use to study, but the concept is the same. Notes are a lifesaver, especially when your eyes are burning from four hours of squinting at a screen.

 

To conclude: THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS MEMORIZING. I fully didn't recognize this at the beginning and wasted a couple weeks freaking out over exactly how to approach the questions. Once you have the words down pat, you'll be scoring at least in the 80s. The push into the 90s will be a further hard struggle depending on your initial vocab - write down words you see in daily life, on practice exams, from books that you're reading. But once again - all you need to do is MEMORIZE. I also used WordSmart. Just two hours of memorizing a day should be more than enough to boost your scores in a one month period.

 

ANALYTICAL:

I scored a 6.0 on my analytical, and the main reason for this was practice and passion. Take out a GRE prep book from the library and read through the 'excellent' examples of analytical - watch the way that the authors format their introduction samples and then use that format (with your own language) for each sample essay, no matter what the topic. It will save you the pressure of spazzing during the exam when you can't figure out how to format your introduction.

 

There is a skill to analytical, and that is creativity. Nobody who is grading a GRE essay wants to read through a boring or academic essay, which is counterintuitive to what we learn in school. If you are given the topic "To understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities" (from the ETS website), blabbering on about why Chicago's infrastructure matches its ethnic demographics is not particularly enthralling. You'll get a 4.5 for that, but if you're aiming for a higher score (which you might not be!), you have to separate yourself from the other contenders. Infuse your language with strange/bizarre facts that can color your argument - so for instance, if you are arguing for similarities between a culture and a city, talk about the mythological background of a city such as Rome (Romulus and Remus) and how that fascinating myth of being raised by a wolf reflected the eventual mentality of the Romans. If you look at the essay topic and think 'WOW, I can't wait to write this essay,' most likely you will do well. You just have to trick yourself into being interested in what you're writing.

 

I hope that helped anybody who's panicking right now over their GRE General! Remember to take breaks and to not stress out too much - you break the exam, the exam doesn't break you. If anybody else has suggestions from their own timeline, I'm sure others would love to hear!

 

Also - contrary to what some bloated and obnoxious people say (yes, bloated), the GRE is not an IQ test. If your scores stabilize at 85%, that does not mean that your verbal/analytical IQ is 85%. You can always improve. You can always do better. And I have no doubt that you will!

 

xx

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's some fabulous advice, Queennight!

 

I'm on the fence about retaking the GRE general. As mentioned elsewhere, I did well enough on the verbal -- 89th percentile -- probably well enough to not worry about retaking. But it's the analytical that bothers me. If I'd gotten a 5.5 or even a 5.0, I probably wouldn't worry about retaking it either...but despite thinking, at the time, that I had "nailed it," I only got a 4.5. And since most of the places I'm applying for are top schools, it might just be worth the time, money, and overall hassle. If nothing else, it makes me glad I took the GRE so early so that I can study up on what to amend if I decide to retake. I think your suggestion on the analytical section is very helpful and on point. I admittedly took the "try to cover all angles of the question" approach, and while my writing would have been good, it might have been too long and clinical. Definitely fodder for thought!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wyatt, your verbal score is really good! The problem with analytical that I found was I feel often the marking can be so subjective - the mood of the markers, I'm sure, plays hugely into how well you do.

 

Are you going to write your English Lit Subject Test too? I haven't started studying for mine but I've heard it's much more brutal than the General.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wyatt, your verbal score is really good! The problem with analytical that I found was I feel often the marking can be so subjective - the mood of the markers, I'm sure, plays hugely into how well you do.

 

Are you going to write your English Lit Subject Test too? I haven't started studying for mine but I've heard it's much more brutal than the General.

 

Thanks! Yes, if it weren't for the 4.5 analytical, I'd probably just let it go. Harvard states that 166 is generally the verbal they look for, but I truly believe they wouldn't nix an otherwise great application for a 162. And yes...the analytical score bugs me. I sincerely thought I nailed it. One problem, however, is that one of the two topics was very political...something about government workers. I suspect I may have focused too much on one side of the issue. Either that, or I just got an ETS employee who was in a bad mood that day...

 

I will indeed be writing the English Lit Subject Test. I downloaded the practise exam, and it doesn't actually look too horrible. One of the nice things is that you don't have to get everything correct to be in the 99th percentile. I think getting around 80% right gets you to that top point. I'm spending the next month and a half going through a reading list I found in an old thread and simply reading as much as I can. Some have suggested more basic familiarization, such as looking at Wiki pages for assorted texts, or finding solid synopses...but since I have the summer off, for the most part, I'm just going to go through and fill in some of my gaps. Doesn't seem like a bad use of time anyhow. Although I've lined up Joyce's Ulysses for tomorrow, and given how much I disliked Portrait of the Artist... I may be singing a different tune in a couple of days.

 

I've customized the list to the essentials, by the way, so feel free to PM me if you'd like me to send you the spreadsheet.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I hope that helped anybody who's panicking right now over their GRE General! Remember to take breaks and to not stress out too much - you break the exam, the exam doesn't break you. If anybody else has suggestions from their own timeline, I'm sure others would love to hear!

 

Also - contrary to what some bloated and obnoxious people say (yes, bloated), the GRE is not an IQ test. If your scores stabilize at 85%, that does not mean that your verbal/analytical IQ is 85%. You can always improve. You can always do better. And I have no doubt that you will!

 

xx

 

Great advice, and I'll add that (in the stress of waiting for and worrying out your scores) the GRE is just one element in a portfolio of materials that you are submitting with your application.

 

And, in my experience, it is one of the least important pieces, too. While I agree that you can always improve, consider whether or not your time (and money) might be better served improving your SOP or WS. These are the stars of your application.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One random thought about retaking the GRE general test: while ETS does have ridiculous charges for the test and everything revolving around it, it's worth pointing out that while a retake is technically another $190, it still includes four extra score submittals...meaning that it's really more like $82, for all intents and purposes. Still a lot of money, and maybe not worthwhile if you did halfway decently on your first GRE attempt...but if you're anything like me, and sent your first four "free" scores to your safety / less-desirable schools, then you can use your next attempt to send your "best" scores to four more schools. Just a subtle little strategy, I suppose, and might not be all that compelling for most...but there it is!

Link to post
Share on other sites

One random thought about retaking the GRE general test: while ETS does have ridiculous charges for the test and everything revolving around it, it's worth pointing out that while a retake is technically another $190, it still includes four extra score submittals...meaning that it's really more like $82, for all intents and purposes. Still a lot of money, and maybe not worthwhile if you did halfway decently on your first GRE attempt...but if you're anything like me, and sent your first four "free" scores to your safety / less-desirable schools, then you can use your next attempt to send your "best" scores to four more schools. Just a subtle little strategy, I suppose, and might not be all that compelling for most...but there it is!

 

Genius. What a great strategy! I must have been so giddy to be finished with the test that I sent my "free" scores to my top schools ... probably because I was so happy to be applying to them. Your method sounds much better.  :) 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I scored a 167 on my verbal section (97%) and a 6 on the AW, and I completely echo what the OP mentioned: MEMORIZE. THE. VOCABULARY for the verbal!!! I used Princeton Review and found them super helpful, and then I also snuck into Barnes and Noble and just sat with the ETS book and used scrap paper in their cafe (with a free coffee from the supermarket next door ;) ) instead of purchasing two books! I gave myself eight weeks over the summer, when I didn't do much else minus working a few shifts at Old Navy!

 

As far as the writing: one of the biggest pitfalls is injecting one's own opinion into the analysis of an argument essay. I took formal logic because I'm a dork and LOVE PROOFS, so I had a general gist of how to structure and dismantle an argument, but if you haven't taken it it's not a bad idea to brush up on logical fallacies and ways to structure a cogent / strong / sound / valid argument (and knowing the formal differences in these four terms). 

 

As far as the subject test: can't really help you - I only scored 600 (67%), so, I mean, not disgustingly bad, but also not stellar. I just went through the ETS prep book and a Princeton Review book, but I really didn't give myself enough time to prepare for that one.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's some fabulous advice, Queennight!

 

I'm on the fence about retaking the GRE general. As mentioned elsewhere, I did well enough on the verbal -- 89th percentile -- probably well enough to not worry about retaking. But it's the analytical that bothers me. If I'd gotten a 5.5 or even a 5.0, I probably wouldn't worry about retaking it either...but despite thinking, at the time, that I had "nailed it," I only got a 4.5. And since most of the places I'm applying for are top schools, it might just be worth the time, money, and overall hassle. If nothing else, it makes me glad I took the GRE so early so that I can study up on what to amend if I decide to retake. I think your suggestion on the analytical section is very helpful and on point. I admittedly took the "try to cover all angles of the question" approach, and while my writing would have been good, it might have been too long and clinical. Definitely fodder for thought!

First off, I'll echo rachelann and queennight in saying that they are absolutely correct on how to do better on the Verbal. Plain and simple, memorize those words. My goal was to break into the 90th percentile and I didn't achieve that the first time, in my estimation, because I was taking a more hollistic approach to studying. Second time, I just took practice tests and memorized vocab and I got into the 90th percentile.

Wyatt - I also got a 4.5 the first time I took the Analytical, mostly because I didn't believe that I needed to study examples of how to write an essay. I'd gotten a 12 out of 12 on the ACT writing the first time I took it, so I figured, why wouldn't I get a 6 on the GRE? Well, I ended up retaking it because I was embarrassed by that 4.5 and I ended up getting a 92nd percentile score on the Analytical the second time I took it just by studying how the section is scored and the example essays. I'd recommend taking it again if you can afford it, because I definitely think a 5.0 or a 5.5 is achievably on your second shot.

As for the creativity advice given by queennight, I can't really speak to that because I don't think I was very creative on my GRE essays. My strategy was to hit all my points in the most logical format possible, but maybe that's why I didn't make it to a 6.0!

Edited by guinevere29
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for that, Guinevere29. I'm definitely leaning toward retaking it toward the end of the summer...perhaps mid-August. Part of me thinks what I have is "good enough," but the larger part of me has always hated the very concept of "good enough," soooo...

 

One other compelling reason to retake it is that I had a bad cold on the day I took the GRE. I would have rescheduled, had it not been for the outrageous "rescheduling" fee. As it happened, literally about ten seconds after clicking "begin test," I had a coughing fit that lasted at least five minutes. I kept expecting an ETS employee to come in and oust me for disrupting the room. The other downside was not being able to bring in any tissues, so...yes. I was a bit addled when I took it, and perhaps a bit more lucidity would allow me to do a bit better than "good enough." It's the least important part of the application, yet it isn't wholly unimportant...and if one is going to be spending several hundred dollars and likely investing hundreds of hours in grad school applications, putting in a bit of extra money and effort might just prove to be worthwhile.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wyatt, I'll definitely PM you ASAP - thanks in advance! I'm glad to know that somebody else will be cramming over the summer with me. And about the entire GRE re-write process - your verbal score is strong as it is, so in my opinion a re-write could only be beneficial (because they'll always see that first score).

 

As for the creativity advice given by queennight, I can't really speak to that because I don't think I was very creative on my GRE essays. My strategy was to hit all my points in the most logical format possible, but maybe that's why I didn't make it to a 6.0!

 

The logical format is definitely the winning method, TBH :P! And let's be real here - the difference between a 5.0 and a 6.0 is much more likely to be whether or not the marker got a coffee in the morning anyways. At that point (get it?!) it's definitely just a facetious difference anyways, and more relevant to the marker's personal taste in writing styles than your own ability to construct a well-crafted essay.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Apropos of nothing, but...I just rescheduled a retake of the GRE general for mid-July. All things aside, ETS's "best scores" option is a good enough reason to give it another shot. Worst case scenario is that I'll still have "good" scores available. But I suspect I can do a bit better...and I figure that "a bit" might be worth "a lot" in the long run...possibly worth more than the $195 of short term pain.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.