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shinaco

General advice for GRE takers

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Hello everyone.

I was recently admitted for a PHD program at a top university in the US. I managed to get 334: 167V/167Q/4.5AWA, which I think is pretty good.

I used this online course from Magoosh, which worked pretty well for me. There are others but I used only this one.

So here is my piece of advice:

1. Don't do it without preparation. It is a pretty difficult exam and if you do it without knowing what to expect, it is going to go pretty badly for you.

2. Do as many exercises as you can, both in quant and verbal. It doesn't mather if you were the "math genius" of your high school or if you consider yourself an expert writer, the exercises in both sections are tricky and you have to be prepared for it. Also, in the math section, you should solve as fast as possible, sometimes you just need an approximation to select among the available options instead of solving fully to get the exact result. You should be able to recognize when this is necessary.

3. Use a list of words from a trustworthy resource to learn new vocabulary words, do not just learn random words. The GRE has several words that it loves to use. Good online gre courses have a set of vocabulary flashcards tailored towards GRE. Learn the true meanings of the words and its use in context, not just the dictionary definition, as sometimes they will use "alternate" meanings of common words you may not know. If your resource is good, it will tell you which of the meanings of a word is most probable to appear at the GRE, so you don't waste time with all the meanings.

4. In the real exam, solve the most difficult questions last. You have limited time and you need to answer as many questions correctly as possible, so it is better to leave difficult ones for the end. You can go back to them later if you have time. My personal strategy (which may not be the right one for you, it is just to give you an idea) was that I left long reading comprehension questions for the end of the verbal section. For math questions, if after one minute I did not feel I was getting near the solution, I went to the next one, and went back to it after solving all the others.

5. For the AWA, try to make a brainstorming list of general points that you are going to write about first, and then write. It is going to help you have your ideas in order and write better. Also, try no take care of not repeating a word too many times, try to use synonyms. The ETS has a service in which you can write some essays and they will be graded by a computer in a couple of minutes. It is not as good as paying a knowledgable human to read your essays and criticize them, but it is a lot cheaper and it will get you an idea of where you are and how you can improve.

6. Do as many practice tests as you can before the actual exam. This will help you with your timing and stamina for the final day. GRE gives you two free tests with its powerprep software, and online courses usually give you practice tests too. I combined these practice tests with the ETS automated essay grading service to have an idea of what the actual exam would look like. In my first test I got 157V/162Q. I took four practice tests in total. In my final result I saw an improvement of 10 points in verbal and 5 in quant, which is quite a lot.

I hope this helps future test takers to get good grades so they can enter the school they want, even tough I'm not sure how important GRE score really is, as there are many other factors.

Edited by shinaco

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2 hours ago, shinaco said:

which I think is pretty good.

It's more than pretty good...it's 97th percentile verbal and 94th for math! :)

Quick question: what percentage of the Magoosh videos do you think you watched? I think there are about 250 total videos in the program. 

It might be helpful to know which ones you thought were most valuable, too - since I think many people who use Magoosh don't make it through all those videos.

 

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My background is more math oriented (My undergraduate studies was Computer Systems Engineering, and my master was in Finance), so I skipped most of the math videos and only watched those of topics that were not fresh in my mind due to not using them in my current professional work (geometry was always my weak point in math, for instance, so I watched all the geometry videos), or that were relevant to an exercise I got wrong.

I watched all the verbal and AWA videos, as those were my weak points when I started preparing for the GRE.

I did all of the Magoosh exercises in both sections several times, and when I was wrong I saw the video explanation that showed me how to get to the correct answer and made sure to fully understand it.

I think the reason I got equal scores in verbal and math at the end was that in my preparation I dedicated a lot more time to verbal than math, so in the end I equalized my mastery of both.

Hope this helps

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Thank you for this. I've heard it's pretty difficult (more or less than the ACT/SAT) and I'm not really good with big tests, so I'm kind of nervous. I'm okay with the writing and the reading and verbal, but not so much math which I feel will be my downfall. I plan on taking it this summer, although I'm not sure yet. Thank you for the tips. I've been using apps to try and prepare myself but I will definitely look at Magoosh now.

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Wow- Those scores are truly amazing. May I ask how long did you study for? hrs, months, etc? I too am planning on taking it at the end of june. I will begin to study for it late April because I'm waiting for my semester to finish as I have a lot going on. Is roughly two months too little time to study. I'm using Magoosh, Kahn Videos for math, Quizlet for GRE word sets, and the Manhattan Prep 5llB book. I'm planning on studying everyday for 3 hours even weekends! :( I am trying to get into a PhD in Clinical Psychology program and I have an OK Undergraduate GPA- 3.5 but my MA is 3.8. Everything else in my application is pretty competitive. I have 3 poster presentation, 1 publication, 3 years of research experience, tons of clinical/volunteer experience, MA thesis, and letters of recommendations from Ivy league professors who are second authors in my research. I feel like a really GOOD GRE score will definitely at least get me an interview. Would you say I have a good chance? 

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Thank you for the tips!
I have just started with my preparation for taking the GRE around beginning/middle June and, as an international, I am also struggling with the Verbal section. 

- How does this ETS TextEvaluator actually work? You said it's cheaper but I couldn't find any information regarding the current price at their website.

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On 28/3/2016 at 3:00 PM, gradstudent93 said:


Thank you for the tips!
I have just started with my preparation for taking the GRE around beginning/middle June and, as an international, I am also struggling with the Verbal section. 

- How does this ETS TextEvaluator actually work? You said it's cheaper but I couldn't find any information regarding the current price at their website.
 

Here is a direct link so you can get more info on it: http://store.ets.org/store/ets/en_US/pd/ThemeID.12805600/productID.316644300

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On 27/3/2016 at 7:09 AM, Emely Moreta said:

Wow- Those scores are truly amazing. May I ask how long did you study for? hrs, months, etc? I too am planning on taking it at the end of june. I will begin to study for it late April because I'm waiting for my semester to finish as I have a lot going on. Is roughly two months too little time to study. I'm using Magoosh, Kahn Videos for math, Quizlet for GRE word sets, and the Manhattan Prep 5llB book. I'm planning on studying everyday for 3 hours even weekends! :( I am trying to get into a PhD in Clinical Psychology program and I have an OK Undergraduate GPA- 3.5 but my MA is 3.8. Everything else in my application is pretty competitive. I have 3 poster presentation, 1 publication, 3 years of research experience, tons of clinical/volunteer experience, MA thesis, and letters of recommendations from Ivy league professors who are second authors in my research. I feel like a really GOOD GRE score will definitely at least get me an interview. Would you say I have a good chance? 

I would say you have a great chance, considering I got accepted without previous research experience (note that the PhD programs I applied for stated research experience is optional, as they include a lot of coursework before dissertation), and my recommenders were from my alma mater which is one of the best universities in Mexico and from professional (not research related) work. You should, however, apply to as many schools as possible to increase your chances.

I prepared for a month and a half and about 3 hours a day, 4 to 6 on weekends. However, I don't like to sound presumptuous, but I must let you know that I am a very quick learner, so I am sure not everybody could do it at my pace. If you take it by the end of june with that schedule, I am sure you will be fine.

Edited by shinaco

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On 23/3/2016 at 4:03 PM, emylauren2794 said:

Thank you for this. I've heard it's pretty difficult (more or less than the ACT/SAT) and I'm not really good with big tests, so I'm kind of nervous. I'm okay with the writing and the reading and verbal, but not so much math which I feel will be my downfall. I plan on taking it this summer, although I'm not sure yet. Thank you for the tips. I've been using apps to try and prepare myself but I will definitely look at Magoosh now.

Well, I thought that Verbal would destroy me at first, but with practice I managed to get the hang of it, so you should be able to learn math. In Magoosh's blog there is a recommended study schedule, you should try to follow it and watch all the math videos. At least for me the explanations were pretty clear.

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13 hours ago, shinaco said:

I would say you have a great chance, considering I got accepted without previous research experience (note that the PhD programs I applied for stated research experience is optional, as they include a lot of coursework before dissertation), and my recommenders were from my alma mater which is one of the best universities in Mexico and from professional (not research related) work. You should, however, apply to as many schools as possible to increase your chances.

I prepared for a month and a half and about 3 hours a day, 4 to 6 on weekends. However, I don't like to sound presumptuous, but I must let you know that I am a very quick learner, so I am sure not everybody could do it at my pace. If you take it by the end of june with that schedule, I am sure you will be fine.

Thanks, Yeah I actually decided to start studying now (no real reason to wait)  and I'll have 3 months of preparation rather than 2. I'm working on mastering the Magoosh verbal words within the next 3 weeks and am gonna focus hard on mastering as many verbal word sets as possible seeing as I had a real problem on verbal last time I took it. For Math I'm gonna watch about 5-8 videos a day and practice practice practice. I think Verbal is honestly easier to study for me since it mainly boils down to memorizing words and learning to use them in sentences how the GRE uses it.

 I have actually compiled a great list of schools that I fit right in with the faculty based on some of their past publications and research interest (like 15 schools). Around August I will email them seeing if they will accept students so hopefully they will be. But I know the GRE will definitely either hold me back or definitely get me into some of my top school choices. But since I already took the GRE once and scored a 4.5 on the Analytical section- I'm not gonna worry too much on writing as most schools usually emphasize verbal and Quant. I'm also prepared to take it once more before applications if I bomb it. This time around I'm going to be super prepared. But thank youu for all your great advice and input!!!! Goodluck and congrats on those amazing scores!

Edited by Emely Moreta

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51 minutes ago, Emely Moreta said:

Thanks, Yeah I actually decided to start studying now (no real reason to wait)  and I'll have 3 months of preparation rather than 2. I'm working on mastering the Magoosh verbal words within the next 3 weeks and am gonna focus hard on mastering as many verbal word sets as possible seeing as I had a real problem on verbal last time I took it. For Math I'm gonna watch about 5-8 videos a day and practice practice practice. I think Verbal is honestly easier to study for me since it mainly boils down to memorizing words and learning to use them in sentences how the GRE uses it.

 I have actually compiled a great list of schools that I fit right in with the faculty based on some of their past publications and research interest (like 15 schools). Around August I will email them seeing if they will accept students so hopefully they will be. But I know the GRE will definitely either hold me back or definitely get me into some of my top school choices. But since I already took the GRE once and scored a 4.5 on the Analytical section- I'm not gonna worry too much on writing as most schools usually emphasize verbal and Quant. I'm also prepared to take it once more before applications if I bomb it. This time around I'm going to be super prepared. But thank youu for all your great advice and input!!!! Goodluck and congrats on those amazing scores!

That sounds like a great plan, except that I am not sure if emailing faculty of the universities you are applying to is a good idea. I did email some faculty members before applying to some schools and none of them replied. Later I learned that most faculty members in my field tend to ignore emails from prospective PhD applicants because they get too many of them. However, in your field that may be different, so ask the professors you have worked with before sending out the emails.

Also, ask your professors if they directly know any faculty members at universities you want to apply to. In my case a professor from my undergraduate school personally knew some people in the school that accepted me and I am sure his recommendation had a lot to do with it.

Good luck and I hope around this time next year you will already have received the great news.

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