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Quantitative_Psychology

GRE Study Suggestions

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Today I begin my journey to take the GRE for the second time. I'll be honest, I didn't study at all last time I took the GRE almost a year and a half ago (not even a practice test; I must be crazy/stupid). Shockingly I was not pleased with my score. Who would have thought?

Anyway I'm ready to take this seriously now. I'm trying to apply for PhD programs in psychology in the Fall of 2017. I've signed up for a GRE test on July 15th. That gives me about 5 months a prep time. I was wondering if anyone had some strong study plans? 

Currently, I have the following prep materials: Magoosh; The Princeton Review 1,007 GRE Practice Questions; Manhattan Prep 5 pound Book of GRE Practice Problems; and the Princeton Review Cracking the GRE.

Magoosh has several study plans available, but none of them quite seemed to click with me (mostly they required me to buy even MORE prep supplies). Has anyone else used an effective study plan (perhaps with a quantitative focus) that is less specific on what materials you should use? 

Also, as a side questions. Does anyone have advice for what they wish they had done when studying?

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I started out with a Magoosh study plan too, but I eventually centered my quant prep on the Magoosh math videos with Mike McGarry as the narrator. His explanations are very concise and direct, and he focuses on the underlying mathematical themes that many concepts share in a way that most other test preps lack. This combo make the lessons remarkably clear and thorough. Additionally, the Magoosh layout, question history, cross references, and responsiveness to student questions are all superb, so I'd say the $149 for the full set of Magoosh lesson videos for 6 months is well worth it. Alternatively, I've heard the GreenLightTestPrep videos and ETS's Khan videos are similar in their approach - both free. Once you've decided on a set of lessons, make a flexible schedule to stay on track with room for 1-3 videos per study session (e.g., Arithmetic & Fractions module first 3 wks of March).

As you watch each lesson, make flash cards/main idea cards for every concept that you don't know or forgot, and review them often. I might have gone overboard with my cards (pic below), but just the process of making them is very effective. For in-lesson questions, pause the video and solve each one - even if you're sure you already know it. At the end of each lesson, find and solve related practice questions from your other prep materials. For every incorrect answer, find exactly why you made that error(s). If you tend to make similar errors in a particular type of problem or calculation, make an index card with a sample question and solution that points out your repeated error. At the end of each module, spend at least a day on review: flip through index cards, work on more realistic and difficult practice questions, watch any lessons a second time for extra review, etc. The Magoosh blog is also helpful for further math review.

You might want to structure a similar session plan for verbal if you prefer a more formal or in-depth study, but I decided to devote less energy on my verbal score so my approach was different. Whenever I was waiting on things, exercising, or couldn't sleep, I would spend 5-20 minutes answering practice questions or reviewing pre-made flashcards on my phone - basically replacing any social media time with verbal prep. I found both the Magoosh Vocab Builder and Vocab Flashcard app to be the most helpful for memorization, and the Manhattan GRE Prep app has the 5-lb book practice questions in a great mobile format.

What I wish I would have done/known when I started:

Even if you only have 30 min some days to spend on GRE stuff, try to devote at least 5 days a week to it. Cut out distractions and treat it like a job.

I found most major test prep's practice questions helpful for different purposes. In general, Manhattan, Princeton, and Kaplan quant questions tend to be easier or equivalent to easy GRE questions, so they're better suited for learning and reviewing specific concepts. Magoosh GRE & GMAT quant questions are generally more challenging and can cause frustration when mastering concepts, but they're amazing prep for actual GRE questions once you have a firm grasp of a module.

Manhattan verbal is similar to Magoosh quant: many challenging, realistic problems with high-quality explanations to solutions (particularly in reading comprehension), especially with respect to how ETS frames and structures verbal questions. Both Magoosh and Manhattan were good with sentence equivalency/completion questions, but Magoosh can be a bit too murky with sentence structure and possible solutions, and Manhattan's vocab can be too esoteric. Both critiques are minor though. Kaplan verbal seems to rely too heavily on definitions and not enough on sentence structure/context, so don't use it for anything other than vocab recall. I haven't had much experience with Princeton verbal.

Good luck!

ETA: for what it's worth, my verbal and quant score were 80th percentile... well, one was 79th but I can never remember which. :P

GRE flashcards(1).png

Edited by OhSoSolipsistic

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4 hours ago, OhSoSolipsistic said:

@OhSoSolipsistic Thank you so much for such a lovely detailed response. I think you have some excellent advice, and I'm going to take all of it. I am thoroughly impressed with your flash card collection, and I have plenty of blank flash cards that would love to be used. Your scores definitely give you room to shed some life advice! Congrats :D

I know you mentioned the Kaplan book. Do you remember which one you were using? I have the same Manhattan Prep and of course the 6 month Magoosh thing. I also have a Princeton Review practice book, but If Kaplan makes some good stuff, I am happy to expand my studying material.

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43 minutes ago, mav160 said:

I know you mentioned the Kaplan book. Do you remember which one you were using? I have the same Manhattan Prep and of course the 6 month Magoosh thing. I also have a Princeton Review practice book, but If Kaplan makes some good stuff, I am happy to expand my studying material.

I had the GRE Premier 2016 book, but I mostly used the online resources. You get access after registering with the 2016 or 2017 book here.

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I used Magoosh as well and thought it was amazing. I got more out of it than just studying from a book. The questions were also harder than the actual exam so the test felt pretty easy. I ended up getting a 170 on quant. and 161 on verbal! The program is well worth the money especially since you have 5 months to use it!

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With all the questions about GRE prep and all the study aid suggestions, one thing seems to get lost in the process is that preparation is about more than running through a bunch of exercises like an automaton and expecting to see improvement. 

In a prior life I used to occasionally do some test prep for one of the companies out there. I had a lot of students who would dutifully run through assignments and then came to me when they were disappointed with their practice test scores. The single biggest piece of advice I can give is to recognize that getting better on the GRE is nothing like hopping on a treadmill and hoping to get in shape. You might see some improvement treating it like a run, but nothing remotely close to your potential.

Your goal with prep is to train your mind for a slightly different kind of thinking. It comes naturally to some people (like those who do puzzles or crosswords), but not most. One trick that seemed to help my students the most was telling to them to identify which questions they got wrong (ask a friend to mark the incorrect ones and a couple of correct ones just to mess with you). Now get rid of the clock and just sit with those marked problems until you're certain which answer is the one and only right answer is. A necessary condition to drastically improving your score is the ability to answer these questions correctly without any time pressure. Until you can zero in on the right answer without having to guess, running through practice tests at full speed is kind of pointless. You end up just practicing all your bad habits. 

This is one of the most learnable tests out there. But one has to want to actually learn. Sadly, college does a terrible job teaching us to learn. Keep up with the reading, do your reading, and regurgitate some nonsense on the final and get an A. At least this was my experience in a lot of college classes. Diligence and learning are not the same thing. 

Good luck!  

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12 hours ago, meggied said:

I used Magoosh as well and thought it was amazing. I got more out of it than just studying from a book. The questions were also harder than the actual exam so the test felt pretty easy. I ended up getting a 170 on quant. and 161 on verbal! The program is well worth the money especially since you have 5 months to use it!

Did you typically use Magoosh practice exams? Or did you mostly do the practice questions when you have a chance? I was a little worried about practicing all the questions and running out of questions for the practice exams. 

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For the verbal section, I found it extremely useful to use the "Painless GRE" app on my android phone. The app teaches you words in batches, keeps track of the ones you get wrong, and forces you to review the words by automatically showing you the words you've already learned again about a week later. You'll see each word about five times before the app considers the word learned. It's super easy to use if you have a daily commute, and taught me many words that I saw on the day of my test. I really can't recommend this app enough - it was all I did to prepare for the verbal section and I did really well on the actual test!

Best of luck to you with studying!!

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9 hours ago, mav160 said:

Did you typically use Magoosh practice exams? Or did you mostly do the practice questions when you have a chance? I was a little worried about practicing all the questions and running out of questions for the practice exams. 

I did both. And yeah you end up seeing some questions twice but if you study over a few months you won't remember the answer to the problem just how to do it. there are a lot of questions and if you make it through all of the problems you should do great on the exam!

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21 hours ago, DiscoTech said:

Your goal with prep is to train your mind for a slightly different kind of thinking.

Just got to think in The Way of the Exam...I remember this from the high school days, nervous out of my mind about the SAT. I've not yet had to take the GRE but should this application season go terribly wrong (applied to 13 schools for creative writing MFA, with 11 still to hear from) I'm going to take the GRE and reapply in the next season to other MFAs and also English/rhetoric MA/PhD programs, I think. So...trying to be prepared.

P.S. - All the advice in this thread is really helpful. Especially all from @OhSoSolipsistic too! Thank you!

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I used a basic prep book from McGraw-Hill (I believe) and it helped for a refresher on the Q concepts I hadn't seen since high school. The verbal review was also pretty good. I wish I could remember the specific title.

For me personally, I was ill-prepared in the sense that I procrastinated A LOT and only had about a month of solid studying, where I took about a few hours out of my day to study and practice. All of the advice already offered here is great. I would second advice about treating it like a job, specifically devoting time in your schedule to sit and concentrate on prep. If you are able to, start off by taking a practice test or answering practice questions to see where you stand before even beginning. That way you can pinpoint what needs work and what only needs minimal practice. Math has always been my weakest subject, and mathematical logic has always been difficult for me to grasp, especially in using it to work through the Q sections on the exam, so I focused the bulk of my review on Q questions and only did basic prep for the verbal and writing. 

I would also add that the free software (Power Prep II) offered through ETS when you register for the exam is excellent. It gives you two full-length practice exams, including writing. I took the first a week or so before my exam after I had already been prepping, noted my scores, then took the second a few days before the actual exam. The practice exams are timed and let you get used to the actual format of the exam on a desktop computer so you know generally what to expect (or to re-aquaint yourself with the format in your case). 

Additionally, I got some great advice from friends suggesting not to study at all the day before the exam (assuming you've spent a significant amount of time in prep before!). Everyone is different, but I felt better the next morning when I was able to walk into the exam feeling mentally refreshed rather than stressed to the point of breakdown from cramming the day before. But again, everyone is different, so whatever you feel comfortable with. 

I did reasonably well on the exam and was pretty satisfied with my scores, but I know I could have done better if I had gotten myself together and started prepping a lot sooner than I actually did. With five months to go, especially as someone who generally knows what to expect, having taken it before, you should be peachy.

Good luck!

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I just tried some free practice tests right now - Magoosh, Preped,  currently Kaplan.

Later on, I'll decide which test would best fit me :)

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