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GRE Student Post: Know Your Basics + Test-Taking Strategies


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This Thursday, we’re hearing from Mailee, who has some great tips to help you focus your studies. Thanks, Mailee! ūüôā¬†

About me:¬†I was born and raised in the California Bay Area and ended up going to¬†school around there too: University of California, Santa Cruz. I got my BA¬†in Studio Art with a sculpture emphasis and minored in History of Art and Visual Culture. I’m currently applying to PhD programs across the US for¬†Visual Studies. My proposed project centers around the ways in which¬†technology shape our ontology and cultural identities. Other than academia,¬†I’m really into science fiction books and films and love rock climbing‚ÄĒI¬†have been bouldering/lead climbing for 6 about years.

My biggest challenge:¬†I always knew that math was going to be a difficult subject for me.¬†My problem come test day was two-fold: first, I¬†didn’t cultivate good time-management skills. I was so focused on getting¬†the right answer that I was unprepared to make educated guesses, and when I¬†practiced on Magoosh I rarely timed myself (oops). Second, I had thought¬†that the test would be a little more balanced when it came to question¬†types, but I got unlucky and over half of the questions asked were centered¬†around a topic that I was particularly shaky on (absolute values, even for¬†quant comp!), and hardly asked me any questions for topics that I was good at (geometry, statistics).¬†I think that if I went back to take the test now, I would practice much¬†more with general math strategies. It doesn’t matter if I can plot out age¬†matrix problems if I can’t do it in under two minutes, and it especially¬†doesn’t matter if I’m never asked! The GRE is pretty unpredictable when it¬†comes to problem sets, so you’ll be in MUCH better shape if you go in with¬†a strong grasp of basic concepts and ballparking.¬†All in all, I ended up getting scores that fall right in the range of¬†accepted PhD candidates for my proposed field, so I got off lucky…but I¬†think I could do much better knowing what I do now!

Tips for other students:¬†Practice beating that clock. As often as you can, put yourself in a¬†situation that mimics the GRE itself so you can really take a hard look at¬†how well you’re doing on a section. And, frankly, there will likely always¬†be question types that you’re pretty bad at whether it’s on the verbal or¬†the math section, so rather than freaking out about every little thing,¬†work on strengthening your overall test-taking skills.¬†

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

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