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GRE Student Post: My Prep Plan

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Today we’re hearing from Kamile. Kamile attends the University of Missouri St. Louis and is planning to pursue an educational specialist degree in school psychology. She’s got some great, detailed tips for us! 🙂 

My biggest challenges: I was most worried about the writing section of the GRE. I have not had a writing class in awhile, and therefore, I am not up to date on my writing skills. I was also concerned that I would not be able to think of any good topics to write about for the Issue writing task. I ended up getting a 4 which is good enough for the programs I am applying to. The Magoosh team gave me advice on how to prepare for the writing tasks. They told me to brainstorm many ideas for the issue tasks so it would be easier for me to think of ideas on the actual GRE. I did this and I think it helped. I also wrote some practice essays to help me with pacing. I think the best ways to prepare for the essays on the GRE are writing practice essays (in 30 minutes) and brainstorming ideas for the sample topics on the GRE website.

I also found the verbal section of the GRE daunting. When I took some practice tests I did well on the verbal section but I did not feel like I was doing well when I was taking it. There are a lot of big words on the GRE that I had never heard of before, which was intimidating. Also, I think it is hard to read long passages on the GRE and answer questions about them with only 30 minutes for 20 problems. To prepare for the verbal GRE sections I studied Manhattan prep’s GRE flashcards (a really good flashcard set). I had both sets (1000 cards); however, I did not memorize all of them. I did look over them all and probably memorized at least 750 of them (there were actually quite a few I already knew too). When memorizing new words it really helped me to learn them with someone else. If you can find anyone to study new words with and think of mnemonic devices for each new word it will really help the words stick in your head. For example, my friend and I learned the word “craven” by naming an imaginary lion Craven which reminded us of the lion from the Wizard of Oz who was cowardly. Craven means cowardly so this helped us remember it. It helps to study words with someone because this makes thinking of interesting/odd associations more fun, and thus, more memorable. The associations you make with words can be stupid or funny, but as long as they help you remember the words then they are useful.

I also did practice verbal problems from Magoosh so I could get used to the question styles on the GRE. Using process of elimination is the best way to do well on the verbal section of the GRE;  a lot of times you will not know the answer, but you will know what is not the answer (and thus you will know the answer…).

I actually had to prepare the most for the math section of the GRE because it has been 4 years since I have taken high school math (calculus). However, after I watched all of the Magoosh videos and did many practice problems I felt the most comfortable doing the math GRE problems. This is because once you review all the math material for the GRE and can successfully do a lot of the Magoosh problems, then you should be able to do it on the actual GRE. The GRE math sections always cover the same types of algebra, geometry, and statistics problems. Therefore, once you know how to do the GRE problem types, you should be able to do them again and again. So review ALL the math concepts on Magoosh and do a lot of practice problems. Magoosh problems are HARDER than the actual GRE math problems so you will be well prepared. I also used the Magoosh Math E-book to review all the math concepts a couple days before my test day. The math formulas and concepts in the Math E-book are must-know concepts. So, you really should know them or you will not stand a chance on many of the math problems on the GRE.

Helpful tips: 

  • First, take a practice GRE test to discover your weak areas.
  • Watch all the Magoosh videos that you feel you need to review and do many practice problems. Focus on the concepts you have trouble with.
  • Study a lot of new vocabulary words with someone else and think of a unique way to remember each word or you will probably forget it by test day.
  • Take 1-2 more practice tests as your test date draws near so you know how to pace yourself and have an idea of what areas need the most last minute review.
  • Practice writing the essays and brainstorming ideas. Look over the grading criteria.
  • On test day, you will probably get really frustrated near the end of the test (I did), but try to do your best until it’s over. You will probably do better than you think!
  • If you do not do good enough, you can always retake it. Remember, failure comes from giving up. If you keep trying, chances are, you will eventually succeed.

Finally, what you should buy to study for the GRE and do well:

  • Magoosh online prep: $99 (well worth the money)
  • Official Guide to the GRE by ETS: $35 (This is good to have because it was written by the people who create the GRE.)
  • Magoosh Math review E-book: free
  • OPTIONAL: Score it Now online writing practice on ETS website: $13 (I paid for this and found it helpful because it gives general guidelines and tips for improving your essays. If you need help with your essays, this is a pretty cheap way to get a little more guidance. However, your essay will only be graded by the E-rater and not a real person.)

I think that it is worth buying the above mentioned items though because my score improved from 151Q and 155V on my first practice test to 160Q and 159V. Clearly, the Magoosh math review was essential for me to raise my score 9 points. I think it is worth spending the money to improve your GRE score because it will help you get into graduate school. If you cannot afford all of these items, get them in the order I have them listed above. Also, I gave myself about 6-7 weeks to prep for the GRE. I think that was a good amount of time to review; however, I was only working part time. If you have a busy schedule you may want to give yourself 2 months or so to prepare; it really just depends on your target score and the results you get on your first practice test.

Good luck!


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.

2 Responses to GRE Student Post: My Prep Plan

  1. siddharth diwanji September 20, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    congrats Kamile for getting an awesome score

  2. Ashutosh September 19, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    That was quite a plan, thanks for sharing this with us Kamile and Rachel!!
    I have to take GRE next month, hopefully I’ll do good.

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