This week, we’re learning about Niken’s experience with the GRE. Niken is from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Currently, she’s a final year master student in the Netherlands, majoring in molecular medicine. Niken loves travelling and cooking, and plans to pursue a PhD in cancer biology or cancer immunology.
Here’s what Niken has learned about the GRE:
1. The GRE is NOT the TOEFL. I had no idea how difficult the GRE would be. I thought “Okay, maybe it’s just like TOEFL plus a little bit of math.” I downloaded the free study materials on the ETS website, and because my GRE test date was nearly at the same time as my TOEFL test-date, I thought I only needed to review the math part. But I was WRONG! My TOEFL scores were excellent, while my GRE scores were horrible. The GRE is nothing like the TOEFL, although both have a verbal reasoning and a writing section. “God, what is this?! I’ve never heard this word before”—I repeated this sentence again and again during the test. I immediately realized that my advanced English vocabulary was limited, despite the fact that I speak and write English very fluently. To all you other TOEFL/GRE test takers, you can be a top TOEFL scorer but it doesn’t have any correlation with GRE scores. Especially if you’re a non-native speaker, enrich your advanced vocabulary by reading. I read “heavy” novels these days. If you don’t know a word, don’t look up a translation in your native language. Instead, use an English thesaurus. You should also know your weakness and find a way to improve it. Therefore, prepare months before the test date. Last but not least, don’t underestimate the GRE 🙂
2. There’s no harm in retaking the test. So, I planned to do my second GRE test. I needed help. I purchased The Official Guide to the GRE, Second Edition. I installed a vocabulary flash card app and a thesaurus app on my mobile phone. Then I took my second test. My scores did improve a little, however I knew that I still encountered the same problems. At that moment, I realized I needed more help (like a teacher) because I needed to know the concepts and strategies involved in each question type. But I didn’t have the time to sit in a GRE class, and I wasn’t even sure a class would be effective.
3. Great prep materials are necessary. Soon, my mom told me that she found several GRE applications for Android—one of these was Magoosh. I downloaded the app and followed the free tutorials. I became addicted to the step-by-step guides and the conceptual explanations! It felt like I had a real teacher in front of me. Two weeks before my third (yes, third!) GRE test date, I purchased the full Magoosh subscription. Initially, I thought it was expensive. But, then I realized it was the best money I’d ever spent! I had goosebumps when I read my third GRE score results because it was exactly within the range of Magoosh’s score estimate. After only two weeks of studying with Magoosh, I improved my score from 300 to 310 😀
4. Don’t give up! My 4th test date will be in 2 months. It’ll be awesome! 😉
Thanks for the tips, Niken, and best of luck with grad school!