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GRE Advice from Someone Who’s Been There

Are you nervous about taking the GRE? Megan Gibbs, blog writer at CollegeXpress and current Master’s candidate at Emerson College, was too. Here’s her firsthand advice on how to survive the GRE.

Full disclosure: I could cry at the thought of taking a standardized test. I have never excelled in that area of the college admission process and my scores would always reflect that anxiety no matter how hard I studied. When it came time for me to apply to grad school last year, I had to reluctantly allow a standardized test back into my life: the GRE.

I read all the prep materials I could to make sure I gave myself enough time to study and study the right things in order to do well. Maybe after an eight year hiatus from school I would magically have developed test taking skills that would garner an amazing result? Alright, so I didn’t reach Einstein status with my score, but I did well enough to be proud of myself for the work I put into the process that helped get me into my top choice school.

Even if you’re a pro at test taking, it’s always helpful to use where others have been to push you even further in your goals. Here are a few pieces of advice from my journey:

1.)    Don’t procrastinate.

I am one of those people who sees a shiny object and will totally forget what I was doing a minute earlier. The GRE/GMAT are nothing to snark at and think that you’ll be able to do well on them by just glancing at a few test questions here and there. It takes a lot of time, energy, and focus to properly cover all aspects of what the test covers. Set up a schedule over the course of three to four months before your test date and study an hour or two a day. It’s a lot of time, but if you’re applying to grad school, you better get used to it!

2.)   Plan ahead.

You have to wait 21 days before you can take the test from the day you last took it; make sure to give yourself enough time to take the test at least two times before your application deadline. I gave myself enough time to be only able to take the test and then send my scores in since it was so close to the application date. It’s so nerve racking to only have one shot at sending in a score; I wish I was able to do it at least twice to get the jitters out from the first time.

3.)   Know your weaknesses.

I might cry over standardized tests, but I sob over math problems. I’ve never been good at math and I knew that that was the place to start in my studies. I put a lot more emphasis on math problems than on the English section when I was studying; I didn’t want my scores to be totally out of balance especially when I was trying to get into a business type program (marketing). When I got my final score, miraculously, my math was higher than my English. That still perplexes me to this day…but I’ll take it!

4.)   Go mobile.

In all honesty, I had downloaded Magoosh apps for my studies last year. It wasn’t because of the CollegeXpress/Magoosh connection (we weren’t even partners last year); it was because they provide solid apps that I could take with me wherever I went. Even if you have an extra 5 or 10 minutes, you can flip through some vocab cards or do a math problem. It’s always good to keep those juices flowing (and between you and me, I really think they improved my scores).

5.)   Realize your score alone doesn’t get you into school.

When I started the process, the standardized test score requirement loomed over me. If I did horribly what are my chances of being accepted? Then I refocused. If you take a step back and look at the big picture, it’s only a small part of the puzzle. Of course getting a 2 on the exam most likely won’t get you very far, but getting an average score (even if you’re used to the highest of scores) is okay! Strong recommendations, a great resume, and solid transcripts from undergrad all combine for admission.

Megan Gibbs is a GRE blog writer at CollegeXpress. You can circle Megan on Google+, follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog.


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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