Today, we’re hearing from Josh, a biochem and philosophy major with a lot of great tips! 🙂
About me: My name is Josh and I’ve been living in Cypress, CA for pretty much my whole life. I graduated last spring and majored in biochemistry and philosophy. I’m planning on applying for doctoral programs in chemical biology and/or organic chemistry. I tend to shuffle through favorite hobbies/interests too frequently (ardent dabbler) but most recently I’ve been working on improving my 5k time and losing sleep to Nabokov’s bibliography.
My biggest challenge: I was fortunate enough – in terms of GRE preparedness – to have majored in two majors that were either verbally or quantitatively heavy. Because of this I didn’t have the problems that some GRE-preppers face. I didn’t have to dust off math skills that have been left idle since high school and I didn’t need to parse foreign types of passages. But I still managed to find my foe: the quantitative comparison. I would always be thrown off of rhythm, especially on geometry questions, because of choice D; unless the question was very straightforward, it seemed like D was always the answer. I eventually improved in this area because of the vast question bank in Magoosh. After doing quantitative comparison after comparison, I developed an intuition that allowed me to break down problems more effectively. Over time and after a lot of reps. I was able to see clearly when information was lacking and when all that was necessary was given.
What I would do differently: It seems like most students have been conditioned to associate tests like the SAT and GRE with never-ending vocabulary lists. I definitely fell victim to this line of thought and probably overdid my vocabulary studies. I realized that I was probably wasting my time when I started seeing flashcards for ‘miscegenation’ and ‘xerophagy’ (please don’t kill me if you see these on your verbal sections…). The GRE verbal questions are more about understanding the flow of a sentence and identifying road signs and less about knowing words that are only useful in pick-up lines for lexophiles (hey babe, I couldn’t help but notice your xerophagy. How’s about you and I partake in some miscegenation). You’d be better off learning your essential words well and spending the rest of your time learning how to navigate through the various types of sentences that you’ll see on the text completions and sentence equivalences. If I could start over, I’d spend a lot more time studying the words that are given, rather than studying the words that might belong in the blanks.
Tips for other students: There are a lot of GRE study resources out there. Since your study time will most probably be limited, it is very important that you choose wisely. I made the mistake of thinking that I had an infinite amount of time and energy (Yeah!! Manhattan? Magoosh? Kaplan? Barron’s? TPR? ETS? LET’S DO IT ALL!!!!). In retrospect, this caused me to lose a lot of time that I could’ve spent on quality study materials. It’s a good idea to spend some time at the outset of your study plan familiarizing yourself with the books and guides out there. Pick good resources (pick Magoosh) to include in your study schedule and really give them your full attention. Your score won’t improve by blasting through 1,000 problems a day. It will improve when you spend time dissecting a problem, understanding why you got it right (or wrong), and remembering the mechanics of that certain type of problem.