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Lauren: Taking the GRE for a PhD Program

Thank you to everyone who continues to send in their student stories! You can submit one yourself or read what others have shared by going to Student New GRE Experiences.

This post features the latest submission, from Lauren.


“Test Day: October 25, 2011

Test Location: New York, NY

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

Projected Score: V: 640-740 Q: 630-730

Hello! I just finished up the new GRE about an hour ago (I can literally feel the weight [stress?] lifted off of my shoulders). I’m currently enrolled in an MA program at Parsons The New School for Design and I’m applying to a (one!) PhD program in Apparel Design at Cornell for next fall. I graduated from Wash U in 2010 and only took one math class–statistics–while I was a student here.

I have been “studying” since about June, but in earnest for only about two weeks. Initially in June, I bought Barron’s Math, the Kaplan book (because it looked the nicest! but turned out to be the worst…), and a few apps for my iPhone. I was an Art History and Anthropology major in college, so I felt pretty comfortable with the verbal portion. I was, however, terrified of the math portion and was sure that it was going to bring me down significantly–hence the Barron’s book. I found this to be a good resource for my basic overview; I was actually pretty great at math in high school, so this overview was enough to put me back in that mindset. However, when it came to actually solving problems, I had a lot of difficulty with their more advanced problems and didn’t find their “explanations” to be of much use (it was mostly a formatting issue for me; they just cram SO much onto each page). In the end, Barron’s just got me needlessly freaked out, so I put my GRE studying on the shelf for a month…or two.

During this period, I spent my subway commutes going through the Kaplan vocabulary app (free!) on my iPhone and working through math problems on the Watermelon Express GRE app ($10, both in the iTunes App store). So, my off period wasn’t all for naught; I was engaging with GRE vocabulary and some rudimentary math for at least 20 minutes a day. Both apps were great additions to my study material–especially the free Kaplan app, which has their list of 500 quintessential GRE words with a user-friendly interface.

While I had the best intentions to study from June-October, I found I developed a lot of anxiety over doing actual practice problems after my initial review becuase I was scared of getting them wrong, only to realize how screwed I was. Thus, I didn’t really seriously start studying until about 2 weeks ago. This is when I discovered Magoosh. I watched all of the math lessons and worked my way through nearly all of the math questions and all of the verbal questions. Magoosh, quite literally, saved me. I went from being petrified of even attempting the practice questions, to finding myself studying upwards of 3-5 hours a day.

In the final days, I took the free ETS exam they release (and did really well, which was a great confidence boost), and worked through explanations with Magoosh. I also brushed up on formulas and read the Magoosh blog for tips on vocabulary.

While I most certainly would have done better if I’d put my nose to the grindstone a lot earlier, I’m totally complacent with my score. I didn’t pull out a “rainman” on my math, but my scores are good enough to not be a liability to my otherwise strong application.

As far as the actual testing experience, I took the advice of another Magoosher and just tried to “have fun” with it: I read the verbal passages for content (like reading a novel) and got competitive with the math. I also really enjoyed the writing portion; I’m very confident in how I did (especially after Chris’s breakdown of the analytical writing in the new videos) and wouldn’t expect anything less than a 5.

One last note, while I was doing the Verbal sections (I got 3 verbal, 2 math, which was fine with me), I could actually hear Chris’s voice in my head working through the text and could imagine his red pencil scribbling and underlining. That was kind of weird (perhaps I Magooshed too much?), but also pretty entertaining.

All in all, my GRE experience could have been much worse if I hadn’t discovered Magoosh. Chris and his team take a not so pleasant experience (made even more so by bad test prep materials) and make it downright pleasant by making success seem attainable.

Thanks a whole bunch!”

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