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Student New GRE Experience: Meghan N.

Another post-exam write-up, from high scorer Meghan N.!  Feel free to send in your own or learn from other students by reading more like hers in Student New GRE Experiences.

“Hey everybody,

I am a double-major in English and History student who graduated in December 2010. I took the GRE on August 14th in Salt Lake City, UT. This was my second time taking the test. I took the old version last summer, but somehow ran out of time on the Verbal (which had never happened to me on my practice tests) and ended up with a Verbal score 100-150 points lower than I had been receiving on my practice exams. As I am planning to pursue a Ph.D. in English Literature, this was a huge problem, and I knew I needed to take the test again.

Thus, in March, I found myself on again, ready to register for the exam. But what was this? A new exam? I explored their description of it and decided the new exam was definitely for me. For one thing, I HATE analogies with a passion, but do very well with reading comprehension. For another, I am the kind of person who adds 3 and 5 and gets 7 (a bit of a problem for the math section), so the onscreen calculator was like ETS giving me Novocain before pulling my teeth—it was still going to be painful, but I could survive without fainting.

I signed up for it, and began re-studying in June. This is what I did/used:

1.       Barron’s New GRE: I went through the whole book, and found the math review especially helpful. I only took one of the full tests they offered on the cd-rom, because the answer key was messed up. It reported I had missed 6 or 7 verbal questions in each section, but when I looked at the answer explanations I discovered I had actually only missed 1 or 2. So if you take the tests on the cd-rom, don’t panic at your initial score. It’s probably much better than it looks.

2.       The ETS Revised GRE book and PowerPrep II: I used the practice tests and exercises to get a better idea of the difficulty level I might see on the exam, and I went through the essay section in detail.

3.       Kaplan Revised GRE: I didn’t use the actual book much, but I used the practice drills on cd-rom and the practice tests available online extensively. It was great to practice timed drills on the computer—this was one of the study methods that helped me the most. And, unlike Barron’s, the answer keys weren’t full of errors.

4.       Kaplan 500 words for the GRE flashcards: This was a set of cards I had from studying for the old GRE, but they worked just as well for the new one. While knowing vocabulary words was not as essential as it was for the old exam, it was still extremely useful and I know I would not have done as well without them.

5.       The published list of essay topics on I wrote essays several days a week for the couple of weeks before the test, and I randomly selected each essay topic from the ETS list. Then, the two days before the test, I read through almost every issue topic published on the list and thought about how I would answer it. I discovered that there are really only a handful of topics; they are just worded different ways. This was one of the most helpful things I did to prepare for the test, and I wish I had done the same for the analysis essay topics (though it would have been more difficult because they are so much more dense).

6.       The last way I prepared was unintentional at first. I was reading the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig just for fun, and I suddenly noticed that the books contained a ton of my GRE vocabulary words. Each time I recognized a word I’d learned from my flashcards, I would stop and make sure I remembered exactly what it meant. If I came across a word I didn’t know, I would look it up. I then moved on to some Jane Austen novels, and noticed a lot of GRE words in them as well. Recognizing the words in literature and having to know what they meant in context was helpful for sentence completion questions. Plus, it let me know that studying the flashcards was working.

Finally, August 14th arrived and I sallied forth to fight the dragon. And it went much better than the first time. My issue essay went well, and my analysis essay was okay, although I ran out of time before I wrote a solid conclusion. I did not run out of time on the Verbal, and I found it much easier than the old test. I knew my math much better this time as well, and while I did run out of time and had to guess on a couple questions on two of the sections, overall it wasn’t too bad. My projected score ranges were 750-800 Verbal and 710-800 Quantitative. As for my essays, only time will tell.

Looking back, I wish I had done three things differently: I wish I had practiced writing essays more, I wish I had left myself a little more time to write a better conclusion on my analysis essay, and I wish I hadn’t forgotten my sweatshirt in my car (it was cold in the testing center!). But overall my revised GRE experience was a big improvement over my old GRE experience. Unfortunately, the general GRE was only the beginning monster for me–next up is Grendel’s mother, the Literature GRE subject exam :O

I hope my account has been at least a little bit helpful, and I wish you all lots of success with your GREs and graduate school plans!!”



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