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GRE Student Post: My 30 Minute a Day Study Plan

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This Thursday, we’re hearing from Charlotte, who has some great overall study tips to help you improve your score. 🙂 

About me: I’m from a tiny town in Northern California, where, I like to say, there are more deer than people. That may be hyperbole, but there are certainly more trees; Weaverville is in the middle of national forest and comes with a beautiful river, the Trinity.

I moved out of town at 18 and attended multiple community colleges, eventually ending up at UC Berkeley, where I got my bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. During college and afterward, I dedicated all my spare time to fighting genocide and mass atrocities abroad and building assets for low-income families here in the US. Eventually, I ended up moving over to an incredible company that empowers people all over the world to create the change they want to see.

But, grad school beckons. I want to go to the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, the best policy analysis program in the country, to dig into how, if possible, I can make progress on the one issue that underlies everything I’ve ever cared about: money in politics. In my mind, I won’t make progress ending atrocities or helping low-income families achieve prosperity or empowering the general public to bring about changes they care about if there are incredibly wealthy individuals disproportionately influencing our political system.

My test experience: Just remembering the GRE’s quantitative section makes me tense up a bit! The last math class I took was a college-level stats class in 2006 (it was my only required math class in college), so I relied heavily on Magoosh’s math videos and practice questions to beef up my skills.

My process was pretty simple: watch about a half hour of videos each night, and then, upon hitting the quiz at the end of the section, test myself until I had a great grasp of the material. If I only got 3 of 5 questions correct, that wasn’t enough for me; I needed to score a 5 out of 5 before moving on to the next section.

Of all the quantitative subjects, geometry was the most difficult for me. At first I found that pretty surprising, because I was actually pretty good at geometry in school – but as anyone will tell you, the GRE is not your average high-school math. All the questions are tricky, and the geometry ones are the worst, because they play on the assumptions our minds automatically make when seeing shapes and their seeming relationships with one another. I found the best thing that helped with geometry questions, besides watching the geometry videos on Magoosh multiple times, was redrawing figures to look as different as possible from those provided without ignoring given measurements.

The other topic I struggled with was reading comprehension. I felt so defeated while studying, because I couldn’t quite understand why I was getting questions wrong. So often, I would call my boyfriend over and ask him to read the question, sure he’d side with me – yet without fail, he chose the “correct” answer.

I learned to recognize my bad habits when choosing reading comprehension answers. Typically, I chose an answer that seemed like the best fit, but then I second guessed myself out of fear that I’d get it wrong. Almost always, my first guess was the correct one, and my second guess was just me over-analyzing the answer options, psyching myself out in the process.

So on test day, on a particularly hard reading comp question, I selected my first choice, marked the question for review, and moved on to other question, depriving myself the opportunity to get too worked up and lose sight on those small details that make one reading comp answer better than another. Apparently, it worked!

Tips: Start studying early. I began preparing for the GRE in May, and I took my test in September. Launching into studying so early was great, because I only had to study for about half an hour a night (until the final couple weeks, when I ramped it up to an hour or two each night). Plus, I built up long-term memories about the subject matter, making it easier to recall on test day.


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3 Responses to GRE Student Post: My 30 Minute a Day Study Plan

  1. David October 23, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Nice Charlotte – you’re great. I can relate to the nervous “but I haven’t done math for years” feeling. Thus, your strategy of focusing on one section at a time until mastery sounds fairly apt for me. Perhaps I’ll give it a gander!

  2. Ashutosh October 17, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Hey Charlotte, Thanks for sharing your experience. I really liked your way of studying and equanimity. I have only 2 weeks before the exam, wish I could do the same.

    Thanks Rachel for sharing the experience of a fellow magoosher.

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel October 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      Hey Ashutosh! Hope you found it useful! 🙂

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