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GRE Student Post: How Recognizing Patterns Helped Me Improve My Score

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 3.15.50 PMNext up, Will! Will has some really insightful advice about the importance of recognizing and reviewing patterns to help you improve your score. Thanks, Will! 🙂 

About me and how I came upon Magoosh:  Well, I’m not exactly a spring chicken. I graduated from college 17 years ago with a technical degree (B.S.) from a prestigious institution, and got my M.A. 4 years ago. My first masters program, however, did not require the GRE for admission. Recently, I decided to pursue an engineering masters, and all of my target schools require the GRE — and very good math scores, at that. So, I figured — hey, you have an engineering background. You’re a math nerd and an accomplished professional. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. Even as someone with good math grades and a genuine interest in all things technical, I underestimated GRE quant. I did fine in verbal (I read a lot and somewhere along the line picked up a decent vocabulary), but my first practice math test score was way lower than I needed. So I did some research and found Magoosh.

How Magoosh helped me: Magoosh is very honest about what it is: a curriculum of brief video lessons with a large bank of tough practice problems and plenty of help from a supportive staff. What was refreshing was how the staff advocates using a “cocktail” of test prep sources. Following their advice, I studied from several sources (which helped) but always found Magoosh to be the most user-friendly product. The practice problems are excellent and, if worked multiple times, develop pattern recognition skills that are essential to rapid problem solving on the GRE. If you can quickly decipher what type of problem you’re seeing and apply the fastest method to solve it, you’ll find yourself ahead of the clock. And that makes all the difference. I found pattern recognition, along with an effective pacing strategy, to be extremely helpful. In short, I built a solid foundation from a couple of test prep sources, but used Magoosh repetitively to refine my skills and get those extra few points. Best of all was the ease of access — I could work problems anywhere using a PC, tablet or smart phone app — and instantaneous feedback and trend monitoring that only an e-product can provide.

Best advice: Figure out which section needs more work (verbal or quant) and concentrate on that. Contrary to most advice, I found full length practice tests to be more time-consuming than beneficial. Do a couple just to replicate the actual test experience, but work far more “timed sets of 20” in whatever section needs the most work. That way, you’ll really get your pacing strategy down, which is half the battle. Tackle the same problems multiple times to develop your pattern recognition skills, and focus on “patterns of misconduct,” or things you miss repeatedly. Realize that other test prep sources will show you effective ways to solve certain types of problems. You can apply those methods to the ultra-accessible bank of Magoosh problems. Embrace the challenge and realize that it can take time to train your brain to do really well in GRE math — even if you are a math person. This is not calculus or differential equations. It’s far less complicated, but it will test your ability to problem solve under pressure. Don’t get discouraged, and remember that the hard sections are hard for everybody. If you work at it, you’ll see an improving trend and realize that it’s doable. Once you convince yourself of that, you’re golden. It becomes a fun game that you know you’ll eventually win, probably like the Yankees feel when they spend $200 million a year on player payroll (really, Yankees? Really?). It may take some time, but you’ll get there.

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