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GRE Student Post: “Standardized tests are not my specialty.”

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Today, we’re hearing from Chelsea. She’s got some great tips–and some great goals for her future. Thanks, Chelsea! 

About me: Hello fellow test takers! My name is Chelsea, and I am from St. Paul, MN. I graduated in 2010 from the University of Minnesota with a degree in International Relations. After graduating from college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, so I worked a great retail job with amazing benefits, and traveled a lot. My career goal is to work for the UN High Commission for Refugees, and I’m working towards that by starting a Masters of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. My favorite hobbies are traveling (of course), running, swimming, and watching/reading science fiction. I’m a bit of a nerd.

My biggest challenge: Standardized tests are not my specialty. I’m a thinker and an analyzer, and the ticking clock up at the top of the screen, gives me a minor panic attack. When I first took the GRE in 2012, I bought a Kaplan book and studied, but when taking the test I felt woefully underprepared. When I received my scores, I thought they were ok, not great, but good enough to get into the grad schools that I wanted. When I got the acceptance letter from the U of MN, it basically said – “Hey, we’d love to have you, but you need to score either over 50% on the quantitative section of the GRE or take a College Algebra course in order to gain full admittance.” I would also not be considered for any financial aid, until I completed the prerequisite. My career interest has nothing to do with math and the last time I took a math course was in high school ten years ago. Yet I needed to complete the prerequisite, and as soon as possible! That’s when I found Magoosh, which was way better than any book you can buy on the GRE. It was interactive, held my attention, and gave me small goals to complete every day. I used the 1-month study guide, which was exactly what my Type-A self needed to organize my study efforts. I went into my second GRE armed with strategies on pacing and completing the math section, feeling much more prepared. As a result, I scored in the 53% quartile, earning me full admittance to the U of MN and a great scholarship.

If I could re-do anything: I would have given myself a little more time to study. Due to time constraints, I had about a month to study for the test, along with working full-time, taking a statistics course, and preparing for my summer internship in Israel. I was only able to complete one full practice test, and I wish I had the time for one more.

One helpful tip: by mistake, I gave myself 5 minutes less on the practice math sections than one gets on the actual GRE. This greatly helped my pacing, and when I was taking the real GRE, I had extra time to go back to the problems that I had originally skipped.

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