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GRE Student Post: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 2.53.19 PMToday we’re hearing about Scott’s journey, all the way from the GRE to starting grad school. Thanks for the great tips, Scott!

About me: Hi, my name is Scott Burkett and I’m a new graduate school student. If anyone would have asked me a few years ago whether I’d ever be where I am now, I’d have scoffed at the idea of being in a Master’s program at the age of 45.

I received a BS in Biology in 2005 and immediately set about getting into medical school. I studied diligently for the MCAT, took it, and did quite well (95th percentile). When it came to actually getting into a medical school, however, I didn’t have any success. So, when I decided to take the GRE and apply to graduate school in Information Technology, I was determined to be more successful. I found out about Magoosh online and the more I looked at the program, the better I liked it. The format was very convenient and the content seemed like it was high quality. After I signed up, I launched into the program full bore and started watching the video lessons in any spare time that I could find. I did tons of practice problems and tried to make sure that I was filling in the gaps in my education that I thought I needed to address.

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Biggest Challenge: The one thing that I had the most trouble with was geometry. I didn’t have a terrible time with it, but it had been so long since I had done any serious geometry (almost 30 years!), I had simply forgotten a lot of it. The video lessons definitely helped, but it was slow going for a while. Gradually, though, with the help of the video lessons and doing a ton of the practice problems on the Magoosh site, I got better and better results. I also found the Magoosh iPhone apps to be quite useful to reinforce the information that I was relearning. You’d be surprised how much it helps to do just a couple of minutes of review at a time while you’re in line at the grocery store or pumping gas.

Test Day: When it came time to finally take the test, I went in feeling pretty confident. In addition to the essays, I ended up getting three verbal sections and two math sections, which I thought was pretty good luck. I felt I was much stronger on the verbal section and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy on math questions that might not even be reflected in my score. The bad luck came in the form of the order that the sections came in. It went verbal, verbal, math, verbal, and math. The two verbal sections at the beginning went really well and I felt great. The first math wasn’t too bad and the last verbal section was pretty easy. Then came the last math section! By this time I was about 3.5 hours into the test and my energy was flagging. I’m not sure how poorly I did on it, but I know that there were a couple of questions that I totally guessed on.

The Outcome: The best news is that I did better than I might have expected given the problems that I had on the last section. I knocked it out of the park on the verbal section (169) and the math section, while it could have definitely been better, was still respectable. The one thing that I’d suggest for anyone that is getting ready for the GRE (or any other graduate school entrance exam for that matter) is to take as many full length tests as you can possibly get your hands on. Magoosh can definitely help with that, but make sure to make use of other resources for test questions as well! You need the experience of taking the whole test to appreciate how much difference there is when you’re answering obscure questions three hours into the exam. I’m sure that there were questions in that last math section that I would have gotten right if I would have been solving them on a random Thursday night, but at the end of a long test day, I couldn’t even figure out how to start a couple of them. Don’t discount mental stamina! It’s really important when it comes time to take the real test.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my new wife in my assessment of how I did on the GRE. We got married two weeks after I took the test and she has supported my goal of getting into graduate school and obtaining a master’s degree every step along the way. Now that I’m in graduate school and working full-time, she is continuing to support me in every way possible. Her help made it much easier to study for and do well on the GRE. Make sure that you use the support structure of friends, family and colleagues to help you along the way . . . and make sure to thank them afterwards.

Happily, I did well enough to get into the program that I wanted to get into. I was admitted into the MS in Information Technology and Management program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and am currently enrolled full-time while I’m also working full-time in IT. I’m super busy, but I couldn’t be happier.

OK, so I’m off to do some homework for my Supply Chain Management course. Good luck to all of you who are preparing for the GRE. Make sure you take the time to take some full length tests and then go out and knock ’em dead!


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