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GRE Student Post: “Work on Weaknesses, Maximize Strengths”

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Say hello to Michele, a UC Santa Cruz alum! She’s a humanities-focused student, but learned how to tackle math on the GRE as well. Thanks for your insight, Michele! 🙂

About Me: I’m originally from the Sacramento, CA area, but currently am residing in the Bay Area where I work in higher education. I have a Bachelor’s in the History of Art and Visual Culture from UC Santa Cruz, and am looking to enroll in an Information and/or Museum Studies master’s program with a special interest in archival studies. I’m an avid reader, baker, museum-goer (of course), and dog lover.

Biggest Challenge: Having little use for things like integer or exponent properties in my daily life, it came as no surprise that those were the things I needed the most help in, along with other math properties that I had found difficult or tedious in school. It therefore followed that a lot of things that I excelled at in school—geometry, data interpretation, probability—still came pretty easily to me. I used the tool in Magoosh that allows you to structure your practice sets by difficulty and subject, which allowed me start by targeting my weaknesses. Although I definitely excelled in the Verbal section overall, Sentence Equivalences did trip me up in my practice, so I made a little game out of taking my more difficult vocab flashcards and not only defining them, but also putting them in groups of synonyms.

If I Could Change my Prep: I think that I would have tweaked how I approached my reading by focusing on breadth, instead of depth, of knowledge. Although I was picking more scholarly articles to read, they were mostly in topics I was interested or fairly knowledgeable in, so I really wasn’t well served when it came to science or engineering related reading passages or arguments during the test. As far as changing anything goes, I probably would have wasted less time on products inferior to Magoosh! 🙂

Helpful Tips for Others: I have so many! But probably the most salient of them has been my test taking strategy for a long time—work on your weaknesses, but be sure to maximize your strengths. Of course you should get up to speed on those things you’re not so certain of, but don’t neglect to spend time reviewing and really honing the skills you’re already proficient in—after all, all the questions are weighted equally, and if you’re short on time it’s better to perfect a few things than be mediocre at everything. If you’re like me with a background in the liberal arts, that probably means that you should get the math topics pretty well covered but then focus on fine-tuning your reading comprehension strategies and doing a thorough vocab refresher to really power through the Verbal sections.

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