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GRE Student Post: Pace Yourself!

Student post, LanieToday, we’re hearing from Lanie. She knows firsthand the importance of timed practice, and has some great tips to help the rest of us. Thanks, Lanie! 🙂 

About me: Hello world! I am currently a materials engineer in the corrosion industry. My interests lie in corrosion mechanisms in extreme environments, especially in light and high strength alloys. My bachelor’s degree is in Mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis on the automotive industry but it didn’t work out that way; for the better! I am interested in going back to school to get my PhD so that I can not only gain a stronger materials background but also the ability to propose my own research programs and lead my own projects at the lab. Despite what hobbies I may have had in the past, my toddler is my favorite (and only and mandatory) ‘hobby’ now. Experiencing the world with her is just wonderful beyond words. I also run a photography business and assist with my husband’s handyman business marketing and graphic design. In my “spare” time I enjoy hiking, gardening, singing, cooking, and exercise. Whew!

My experience with the test: I am a terrible test taker. I was also overconfident. As an engineer I thought math- psh no big deal. Verbal- eh, I’m a native speaker and I read extensively- psh, no big deal. Essay, smeshay. What I didn’t take seriously enough was the time limits. I would practice problem sets and consistently make high marks. Un-timed practice sets that is. The first time I took a timed test was the weekend before the test- I was several questions short of finishing on time. I thought, well, when I am in a quiet environment where I can think, surely I will do just as well as the other times. WRONG! My first test ended up being a 161V and 152Q. I was devastated with my goal being 165+ in Quant. I had only answered 15 of the questions in each quant set! I had been practicing at nearly 10 points higher. After that I got serious with Magoosh. I purchased the premium edition and two more books. (I had already completed the ETS book) and purchased the Nova book and Conquering the New GRE. I needed to be faster. Turns out I also needed to brush up on some concepts too. AND I was making a ton of silly mistakes, like only reading half the question and assuming I knew what it was asking. Magoosh really helped me improve my time with the practice quizzes and showed me that I was rustier than I thought I was. I don’t get a lot of time to study but managed to fit in about 1-2 hours each weekday for a month and then retook the test.  This time with prayer and practice I sat for the test without sweaty palms. I was happy, calm, and collected and answered all but one of the problems in each set, one I was able to guess at the last second and the other was  left blank. V165 Q158. I got the minimum of what I needed to get on Quant but still feel like I could improve my time significantly. I plan to study in the same manner for another month and then retake the test. I still think that given my timed practice results I could improve by at least several more points.

Helpful tips: My biggest suggestions for  verbal is read read read. The magoosh flashcards are great but it’s difficult to learn the subtleties of the context with just the flashcards. I am a native speaker but I also have a good handle on the language because I read higher level articles and books constantly. I always have one fun book and at least one non-fiction book going. I read several new services each day and am constantly reading papers and articles for work. For quant, READ EACH QUESTION TWICE BEFORE SOLVING. Most of my mistakes were along the lines of thinking it was asking for C when it was D, assuming abc = a+b+c when it was a+b only. Reading each question twice helped curtail this issue. Then you MUST MUST MUST do the timed practice. Anyone can answer all of those questions correctly given enough time. If you are detail oriented like me and can’t walk away from an unverified answer or a problem you haven’t worked twice, you’ll have to think differently to master this test. THEN PRACTICE PROBLEMS and see where you are weak. Make sure you work through all difficulty levels to make sure your mind is trained to catch the easy problems so your molehills don’t turn into the Andes. Also during the test, consider a protein drink for your break. Take all of your breaks, stretch and do some yogi breathing during the two minute breaks. Clear your mind between sets and it will help you from getting so tired. Good Luck!

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One Response to GRE Student Post: Pace Yourself!

  1. Balakrishnaprabhu February 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Dear Lanie & Rachel,

    Warm Greetings!!!

    Thanks a million for sharing your story with us Lanie. Since you have emphasized on timed tests.This will be a Great eye-opener for me…. It is Not just getting correct answer!!!,however within a specified timeframe… Demanding & taxing !!!.Appreciated for writing this article Rachel!!!… All The Best For Your endeavor(Ph.d Program) Lanie!!!

    With Kind Regards,

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