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GRE Student Post: “Focus on what you’re uncomfortable with.”

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This week we hear from UC Santa Cruz alum Josh. He improved his GRE score by a big margin through practice, practice, practice. Hear what he has to say!

About Me: Hi, my name is Josh and I was a Philosophy major at University of California: Santa Cruz. I’m applying to Occupational Therapy programs this upcoming fall. I’ve also dabbled in audio engineering, but realized that career path was a bit too unpredictable for my tastes and opted for a more stable career where I can still work with people.

Biggest Challenge: In the math section I required a lot of review (149 on first practice test), but I am relatively competent in math so I knew it was mostly a matter of time until I relearned old concepts (eventually received a 163). However, reading comprehension (and the questions associated with it) has always been my weak point. One great piece of advice from the videos that helped me was to force yourself to be interested in the subject material. This allowed me to focus on the material by basically making myself interested in what I was reading. This helped immensely and made it easier to get through those longer passages. I ended up going from a 156 on my first practice test to a 165, mostly due to my improvements in that area.

Helpful tips for others: I think I mostly studied how I wanted to (you can always study more), but I do think I could have focused more attention on things I was uncomfortable with. I followed the three-month plan set up by Magoosh, which I think was really helpful, but I think I should have focused specifically on what I struggled with on the last three weeks before my test instead of just following the generic plan. After about two months of studying, you start to know where you are not doing so well, so by shifting more attention on that I think it would have helped a bit.

My anatomy professor used to teach people how to study for the Physics section on the GMAT. In the beginning she wouldn’t have scored very high on the test, but after a couple of years of tutoring she said at that point she had basically seen every question that could have been asked on the GMAT. Low and behold when she took the GMAT she received a perfect score on the Physics section. I tried to take a similar approach with the GRE in that every question has different subject matter, but it’s mostly variations on a theme. And after answering approximately 2,000 questions over a period of three months, I was able to see patterns in the material, which made me more and more comfortable with what the GRE expected me to know and how they wanted me to think. Even if you aren’t getting them right, with every question you gain more insight into how the test is designed and how to conform to what the test requires of you.

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