Saturday, June 30, 2012

GRE Preparation Experience

Some people don't believe in usefulness of studying for any standardized tests. My experience has been completely opposite. I first took GRE without a day of preparation a year after graduating from university. I didn't really need to score high and thought since I had good grades in school, GRE wouldn't be that tough. I was wrong and did pretty bad. Five years later I got serious about the grad school, decided to apply to a prestigious university and had to get a very high score on GRE. It took me about 4 months to prepare to the level where I was comfortable. I could have probably used few more weeks, but was getting so tired of studying that decided to go for it.

English has been my weaker point, so I spent the most time working on that part: first increasing my vocabulary and then practicing verbal questions as much as I could. Since I was pretty comfortable with math, I left it for the last month of my preparation and mainly concentrated on getting timing right. Here is the list of the materials that I used to study. Hopefully some of this might be useful for the future test takers.

1. Word Smart for the GRE (Smart Guides)

There are about 600 words in this little book. It's not perfect, examples are a little "cheesy" and there is no pronunciation guide. Yet, I think this book really helped me. At first I tried to use flashcard software on my pocket pc to help me memorize new words, but for some reasons that didn't work well and I felt that I could remember more words using just good ol' paper flash cards. I am not sure, maybe it's the process of writing the word down, but somehow I felt I could remember more words that way. There are also little quizzes after every 5-15 words to help with learning. I think one could probably memorize about 80 words a week, though I averaged about 40-50. Obviously this is not the best method of acquiring new words, yet it did work for me. Several of them came up on GRE and quite a few I still remember.

2. The Wizard of Oz Vocabulary Builder by Mark Philips

This a pretty cool book, it introduces "GRE and SAT type" words in the context of a story to ease memorization. I didn't find it as useful as the Word Smart book, yet it was a nice change from just memorizing disconnected words. Every new "big" word is explained on the same page, with more examples to make it easier to remember words. Overall it was a pretty good, though a somewhat slower way of increasing vocabulary for GRE.

3. Kaplan GRE Exam Verbal Workbook

This book has strategies and tips for verbal section and the most important a lot of test questions. It helped me a lot with reading comprehension part and just getting over my "fear" of verbal section.

4.Barron's How to Prepare for the GRE Test I think out of all GRE preparation books, this one is the most useful. It has pretty good math review and its test questions are probably the closest to the GRE difficulty level maybe even a little harder. Barron also has a book "Pass Key to the GRE Test", which is basically a smaller version of this book. I've also noticed that they reuse a lot of questions from previous editions, so if you're on the budget you don't have to buy the latest edition. An older version will be just as good and the newest edition will repeat many questions anyway.

5. GRE: Practicing to Take the General Test, by ETS This book is published by the same guys that make the test. The review section is not that good, you'll probably be better off with Barron or Kaplan for that. However, tests are real GRE questions that were used about 10 years ago. The test has definitely increased in difficulty since then. I was somewhat disappointed with this book, yet I think 1 or 2 questions (or very similar) from the verbal section appeared on the actual test that I took. ETS definitely recycles questions, so it can be helpful to go through this book, but keep in mind that the real test will be much harder, especially the math section.

6. POWERPREP by ETS This is a software you can download from ETS website or you will get it in the mail after you register for the test. Don't wait though for the "mail version", mine came after I've already taken the test. This is the closest you will get to the real test questions; however again I thought questions on the real test were harder. Yet it is very helpful to measure your progress using this software. I took the first test after about two weeks of studying to establish a baseline and then the second one about 2-3 weeks before the test to see where I was and find any weak spots. My actual test results were almost identical to the results on my second Powerprep test.

Few suggestions:

1. Work on your weakest parts first. If it's vocabulary start your preparation with memorizing words and then move on to the areas that you are more comfortable with.

2. Establish your baseline score by taking one of the Powerprep tests early on.

3. You don't have to spend a fortune on study material, last year editions are just as good.

4. Test has become harder over the past few years, so don't get over confident if you do really well on the "retired" ETS tests. The level of difficulty is much higher now.

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's official: when it comes to GRE test takers, they're a nation of stressheads.

A recent survey conducted by a herbal remedy brand revealed that of 2,372 GRE test takers, 99% claimed that they felt stressed about their GRE preparation at least once per day. The study also concluded that of these anxiety sufferers, 35% have missed at least one day's work of work or school due to stress over GRE study.

But for the rest of students preparing to realize their graduate school dreams, this isn't really news at all. In fact, it's a part of everyday life when it comes to GRE practice.

Let's face it: a small amount of stress is expected in any GRE practice schedule. Heck, sometimes it's even good for you! But what is this stress and anxiety doing to our health...

...And what steps can we take to stop it?

Under GRE Study Pressure

Many GRE test takers simply assume that GRE study pressure is part and parcel of the whole experience. After all, it's not like these highly talented students are unused to stress. And let's not forget what life will be like once you've made it into grad school.

Talk about stressed out!

But there's a flaw in this type of logic - and this flaw can really drag down your grad school dreams. You see, our college grades and GPA are determined by multiple tests, papers and presentations. In this respect, if we ever get stressed out and our score suffers as a result, we have multiple opportunities to make up for it.

But not with the GRE test. In fact, you've got one shot to prove that you've got the goods to succeed in graduate school. And if you fail, that's it.

Game over.

Fighting Back Against GRE Practice Anxiety

So what can you do to stay in tip-top shape? Take a look at these expert tips and techniques, and reclaim your GRE preparation once and for all!

• You've heard it all before: but if you want to fight back against high-pressure GRE test preparation, then you need to fine-tune your diet. Many foods can make our bodies feel as though we're in a state of high-stress. Nuts and seeds, however, have a positive impact on blood sugar levels, energy and mood, leading to decreased stress levels.
• Plenty of health experts have celebrated the physical activity as the best way to beat stress at its own game. However, there's a different between regular exercise and the kind that has been proven to significantly reduce stress levels. Don't go for high-impact workouts, as these can exacerbate stress levels. Instead, try yoga or meditation as a more productive method for reducing testing anxiety.

Remember, staying healthy and reducing your stress and anxiety levels is just as important to your GRE preparation as constant study and emotional preparation.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to Study For the GRE Test (Graduate Record Examination)

The GRE test proves to be a very important test, but do not sweat it just yet. There are ways of which you can go about it successfully. Below is a list of suggestions on how to study for the GRE test.

1. Familiarize yourself with the GRE test prior to the day you have to take it. By familiarizing yourself with the test, you will have an idea of what to expect. By obtaining the knowledge of what to expect, you will have a smoother ride throughout the test. If you do not know what to expect then it will be easier for you to become flustered during the test, thus making the test more difficult than it has to be.

2. Allow yourself an adequate amount of prep time for the GRE test. By being well prepared, you will be more inclined to receive a better GRE score on the test. Spend as much time preparing for the test as you possibly can. As little as three to four months or as much as a year should be plenty of time for you to well prepare yourself.

3. Set a goal to receive the GRE score you wish to obtain. Setting goals is the prelude to an accomplishment. By setting a score goal for yourself, you will give yourself an idea of how much preparation and study time you will need so that you can achieve the score. Goals give you something particular to work toward.

4. Steer clear of distractions when studying for the GRE test. Distractions are, well, distracting. When studying for the GRE test, you want to focus solely on the content of which you are studying. Try to refrain from any and all distractions, such as television, music (unless listening to music helps you study), cell phones, etcetera.

5. Study a variety of texts. Studying more than one text will cover more of the test overall. This can definitely help you to better prepare yourself. Some text suggestions are Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barrons, Big Book, and Power Prep.

6. Vigorously practice the GRE test before taking the actual test. As the saying goes, "practice makes perfect". Think of it as a sport. In sports, players have to practice regularly so that they can become better and better at their sport. The same goes for the GRE test. The more you practice, the more likelihood that you will receive the GRE score that you would like to will increase.

7. Concentrate primarily on the sections of the GRE test of which you believe you will struggle in. The test is divided mainly into four separate sections: analytical writing, research, quantitative, and verbal. Only you yourself can truly know what areas you excel in and what areas of which you may need more assistance in. Study the test as a whole, but spend a bit more time on the areas of which you are not so great in.

8. Be aware of how much time you are allotted for each portion of the test. Once you have studied the test content for awhile, begin taking practice tests. When taking these practice tests, time yourself in tandem with the time limitations for the actual test. By doing this, you will acquire an idea of how to pace yourself during the test.