How I Aced the GRE

<p>I wrote this up on my blog a while back, after having to repeat the advice over and over again. Acing</a> the GRE isn't easy...</p>

<p>Okay, so I didn't actually 'ace' it, in the sense of getting two 800s. But I did very well - well over 1400! I've taken it three times. The first time I took the GRE was during the senior year of my undergraduate program (about 5 years ago). I didn't study, and took it in an over heated room wearing a sweater the day after my birthday... I scored an 1180 (V: 550, Q: 630, A: 5.5).</p>

<p>Then, five years later, after my tests scores were invalid and I took it - again with minimal preparation - and scored an 1190 (V: 570, Q: 620, A: 5.0). At this point I was ready to accept that the test was simply an accurate measure of my abilities since my scores were so similar. My advisor, however, told me that if I wanted in to a good grad-school program, I had to get closer to 1300, and if I wanted funding, I had to get closer to 1400.</p>

<p>1400 would be a 210 pt jump. Most articles I read suggested that studying could raise your score perhaps 50-70 points. I didn't know if that would even be worth the large fee to re-test again, let alone the massive amounts of studying that I'd need to undergo just to jump through this hoop. But, darn it if I don't want to go to Grad-School (for Philosophy).
So I got two books. The first book was "The</a> Ultimate Math Refresher for the GRE, GMAT and SAT" by Lighthouse Publishing. The book did a great job of working me through all of the awkward math problems that I'd forgotten how to do since grade school. Most important was the refreshers on things like multiplying various kinds of exponents (negative, fractional, etc), and the work on setting up inverse rate problems, and the geometry review.</p>

<p>One key I've found is to try to enjoy this, and honestly though it was boring at times, I really did enjoy some of it. I now understand WHY cross multiplication works. I understand WHAT pi is (Circumference/diameter). I can do long division! I simply worked through one chapter every few days, and within two weeks I'd completed this book! On the inside cover I wrote down all of the key formulas to remember (and now they made sense, like I understand why a triangle's area is 1/2 b x h, since two triangles would be a quadrilateral, and the quadrilateral's area is b x h.</p>

<p>The second book that I used was "Barron's</a> GRE". The book that I used was actually a few years old, so it wasn't updated for some of the new "question types" in the quantitative section, but those really aren't that hard (you solve a problem and type in the answer, rather than select it from options on screen.
Primarily, I used the Barron's book for the word-list. They have the 5000 most common words on the GRE. I went through the list from A to...R...yeah, I just ran out of time. But what I did in going through was I read every word, then tried to identify it before I read the definition. Then I read the definition. If I got it easily, I let it be. BUT: often words I thought I knew had very obscure definitions or alternate definitions I didn't know. Any word I couldn't or didn't get immediately, I wrote down on a flashcard ( I cut a regular note card in half, so I got two out of each, since they were small). Then I kept these cards in a shoe-box, divided in half. Some of them were easier still, some harder; so as they became easier, I put them in the easier pile and looked at them less frequently. I kept a stack of the harder cards with me everywhere I went. In a line? I read a few cards. At a stop light? Read a card. Waiting for someone? Read some cards. (I was never a big note card person in school, and now I wonder what I was missing! I'm using the same technique to learn Greek currently). Using this method I was able to quickly build up my vocabulary...and now in 5 years or so I can go back to that same box and keep learning.</p>

<p>The other nice bits in the Barron's book were the reviews of how to figure out what they really are and aren't asking on the reading comprehension questions (eg. if it says 'what could you infer', make sure the choice is in no way stated in the reading selection). Such advice seems basic, until you actually are reading under pressure.</p>

<p>The third and final thing I did was I took two practice exams using the Power Prep Software put out by ETS, the folks who make the GRE. My first practice test yielded at 1340 (V: 660, Q:680) which blew my proverbial socks off! I got nervous that the tests were not representative, because that was a huge jump of 150 points over my previous best.</p>

<p>My second practice test yielded a 1440 (V: 710, Q:730)! Another 100 points! Now I started getting really worried that these tests were flukes, but I went a head and scheduled my test for that week (gotta love the GRE's flexible scheduling!), and I took it. It was an odd test (the power went out after my first essay for an hour!) but when it was all done, I scored a 1460 (V 720, Q:740), for a grand total of 270 points over my last official test! My verbal scores are in the top 98%, and my math is in the top 90%. The Analytical section was 5.5 (this was the one area I've always had a natural talent; I'll discuss how to write a good analytic essay later).</p>

<p>So, there you have it. Want to rock the GRE? Get those two books *and study. Take practice tests* (and they're only really about 1 1/2 hours total to take if you omit the analytical writings which the computer cannot score for you anyway.</p>

<p>Let me know if this helps you, and what your success stories are!</p>

<p>So from when you took your first retest after 5 years and got an 1190, how long did you study for to reach your final score?</p>

<p>I went through a few thousand note cards over the span of 6 months. Brought up my 14 to 15. Was nice :)</p>

<p>I studied for about 3 months before that last test.</p>

<p>Did you take the revised GRE the last time?</p>