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So you decided to take the GRE, tips before you take it

The testing Center in the Academic Services building. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Taking the GRE might raise many questions for potential test-takers. When do I begin? How should I study? What should I study?

Ohio State staff and faculty provided answers to those questions and insight on how to prepare for the GRE.

Carolyn Morales, director of diversity initiatives for The Ohio State Graduate School, and Corey Boyer, a career consultant and school counselor at Career Counseling and Support Services, offered both personal and professional advice to help those interested in taking the GRE find the best ways to prepare for the exam.

Know the GRE like the back of your hand

Going into the test knowing what to expect will help you navigate the test so you can perform to your best ability. Morales said knowing the exam structure can help boost your score.

“Know the timeframes attached to them, how there’s that computer adaptive piece — how the first series of questions you answer can ladder you up to harder questions which offer opportunities to [better] your score,” Morales said.

The test comprises an analytical writing section, broken up into two 30-minute sections, two 30-minute verbal reasoning sections with 20 questions in each and a quantitative reasoning that includes two 35-minute sections with 30 questions in each.

Practice, practice, practice

It goes without saying that it’s important to practice for the GRE. Going in blind will not help your score; fortunately, there are multitudes of different materials out there — and many of them are free.

Some of the most accessible and budget-friendly options out there are online practice tests.

Morales said these practice tests can give you a good starting point on what areas test-takers need to work on.

Some options for online practice tests include:

ETS’ PowerPrep Practice tests. This test might be the most advantageous studying tool because it was created by the makers of the GRE. The questions on this test were on previous GRE tests, which will give you a good idea of what to expect. It is also the same program you will use the day of the test so mastering the PowerPrep can help on test day.

The Princeton Review also offers two options for practice tests. One is a free online test and the other is a free in-person GRE practice test on campus. The dates for those tests are Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Nov. 15 at 5 to 9 p.m. To enroll, visit the Princeton Review website.
https://www.princetonreview.com/grad/gre-practice-test#!practice (for web)

Switch up your studying methods and materials

Doing the same primary mode of studying can get tiresome and at some point you might wonder if you’re even absorbing any information. Having many different options, methods and materials for studying can help expand your learning and understanding.

“Gather as much prepping material as you can, so whether that is different types of practice booklets that come with tests or buying different brands as well,” Boyer said. “I used both because they gave me different types of information. One helped me out with the verbal and math section more whereas the other helped me out with the writing section more.”

Another practice strategy, thanks to smartphones, is having the ability to study for the test using GRE prep apps. Although this might not be the best option on its own, using it as a supplemental studying method can help.

Some apps include Magoosh, Ready4 GRE, Manhattan Prep GRE and the Official GRE Guide.

Partner up

Having a study buddy can help you conquer the GRE because a friend can help keep you accountable while prepping for the test. Boyer said he studied for three months with a friend who was also studying for GRE to help stay on track with studying.

“I always recommend studying with someone else so that way you can get different perspectives on things and motivate each other and help each other out with the learning process with everything that’s covered on the GRE,” Boyer said.

Studying with a partner can also help you each work on your different strengths and weaknesses. For Boyer, he needed extra help on the writing sections and his friend’s expertise in the subject helped him.

In addition to studying with friends, Boyer also said he reached out to previous teachers and professors for help with relearning material.

Don’t procrastinate or cram

Everyone has been there when they swore they would start studying for a test way in advance but come the night before, they haven’t even looked at notes. The GRE is not the test to do this for.

Boyer began studying for his GRE during the summer months, took the test in September, then applied in December. He also advises to plan ahead so you don’t put too much on your plate.

“I got it out of the way. Having the summer months to study was beneficial for me, so if there is a semester where people aren’t that busy then to study during that time,” Boyer said. “But definitely give yourself plenty of time to study.”

Procrastinating should be avoided because it leads to cramming, which Morales said will not benefit you on testing day.

Be prepared the morning of the test: last minute tips

When the day arrives to finally take the GRE, there are a few last-minute things you can do to walk in feeling ready for the test. It is important to go over the GRE information bulletin on ETS’ website to ensure you bring the required items to the testing area and to review prohibited items.

Both Boyer and Morales believe getting enough sleep is crucial to performing at your best and to feel awake enough to take the test. Morales also advises eating enough before the exam.

After his personal experience of feeling too cold during the exam, Boyer recommends wearing layers to the exam.

Boyer also recommends that students taking the GRE have an idea of their top three schools they would like to send their scores to because on testing day you can pick three schools to send your scores to for free.

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