By: Stephanie Griffin, Honors College Senior
After taking the SAT in high school, I thought that was the last time I would ever take a standardized test. Lo and behold, 3 years later, I found myself having to study over the summer to conquer the first obstacle of graduate school applications, the GRE. The GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations, is a required standardized test for graduate school for a wide variety of programs. Being a Speech and Hearing Sciences major, the GRE is required for my applications into graduate school to get my AuD and become an audiologist. The GRE is a slightly more advanced form of the SAT that is computer based. There are two essays, 2 sections each of mathematics and reading/grammar, and an unscored section.
Compared to the SAT, the GRE testing occurs several times weekly in all major cities, so there are plenty of opportunities to take the test. I signed up to take the GRE in mid-June in order to give myself a month to study after exams ended. Knowing myself, I also recognized I would want to take the exam again. I am a person that needs to experience the atmosphere and general “vibe” of something as major as the GRE before I can truly feel comfortable. I know some people would rather study rigorously before taking a test to only have to take it once. With my general test anxiety I knew that taking the test twice would allow me to understand how it worked and timed out, so the second time I could really focus on the material and not on the logistics.
After signing up, I really didn’t know what was on the test, how it worked, etc., so I headed to Barnes and Noble. In the test prep section, I found a book from Princeton as well as a general 5-pound book full of questions. Not really knowing how to begin, I opened the Princeton book and began reading. Test prep books are honestly a great way to understand how different tests work, from the time format to what you are allowed to bring on test day. Along with a ton of great information about the test, many different test prep books will also give you online access codes for full practice tests online, vocabulary, and different tips. My book came with a timeline where I could select how long I had to study for the test and a schedule for each week was made. I used this to an extent but just focused on making my way through the book by a certain time.
Each day I would complete around half a chapter to ensure that I didn’t burn myself out. The Princeton book would talk about the format for each section and then work up the difficulty of practice questions as you finished each section. The reading section gave tips on how to read through the different passages and pick the information out that you needed. A large group of common vocabulary words were given, so I would pick through those and make note cards of unfamiliar words. The math section reviewed the basics of different categories such as geometry and algebra. I honestly hadn’t done any of the tested categories of math since early high school, so a review was definitely needed. Due to the GRE being a computer based test, I also had to practice transferring information from a screen to scratch paper without losing any valuable information. For the writing portion of the GRE, I felt comfortable enough to not practice writing due to the large amount of papers I write every semester. I read about the format of the two prompts and how to structure the papers, and left it at that.
The day before the test, I did absolutely nothing. I relaxed, went to see a movie, and headed to bed at a decent time. I knew that stressing myself out the day before would only hurt me, so I stepped away from all my test prep materials. Test day came, and I found myself cool, collected, and surprisingly relaxed. I arrived early to the testing center, filled out my forms and walked in ready to go. Throughout the test. I remembered the tips I had learned, and stuck to what I knew. As soon as I completed the test, I received my estimated score and was ecstatic. Although 4 hours of my life was gone, and a headache remained from staring at a computer screen, I felt nothing but relief.
Knowing how the test is formatted and flows, I am now in the process of prepping to take the GRE for the second and last time. I know what sections to work on, the areas to study, and what I need to do to increase my score. I know that practice problems help me, while forcing myself to study didn’t. I also know my personal pace and style of studying. My advice to anyone taking the GRE is to not burn yourself out, be confident in what you know, and most importantly, don’t doubt yourself. Best of luck!