Grad School: The GRE

The GRE was the first horrifying obstacle that I faced when applying to grad school.
I felt so lost when studying for test and read up on every single tip I could find online as well as asking my closest friends (who had taken the test) what I should do. I never knew if I was doing the right thing or the wrong thing; but looking back, I can see that it is a journey worth sharing because I definitely did a little right and a little wrong.

I think the first mistake I made was being too attached to perfection. Two of my friends had taken the GRE and scored in the 98th and 99th percentiles in the dreaded verbal section. It was so intimidating to know that such high scores were possible by students who had taken nearly the exact same classes as I did. What if I didn’t do as well? Was I not cut out for grad school if I did not achieve the highest score possible? I had the same feelings about the ACT (which I took 7 times only to secure a 27… which isn’t bad, but I wanted a 34-36… again, with the perfection). Anyone taking the GRE, I would advise to not focus on your potential score at the beginning. Focus on mastering testing techniques and actually learning skills and vocabulary.

The second mistake that I made was not saving for the test. I was taken aback when I went to sign up for the first test and it was over 100 dollars. It took most of my paycheck and made the pressure even more enormous because now the test cut into both my time and my budget. As a very involved student body member, a good student, a double employee, and a future bride planning a wedding, this was a pressure that could have been avoided if I had put back a little of each paycheck and budgeted properly so that I could pay for the test easily. And unfortunatly, I did not do my best on the first test so I had to take it AGAIN. It was about 300 dollars (with travel included) that I spent in total. For some, this may not be a lot. And that’s good. Maybe you are a better saver than I am or accept more parental donations… but for me, this was grocery money, gas money, ect. Budgeting for not one but TWO possible tests is what I would advise. And if you do as great as my friends did on their first test then you have a little wiggle room. Maybe for some celebratory amenities?

I did buy a great study tool: Kaplan’s Guide to the GRE. So one point for me. It belonged to one of those said friends who had done great on her first GRE. It was a beneficial tool that was super mobile. Some people just take the practice tests that the GRE allows for each tester to acquire when they sign up for the test, but I needed more prep. The Kaplan books are what I used and they actually taught testing tricks and gave great tips. The kit came with flashcards with vocab words that were ACTUALLY ON THE TEST. I did feel more prepared for that section of the test because of those nifty flash cards. I sold my kit later, but sometimes I miss going through those cards because I actually had fun learning with them. #nerdstatus (By the way, I called my university the other day and obviously I had to go through one of those automated systems to talk to someone, and one of the commands was the push the HASHTAG KEY. What has the academic world come to?).book_gre

DONT’TAKE YOUR STUDY MATERIAL WITH YOU TO THE TEST. I know, I know, you feel so attached to them after lugging them around for months on end. But don’t do it. I did not, but it would have been a catastrophe if I had done it. Another girl was in the testing center with me and she got in major trouble because she brought a study book with her while we were waiting to be admitted to the computer room. Its majorly against the rules and she almost had to leave and not take the test (a major nightmare). I didn’t even take my cell phone inside. Or my purse. Just my wallet, testing confirmation sheet, and my snack. They gave me a locker for my stuff and I didn’t need anything else.

What do you think about Coffee? I love it. Me and Coffee are tight. Coffee comes with me where ever I go. Coffee is my constant companion. BUT I would advise anyone to not have coffee before the test. I may just be weird and superstitious and offending my constant companion (coffee), but my first test (that went abysmally) I felt jittery from nerves and the normal amount of caffeine that I usually have at 10am. I felt a bit betrayed, stupid, and a whole lot of upset. I decided if I did take the test again, I would forego the coffee for apple juice. The next test I bulked up on not one but TWO whole grain blueberry muffins, some guilty pleasure found in the form of bacon, and a healthy amount of apple juice. Some real Brain Food. I also brought a snack for my break, which I forgot to do the first time. After the test (on which I did so much better) I celebrated with a sweet reunion with my long lost study buddy. That’s right, I went to Starbucks and payed over 4 dollars for a dreamy Hazelnut Machiatto.

I also scored another point for myself in this battle by remembering the important quote from Mr. Oscar Wilde “You can never be over dressed or over educated”. A nifty trick that I have learned throughout my undergraduate career is that I feel better and more confident whenever I am if I am dressed up. No T-shirts, No jeans, and No messy buns. I love dressing up, even though I often don a pair of yoga pants and some random sweatshirt. I dressed up for both occasions, but I was still comfortable. I made sure I fixed my hair, I had make up, and I wore a cute tunic with leggings. Although it probably did not reflect in my scores, I felt like I was ready for a test that could determine my future academic endeavors. This is a personal habit, and even though it probably doesn’t help for getting a high score, I know it helped me feel better about myself. Is easy to give yourself a pep talk when you look super cute. OR if you are this girl. (one of my fave videos, ever. please watch to have your life changed).

Lastly, don’t freak out. The GRE will not make or break your application to whatever school to which you are applying. It’s good to do well, but its better to remain sane.

I can do anything GOOD! (You won’t get this closing statement if you did not watch the video… Your bad).


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