Study early, often to succeed on GRE

I’ve dreaded this semester for four long years. From the minute my SAT proctor called “Time” to signal the end of my three months of torture, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would be forced to endure more cryptic reading comprehension passages and relive the nightmares of 9th grade algebra.

The GRE or the Graduate Record Examination is a steroid version of the SAT that, for a lucky few of us, is the next path on the road to reaching our career goals.

Though sometimes it feels as if the GRE is my punishment for deciding to attend graduate school, I’ve made it my mission to make this test-taking process smoother than the last.

Below are a few tips I’ve acquired over the last four months that anyone considering the GRE should keep in mind.

Start early

If you’re someone like myself who has not seen an algebra or geometry problem since high school, then concepts like the Pythagorean Theorem and quadratic functions mean absolutely nothing to you.

Those left-brained students with majors that allow them to practice mathematical skills every day don’t need to stress out over relearning complicated laws and formulas. The rest of us, however, are forced to skim through our 10th grade textbooks hoping to trigger any memories we suppressed of math-related activities.

I would say between four and 12 weeks of preparation not only lets you brush up on the high school basics, but also enables you to incorporate and perfect those rules with GRE questions.

Make a schedule

One of the hardest aspects of studying for the GRE is balancing the rest of your life with it. Between work, tests and RSOs, it can seem almost impossible to fit in eight to 10 more hours of studying each week.

The key is to make a realistic schedule that fits in with your day-to-day routine. You may have to reprioritize your life for a while, but it’s important to make sure you don’t change things so dramatically that everything fun is completely sucked out. This will only burn you out mentally and decrease the likelihood that you will stick with the plan over a three-month period.

Even if you can only make time to study 30 minutes to an hour a day, any time makes a difference.

Practice whenever (and wherever) you can

“Practice makes perfect” may be a corny cliché, but it’s one that proves to be true time after time. Especially with a test like the GRE that requires students to gradually build up their skills, practice is definitely a necessity to improve your score.

When reality hits and life gets in the way, it may help to find creative ways to incorporate studying into your schedule. I must say the most welcome part of E.L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” (besides the ending) was getting the opportunity to look up each of the sophisticated, GRE-caliber words scattered throughout the novel.

Try to find opportunities for practice with everything you do whether it’s reading a newspaper, talking with friends or helping a younger sibling with math homework.

Don’t freak out

I know firsthand how tedious it can be to spend hours studying for a three-hour test that may not be the best indicator of your success in graduate school. It’s especially difficult when irrational but potent thoughts continuously pop into your head.

“If I don’t score in the 95th percentile, then I won’t get into NYU.” “If I don’t get into NYU, then I might as well decorate myself a nice cardboard sign that reads ‘will write for food.’”

Trust me, I’ve been there. This is the time to tell that annoying voice in your head to shut the hell up. Breathe and take the study process one day at a time. Just make sure to do your best with the free time you do have.

Candice is a senior in Media and can be reached at [email protected]