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hug_of_war's avatar

Have you taken the GRE?

Asked by hug_of_war (10720points) August 23rd, 2010

What were your general impressions? How much did you prepare? How did you prepare? Was it easier or more difficult than expected? If you hadn’t taken a pure math class in a while did you find the math challenging?

I plan on taking it in November and am nervous.

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5 Answers

muppetish's avatar

I am SO glad you asked this because I am shaking in my boots about the GRE General and English Literature Subject that I am supposed to be studying for (I take them in September and October, respectively.) At this point, I am scrambling for tips and literally forcing myself to crack open the study guide and whip out the flashcards.

A few months ago, I purchased The Princeton Review: Cracking the GRE study guide for the General Test. The math section covers arithmetic, Algebra, and a smidgen of Geometry (no proofs – thank goodness.) It shouldn’t be too bad, unless you found these math courses difficult when you first studied them. Even so, I would definitely recommend that you refresh your memory (I’ll dig through my bookmarks and pull up websites that have practice questions in a bit.)

There should be full-length practice exams available online, but I haven’t looked for them yet. The book that I purchased allows me to take two full practice exams through the publisher’s website.

For English, the biggest thing you can do to prepare is study vocabulary. I’ve made tons of flashcards and study them whenever I’m not doing anything else (nothing major, just flicking through the words.) A good website that feels more like a game than study time is FreeRice.com – there’s also the added benefit of donations made by studying :)

I’ve yet to take the exam myself, but have heard that it is fairly difficult (if you have taken the SATs, I was told this exam is that on steroids.) It’s not so much that they ask you impossible questions, but the way they phrase the questions, and the answer choices they provide, are written with the intention of confusing you. When you take the exam, make sure to read the question, read each answer, and be wary (and make use of the scratch paper they will provide you with.)

I am going to work on putting a condensed GRE Boot Camp together with friends tomorrow. I can PM what we collect to you in the future if you’d like :)

syz's avatar

I took the GRE after I had been out of college for over 15 years. I took a GRE prep course through Duke University and I highly recommend doing something along those lines. I scored pretty well, but I never would up applying.

BhacSsylan's avatar

I took the GRE (standard and chemistry) two years ago, as I was applying to grad school. How much you need to study depends on quite a number of things. I didn’t find the questions as tricky as @muppetish suggests they may be, I believe that to mostly be rumor. I found it really no more challenging then the SAT. It obviously is harder, but after 4 years of college it seems like it’s no worse.

Now, that’s also 4 years of science in college, and so the math at least was a cakewalk, mostly algebra and low level calculus when I’m used to differential equations and the like. So, if you have, say, an English major you’ll probably want to study up, but i still don’t think it will require too much if you did well in calculus one and the courses before. Mostly a ‘dusting off’ sort of studying, reminding your brain how to go through the motions. But, again, this depends on how well you did. If you struggled in math it’ll require more work. But I didn’t find them all that challenging, and nothing particularly tricky.

Now, the English (general English, not lit) is a bit different, I’ll grant you. I didn’t find it all that tricky, but certainty harder (again, science major, so no English courses for several years). I wouldn’t be surprised if an English major had the same easy time that I had of math, but I can’t really comment. I’m usually good with words but some of the analogies just kicked me in the face. The new electronic version is also a pain in that it aligns itself with your progress. So, in my case, i hit about five or ten just fine in a row, then got slapped with ‘myopic’ (which i now know the definition of, so i suppose that’s good) and it was downhill from there, with a run of words I honestly couldn’t figure. But, even with that I still pulled a decent grade, so don’t feel disheartened. But i won’t say it wasn’t difficult.

Analytical was fun, actually, in my opinion. If you like debating it’s great, and a chance to flex your writing skills. If you aren’t good at analytical writing then you will need to brush up on good reading and logic skills, as you’ll be asked to evaluate statements for good logic and write an essay based on a given question or quote.

Now, keep in mind that that was my experience with next to no studying. I don’t recommended it, that’s just the way it turned out. Some good vocab studying like @muppetish suggested would probably help considerably to not have a bad experience with the English part as I did, and you should at the very least do a good brush up in any area you feel weak. But try not to think of it as some very nasty problem, or it will cause you more worry and stress then it’s worth.

And good luck @hug_of_war and @muppetish!

muppetish's avatar

Thank you for sharing your experience, @BhacSsylan. It does make me feel better :)

To clarify, I am an English Literature major and have not touched a math course since I was a freshman (and that was Statistics, which is hardly what anyone would consider a difficult math course.) The math questions in my study guide have been far easier to solve than I anticipated they would be – even when I haven’t been 90% confident in my answers, my guesses have been accurate.

It’s the English portion I’m having trouble with. I’ve always found analogies annoying and the GRE loves them. Ugh. As someone who often second guesses their answer choices, I’m not having fun studying them.

Another good idea to study for the English portion is to brush up on elementary grammar (enough to identify parts of speech readily: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.) and studying Greek and Latin roots. If there is any intensive vocabulary study that you boost you English comprehension, it is those two. You’ll be able to break words down and figure out what they could mean.

The best advice I can give before any exam, is study a little bit daily, make sure to get a great night of sleep before your scheduled examination (and a healthy breakfast), and don’t forget to breathe throughout the test.

Best of luck studying @hug_of_war – you’re not alone!

lillycoyote's avatar

I took the GREs in 1987 and they were a bit of a different test then. I did very well on the verbal portion and not so well on the math, but that is not my strong suit. I have also taught SAT prep courses and tutored individuals on test preparation. One thing I would strongly advise is for you to take a timed, yes, timed, practice test as soon as possible. All sections, in the same amount of time you would be alloted for the real test. It will take discipline, but taking the practice test and scoring it yourself will allow you to see where your strengths and weakness are and where need to concentrate your study and review. Time practice tests also can reduce your anxiety going into the exam because you will have learned out to pace yourself. It will feel familiar. Edit: That being said, I couldn’t sleep at all the night before, I even remember kicking and hitting the walls of my bedroom for a few minutes because I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep and spent the morning of the test throwing up my coffee. The GREs were really important, because my college grades were o.k. well, o.k.-, not stellar and I really needed good GRE scores to get into grad school. I still did well though. The prep pays off

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