How to ace the Psychology GRE?
September 2, 2008 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Can you point me to some good resources to prepare for the GRE Subject Test in Psychology?

I found a ton of great resources for the general test online (mostly thanks to AskMe), but am having less luck with the Psychology subject test. I've been told that it's not much more complex than a comprehensive exam for an introductory psych course, but I'd really like to blow it out of the water.

I have the ETS guidebook, and I'm willing to purchase another book or some software if there's something out there that really knocked your socks off, but I'd prefer to find some free resources online.

I'm also interested in any study strategies you might have (but for this test in particular, not just general test taking tips). If you took the test, what did you like/dislike about it? What surprised you? What would you have spent more time focusing on?

I have about nine weeks to prepare, and have planned for about an hour of study per day.
posted by solipsophistocracy to Education (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
LiveJournal's ApplytoGrad community discusses this all the time.
posted by k8t at 1:28 PM on September 2, 2008

BTW, an hour of study a day, from what I understand about test prep and the Psych subject test in particular, is not a lot.
posted by k8t at 1:30 PM on September 2, 2008

I used the Kaplan guide when I was preparing to take the Psych subject test. I thought that it had the clearest organization of review material, and it really filled the gaps in my knowledge well. A lot of the things in the Kaplan guide did show up on the test. I believe it also has two practice tests in the back and I maybe review questions with the answers explained at the end of each chapter (I don't have the book handy at the moment).

As far as studying, I mainly just crammed over the two weeks before the test (not good, I know). One good thing to do is look over any materials (notes, textbooks, etc) that you might have saved from any of the lower-level, intro-type Psych classes you took in college. I had just TAed Intro Psych the year before, and the notes that I took from that class were a great resource. In allocating my study time, I tried to spend more time studying things that I didn't have as solid of an education on. For example, I had never taken Social Psych, so I studied those chapters of the Kaplan guide extra-hard. If you were very focused on one or two areas in college, chances are you will know enough of the history/quintessential studies done in those areas to cover what the GRE will ask.

The worst things about the test are that a) it's so freaking long and b) a lot of the questions are structured such that you cannot really make an educated guess (If they ask you who came up with some theory, and the choices are five names you've never heard of, for example). So I guess, be sure to get a decent amount of sleep the night before, hang in there even though it feels like the test will never end, and use the "leave an answer blank" strategy wisely.

I will also say that I left feeling like I did horribly, but that when I got my score, it turned out to be MUCH better than I had anticipated, so try not to worry too much in the interim. If the subject test is optional for the programs that you're applying to, you may want to wait until you get your scores to decide whether or not to send them to schools. You lose out on your free score reports, but at least you have the confidence of knowing what you're sending.

Finally, not sure if you know this (I didn't), but your score will be divided into two areas. I think one is "Experimental Psychology" and the other one encompasses Social/Developmental-type things. Therefore, places you apply will have a chance to see how you did a little more specifically in the area that you will be studying in grad school and perhaps consider that more carefully than the score from the other area.
posted by rebel_rebel at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2008

Best answer: I'm a little late to this party, but since you didn't get many responses, I figured I would add on.

If I may toot my own horn, I blew the Psych exam out of the water. I didn't really prep all that much, though. The biggest thing I had going for me was unusual course taking. Like Rebel_rebel says, the test is divided up into Experimental and more Clinical/Social areas. My program was all about experimental, so I (at the time) knew the parts of the brain, the names of neurotransmitters and the drugs that act on them. A lot of psych majors take more social and clinical classes and don't know the technical vocabulary (and it's much harder to rapidly memorize neuro psych terms than the social psych). I also took a History of Psychology class that helped me learn all of the classic studies and the big names. If you had similar preparation, you're in good shape.

I focused my preparation on areas that I didn't take classes in. This was mainly clinical and developmental psych, so I focused my efforts on cramming in those domains. Trying to learn all of psych is impossible, so just try to stock up in the areas you know you are weakest in. I determined this using the Kaplan book. I went through the vocab lists and checked off all the ones I knew. The areas with the fewest checks got the most study time.

Lastly, focus on vocabulary, names, and the classic studies. It's all trivia. They ask about all kinds of stuff, especially the really hard things like neuropsych and methodology. It was kind of fun to see what all they would ask and I think it rarely makes a big impact on admissions, so just have fun and see how well you can do.
posted by parkerjackson at 6:59 PM on September 14, 2008

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