Studying for the GRE
May 25, 2011 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I once read an answer on AskMe where the respondent said their study guide was so good they felt like they were cheating on the GRE. I want that study guide! I can't find that question, but any recommendations on study guides, materials, preparing for the test or anything at all related would be greatly appreciated.

I am going to try to start studying this summer while I have time as I don't think I will be able to in the fall, so if there are recommendations about what to do closer to the test, please point them out. I'm going to need to brush up on my math and I feel my vocabulary has gotten quite rusty, I'm constantly looking things up. My intended field is quite competitive so I need all the help I can get. I haven't taken a standardized test this millennium. Unleash knowledge and wisdom, tips tricks, what worked for you, what have you.
posted by provoliminal to Education (10 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Just a note. The GRE is being revised - the new test will be offered starting in August. Fewer analogies and antonyms, more crazy sentence completion questions. Math should stay relatively untouched.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:28 AM on May 25, 2011

The ETS also provides free materials for anyone who signs up for the test. Details here.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:30 AM on May 25, 2011

3 tips:

1) Buy your study guide used or borrow one from the library, if possible. You will never look at it again once the test is done.
2) Make sure you practice writing in TIMED conditions.
3) Free Rice is a fun way to study vocab when you are completely sick of studying from the guides (but it's not enough to use on its own).

I also created my own "cheat sheets" to practice with, and wrote as many practice tests as I could find.

Good luck!
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 9:32 AM on May 25, 2011

I found the Barron's/Princeton Review guides to be excellent. Just learn your words!! And know your math. You will never look at the book after the exam but make sure you do the practice tests and study it cover to cover beforehand. It works.
posted by bquarters at 9:45 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I believe the answer is here: GRE tips?. Do a page search for "cheating" (second one).
posted by hammerthyme at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2011

That was me. The book was The Princeton Review's "Cracking the GRE". The word lists were dead on -- one question on the real exam had four or five different words from the vocab list, and that's just focusing on the words I didn't know well before I started studying.

I continue to strongly recommend doing your practice tests directly from ETS instead of 3rd parties.

OTOH, my GRE experience is rapidly aging -- I took the test in 2004.
posted by endless_forms at 10:35 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

I've prepped people to take (and re-take) standardized exams. I've found that commercial guides are almost all terrible. The questions are often ambiguous and poorly written. The harder you think about them, the fuzzier they get.

The exams themselves, in contrast, are really well thought-out. The harder you think, the clearer they get.

Therefore, you should use only official tests from earlier years.

There are several tricks for multiple-choice questions.

Read the setup or fact pattern twice, making sure you understand everything. When you know that, you can almost always eliminate one or two of the choices, which gives you much better odds of picking the right answer.

In a standardized test, if an answer is not ALL right, it's all wrong." Even a single misstatement in an otherwise perfect answer means you cross it off your list of possibilities.
posted by KRS at 12:25 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

The most flawless GRE test prep I had was the Princeton Review's Crash Course for the GRE. I had to take the test within a week of deciding I was going to go to grad school and boy howdy, did I do better than I probably would have had I not picked up that book.
posted by patronuscharms at 3:57 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I took the GRE in December. It had been 13 years since I had sat in a college class, and many more years since I had taken algebra. I did a passable enough job. My scores were just a bit below the average the program accepted. I couldn't have done that bad because I was admitted. I probably would have done better if I could have taken it a second time. But my predicament was there was literally no time before the application deadline. Here's what worked for me:

- Schedule a date to take the test. Make sure it's at a time and place that are comfortable to you. Make sure you don't have any other BS or distractions happening that week.
- I made studying my full time job in the weeks leading up to the test. This is not possible for everyone. If you can study 4 to 8 hours a day without getting burnt out then do it. Your knowledge will be super fresh when you go in for the test.
- I bought new study guides from a bookstore. One Princeton. One Kaplan. Figure out what looks good to you in the store and just buy it there. You may want to get several books, eg, one for math, one comprehensive.
- Go to the actual GRE site and review their sample question for the essay portion. They really use these in the actual test. Practice randomly picking one and timing yourself writing on it. Keep the writing style simple and to the point.
- Go into the test with the confidence that you can simply take it again if things don't go well. Leave enough time before the application deadline to take it again.
- Don't hesitate to read up on factorials and other obscure math items. Yes, I got hit with this and none of the books I studied covered it.
- Bring a nice flask and do a shot before the test.
posted by quadog at 5:14 PM on May 25, 2011

I used the Barron's GRE guide, and I found it (or any other commercial guide) to be most helpful to learn the "tricks" for the essay portions. I would have gone in a completely different direction with both my written sections had I not studied a guide. (Although I used Barron's, I don't think there's a HUGE difference in the various publishers' guides).
posted by lrrosa at 1:37 PM on May 26, 2011

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