How To Prepare For GRE

This is my weekly blog, originally posted on the blog of my website, Taz.

For every undergraduate trying to continue his/her eduction in graduate level, the Graduate Record Examinations or GRE is the required entry test for every applicant. The GRE is similar to the college entry test SAT, but slightly harder in terms of vocabulary and logic. I took my test on Nov. 27th 2016, the last day of the Thanksgiving holidays and gained a decent total score. So here it is, my still fresh personal handbook to prepare for GRE.

***If you are looking for what resources I used and study plan I followed during my preparation, you can skip to the Resources and Study Plan section directly.***

Statistics

Undergraduate: UCLA B.S Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering
TOEFL: 108/120 in 2011
GRE: Verbal 165/170, 95% percentile. Quantitative 170/170, 97% percentile
Analytical Writing: 4/6 59% percentile

Inspirations and thoughts

To be honest, I only really focus on the GRE prep for about a month. I know what some of you guys might think — I’m just trying to show off etc. But if you come from the same background as I do. I just want to assure you that you don’t have to worry about the GRE too much. A simple and effective preparation for a short period of time will be enough to get you satisfying GRE score. If you still have more than a couple of months for preparation, then congratulations because you really have the chance to improve your logic and overall English level, instead of just focusing on test prep.

If you’re a Chinese college student or Chinese international student studying abroad. You can also check out the Chinese version of this article. It is more catered to Chinese students in general.

My understanding of any standardized test is that it is more of a test of your overall reasoning ability and accumulation of your experience. Mastering in test prep and test skills may help you improve several points on your test scores. However, nothing can replace the fact that you have to elevate yourself through hard works and daily improvements. GRE is no different than any other tests. I only spent some time getting used to the test user interface and the GRE logic. For the rest of my prep, I spent all my time on vocabs and improve my reading capabilities: reading speed and the ability to summarize what you read. There is no better way for me to practice my writing than blogging weekly on my website. The consistency and care for quality are something I cannot get from other writings. For me, languages have always been something I wish to continue to learn throughout my life. And interestingly, the more language I learned, the easier the next language learning is, and the deeper my understanding of linguistics is. So here, let’s talk about how to improve the two testable sections on GRE, writing and reading comprehension.

Writing

I believe writing first has to be useful. It is a wrapper of the idea you wish to convey within a spatial and chronic frame. For several minutes and sentences, you want your readers to learn something from your article. You gotta answer their questions. It can be a How question, such as “How to prepare for GRE” or a What question, “What is GRE”, or even a Why question, “Why do you have to take GRE”. By understanding the purpose of your writing, you will focus more on the contents than the structures or languages you use. You have to design a way that the structures and words you use will serve the main contents, in a sense that they call for minimal attentions from you.

Another thing you have to realize is that writing is tightly combined with reading. You cannot expect output when you don’t invest in your input. Reading is your best friend in studying other people’s effective forms of writing and grow your own experience. People love stories and the only way you can collect more stories is by reading. Reading determines the quality of your writing.

Reading comprehension

Let’s talk about reading then. For anyone who tries to pursue higher education or tries to grow in knowledge, reading is not just a way of entertainment. You don’t read a research paper for amusement. People read in higher education to grab the essence of other people’s work. For me, effective reading requires you to have two voices in mind. A low-level voice that reads the article and absorbing the details. The low-level voice reads the sentences line by line and as carefully as possible. A high-level voice is used to process the information you just intake from reading paragraphs. How is the passage structured? What is the author’s opinion on certain issues? It consists of words that can help you to explain the whole article to someone within several sentences. Armed with the two voices, you won’t miss any detailed information nor get lost by just repeating words from the paper. Always bring questions to your readings, just like how you give people answers in your writings. Both readings and writings desire intentions.

After you’ve accumulated enough reading and writing skills, the real test prep stage will be shorter and more pleasant than you think.

GRE resources and study plan

This is my least favorite part of any test preparation. But in order to pass a standardized test, you have to research on their logics and improve your answering speed. Personally, I believe in consistency and intuitions. Spare an hour every day practicing GRE problems and getting acquaint with the test. Repeat that for a couple of months and you will see great results. Consistency and distribution of works are the keys — your mind needs consistency to get your logic ready for the test and you need time for knowledge to settle and improve your overall performance. Below are some resources I used whiling preparing for GRE.

Verbal: Magoosh
Quantitative: Magoosh
General information about the test: GRE official site

Great work takes time. So remember to be patient as well. Trust the process and quantity will sublimate to quality one day. Magoosh is generally harder than the real GRE test, so don’t be worried if your accuracy on Magoosh is relatively low.


My GRE journey has ended on the day Nov. 27th 2016. I wish all of you guys good luck on your GRE test and your future career!

Enjoy the rest of 2016,

KFan