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Student New GRE Experience: Claire

Here’s another student’s write-up of their exam experience! You can submit one yourself or read what others have shared by going to Student New GRE Experiences.

Here’s one from Claire, enjoy!:

“Name: Claire H.
Test location: Arizona
Test date: November 8, 2011
V: 750-800
M: 730-800
Studied for: 2 months


My name is Claire. I’m 22 years old, and I currently live in Phoenix, AZ. I graduated from college in May with a degree in French and sociology. I just finished taking the revised GRE for the first, and hopefully last, time (I took the old GRE last fall, while I was a senior in college). I feel great about the verbal and quantitative, and a little shaky on the analytical writing because I didn’t have much to say about the issue prompt.

I’ve always had a facility with language, so I wasn’t as concerned about studying for the verbal as I was for the quantitative. This was especially true because my previous GRE score was fine on the verbal; it was the math that needed to be more competitive. So I started studying on August 29 with a certain goal in mind: improve my quantitative score. While I spent some time reviewing new question types for the verbal section and issue prompts for the analytical writing, most of the past two months were spent reviewing basic math concepts and specific math strategies for the GRE.

I had only brief experiences with math while in college, so a lot of the geometry and algebra wasn’t familiar. I had to start from scratch. As such, here are some of the books I used during the first month to familiarize myself with the math I’d need to know for the GRE:

  • CliffNotes Math Review for Standardized Tests. Great. I recommend using this after using Lighthouse or Algebra Demystified.
  • Lighthouse Ultimate Math Refresher. A very solid base for geometry, algebra, and arithmetic.
  • Algebra Demystified. Very thorough practice for algebra. I went through this book in about a week and a half, and felt much more comfortable with algebra afterwards.
  • Geometry Demystified. Note: not as good as the algebra book for the GRE; many of the concepts, such as proofs, aren’t relevant.

After getting the basics, I spent the rest of the time (September through yesterday, essentially) applying the basic knowledge to practice, practice, practice. I definitely overbought because I wanted to make sure I’d have all the resources I could possibly need, but here are the ones I found most helpful:

  • Clemmonsdogpark, of course! (online resource)
  • Barron’s New GRE (book)
  • Official ETS material: the book has hundreds of practice questions, and there is an online test. Definitely take that test if at all possible, because the calculator has different tools than you might expect, and is awkward to maneuver.

Overall, my advice is to keep practicing. Most importantly, I looked at the answers for the questions I got wrong (or the ones where I just guessed) to figure out why I got them wrong and what I could do to get them right next time. Here is the take-away message: practice makes perfect, or at least close to it! Also, definitely take a look at the issue pool (available on the GRE website) well in advance of your test and contemplate some ways you might approach each question. I discarded one prompt and said “well, I hope I don’t get that one,” and I ended up getting it. They’re offering you a great resource for the AWA – use it! It also helps to actually write several essays and get a feel for how much time you’re using.

Good luck to everyone!”

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