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How to Study for the New GRE

The inevitable is looming and you can’t put it off much longer. But now the pressing question becomes, how to study for the new GRE exam? How you answer this question – and by extension how you put your answer into practice – can be as important as the prep materials you use. Below are five important points to keep in mind when studying for the new GRE.


Beware of Some Prep Books

Nowhere is caveat emptor – or let the buyer beware – more apt than when it comes to GRE prep material. At least these days we have, a site that allows us to make purchases based on user feedback.

Nevertheless, more than a few of my students, before coming to me, would purchase a book by the publisher REA. After all, REA had the glossiest covers and our eyes are attracting to glossy things. Unfortunately what lay between the glossy covers was content and questions so poor that they would only hurt your performance (basically questions had multiple possible answers and the explanations were so abstruse that many would blame themselves and think that the GRE was simply over their heads).

Sadly, the REAs of this world are still with us – most have moved on-line. So before you rush out to purchase some software, with some stock photos of some dude in a suit smiling and giving a thumbs up, make sure you remember caveat emptor. Research the company. Are they liable? Do they offer a free trial? Will they let you any of the “students” who have score perfect using their software (of course, most cheesy stock photos usually reek of scam).

Despite increased consumer awareness, there are still some rotten apples amongst books. REA continues to peddle their abysmal stuff. McGraw is only slightly better and Gruber’s makes the new GRE feels more like the SAT.

Read my New GRE Book Reviews here.


Have a Prep Cocktail

So you have steered clear of the shoddy publishers. But does that mean that there is one book, which you need only to read from start to finish, that can guarantee a great score? Well, there may be plenty of publishers who claim so, but that simply isn’t the case.

Your best score will come as a result of combination of the , on-line prep (Clemmonsdogpark of course!), and a reputable class and/or highly recommended tutor. Don’t limit yourself to just one medium, instead of taking advantage of this prep cocktail.


Become a Scholar, Not a Student

A student studies for a test. A scholar studies to learn. While this may sound idealistic, even quixotic (a good GRE word!), if your attitude is “I have to study for this stupid test,” you are going to have a potentially miserable time prepping (and a score to reflect this sentiment). On the other hand, if your attitude is “I am going to develop critical reading and thinking skills (as well as numerical reasoning skills) that will potentially help me in my graduate work,” you are far less likely to want to give up around the 300th vocabulary word.

By donning the scholar’s thinking cap, you will also be far more amenable to learning vocabulary in-context, as you read magazines such as the New Yorker, The Atlantic and The Economist. And it’s stretch, but you may even look back fondly on your GRE prep.


Train for a Marathon (one which requires frequent sprints)

Unless you are fresh out of college, an English lit degree under your belt, and have a penchant for math puzzles, scoring in the top 10% is going to take more than a week of study. Depending on how long you have been out of school, the amount of reading you do in your free time and the quality of your math education, the time you spend prepping for the GRE can very widely. How competitive the program you are applying to also plays a major role.

All that said, most will spend between six weeks and six months prepping. So do not think of this as a test you can easily prepare with a weekend of cramming. The new GRE tests not only cumulative knowledge but the way in which you reason. Thinking in GRE-speak (yes, that includes all those polysyllabic words) will take a fair amount of time.


Take Timed Tests Frequently

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned bursts of metaphorical sprinting as you prep for the marathon that is the New GRE. Specifically, you should take practice tests about once a week to determine whether you are improving and where you should be focusing your study efforts. Taking a full-length test can be taxing and, in some cases, induce as much sweat as sprinting, but forcing yourself to sit for an entire exam will prepare you for test day.

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