GRE study hacks for when you are in school or working
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By Ryan Hickey, Petersons & EssayEdge
If you’re trying to prep for the GRE while working or going to school (or both!), it can seem like sacrificing sleep is the only way to make time for studying. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
With these GRE study hacks, you can prepare for the test without losing a wink of much-needed sleep.
1. USE YOUR APPS.
If you want to kick it old school with index cards and a file-o-facts, more power to you. However, there are lots of great apps out there, some free and others paid, to help you prepare for your GRE exam. Spaced repetition apps can help you build vocabulary, learn the parts of speech and memorize formulas. Habit tracking programs can remind you to stay focused on your goals despite what is happening in other parts of your life, plus keep you motivated as you achieve milestones.
2. MAKE A DETAILED AND REALISTIC PLAN.
“Make the highest score possible” is a little SAT/ACT. If you’re crunched for time, you’ll need to think of the GRE in grown-up terms. What kind of score do you need to get into the programs that interest you? Or course, you’ll want to leave a cushion, but trying for a perfect score may not really help you; in fact, it could cost you significantly in terms of time and stress. Once you have an idea of what you actually need to accomplish, you can make a plan that will really work.
3. DON’T GUESS WHERE YOU WEAKNESSES ARE.
Are you great with numbers? Did you ace all of your grammar tests in middle school? Will any of that translate to the GRE? There’s no way to know until you try.
Take a couple of practice tests and face the truth about your scores. They might surprise you. You may find that you’re stronger in quantitative than you knew, but your verbal reasoning score does not reflect your loquaciousness renowned amongst your venerable friends and colleagues. Testing well in a subject area is a different animal to having real-world mastery of a subject area. Remember: We’re looking for high test scores, so test strategy might be something that you’ll need to improve as well as your actual knowledge base.
4. BREAK THE PROJECT DOWN.
Depending on your work or school schedule, you’ll need to divide your GRE study project into bite-sized morsels. If you follow Hack 2 and have a solid plan, you can accomplish more in five focused minutes than you could in 30 unfocused minutes. And yes, you can achieve a lot in one minute. Plus, the latest research on learning is showing us that more frequent exposure to information speaks the brain’s language by telling the brain, “Hey, I keep seeing this. This must be important, so I better remember it.”
Studying in smaller chunks flies in the face of conventional wisdom, so it might be uncomfortable at first. However, with a few tries you’ll be studying on the fly — while you’re waiting for the subway, for a couple of minutes at the beginning or the end of your break or while you’re standing in line for a cafe latte.
5. FIX WHAT’S BROKEN.
Even after all of your brilliant planning, if you get down to the real work of getting your studying done and something’s not working, drop it. Do something else. With a schedule as tight as yours, you don’t have the luxury of standing on ceremony. Try new methods until you find the one that’s right for you.
That’s not to say that you should worry about constantly re-tweaking or optimizing your program. Sometimes “good enough” is the best path. However, don’t be afraid to hack your original plan and get things rolling in the right direction.
Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Petersons and EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL; editing essays and personal statements; and consulting directly with applicants.
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