I studied the Princeton Review GRE vocab on and off for about two months (always reviewing old words before moving on to new ones) before I finally moved on to the math and writing sections of the study guide. The second two subjects come much more naturally to me, so it was more of a review than anything –although it was helpful to get accustomed to the GRE format… and the tricks they like to play on test takers.
For instance, one of the practice questions showed an isosceles triangle with sides of length 7, 4 and x. The problem required that I find the perimeter. If you don’t know, an isosceles triangle is a triangle with two sides of the same length. Based on the diagram, it looked like x was equal to 7 – so I figured the perimeter must be 7+7+4=18. The trick was, the diagram wasn’t necessarily to scale… so x could also have been 4, and I got the question wrong. Lesson: never judge a GRE diagram by the way it looks unless it says “drawn to scale.”
Even more helpful than the practice questions in the book were the practice tests online. The week before my scheduled test date, I registered my book on PrincetonReview.com and began a practice test. Of course, I started it in a busy Starbucks; probably not the best idea. There were lots of distractions (especially when my friend came to meet me and sat down across the table), and the internet was so slow that the questions kept freezing (while the timer continued to count down). Needless to say, I didn’t make it very far.
Turns out that the wireless I have at home isn’t much better than what Starbucks offers. I tried to take the practice test three or four times, but it kept freezing up. So finally, the day before my test, I went over to a friend’s house and settled down in front of her desktop computer. It was perfect, because I was taking the test on an unfamiliar computer (good practice for the actual test setting), and the questions and the timer both worked (imagine that!).
It surprised me how quickly the 30 minutes flew by during my first essay; and then it surprised me how much time I had left over after writing my second essay. If you only want to study for the GRE for 30 minutes, I would honestly recommend responding to a practice essay prompt. You will have to write two essays on exam day, and I found budgeting my time to be the greatest shock. In reality, I would of course recommend studying for the GRE for more than 30 minutes. I would also recommend taking the entire practice test in one sitting (and reviewing your score/the questions afterwards). That means setting aside a solid 5 hours one day. It’s not easy, but hey, neither is test day. Better to know what you’re up against than go in unprepared.
Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently applying to graduate school for broadcast meteorology.
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