You don't need the expensive classes!Jul 11, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
Several years ago when I was facing the GRE, I received some good advice: you DO have to study, but you DON'T have to enroll in one of the GRE prep classes. The prep classes do work, but their only advantage over the prep books it that the classes provide motivation, but no more content than the books.
I can confirm this from my own experience. For one, by working through the GRE prep books on my own, I was able to raise my scores on the practice tests significantly (and did quite well on the actual test). And secondly, while I was in graduate school, I looked into a job as an instructor for one of the GRE prep classes. The employer was mostly concerned with how enthusiastic potential instructors were, with little emphasis on actual teaching ability. In other words, the test prep classes provide little more than a personal cheerleader and pep rally. (In addition, the large amount of money that you spend up front can motivate one to study more, if only to justify the great expensive.)
There is nothing in the prep classes that you cannot accomplish on your own, but you must supply the motivation and dedicate time to studying alone. With this in mind, decide for yourself if you really need the expensive prep course or not. If not, you do still need to study. Here are my tips.
1. Buy (or loan from the library)two or three GRE prep books. Read all of their test-taking strategies. Then go through and take a practice test (with time limits as noted!). After you take each practice test, go back through the test-taking strategies and experiment with techniques to find out what works for you. You will find both general test-taking strategies and also specific techniques for the different kinds of questions.
2. Register for the test ASAP ahead of time. I ended up having to drive a long way to take the test (no fun when the test is at 8am)because I waited until the last minute to register (August for a test in October!). You can schedule the GRE early so that you will have time to retake it in case you do poorly. However, I see no point taking the test at all if you think you might do poorly. With all the practice tests available, there is no excuse not to do your best the first time you take the GRE--you have every opportunity to be well prepared.
3. YES, you have to study and prepare, particularly for the math & logic sections. For many college students, you have not taken much math for four years, or at least not the kind that will be on the math (quantitative) section. Get out those prep books and relearn all the high school math that you forgot. The analytical (logic/reasoning) section has some intimidating problems to work out. When I first looked at these in the practice tests I was absolutely stumped. However, with the prep books, I learned to conquer all of these puzzles.
4. What about studying for the verbal section? If you are preparing well ahead of time (e.g., a year or more), your best bet is to learn vocabulary in the natural way, which is to learn through reading and hearing new words (and looking them up in the dictionary as needed). Trying to artificially cram words into your mental dictionary is a difficult process , with short term benefits at best. If you insist on overt studying and memorization for the verbal section, invest your time in learning word components (e.g., roots, prefixes, and suffixes)instead of fooling with vocabulary lists.
5. Don't forget to find out if you need to take the GRE for your specific subject area (e.g., psychology, sociology, etc.) as well as the general test, and if possible take the general and subject area tests on different days. Also, be sure to find out if the graduate program(s) you are applying to look at all of the parts of the GRE. For instance, some programs don't consider the analytical portion, in this case you shouldn't waste your time studying for it, if you are sure none of your programs require it.
Good luck & best wishes!
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