How to best prepare for the GRE is what this video discusses. Watch it and get the best GRE Score!
How to Best Prepare for the GRE [Video Transcript]
Linda: Hi, everybody. This is Linda Abraham. I am the founder and president of Accepted. I want to welcome you to 5 Killer GRE Prep Tips to be presented by Chris Lele of Magoosh Test Prep. Probably the most anxiety-provoking part of the grad school application process is the Aptitude Test. For many, that means the GRE.
Because of its prevalence and because of its anxiety-provoking, stress-inducing nature, we’ve invited an expert in GRE prep to speak here today. We’re going to discuss how to approach the GRE as well as additional planning, time management and study resources. Chris is going to provide five awesome tips on GRE prep. Before we start, a few housekeeping items. Chris may ask a few questions during the presentation and ask you to raise your hand in response. You can do so by clicking on the hand icon, two icons underneath the horizontal orange arrow on your Control panel.
Please raise your hand when you find it. Just click on that hand icon if you could. Come on, somebody had to have found it. All right, now…there we go. Okay, a few more who want to click on that icon? I’ll put it down.
Don’t worry. Okay, great. Thank you. I see that most of you did find it. As usual, we’re looking forward to answering all your questions, that’s why I wanted you to be fully awake so you can ask the questions. We’ve set aside time for Q&A, so feel free to enter your questions in the question window and we’ll review the questions submitted and choose those that have the broadest application.
If we didn’t have time to get to your specific question, we’ll be providing several options for you to get your answers at the end of the webinar. Now just a bit about Magoosh and our presenter today. Magoosh helps students prepare for the GRE, GMAT, SAT and TEFL. Its web and mobile applications allow students to learn at their own pace, on their own time, and in an adaptive, assessment environment. That means Magoosh’s students will always know in which subjects they are excelling, and which areas they need to work on to achieve the desired scores.
And for intro to Chris, the last 10 years, Chris Lele has been helping students excel in the SAT and the GRE. During this time he’s coached five students to perfect SAT scores. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores on the old scale by nearly 400 points. Rumor has it that he does a secret happy dance when his students get that perfect score. Accepted is delighted to be hosting this webinar for Magoosh. Chris, the floor, or should I say, the mic and screen are all yours. But first, before I hand it over Chris, we have a couple of polls for you.
We want to get an idea of your interest and your audience and kind of where you’re at in the process. So the first question is have you taken the GRE before? You’ll be seeing that on your screen momentarily. You just click on the box that best identifies you. The first option is, “Yes, just once.” The next option is, “Yes, more than once,” and then the third option is, “No, I haven’t taken it before.”
You guys really are fully awake. That’s great. Thank you. All right, here are the results with 80% having voted. Sixteen percent of you took it just once, 13% took it more than once, and 71% have not taken it before.
That’s kind of interesting. Okay, good. Then the next question is, hold on a second. When are you planning to take the GRE? Are you planning to take it this summer? From September to March of next year?
From April 2016 or later? Or just plain, old unsure? You’re just not sure when you’re doing it. So, great. Okay, with 80% having voted, here’s the results. Fifty four percent of you are planning to take it this summer.
So you’re really in study mode. Twenty eight percent are planning to take it by March 2016, 7% later, and 11% are unsure. Another couple of polls and a couple of questions for you. Are you pursuing an MBA, another Master’s degree, a PhD, other or unsure? Please, again, indicate which is most relevant for you.
Then we’re getting some great information here. It will help Chris in his presentation and also his audience. Okay, wonderful, thank you so much. With 91% having voted, the results are 12% are going for an MBA, 39% for another Masters, 16% for a PhD, and 33% other or unsure.
Then the last one is what tools or resources are you planning to use to prepare for the GMAT? So please, again, indicate which are most relevant to you. The options are, self-study, one-on-one tutoring, traditional classrooms course, online course or a good all catchall “other.” Most of you seem to be very, very directed, and know exactly what you want. Okay, we’re at 77%. You folks have been so marvelous in your responses.
I think we can get it over 80. Anybody else want to vote or you’re just getting tired of this? Okay, 86% having voted, we have 63% are planning on self-study. Nobody’s doing tutoring. Traditional classroom course is 10% and online courses, 27%. Okay, and nobody went for other. Okay, very decisive on that question.
Let’s get a move on. Now, Chris the mic and screen are all yours.
Chris: Thank you, Linda. So let’s begin today talking about a theme here. That theme is five killer GRE prep tips. I want to arm you with five great ways or five great things to keep in mind as you prep. It sounds like a lot of you guys are going to be self-studying. Of course, a few of you will be taking an actual classroom instead.
Some of you will be doing online learning. Regardless, these five killer prep tips should help you out. Okay, let’s start. Very first one here is applying what you have learned.
Linda: You know what? Are you having some problems with displaying your slides? Just a little technical thing here.
Chris: Yeah, it seems like we’ve figured it out. Are you seeing everything?
Linda: I’m not seeing your slides. Tell you what, attendees, can you raise your hand if you’re seeing Chris’s slides because I’m not. I don’t see slides in it.
Chris: Don’t see slides at all?
Linda: I cannot, no, and they can’t see. All right, so you know what? I’ll tell you what, I think I have your slides. If you press the…I know what I’m going to do. Hold on a second.
Chris: They can’t see the slides.
Linda: Okay, so wait, wait, wait, wait. Now let’s see if we can do it. There we go. Okay, just put it in full view mode and I think we’ll be set. Chris, go ahead. Go for it.
Chris: Okay, let’s see. Can people see that?
Linda: Yes, yes. You’re set.
Chris: Great. Awesome. Thanks. Well, as I’ve probably mentioned sans any slides that there is about five killer GRE prep tips that should help you regardless of how you plan to go about studying for the GRE. Let’s get to it. The first thing is apply what you’ve learned. Now this, of course, is very high level and may seem common sensical. But it’s actually a little bit more complicated and perhaps not as intuitive as we’d expect. So first off, let me tell you story about a student. This isn’t just one student but it’s a composite of many students I’ve had before who had come to me for GRE tutoring. What they’ve done is they’ve sat down with a book and they started to work through it page by page. They sit down.
They open up the math section of that book and for the next three or four weeks, they go through each page. They learn a little bit about the concept being tested. Then they move on to the next concepts. At the end of four weeks, they sit down and take the actual GRE, and things don’t go very well. Of course, they end up coming to a tutor, in this case, me. So what happened there?
Why don’t we just want to sit there and work sequentially through these concepts? Well, first off, we forget what we actually learned. We don’t actually go back and review it. What we don’t do, and the first thing we’re going to talk about here, is we don’t really discover our strengths and our weaknesses. We also don’t have a good sense of what or how likely something is going to be on the test. So what happens is you give everything equal weight.
You go through it. Some things you maybe learn and retain. Others, not so much and you don’t do too well on the test. So what we want to do is something slightly different here. Before I tell you what that something is, there is another kind of student, again, a composite of students I’ve had, who realized what their weakness is and they fixate upon that weakness. For instance, probability, combinations, permutations, these ones are the most usual suspects in this case where people say, “I’m terrible at this.”
“I’m going to sit down for the next two weeks, focus just on these concepts.” That’s fine but what happens is they, of course, miss out on all the other concepts and they forget that probability, combinations may come up test day, you may get a question or two out of the 40 questions that count towards your score. Not a very good use of your time. So we’re going to talk about how to actually work through all these concepts without going sequentially through a book and how to discover our weaknesses and our strengths. That is by not just learning the fundamentals but by doing mixed practice sets.
The thing is with the GRE, whether it is math or whether it is the verbal section, what they do is they bundle concepts together. More importantly, they bundle things in such a way, especially on the math, that you’re not exactly sure what is being tested at first. When students work through concepts sequentially, it’s sort of like having training wheels the entire time. The chapter tells you, now we will deal with number properties. So the questions in that section are all about number properties and you’re somewhat comfortable with that because you’ve done the chapter reading. But when you are actually doing the test, you have no idea what question you’re going to get.
It’s just thrown at you. Here’s a word problem. Wow, what is it testing? I don’t know. That’s what we want to prevent from happening. So by doing mixed practice sets, that is, taking problems that can come from anywhere on the GRE math concepts spectrum, what you’re going to do is you’re going to prepare yourself better for testing.
Not only that, you’re going to expose yourself to problems that incorporate concepts that you’ve learned over the last few weeks. So in a sense you’re reviewing on-the-fly, not, “Oh, it’s time to review. Let’s go back to this nice safe chapter and put on my training wheels.” So it’s always about creating a sense of an unknown situation, what concepts is GRE bundling in this question and being able to work with that. Of course, when you don’t get the question right or even if you do, if there’s something you don’t completely understand, you can review the answer to that question and if necessary, circle back to that concept which we’ll talk about in a moment. Now I know I’ve focused a lot on math.
Obviously, there are a lot of verbal learners out there or people who are going to be focusing on the verbal section. What I’ve seen students do, again, that composite student, she comes to me and says, “Okay, I have a shoebox full of 3,000 vocabulary words. I’ve sat in a corner for the last five weeks and assiduously or diligently memorized each one of these words.” Not a good idea because it’s not necessarily about learning the definition to a word. It’s about learning how that word functions in a sentence. The only way you can really get that sense, of course, is, well, A, reading a lot.
But, B, doing actual GRE problems and seeing how the test writers use words that are kind of similar to trick you into choosing the wrong answer choice. So by doing mixed practice sets in a verbal setting, you will also get a sense of the way the test works, how even if you’re armed with a dictionary, you’re not necessarily going to get the question right. So don’t only focus on those fundamentals. Don’t focus just on that one chapter, math or on the vocab words themselves. It’s about the bigger picture. It’s about the problem-solving context when you’re actually looking at a question, facing it down and trying to figure out what to do.
Now as I talked about, there’s the idea of circling back, you don’t only want to do mixed practice sets all of the time. You do want to go back and review any concepts that aren’t completely clear. And it’s important that you don’t spend so much time reviewing where you’re back in the safety zone just focusing on this one concept and taking yourself out of that mixed practice set environment. Of course, there’s nothing better than the mixed practice set which is the practice tests. People should do these frequently. However, many students who’ve come to me say, “I studied for a few weeks and I just put off the practice test, and towards the very end, about a week or even less before I had to take the actual GRE, I took a practice test.
It didn’t go well. It stressed me out.” That’s definitely not what you want to do. The practice test is perfect because it gives you that mixed practice and it provides feedback again on your strength and weaknesses, especially in the terms of the score. I tell students to always take a practice test at the very beginning. At the end of this presentation we’re going to talk about keeping that right attitude and understanding how to improve and feeling good when you improve.
The thing is, by not taking that practice test at the beginning, you never set that baseline so that you can grow off of that baseline, see if you are actually improving. If you’re not, of course, reconfiguring your practice accordingly. So take that practice test at the beginning and take that practice test throughout your prep, maybe once a week is good. I’ve found 10 days maximum. But use these practice tests as learning vehicles. Of course, reviewing your mistakes is something we’ll talk about shortly.
But for now, circle back on concepts as well. But make sure not to take yourself out of that mixed practice environment too much. Okay, the next killer app to talk about here is learning from your mistakes. Again, that sounds really common sensical, duh. But in a GRE context, it’s actually a little bit more complicated with that. So let’s have a look here.
So sitting down, I’m a student. I’ve taken the GRE. I go back to the math section. I’m upset. I thought I did way better than that. It turns out instead of missing one or two questions which I thought I would, I end up missing eight questions.
I look and I see, yeah, dumb error. I go to my GRE tutor and say, “Yeah, I totally messed up the math, made a bunch of dumb mistakes.” The question there, really the issue is, the mistake is that you weren’t more analytical about your mistake in the first place. You just lumped it into this big category, dumb mistake. So you want to make sure you understand why you actually missed the question, what your thought process or processes were when you arrived at that wrong answer choice. Maybe you did rush and do a little mental math flub or you typed in or punched in the wrong number into the calculator.
That’s fine. Sure, you can call that a dumb mistake but it’s a very specific kind of dumb mistake, if you will. You want to know how often that’s likely to happen. Sometimes you’ll get very close to the answer but you’ll forget to read the actual question. So there’s four steps, for instance, to get to the solution and step number four is what the question is asking you about step number three which, of course, is one of the trap answers waiting to get you and you circled it. But knowing that is very important.
What’s also important is not just the processes that got you the answer wrong in the first place but really the logic. You should be able to understand what makes an answer choice incorrect. So now we’re moving away, of course, from the careless dumb errors into a deeper sense of, “Huh, why did the GRE consider this to be the right answer?” Now I’ve focused a lot on math up until this point to give us a frame for what I’m talking about. But I think in terms of really what makes the right answer choice right is something that you want to apply more to the verbal section, to the text completions or to reading comprehension section, which for many is always one of those, “Oh, it seems so subjective. Their answer doesn’t seem any more right than my answer.”
But, of course, you want to understand why the answer that you answered incorrectly is wrong and why the correct answer is correct. So that all falls under “know why you miss the question.” Now we want to, of course, not let ourselves just have a three or four second summary of, “Oh, I missed it because I didn’t do the right steps.” What I want students to actually do is to keep a digest of the common mistakes so that they can identify patterns. So find these patterns of your mistakes and actually write them down. I made a mistake because I thought XYZ.
So you should have these little mini-paragraphs that’s like an autopsy, if you will, for the questions that you missed. Doing this, of course, at first may seem a little time consuming. But it’ll help you better anticipate your mistakes. After you’ve done it for a couple of weeks, then you’ll be much better at just thinking through why you missed something, and you won’t necessarily have to write something down. But, of course, always going back to this error log is a great idea before you take practice tests and even before you take the real exam. Speaking of questions, and mistakes, and learning from questions, this is sort of a tangent but it’s important.
People feel that they can’t reuse questions. They’ve already done those questions they’re not completely accurate. Now this really wouldn’t be a big issue if high quality, jury questions were a dime a dozen. There is this unlimited supply of that. Just keep using new ones. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and we’ll talk about a little bit later something called the Official Guide which is written by the test writers, ETS themselves.
These books are very important because they give you the exact flavor, if you will, of the questions you can see test day and the underlying logic that holds those questions together. So it’s very important that you use those questions as often as possible. Now to get back to the idea of reusing questions, after about a month or so, unless you have a really great photographic memory, you’re not going to really remember the subtleties of a question. Secondly, once you go back to these questions, you’re not really the same student you were a month ago, assuming, of course, that you have been studying diligently an hour and a half a day or so. Then suddenly your brain is wired in a different way as far as GRE prep goes. So you’re going back to the question but you’re not quite the same student.
Even if you think you remember the answer, that’s fine. Use your logic. Use your new techniques to make sure that you 100% get to the right answer, not because you think that you remember it being the right answer. So make sure, of course, to reuse these questions, these official questions after about a month interval or so. Okay, our third killer GRE tip, and I’ve already alluded to this, is to think like the test makers as much as possible. So this goes a little bit more, applies a little bit more to the verbal section, the idea of what the best answer is according to yourself.
Go in there and say, “Hey, I’m just reading this passage. C seems right and they’re telling me D is the answer and I don’t even get that. I think these guys are wrong and they’re crazy. I’m going to defend my answer and say that the GRE is a stupid test.” Now, it sounds funny that I’m parroting that. But I’ve had students actually take that attitude.
Once you have that attitude it’s really difficult, if not really impossible, to improve at the verbal section. So it’s important to turn off that kind of that voice that wants to defend your answer and just say, “Okay, there’s an underlying logic to this test. The test writers have discovered that this is one way of answering the question that they consider best. So I’m going to try to figure out how they think, what’s going into their thought processes when they construct these questions, these answer choices.” It’s also important to note that the test writers aren’t just these arbitrary body of knowledge or way of thinking that’s making your life terrible.
But they have actually tested these questions over I would say hundreds of thousands of students because as you’ll learn when you take the GRE, there’s something called the experimental section. That’s exactly what that is, to test these questions out. So again, try not to argue that the test writers are wrong. But try to think the way that they do. Now another, not necessarily that related to what I just talked about but another important point is the official explanations. So far I’ve been extolling the official questions.
They’re from the test writers. Use them. But when it comes to the official explanations, they’re not really motivated to be a great teacher. I’ve had a lot of students again, people tend to come to me once they don’t do well on the test. But I’ve had a lot of students who spend their time in the answer key. Much of that time is spent trying to decipher exactly what the explanation is trying to say and then trying to memorize the explanation.
Both of those, of course, are bad ideas. But the main point here is that you don’t want to use the official explanations too much because they’re not written with the student in mind. So as much as possible see what the answer is. Look at the explanation. If it’s mystifying, anticipate that. Don’t get frustrated and take some time to actually go back to the question once you know the answer.
Sometimes it’s better just to look what the right answer is and try to figure it out on your own. This will feedback very nicely what we talked about in terms of thinking like the test makers. The best way to do that is actually to look at the questions and analyze them and not look at the explanations which may seem counterintuitive. They’re the test writers. They’re writing the explanations. But they’re not really giving you the secret sauce, if you will, in those official explanations.
What you can do is go to places like Urch, Grad Cafe or even GMAT club where expert tutors will sometimes answer your questions. I say sometimes because not always when you post something up there will they answer your questions. Urch is an example where tutors don’t frequent too much but it definitely doesn’t hurt to put a question up there. Grad Café, you’re likely to get a better response. Ironically, sometimes on GMAT club you’re likely to get the best response. It’s important to note that the GMAT club or the GMAT itself has a lot of overlap with the GRE especially in math so if you put up a GRE math questions at GMAT club, you’re very likely to get an explanation.
Those are oftentimes much better that the official ones. Okay, onto our fourth tip which at this point, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, he’s already said that.” But, of course, it’s important and I want to go into this one more time really quickly just to show you how important it is. The logic of the questions again is the same really as what you’ll see test day. It’s fine-tuning that logic that’s going to make you a better GRE test taker. Of course, when you take these practice tests, sit down as much possible.
Use these official practice test because it will do the best job of predicting how you’re do test day. So there’s not going to be too many surprises. For instance, if you were scoring 300 and then you walked in the test and you just scored 289, well, where were you scoring that 300 on? Probably not an official exam. So here’s the book in front of us and what it has is four real practice tests. Two of them are CAT tests and for many of you who are new to the GRE and to test prep in general, well what the heck does CAT mean?
Are there any meows in there? Well, actually it had nothing to do with the animal but it is an acronym for Computer Adaptive Tests. The way that the test adapts is how you do on one section, the initial section you see, whether it’s math or verbal, how you do on that depends on the next math or verbal section that you get in terms of difficulty level. So those are really important, valuable resources, those two tests. The other two of the four practice tests are paper-based. So the two CAT tests are CD. You can see that little funky CD, DVD right there.
The other two, of course, are paper-based, so not quite as accurate. Doesn’t mirror test day nearly as much but still it’s important to have these resources. This book also contains useful practice sets in the beginning of the book, so again, we talked about doing mixed review. These can be very helpful. Of course, review your mistakes carefully. Each time you make an error, you should say, “Hey, this is the opportunity for me to learn.
These are official questions. I’m going to take my time going through my mistakes.” Of course, this is all driving to the point that you don’t have too many of these tests. They’re a limited resource, so if you’re spending a month prepping for the GRE which is a good amount of time, though some of you will want to study more, but then taking a test every week, one of these CAT tests will be perfect. Then maybe at the very end, going back to that first test, knowing that you’ve seen it but still going through it with, of course, that new GRE brain that you’ve been cultivating over the last month. Okay, speaking of cultivating, the right attitude is so important in GRE prep because we expect linear growth when we do something.
When it’s not linear, we get frustrated. So we don’t want to get frustrated. We want to anticipate that when we improve, it’s going to be a sudden jump after a long flat line. This is especially the case in the verbal section. I’ve seen this most on the reading passages. A lot of this has to do with vocab.
You’re still learning vocab in the background so that takes time to build up. But, again, a lot is trying to wrap your head around the logic employed by the test makers. It’s not that easy. So if you have the right attitude going in and saying, “I know that at first it’s going to seem like I’m not improving,” then you are actually going to improve. Then of course, that leads to self-fulfilling prophecy, this idea that, “Wow, I don’t like the GRE. I’m not doing well, therefore, I’m not good at the GRE. I hate this test.”
It’s funny, when I mention that I’m a GRE tutor, I also tell people that I’m also somewhat of a therapist. I feel, especially in those first few sessions, that I’m exorcising the negative thoughts that my students have about the GRE and try to make them see that it’s not really them or some deficiency in thought or logic or thinking that they have or something inherently bad about the GRE, but actually this is a test that you can do very well at but it takes time. Getting that, inculcating that attitude usually, if not always, leads to an improvement on that student’s part. So, again, support and to have a positive attitude. Part of that positive attitude is thinking of the GRE as something that is fun.
I know this sounds, again, a lot of this is counterintuitive. But when you think of something as interesting, something that you want to learn, your brain is a lot more likely to be alert. If it’s something you just have to do, you have to put in your time at 6 o’clock, GRE hour, open up the book, mixed practice sets, guess what? You’re not going to improve. Now the thing about it, people say, “Well, why should I be excited about the GRE?” That is a question I get.
Imagine I said you were taking a test on 16th-century Hungarian. You’re studying hour after hour just to take this test. You would feel totally gipped at the end to have learned all of this useless information because there’s no way in any world that 16th century Hungarian will help you. However, knowing, learning the material that shows up on the GRE will help you immeasurably in grad school and beyond. In general, it will help you deal with dense, difficult material. In a verbal sense, your verbal brain will grow by leaps and bounds.
If you found your mind wandering when you were reading a New York Times article, by the end of GRE prep you will just knock out New York articles as though they’re nobody’s business. Your brain will have improved so much. Of course, that’s leisure time reading, but in terms of the stuff you’ll see in graduate school, this dense, dry academic stuff, you’re much more prepared for it after studying for the GRE verbal section. Same thing with the math section. Even for those of you who are going to get your PhD in art history, having a more efficient math brain, in general, helps with life. I know people who have told me that they have fun doing numbers and trying to calculate their grocery bill or how much gas they’re getting per gallon, etc.
So this more efficient math brain is helpful for those who have nothing to do with math or will have nothing to do math in graduate school. But for many of us we will be dealing with math in some context. Maybe it’s statistics, maybe it’s higher-level math, but of course, improving this math brain will help greatly. Then there’s the point of, “Hey, I’m sitting down and I’m focusing.” Many of you are not taking the GRE straight out of undergrad. Therefore, you’re not used to sitting for hours and studying.
But you are planning to go back to grad school. So you want to bridge that chasm. So by taking the GRE and prepping for the GRE, you are fine-tuning your ability to sit for many hours and focus on complex sophisticated material. Of course, a lot of this can be fun. When I say complex, sophisticated, it’s like, “Oh, God. No, tedium. Help me now.”
But believe it or not, there is a great feeling of success when you improve, you feel you’re really getting something out of it. It’s a sense of, “Hey, I’ve accomplished something,” and it’s a sense of, “Hey, this stuff is helping me feel like I’m thinking more clearly. I feel like I’m using vocabulary words I didn’t even know before.” But usually not in polite company, of course. All of a sudden, you’re having fun with it. Now it can be fun a lot more than it used to be because there’s a lot of online tools out there that make either math learning fun, flashcards and not just any flashcards, but flashcards that adapt to your learning, and there are a slew of vocab programs out there.
One is actually Magoosh vocab Wednesdays. That’s run by me. I sit down and look into the camera and I define these words in a really fun and goofy way. At least I think it’s fun and goofy. Probably a lot of people think it’s silly. But a lot of people also seem to like it.
Now, of course, if you don’t necessarily want to sit down and see me being goofy with vocab, you can also go to places like Word Dynamo or vocabulary.com where they take words. They give them fund, spiffy explanations so it’s not that drab, dictionary definition. The definition of munificent is the quality or state of having great generosity. I mean, my brain is already falling asleep. I’d rather they give you an example of someone being munificent.
The munificent uncle who comes by on Christmas bearing free video game systems for all the children in the house. Suddenly I have this wonderful digital of the uncle dressed up as Santa Claus giving the kids the Wii. Munificent. That’s the kind of thing that these vocab sites promote, and that will make learning a lot more fun. So by the end of it you have this huge vocab and you realize, “Hey, I had fun doing it.” So not a bad thing to know.
So that takes us to the end of our five killer GRE tips. Now I actually want to talk about Magoosh. Who is Magoosh? What is Magoosh? Of course I’m the GRE guy from Magoosh. What exactly do we do? Now if you look at this picture here, I like this picture because this person’s sitting there, they’ve got their iPhone and actually looks like an old cassette. But it is an iPhone. We’re assuming that they’re studying for GRE.
But the point with Magoosh is you can study our GRE online program anywhere you go. The key here is online. We are not a classroom. You won’t get to sit down and see the defined vocabulary words in a goofy manner. You can, of course, go into YouTube and see that. But it is not an actual classroom where you sit down.
The classroom is a virtual one. Of course, if you have a smart phone, it’s in the palm of your hand. Now what exactly does it look like? What’s going on at a more specific level? Here it has just given you a high level view of our dashboard. This is the place where you can navigate around our site.
What you’ll see on the left-hand side in that gray box are suggested lessons. That’s a little snippet of the larger lessons that we have. Lessons are those fundamentals we talked about where you want to make sure you do a little bit of those. Learn something. Then of course, if you remember what I talked about, don’t just sit there learning a few fundamentals. Apply what you’ve learned and go to the mixed practice sets to learn new stuff and to try to be able to think on the fly about what concepts you have to know.
Of course, to do that, you would go to where those green buttons are, practice math, practice verbal. What’s great, you don’t just have 516 questions left which is the number that’s there. I guess we have more than that. But this specific student has 516 left. But you can actually break down these math concepts in different levels. You can focus on geometry.
You can focus on number properties. You can even focus on probability and combinations. Then same with verbal, you can focus on different aspects of the section from those little paragraph arguments which if you’ve never seen before they can be quite tough, to the equally tough triple blank text completions. So all of this is giving you targeted prep, and then you can also just click a button and get questions randomly or even break up those questions based on difficulty levels. You’re kind of leading the way. Now we have over 200 lessons as it says here, over a thousand practice questions and I think more importantly, I mean numbers are great, but each question comes with a video and text explanation.
Those are really important. First off, they tell you how to really dissect the problem, and you’re going to apply, of course, general fundamentals that you’ve learned from the lesson videos. But you’re also going to see each question different and idiosyncratic. From our testimonials, we found out that’s what’s helping students the most, really seeing all those individual explanations to these practice questions. Of course, if video’s not your thing, we have text explanations as well. Of course, it’s great to be able to pause these explanations and go back.
But there’s nothing like having an actual person work with your struggles on the test. That’s why we have this email support where you can shoot out a question to our tutors. They will get back to you within less than 24 hours or around 24 hours. So you feel like there’s always someone there by your side, encouraging you and giving you that useful feedback and information that you’re looking for. So finally, I should mention there is a 5% coupon code here, 5% off Magoosh , that is, that you can use after watching or after the seminar is over. Speaking of which, that actually is the end of the seminar.
Linda: Well, Chris, thank you so much. I really appreciate your munificence and advice here. We will be sending out the coupon code to you via email so that you can take advantage of it. I also had the privilege of interviewing Bhavin Parikh. I apologize if I’m mispronouncing his name. But he is the CEO and founder of Magoosh a few months ago. It was a great interview. We’ll send out a link to that also.
At this point, do you folks have any questions? I have a few already. I’m going to start. But if you have more…all right. Well, here’s a really good question. Yashti asks, “If you can just summarize the five tips very quickly.” Anybody else, please post your questions.
Chris: Okay, five tips. Basically, apply what you’ve learned by using mixed practice sets. The second one is to think like the test makers themselves. The third one is, I’m not sure if I actually got off order here, but is to learn from your mistakes. Think like the test writers. Then to make sure, as much as possible, to use official material.
Then, finally, it’s the idea of cultivating the right attitude.
Linda: Okay, right. So here we have some questions. First, from…and I can’t pronounce the gentleman’s name. I’m sorry but the question is, what would your advice be in terms of writing a good GRE essay? We’ve been focusing on the quant and the verbal section. This is the writing part of it. Any tips on how to write one quickly and effectively?
Chris: Yeah, that’s definitely a great question. I think, what I’ve seen is that there are a couple mistakes students make. First mistake is being very vague and not using supporting examples to what you’re trying to prove. The second mistake is actually overly relying on supporting examples so you’re not using analysis. So what you should focus on is coming up with these outlines, use them in your head or you can actually write them down in which you write how you will use supporting examples and how you will analyze them to show how those examples actually back up what you’re saying. This will all flow in with the idea at the very end.
You’re essay should not be yes, 100% to the question or, no, 100% to the question. Those are the essays that get the low scores. They are intentionally asking questions that open themselves up to this kind of nuanced, somewhere in the middle, approach. Your analysis is how you get to that somewhere in the middle approach. So you’re not just saying, it could be either/or. That’s right in the middle, that’s sitting on the fence.
But saying it’s most likely this because XYZ, though sometimes the case may be such and such. So you’re developing your essay around that little middle position that you’ve arrived at and then backing it up with specific examples. If you can do that, you are already setting yourself up for a much higher score than the people who put a ceiling on there, again, by just saying 100% yes, there are three examples or 100% no, and here are three examples.
Linda: Okay, Jessica has one I think is a great question. How can we avoid making careless errors when we are concerned about timing on each section?
Chris: Yeah, timing is really the tricky one to deal with. What I tell students is that when you are starting off, do not worry about time so much. It’s important to worry about your approach. Now some students say, “Oh, my God. I take three times as long.” That’s obviously…then you have a timing issue.
But most of the time you’re only going a little bit over. The point is, don’t worry so much about timing at the beginning because you’re about fine-tuning your approach, about finding what you’re doing wrong and then working on that weakness. It’s very much like if you’re playing a musical instrument like a piano. You’ve never seen this piece before. If you just try to play it at speed, you’re going to make all these mistakes, it’s going to be a mess, and you’re not really going to improve unless you slow down at first, work on these little parts and then speed up.
I think pacing is a lot like that and specifically in terms of making careless mistakes or when making mistakes in the first place, you can be a lot more aware of these underlying mistakes. That said, you should definitely move to a timed environment relatively soon because you’ll see that there are mistakes, idiosyncratic ones that pop up as a result of the time. But that’s great. You’ll know that, “Hey, I am having an issue time because,” and then you should be very specific. I remember I was on question 13. I looked at the time.
Even though I was halfway through the question then I went back to reading it, but me looking at the clock actually took me out of the question and led to me getting it wrong. Something like that is really helpful. It’s inevitable. And it’s not a bad thing. Make mistakes at the beginning, it’s healthy. But it’s even more healthy, of course, to learn from them and to be as specific as possible in describing them.
Linda: Okay, great. Thank you so much. Now Ronica asks, and I believe this is for somebody applying for business school. Any time they’re offered a choice, what is the best way to decide which test to take? I’m still confused between the GRE and the GMAT.
Chris: Yeah, it’s a question a lot of students have if they’re planning on going to business school. I highly recommended, and there really isn’t a perfect answer, I would say sit down, take a practice test, and this sounds terrible, and I’m sure a lot of people are going to say, “Are you kidding me? I’m not going to sit down two plus hours, three hours even, and take an actual GMAT test and an actual GRE test.” If that is the case, fine. Do some mixed practice problems from each set like a mini-practice test and see which one do you do better on, which one do you feel more comfortable at.
Sometimes people realize, “Hey, I’m pretty good at vocab. I read a lot. I’m a New Yorker geek and I get these big vocab words.” That’s great. That’s probably going to help you do a lot better on the GRE verbal section. Firstly in math, if you find yourself struggling with math, then it’s a better idea to do the GRE because GMAT quant section is more difficult because it’s a more competitive test.
It’s not that the material is really any different. There’s a unique question type that’s not on the GRE. But besides that, the concepts are basically the same. So if you actually excel at math, then you may want to take the GMAT. Again, there’s a lot of other nuance going on here. I think the best way to flesh that out is by having that specific student sit down and take a practice test for each test and see which one they do better on percentile-wise.
So they want to check the score, look at the percentile rating because that’s what schools look at and whichever one you do better on is probably the test you should take. If you’re unsure by the way, take both.
Linda: Sounds good. All right, thank you. Now, let’s see, Janiri writes, “This is amazing. Thank you. I’m Janiri from Nigeria. I really want to do online premium prep but I don’t have PayPal.”
That’s a type of service that Magoosh offers. “I don’t know anyone with a PayPal account. Is there another option?”
Chris: Gosh, that’s a question I can’t answer. But what I would encourage her to do is email support@magoosh. I know there’s a way around this. That’s just not my area of expertise, but I definitely encourage her firstname.lastname@example.org and she will get an answer then.
Linda: Okay, Marshall asks, “Do you recommend taking the GRE several times?” This is not practice exams, I’m assuming, Marshall. This is the real thing.
Chris: Ideally, you take it just once. But of course, things don’t always work out well. I mean, being in the test room for the first time, it’s easy to let stress get the better of you. So if you take it a second time, that’s absolutely fine. Even a third time, if you want to send the scores…the reason’s it’s a little complicated is because they actually ask you, “You can send the scores as soon as you’re done with the test to the top three schools without any fee.” That sounds great unless you don’t do very well and some of your top decisions are getting these scores, versus you don’t have to send any schools your scores at all.
But when you do want to send those scores later, you’ll actually have to pay money, you don’t get this free score set that you do. So if you’re okay with paying more money later to send the scores, then taking the test a couple of times, maybe three times, I don’t think is really that big of a deal. But once you go beyond three, then I wouldn’t recommend doing so.
Linda: Okay. Alexander’s asking if you can indicate which materials besides ETS, Manhattan, and Magoosh, should they use to prepare them for a top score.
Chris: Honestly, there really aren’t that many out there that I would recommend at all. It doesn’t hurt to through Barron’s and look at their math questions. I mean, their verbal just don’t really capture the complexity of the test so you can do a couple. But it’s dangerous because you’re moving yourself out of the difficulty of the question and the subtlety with which it’s constructed. You’re not going to get that at all. Barron’s just kind of makes your logic flaccid and weak and then when you do an actual question you lost a little bit of your…what you had before.
So I would say don’t use any. Indeed, you don’t really have to. If you look at all the official materials that’s released out there, all the Magoosh and you use Manhattan GRE which I think is excellent for math, I’m not the biggest fan of their verbal section. But anyway, if you use all their stuff and all the Magoosh stuff on top of that, that’s thousands and thousands of questions. I think that’s really more than enough.
Linda: Okay. Angelica asks, and I’m pretty sure this is about Magoosh. Is it possible to take breaks in between? I have family coming in around August and will have to take a couple of weeks off for that. I wanted to start studying at the end of this month.
Chris: Yeah. I think, I should know this off the top of my head. It’s either six months or a year. You purchase Magoosh, it is yours for six months. You can use it 24 hours straight that first day and then not use it again for five months, and then use it for 48 hours straight. It doesn’t matter. You can use it as much as you want or as little as you want within those six months.
Linda: Let’s see what other questions I have here. Great audience, wonderful questions. I’m getting a lot of questions about preparations for the verbal and especially for non-native English speakers. There’s several on here.
Chris: Yes, that’s a question we get a lot. What I would encourage the students to do is to definitely learn vocab a little bit but don’t overdo it. I think that’s the biggest mistake these students make. They must wrap their head around the way that higher level English, for lack of a better term, is constructed. The best way to do that is to go to the New York Times and to start reading these articles. When you encounter words or phrases that you don’t know, look them up online.
So you’re learning words in this holistic context. That kind of prose that you will see in The Economist, in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, mirrors what you will see on the actual test. So doing that you become conversant, or if you will, you become fluent at this higher level academic English. It’s, of course, a lot more than just knowing the definition of munificent or some vocab.
Linda: We’ve been doing picking on that word, don’t they?
Chris: Yeah, right?
Linda: Okay, all right. Anshalan has an interesting question. Please tell us how we should approach the GRE, specifically in terms of one’s sleep cycle. It’s a little different question.
Chris: Yeah, a little different question, one of those physiological questions. There is nothing better than getting sleep. Let me tell you, as a person suffering from insomnia, there is nothing worse than bad sleep. So what you want to do from a sleep cycle is as much as possible figure out what your eight-hour sleeping window is. Let’s just say you’re a late person and that’s from midnight to eight. Then keep that.
Do not change that. Just make sure your test is maybe a little bit later in the day and know when you’ve…it’s also important to know when you function best. For instance, for some reason after lunch, my brain just turns off a little bit. So I would never take a standardized test after lunch. I know people in the morning, however, they take a good three hours and a couple cups of caffeine to even open their eyes. So it depends all on that.
But in terms of sleep cycle, try to focus on getting that eight hours, getting it consistently each night at the same time.
Linda: Okay. Let’s see. A lot of questions about vocab. How can we improve in vocabulary? How can we remember the…Anshalan again writes, “We’re learning from vocab flashcards but somehow we forget after an instant. How do we come up framing sentences on our own?”
Chris: Sure, that’s [inaudible 00:50:41] do that. First off, and also directly, framing sentences on your own, it’s going to be difficult because you’re not going to have quite that syntax, that grammar, that sense of the word. That’s fine. I’m going to use a different word now besides munificent. Let’s do esoteric. Esoteric means not many people know about something [inaudible 00:51:03] people know about it.
So if you read the sense on the flashcard and it’s saying, “Much of medieval theology is esoteric for today’s scholars even those who have been versed in theology in general,” I mean, that doesn’t really resonate for people. I get that. So if you say, “Okay, I’m going to frame a sentence of my own, ‘GRE vocabulary is esoteric.'” That’s absolutely fine. That’s perfect because you’ve made your own sentence. It doesn’t have to be complex.
It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct. You just have to have some way of remembering the word and associating it with something. You may also want to use…Oh, God. I’m going to go back to munificent, and you also may want to use mnemonics. Mnemonics are a creative way of remembering words. Sometimes this has something to do with the root like munificent, muni…kind of sounds like money. So if someone’s giving you a lot of money, they’re munificent.
So it’s a creative way of remembering the word. So I would definitely recommend them doing that. Finally, do not get stuck in flashcard land. It’s helpful up and to a point. Take yourself out of flashcard land. Go pick an article from one of these sources and start reading and guess what?
Words that you read or encountered in your flashcards are going to start popping up. When you see them in this totally novel context, they’ll be the shock of recognition in your brain. Often though, you won’t actually remember the word because it’s not right in front of you in the familiar environment of the flashcard. So you’ll have to start picking your brain. Guess what?
Seeing words that you aren’t necessarily expecting, even though you learned them before, sounds an awful lot like taking the actual GRE. That’s why it’s important to get outside of flashcard land. Do this reading, and in doing this reading, you will also develop your syntax and abilities so you will become able to come up with more complex sentences than, “The GRE is esoteric.”
Linda: Okay. Great, thank you. Victoria is asking if you could just provide again, what was the complete list of forums you recommended before like GMAT club and…
Chris: There was the Grad Cafe which actually spelled out T-H-E and then Grad Café. I think it’s net. But just enter that into the Google search box. You’re going to get it. Then there was urch.com which is spelled U as in “Uncle”, R-C-H.
Linda: Okay. Thank you for the question. Arvin asked, “The last few days before the actual GRE exam are the most crucial. Any tips on how to really nail preparation in those last few days?”
Chris: You know, I’m kind of the mindset that you should be trying to nail it beforehand so that [inaudible 00:53:40] with you, so that by the time those few days roll around, you are just rehearsing what you’ve already been doing, already at that high level in terms of knowing your approach to questions, knowing your weaknesses and being able to deal with pacing effectively. That should all be in place by those last few days. You’re just kind of making sure that you’re able to perform at that level. You may want to take a practice test. You may also want to be very aware of nerves and anxiety and really manage that because as I mentioned earlier as a GRE tutor, I’m very much like a therapist.
So students who came to me and who were ready to take the test for that second time, a lot of it was just sitting down with me at the end. They just wanted to meet with me. They wanted to talk it over. I really didn’t teach them any specific concepts. I just functioned as a therapist. So mirror that as much as possible and if possible go to a friend or someone who is…they have nothing to do with the GRE just so they can keep you relaxed.
Linda: Okay, great. Anyway, we have time for a couple more questions. Navina asks, “Where can we find practice tests that are similar to the actual test other than the ones from the official guide?”
Chris: It’s that word “similar.” What do we mean? I think many students who are new to the GRE, you can open up at really any practice test. They really won’t look that different. But they are very different. It’s so difficult for anyone to really mirror exactly the way that these test questions are written. So you can get something similar but again, if you start moving into kind of similar, it’s actually going to hurt your performances.
You want to get it as similar as possible and there just aren’t too many resources out there that do so. So use these official questions wisely is my advice.
Linda: Okay. I think a very good question is from Amman, “How many hours of study daily is good enough if the exam is scheduled in a month or so? My target score is 320 plus.”
Chris: Well, my question is [inaudible 00:55:44] 290, 310, really depends what that baseline score is. You remember when I started this presentation I talked about taking a test right at the beginning to establish your baseline score because if you don’t even do that, you don’t even know where you are. You just want to get above 320, then you’re going to be in potentially for a rude awakening test day because you didn’t even really know where you scored from the get-go. But let’s just say one month, 10 points. That seems like a very doable thing. So Amman is at 310.
He wants to get over 320 plus. It depends on how effectively you use your time. But I would say two hours a day, anywhere up to three, of effective study time will get you that score. But again, effective study time is so open-ended. What should I do? Well, definitely, five killer GRE prep tips will help you out on how to use that time most effectively.
Linda: Okay, great. Chris, I want to thank you again for this great webinar. I want to thank you applicants for attending. Really, really appreciate your time, your questions, your participation. It’s been great. As you leave, please take a moment to complete our short survey.
We really value your feedback and we do use it. You can review this webinar sometime next week. It will be available online, and if you missed any of Chris’s outstanding tips, you’ll be able to catch them there again. We’ll send out an email letting you know when it’s available. After you ace the GRE, if you want help with your application whether it’s for an MBA, another kind of Masters or a PhD, please keep Accepted in mind.
We’d be happy to help you with your Statement of Purpose, your CV, resume, interview preparation, or research statement. You can go to our website. You’ll find free materials there, and then we also offer one-on-one consulting to assist you on a fee basis. But again, that would be one-on-one. Thank you again and best of luck with your GRE.
Chris: Thank you, Linda.
Linda: You’re welcome. There are lots of thank yous coming in, by the way, and these are for you, Chris. So I just thought I’d convey them. All right, again, good luck with your application and of course, the GRE. Have a good day.