Studying for the GRE
Sandra M. Behncke
This test may be scheduled in advance pretty much any week day/weekend day. The test cost $140 to take and may be taken at UNO’s Testing Center. Schedule your test far in advance and choose the best time of day for your. As soon as you register start preparing!
I prepared for the general GRE by using the giant test books available at local bookstores. There are many different versions, Baron’s is good, or anything that Kaplan or ETS recommends… I purchased the most recent book and read all the testing strategies that it recommended.
I attacked studying systematically, studying one subject at a time. I took a couple of weeks to work out all of the quantitative problems, another couple of weeks to familiarize myself with the structure of the verbal section, and lastly I concentrated on the essay section. ***During the entire test preparation, study flash cards of all the GRE vocabulary!!!!!!!!!!!! Study a lot, and if you can, sign up for the free Kaplan practice test offered at Creighton or your school.
Quantitative – Get familiar with the different TYPES of questions they ask and all of the sneaky stuff that they try. i.e. don’t automatically assume that figures are drawn to scale, and tricky comparison questions. The math here is NOT difficult! However, the GRE wants to see if you pay attention to what the problem is asking and it will try (and many times succeed) to trip you up. My biggest recommendation is to just work out as many example problems as possible, and brush up on your geometry and algebra!
Verbal – First and foremost, MAKE FLASHCARDS of the recommended vocabulary that you are not familiar with. Study them A LOT! Bring them with you everywhere and start using them everyday, incorporate the new words into your life!
The rest is easy…familiarize yourself with the TYPES of questions that they will ask you. Don’t confuse what the question is asking, some are antonyms, some are synonyms. Here again, they will try to trick you!
Writing – For this section the most important thing to do is to keep track of your time. You will be writing two essays, one where you present your perspective on your choice of two topics, and one where you critique the author's essay (no choice here).
To practice for this first sketch out your time schedule, I did it like this:
Essay 1 – Your perspective (you have 30 minutes total):
Write all brainstorming words – 2 minutes
Write your thesis statement, evidence, conclusion – 3 minutes
Write body of essay – 10 minutes
Write intro – 2 minutes (state your thesis statement)
Write summary – 3 minutes (restate your thesis statement)
Proofread – 10 minutes
For the essay where you critique someone else's writing the judges are NOT looking for your opinion. Keep it objective. Usually each essay for you to critique is about 4-5 sentences, and usually 3-4 of these sentences have a problem hidden within. I numbered each sentence and systematically discussed them in my critique.
Essay 2 – Your critique (you have 20 minutes total):
Identify and number each problem in the work – 2 minutes
Write the body – 5 minutes
Write the introduction – 5 minutes (state in order the problems with the writing)
Write the summary – 5 minutes (restate problems and offer 1-2 alternatives for the writer to improve their argument)
Proofread – 3 minutes
The problem here is that there is very little time to think about what you're going to write. I actually wrote down the above time schedule before I started the GRE on my scratch paper. You have to take a short tutorial at the beginning of your session. Afterwards they ask you if you are don and as soon as you press the button the real test starts. Before I entered the actual exam I jotted down my time schedule to refer back to. The time is in front of you and is ticking away…its easy to get distracted and lose focus. This way you have something to guide your thinking.
After you finish all three subjects on the GRE they will surprise you with an extra subject. Mine was another verbal section, but it could be any of the three. You should expect this to happen. You will be tired and will not want to go through another section, but TRY TO DO AS WELL AS THE ORIGINAL SECTION! The extra section is for statistical purposes and you don't know which of the two taken the judges will grade. You want to do as well on the second in case that one is chosen for your score!
Physics Subject Test
This test must also be scheduled far in advance, but know that it is only offered on specific dates of the year (about 4/year). Choose the date that works for you and register early. It costs $130.
To study for this test I recommend knowing everything there is to know in your General Physics book, as well as a lot of Classical Mechanics, some E&M, Thermo, Quantum, and Statistical Analysis…easy, huh?...its an incredible amount of physics to know like the back of your hand…but start with reviewing everything from General Physics. This will give you a broad, refresher on many physics topics. I also recommend going to the fabulous site offered by Ohio State University’s Physics Dept.: http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/undergrad/ugs_gre.php
Here you can find TONS of problems with their solutions to work out.
DO AS MANY PROBLEMS AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!!! Know how and WHY they work – DO NOT just try to memorize the answers.
Make flashcards, sing songs to remember formulas…
One of the truly most helpful ways to study is to go to OSU’s site (above) and print out the 4 copies of past Physics Subject Test exams. I worked them all out, about 1/week. The answers are on the back to refer to. If you don’t understand some of the problems, ask our brilliant faculty to help you!
When I took the subject test I had never taken Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, and had just started taking Quantum and E&M. It would have helped tremendously if I had a better understanding of all of these courses. If you can take all these courses before taking the Physics Subject Test it will help your score, but if you review your Gen. Phys. Stuff that should get you by.
As with all tests the most important things to remember are:
- GET A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP!!! This is the most important
- Eat something nutritional the week of your tests like salmon, brown rice, broccoli, blueberries, red bell peppers – any power foods.
- Don’t fry yourself out with massive amounts of caffeine! Drink lots of H20…your body and mind becomes tired when it is dehydrated.
- Don’t stress out! Exercise, dance, do yoga…do what you like to do to relieve stress.
- When you take the test don’t panic! Remember to breathe and stay calm…you know this stuff...don’t beat yourself up!
- Wear comfortable clothes to take the test. If you're always cold bring a sweater, etc. You can also chew gum to stimulate your head...studies show that students who chew gum during tests score 30% higher than if they weren't chewing.
- Lastly, if your test scores come in the mail and make you cry, don’t fret…you can always take it again in the future! One little standardized test score does not represent the entire intelligent person YOU ARE!