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GRE study tools needed....

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hey guys getting my ducks in a row to apply to PA school here in tenn. I was wondering if you guys could supply me with some good books and resources for getting a good score on the GRE.


I have taken 2 boards tests lately x-ray and cat scan got 89% on them so I don't have test anxiety but I need materiel that will give me samples to go over and over prefer them to be on the computer as well tend to focus better with thay way.

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I used Barron's GRE prep book. It had paper practice tests, review exercises, and a CD with two computer tests. I also used Kaplan's GRE Vocab Flashcards. This was for the old format of the GRE though. I used the flashcards in spare time for a few weeks, and crammed the book for 5 days during a week off. Did well on the exam.

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I used the Kaplan GRE study book. The biggest thing for me was to get the timing down for each of the questions and writing section. Id definitely recommend going through a whole test to get the feel of it. Also know that there are math questions where you can take shortcuts to avoid actually figuring out the problem.

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I put a lot of study work into the GRE before I took it for one reason: I wanted to make sure this dumb test didn't undercut all my hard work I'd done in school, at work with healthcare experience and well written essays which took months to develop well. (Note I took the old version of the GRE but this still applies to new test takers.)


Here are some key points that helped me develop a strategy:

  • The courses offered by Kaplan, Princeton and others are ridiculously over priced. Even you take a course, you still have study to get anything out of it.
  • The exam's timing, questions and general feel are learn-able.
  • The exam is adaptive. When you get questions right, the questions get hard and your score becomes higher. This impacts both strategy and the type of questions you'll see (more below).
  • There are tons of good questions to practice in old versions of prep books, available online for pennies, plus shipping.
  • Consideration of one's own strengths and weaknesses. For me: my vocab is mediocre, math skills just above average and my ability to reason through arguments, I felt was strong but hadn't ever been measured.

My plan:

  • I started early (3 months out) with my vocab and used Kaplan's vocab flash cards. I set a goal to learn 10-20 words a day but wouldn't overly stress if I couldn't get all the new words. Those were simply included into the next day's pile. I also kept a side pile of the words had previously given me difficulty for frequent review (important not too forgo your previous hard work).
  • For the math and essays I initially started just 5 weeks before the exam. I chose to use Princeton's newest book, averaging between one and two hours each day and it didn't take long to finish the book's lessons... But when completing practice tests, I really felt Princeton's review had just skimmed the surface of each topic and lacked depth.
  • So with this in mind, I pushed back my testing date by another month and bought Kaplan's Math workbook. Though I had picked up a couple great tricks in the Princeton book, Kaplan's workbook was much more focused and in depth, entirely devoted solely to the math section of the exam.
  • The final two weeks were spent taking practice exams every day. I couldn't believe how little time was given for each section. Practicing at speed once I had gained the basics, was crucial. The used prep books however weren't adaptive, unfortunately.
  • I never did spend time practicing the analytical writing section... hmm

Overall, I was well prepared for the exam. I realized later, that the analytical writing questions usually follow a format and I would advise others practice them a couple times. Also, writing more is strongly correlated with higher scores. Being that the exam is adaptive, I found most of my math and verbal questions were right at the edge of my capabilities. If I did it all again, I would try to seek out the hardest types of math questions once I had the basics down, instead of forcing myself to work on easier concepts I'd already mastered. At one point during the math portion, I couldn't make out the bleakest notion of the questions asked, even after reading it 3 or 4 times... For the vocab, the review pile that I had been practicing seemed to be the exact type of questions the adaptive exam gave me, testing the limits of my vocabulary.


Pros and cons of my approach:

(+) a good score: V540, Q710, Writing: 2.5.

(-) Time and energy invested

(-) Cost of changing my test date

(+) Low cost overall

(+) Time and extra study effort given after changing my test date.

(-) Low analytical writing score. I failed to practice this section, believing that I'm naturally good at finding holes in arguments and analyzing the logic of a statement. I should have spent some time practicing this.

(+) Most PA schools don't care about the writing section nearly as much as the other two.



Most important things to point out:

  • Understand the scoring of the exam. With an adaptive test, the questions with the most weight towards your score are the questions at the begining. However, you still loose points for the questions you fail to answer (and most people will run out of time).
  • Practice your timing. After you've gotten the basics down and you've started to take practice tests, keep a special eye out for evil time-sucking-questions that you should just guess at, in order to move on.
  • Buy old versions of prep books for their practice tests. An easy way to find this is by searching for current editions, then simply change your search criteria to the previous edition. You'll find used versions for pennies with the same types of questions in the new exam. The only down side to this is that these book tests aren't adaptive and you may end up spending extra time on concepts you've mastered.... However, given that, these tests are still a great resource at super cheap prices.
  • The only valuable thing about expensive online and face-to-face courses are their practice tests, which are adaptive tests. Besides this, to really change your score, you still have to invest mental effort and you still have to study on your own if you want to grasp it all. If, however, you're set on learning from another person, you may look into hiring an online tutor. With and internet connection, Skype and a little ingenuity, I imagine you'll find professional tutors from India or elsewhere for much better prices... Just a thought.
  • Vocab is hard to build and takes time and commitment. Start early and just do some each day. It's a small commitment each day over time. Maintaining that commitment despite life's circumstances is the tough part.longer commitment. When I got board of vocab cards, I'd find a good book to read and look up every word I couldn't define and then make a list (which became a long list fairly quickly unfortunately).
  • The math and writing are fairly transient skills. Dont' start working on them more than 3 months before your test. Its simply too easy to loose motivation and/or burn out, wasting time and energy... A frustrating combo.
  • Preparation for this exam is simply about doing your homework by preparing before hand. If I had tried to take this exam without practicing, my scores would have been dismal. Do your homework.

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Elaborating on what Daniel mentioned about the writing section, I think it is fairly easy to do well if you follow a kind of format that the books can teach. I don't remember exactly what it was like, but in my Barron's book I just read their tips and sample essays and did well. There was info on logical fallacies like false cause and effect, post hoc ergo propter hoc, that are usually included in the argument prompts.

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