Taking the GRE

By: Mason VanRossum

The GRE. Where to start on the wonderful journey that is preparing for the GRE. Honestly, for some people it may be wonderful. For some people, that wonderful may be said with heavy sarcasm. For those who may be wondering, my name is Mason VanRossum and I am a research assistant in the DDM Lab, currently in my senior year. Having aspirations of going to graduate school for professional counseling, means that the GRE was one of the steps I had to take. In this blog post, I am going to go over what preparing for the GRE was like, what were my thoughts, and what were the steps I took. It was a long and sometimes tedious journey, but worth it in the end.

First of all, it is important to note that some programs don’t require the GRE. The first step I took was seeing if the programs I was looking at required me to take it. If a potential graduate student doesn’t have to take it, there isn’t much gain to taking it. And then, when it comes to preparation, it really does vary for everyone. The average scores that get into a masters program compared to a doctoral program are going to differ. I don’t want to discourage people from doing their best, but it did factor into my preparation. After confirming that I needed to take the GRE, what range of scores I needed, and reading up on what the GRE actually entailed (everyone should do this), I was ready to prepare.

After going to the GRE website and registering for the GRE, I received some free practice tests. I thought this was pretty cool. After talking to some professors and fellow students about preparing for the GRE, I was wrapping my head around what my plan was going to look like. I had two months until the test, and I was going to start studying with a month left. First thing was going to be a practice test and see how my baseline score was. After seeing what I needed work on, I would use a GRE prep book to learn and relearn some of the mathematical and language concepts that I needed to. With a week or two left, I would take another practice test to see my progress. Then, I could decide what the rest of my preparation would look like up until the test.

Actually carrying out the plan had its challenges. I am someone who can psyche himself out easily by overexaggerating the task ahead. Stressing about what I had to do definitely made it easy to procrastinate at times. Thankfully, in a way, my timeline was so tight that it didn’t allow me to procrastinate too much if I wanted to do well. I set my target scores at the average for my number one program, and I was four points short after my first practice test. This definitely motivated me to keep plugging away. By the time test day came, I knew I was ready. After doing a good amount of practice problems and practice tests, I was confident. I got the scores I needed and my work paid off.

Finally, I have a few points of advice for your preparation. First off, sometimes people don’t want to spend money on a prep book and understandably so. The test is expensive, so why would one put more money into it. I would recommend getting one. By talking to fellow peers, staff and faculty members, one should be able to find them for relatively cheap. Some schools may even offer them for free through different campus offices. The next piece of advice I have is staying positive. It can be easy to get down on yourself after getting a couple problems in a row wrong. Keep it in perspective that the question may be a super random math trick or a really obscure word. Think about your collective progress and not question to question. You are capable of doing well on this test! I know it helped me to just think about and list out all of the good things I had done in college that got me to this point. This serves as proof to your brain that you are capable and have been capable. Plus, it will make you happy as you do this, cause all your positive achievements will be right there in front of you. The last piece of advice is to find a way to study vocab words. You may find a bunch of words that don’t actually show up on the test, but being able to comprehend maybe 2 or 3 more questions makes huge dividends. 

The GRE can be a daunting task. Everyone talks about it being so scary and so important, but that fact of the matter is that it is just another test. Break the preparation up into different parts so it becomes less frightening. Realize that you have it in you to do really well on this test. I freaked out after my first practice test since 3 hours was a lot and I had to improve my score. By staying calm and putting in the work, I raised my score to what I needed and I know you can do it as well