As if the search and application process for graduate schools was not enough to manage, the Graduate Record Exam requires an organized, thorough preparation to check off your graduate school to-do list. Navigating how to prep for graduate applications and the GRE can be tricky, and the choices you make are not to be taken lightly either, with a heavy influence on your options and career. This post will walk-through all the important considerations to help guide through the major decisions every pre-grad student is trying to manage.
Set Your Target Schools
A great for step to take is to make a list of the schools you will be applying for admission to. This is important because the standards and requirements for these schools will ultimately guide the rest of what you do.
It can be helpful to make a list of what each school requires and what parts of those requirements you are still working on. Courses, grades, field-experience, GRE score, application materials, and so on. The organization will be key to managing the stress of it all and getting it all done.
The average GRE scores for your school is especially important to know as it will guide your test prep. Your top schools’ average GRE scores should align with what your target score is.
Choosing a Method of GRE Prep
GRE Prep is done a bit differently by each student according to their preferences and needs, but there are a few main methods to get the job done.
When considering what GRE Prep is best for you think about how much time you have, how you learn best, and what is a realistic fit with your current workload and life.
Live Prep Courses
Live prep course can be online or in-person, but the main component is live lessons by an instructor. Often you will be part of a class, which some students enjoy, and responsible for showing up to each class time. Another common component of live prep courses is assignments and practice tests.
This method of prep is usually the most costly and most intensive. However, it is also the most supportive method with hands-on help to students from the instructor or tutors, feedback on work, and community of peers.
To name just a few popular live test prep courses, there are The Princeton Review, PowerScore, and Manhattan Prep.
GRE tutors are much like a live prep course in that they can be online or in-person study sessions and offer hands-on help from a professional. Tutors will often work with students by answering their specific questions and reviewing assignments and practice tests.
The benefits of a tutor are that the prep is entirely designed for you and very supportive. Meetings with a tutor can be more flexible to your schedule as well.
In-person GRE tutors can often be found locally through online ads or people in your school. Varsity Tutors is one resource that matches students with local tutors. Online tutors can be found the same way or through test prep companies such as The Princeton Review and Kaplan.
Self-Directed Prep Courses
Self-directed study with a prep course includes all of a test prep company’s tools and resources, but the student works independently and on their own schedule to complete the work.
This is great for students who are particularly busy and would find it hard to meet in regularly scheduled classes. This is also great for students who are self-driven and prefer to work on their own. The prep course is laid out with some structure and organization, but the student has freedom to work at the pace they find best.
Often prep courses will even have some sort of feature where students can email or online chat with a tutor when they feel stuck or confused.
Self-directed prep courses take place online. Some GRE self-directed courses include Magoosh, PrepScholar, and Manhattan Prep.
Self-Study with a Prep Book
Self-study with a prep book is often the most flexible and affordable for students who are preparing to the GRE. Without all the features or individual attention of other methods, prep books are much lower in price. With all materials in print, prep books are great for students who want to take their prep with them to school, work, or anywhere else.
It is becoming the norm for prep books to be accompanied by some online content such as additional questions or practice tests. This can really extend the benefits of a prep book.
The downsides include the lack of individualized prep, as the printed material can not be adjusted. Prep books also lack some of the handy features other prep methods have such as performance analytics, question filters, or automatic grading.
Self-study prep books are best for a self-motivated and self-aware student who can develop their own effective plan for prep and stick to it. Prep books are also great for students who want to limit technology-based prep and need a prep that can travel with them.
Some GRE prep books include The Official GRE Super Power Pack and Test Prep Books GRE 2020 & 2021.
Wherever you set your sights for graduate school, having a goal and plan to achieve it are the first steps. There is no one path to graduate school. Every student has to use their unique resources and skills to find their best course of action. Use this information to start identifying what the path towards your dream graduate school looks like for you.