We all have hobbies. You may enjoy painting, playing the piano, or dancing the merengue. Whatever that passion is, you didn’t suddenly decide one day to just do it; the process, from utter novice to adept practitioner, took years. You probably spent much of your free time honing your craft.
Studying for the GRE doesn’t carry the panache of ballroom dancing or playing lead guitar in a rock bank—nor is it anywhere near as fun. But in many ways it is like your favorite hobby, and to become good at it, you must spend many afternoons and weekends becoming better. And just thinking of the GRE as your new hobby and not some horrible imposition will make your study time far more bearable, and effective.
Now that I’ve shifted your attitude—hopefully!—let me focus on the not so frothy part: studying for the GRE will be tough, and oftentimes you will feel at sea and want to give up. To keep your head afloat—and perhaps finally ride the wave (to drag out the ocean metaphor)—there are several things you will want to keep in mind.
1. GRE study plan
Nothing can make you feel more at sea than trying to figure out which material to choose from. Do you study Barron’s, Kaplan, that random website that promises a perfect score (but won’t show you any questions)? Or is there another panacea to your GRE study ills?
The great news is that there is certainly a way to improve your scores. The unsurprising news is that, yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. Here’s just a snippet from one of Magoosh’s GRE study plans:
- 150 new words/week
- 100+ math questions/week
- 75+ verbal questions/week
- 1 practice test/week
- 3 vocab-heavy articles
At this point it’s time to accept that your other hobbies are going to take a backseat for the time being, and your GRE prep will start to seriously encroach on your American Idol time.
Focusing especially on GRE verbal preparation, you’ll find that there is certainly a surfeit of materials and techniques. Naturally, you don’t just want to start studying GRE Joe’s 1,000 flashcards, hoping that GRE Joe knows what types of words actually show up (don’t worry, there is no GRE Joe—though there is a lot of random GRE word lists and flashcards out there).
If the GRE is going to be your hobby for the next few months, you want the best flashcards. Manhattan GRE and Magoosh offer fun, dynamic flashcards. And what about all of those GRE wordlists floating around the web? Don’t use them. They’re stagnant and dry, and will most likely put your brain to sleep. You’re not going to learn much with that kind of rote memorization. If you want an actual book I recommend the Barron’s 1100 Words You Need to Know.
3. Mock tests
To become better at anything requires feedback: are you improving or not? If you play a musical instrument, you will want to tackle a new piece and try to play it in front of an audience. If you enjoy running, then you will want to time yourself. As a GRE hobbyist, you will want to do practice tests. Your score will show whether you are getting better.
Spacing tests out every couple of weeks or so gives you time markers, and mini-goals to work towards. That way, you don’t just feel as though you are slogging through mud. And which tests should you use? Well, there is no shortage of mock tests for you to rummage through on the internet and in books.
The next few months will require perseverance. They will also require you to forgo some things you really like. So if your friend calls you up and invites you out, say you got a new hobby. Just don’t tell them it’s the GRE.
Image Credit: www.toptenpk.com