PTCAS: The GRE (Part 2)


Still dreading the GRE? Part 2 of the #dptwiththecc GRE post is here! If you missed part 1, go back and read that post first. Keep reading to find out how to study for the GRE, hear my personal experience (+ how I scored), and learn a few tips and tricks!

How should I study for the GRE?

There are lots of resources out there, so I will discuss the most common ones:

The ETS Website
The official ETS GRE website is very useful, with things like sample essays, sample questions, and tips/strategies. The website also has the official pool of essay topics, so you could look at those to see the types of prompts that could be asked (there is no point in reading them all/trying to memorize them, as this is practically impossible and a waste of time lol). The best way to use the pool is to randomly select prompts and practice writing 30-minute responses, or practice brainstorming/outlining responses. For more information about the GRE, visit their site.

When you sign up to take your GRE, you will receive the POWERPREP online software, along with 2 practice tests. This software is almost identical to the actual GRE, and these practice tests will be the most accurate, as they are made by ETS. I saved these practice tests for the end of my studying, to get a more accurate idea of how I would score on test day.

Prep Courses
There are lots of prep courses out there. Some are online, and you can work at your own pace, while others are physical courses with a teacher, other students, etc. There are also tutors you could hire. A quick Google search will give you more information about these resources.

Review Books
There are SO many review books to choose from. Whether that be ETS, Princeton Review, Barron, Manhattan Prep, or Kaplan, choose whichever you’d like (check reviews!). Amazon will definitely have these books for a decent price, or you could check used bookstores or your local library!

Subscription Services
CrunchPrep and Magoosh are the 2 subscription services that I am familiar with. CrunchPrep has 1-month, 3-month, and 6-month plans, while Magoosh has 1-month and 6-month plans. The prices between the 2 services vary, so check their websites for current pricing. Both services have free trials! These services usually include practice exams, practice questions, lessons/videos, etc.

Scholarly News Articles/Other Reading Material
One of the best ways to increase your Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing scores is to READ! Sources like National Geographic, Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Economist, and The New York Times are great. You are welcome to sign up for a subscription, but most of these sites let you access a certain number of free articles monthly (which is what I did). These articles will help with reading comprehension, reading stamina, and word recognition. You could also just read a good book (:

YouTube and Khan Academy will have tons of concept videos. I would also recommend Quizlet, as there are lots of GRE vocabulary lists that students have already created. In addition, Magoosh has free vocabulary and math flashcard apps that I LOVED. The vocabulary app was my favorite, and I learned so many new words in a short period of time. They actually stuck, + most of them showed up on my GRE!

Now don’t think that you need every resource on this list. Try a few things out, and find out what works best for you personally. I probably left some things out, so make sure you also do your own research!

My Experience

Because I applied Early Decision, my GRE deadline was at the end of July (2017). I chose to take the test the summer after I graduated (early July), so that I could fully dedicate my time to studying. I purchased Magoosh’s 6-month plan for about $140, and it was AWESOME. Personally, I wanted to “invest” in my study material, so that I could score high, and only have to take the GRE once. $190 for study material (Magoosh + the $50 I spent on prep books) was way better than another $205 (+ more stress and anxiety) to actually take the GRE again. Magoosh’s plan included comprehensive coverage of each section, over 200 video lessons, over 1000 practice questions, up to 3 practice tests, study schedules, email assistance, and a score predictor. They also had a +5-total score guarantee (or your money back!) if you had previously taken the GRE, which I had not.

I used Magoosh’s 90 Day beginner study plan, but they have lots of different plans that will fit your specific needs, time, and knowledge level. My study plan required me to purchase 3 prep books:

I got them all from Amazon, and spent under $50 total.

Overall, my study plan consisted of reading, practice problems, flashcard apps (I would HIGHLY recommend Magoosh’s apps for studying, especially when you can’t be near a computer—I used them a lot in the car), and practice exams. I really liked having a study plan, because it helped me stay structured and organized. The plan laid out everything that I needed to purchase, + told me EXACTLY what to do each day. I had to fit 3 months of studying into 2 months, so for the first week or so I doubled up, and did 2 days’ worth of work in 1 day (this was a lot). I studied for about 3-4 hours every weekday, and took a full-length practice test almost every weekend (4+ hours). I probably took roughly 6-8 practice tests total. My first score without studying was a 301, and my last score before my actual test was a 316. Magoosh’s program was super helpful, and because of it I ended up with a 160 V (86th percentile), 156 Q (62nd percentile), and 3.5 AW (42nd percentile); (316 composite score). I was very satisfied with my scores, even though my AW score wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be. Ultimately, it didn’t end up making or breaking my application.

General Tips

  • Avoid the on-screen calculator if possible, as it can really slow you down.
  • USE YOUR SCRAP PAPER! If you run out, ask for more!
  • Answer every question, even if you have to guess (try eliminating answers to the best of your ability first of course)! Remember, you’re not penalized for wrong answers. Guessing is always better than leaving an answer blank.
  • Go with your gut, and try not the second-guess yourself.
  • Use your breaks! Your brain will thank you.
  • Sign up for a test date (on the ETS website) early. Spots fill up quickly, so you want to make sure that you get the time and date you want. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck taking your test at 7am on a Monday.
  • Brainstorm and outline before you start your essays.
  • PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! The GRE is a test that you kinda have to “learn”, and the only way you can do that is by doing practice problems and taking full-length practice exams. This will give you the chance to see your weak spots, + see how you will score on your test day. You will start to see the way the test wants you to think, and you will learn how to answer certain question types. There are ultimately only so many things the test makers can ask you.
  • Pay close attention to your time during the test (it’ll be in the top right-hand corner of the screen). If your time is running low, just guess!
  • Skip questions you are unsure about (use the HECK out of the “mark” and “review” features; you can always come back to them later). I would suggest going through each section quickly first, only answering questions you are certain about (work fast but don’t be careless).
  • Don’t feel bad if you have to retake the GRE. Most schools “super score”, meaning they take the highest section score (out of all of your attempts), so retaking could definitely be advantageous.
  • Have a list of the schools you want to apply to on test day (along with their PTCAS GRE code), because after your test, you can send your scores to 4 schools for free. After that, you will have to pay $27 per score (this can get expensive!). Each school’s code will be on their PTCAS website, but if you forget, the GRE has their own list within the testing program.
  • Make sure you eat a good dinner the night before your exam, and a good breakfast the morning of! #brainfood
  • And lastly (again), really dedicate a good amount of time to studying. Your score won’t improve overnight, and you need to put in the work to see results! There were so many days I did not want to study AT ALL, but I pushed through no matter what (sometimes completing multiple “study days” in one sitting), and it paid off. You will probably hit a “plateau” in your studying at some point (where your scores remain about the same), but don’t feel discouraged! After a while, you’ll get past it, and your score will start to improve again.

At the end of the day, the GRE is just a standardized test. Some people are good at them, while others really struggle. Don’t feel defeated if you don’t get a “good” score, because the other parts of your PT school application can definitely offset the GRE. So take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay (:

The final post of #dptwiththecc will be this Friday (so sad that it’s almost over), and I will be discussing PERSONAL STATEMENT/ESSAYS! You don’t wanna miss it! In the meantime, feel free to check out my previous posts!

(This post is based on my own knowledge/experience, information from Google, information from the ETS website, and information from the Pre-PT Student Doctor Network Forum. All images are from the ETS website or Amazon, and do not belong to me. This post is not sponsored in any way.)



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