Currently I find myself in the process of preparing to take the GRE exam. The GRE is a standardized test used by many leading universities as a way to gauge a student’s readiness for a Master’s Program. Although I am still narrowing down the exact Master’s program I would like to complete I am certain that I have been in this situation before. Ten years ago I was studying for the SAT’s and found myself confused. Confused is the best word to describe the feeling because it applied to everything going on in my life at the time. I was confused about the test questions, confused about college, confused about my future. Picking what to eat for lunch became a tedious task as a result of all the crossroads I was facing and I was only 17. Although some of the panic associated with standardized tests and academic future and career are coming back, what is also coming back is the feeling of experience. I can draw back on that time and use it as a support system for what I’m going through now. I can also draw back on what I could have done better.
The first step in my studying for the GRE I decided to sign up for a GRE test-preparation course. This is something I didn’t do when preparing for the SAT and always regretted. My score could have been so much higher if I had the discipline brought on by an organized course led by a qualified instructor. I really needed a professional to assess my strengths and weaknesses and help design a study schedule that would maximize my potential. I put a lot of focus on identifying the best test-prep center for my needs. I wanted to make sure that the instructors were accountable for their work. I also wanted to make sure that the instructors cared about teaching, and that it wasn’t just a way for them to make some extra money on the side. Manhattan Review made a strong point in outlining the process that they go through when hiring a new teacher. They believe that the material is only as important as the way it is being conveyed to the students. I was also excited to learn that a personalized study plan would be developed for me based on assessments from my practice tests.
What I failed to do during my test-preparation for the SAT exam was really study. I studied but I never went out of my way to pick up a book, I never made studying a part of my schedule, only when it didn’t interfere with anything else I was doing. For the GRE I plan to study every available minute. I even scheduled study time for my self almost every day, along with some exercise, healthy meals, and of course going to work. An interesting thing happened. The more I studied the more I wanted to study. I no longer dread my scheduled study time; instead I look forward to tackling problems better than I did the day before. I can actually track my improvements and see a drastic change in my understanding of the test questions.
The most surprising aspect to my studying for the GRE that was missing during my preparation for the SAT is my reading schedule. I set aside time every day to read a novel and a newspaper. This exercise, aside from just being fun, is building up my ability to read. Yes, I am literate, however, there is a difference between knowing how to read and reading actively and efficiently. By reading both creative fiction and current events I am training myself to be an active reader, to pay attention to details while still maintaining a quick reading pace.
Preparing for an exam is difficult but fortunately I am able to recall a similar situation from my past. We should always be learning from our past and I am trying to put that philosophy into full effect, hopefully with the result of a high grade on the GRE and acceptance to one of my first choice grad-schools.