What you need to know about the GRE:
What: A computer-delivered standardized test offered throughout the year, also available as paper-delivered up to three times a year.
Why: Required to apply to most graduate schools and programs. Most schools take scores up to five years old.
When: Once every 21 days, up to five times within a year.
Where: More than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries.
The Economist offers an online GRE prep course, which is guaranteed to increase your score by at 5+ points. Try the free 7-day trail of Economist GRE Tutor.
For UNC juniors and seniors considering graduate school, three letters are looming large in their minds: G-R-E.
But the test isn't something to dread. The Economist magazine has a full online test-prep program that students can try for free for seven days, and UNC Learning Center provides resources to students.
Four UNC students who have recently taken the test or are preparing to take it, offered their perspectives and tips for conquering the GRE.
Hayley Conley is a senior Psychology major, who is taking GRE on Feb. 18 to apply to public health school.
How have you been studying? I really haven’t too much yet, I have flipped through the GRE book I have and looked online about how hard it is, and asked friends who have taken it. I heard it's not that bad, that it's just like the SAT but just the college version. I think I’m probably most worried about the math section since its been a long time since I’ve done geometry—I also heard from those with the same concerns say they did well on the math section though.
What are your study tips? I’m a flashcard person — if I think something is important I make flashcards for it, and writing things out really works for me. I make my own study guide, and the act of writing it helps me remember, so I’ll probably do that.
Favorite study location: bed or library? Not my bed because I’ll fall asleep — I like to study in the library but I don’t like studying in total silence. … I like sitting in my living room, it's slightly cozier than the library so it’s a nice middle ground.
Favorite study music? My roommates and I have a playlist called “Get sh*t done.” It's early 2000s hip hop music — it's really stupid but it's awesome, so it's usually that, crappy early 2000s pop.
Favorite study snacks? Goldfish. They’re such a classic snack; I am a fan.
What’s your “power breakfast” or meal? I usually make tea and eat a banana or eat a granola bar because I’m always running late; it's like my go-to.
Any lucky pencils, pens, t-shirts, etc.? Not really. I usually try to use the same pencil I have been using, maybe that’s slightly superstitious, but if I couldn’t use it, I wouldn’t feel unlucky.
Recommendations for students preparing to take the GRE? For scheduling the GRE, I would make sure it actually makes sense for you to do it that day and you don’t feel like you’re shoving it in because you have to.
Logan Buie, senior biology major, took the GRE recently to apply for graduate school in marine ecology.
How did you study? I studied for it for two months, I think, and I just pulled tips and study schedules from different places.
What are your study tips? I used an app, that was helpful. I used a vocab app so I would study that on the way to class, and when my family took a road trip to the beach I just took breaks to study the vocab. My boyfriend was also studying at the same time, so there was a competition to see who could learn the most amount of words — if you’re competitive, it helps. It was as fun as it could be.
Favorite study location: bed or library? I was way more productive in the library, if I studied in my bed I started to get really tired.
Note taking: Notebook or laptop? I take everything on paper, I bought a whole new notebook for GRE questions and also printed out physical calendar and used that to fill in what questions to do that day—it was a visual tool to make sure I actually did it.
Favorite study snacks? Cliff bars, I think I took a cliff bar, a banana and a water bottle to my exam.
Tips on choosing what time to take the GRE? I took mine at noon. I woke up probably around 9 a.m. and made it a point to make a good breakfast, something I would normally eat, and had enough time to make sure I was awake. I feel like if I had taken it at 8 a.m., it would be too early to have a good breakfast and I would have just grabbed breakfast on the way out.
Recommendations for students preparing to take the GRE? Definitely sign up early, especially if you know there’s a certain time you want to take it. Start studying with at least a month, I thought two months was a good amount of time. Two to three months gives you time to do a little each day and feel prepared and put the time in.
Victoria Sanderford, senior biology major, chemistry and neuroscience minors, took the GRE in October to apply to biomedical sciences masters programs.
How did you study? I studied a little bit the week prior. Mostly just did some flashcards for vocab, and I took one full-length practice test a few days before. It gave me a score estimate that I was really happy with, so I didn't really do much after that. The estimate ended up being very accurate compared to what I got on the real test.
Do you think online test prep would be helpful? I think it would definitely be helpful for vocabulary or if you haven't practiced writing an argument-style paper in a while. I knew my weakness would be vocabulary, so that's what I focused on. I think an online aid that figured out what you need to focus on and gave practice specifically for those areas would be most helpful.
Study tips? I don't really have many study tricks other than setting aside large chunks of time to study. I can't really study in short time periods or without music/something playing on TV. Complete silence makes it hard for me to study.
Favorite study location: bed or library? I study in my apartment living room most of the time unless it's a really big exam or during finals. Then I like to go to the bottom floor of Davis. I usually type my notes up before studying to organize them and add any important figures, etc. all in one place.
What’s your “power breakfast” or meal? I would say some variation of pasta or pizza. Not really a healthy power meal, but it's comfort food.
Cayla Culbreth, junior Psychology major, Spanish and Biology minors, will take the GRE on March 23 to start applying for PA school.
How have you been studying? I'm taking a prep class and using the Princeton review and Barron's practice books.
Do you think an online prep aid would be helpful? Yes, online prep is helpful especially because the test is online. So it helps to do timed practice tests online. I’ve been preparing since Christmas break, studying with books and my class that started two weeks ago, which lasts for eight weeks.
Any study tips? My study tricks are just to space it out as much as possible and do something for it everyday even if it's just 10 minutes. To get focused to study, I have to make sure I finish everything else first and have time to focus on just GRE stuff.
Favorite study music: Chainsmokers radio on Spotify.
Favorite study location: bed or library? I just study on my couch.
Recommendations for students preparing to take the GRE? My recommendation is to start studying as early as possible because it's a lot to study and classes are good because you're forced to study for it, and they give you lots of good tips.
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