GRE Success Story: The Third Time was a Charm
When asked recently for a student success story, I immediately thought of Heather (not her actual name). Like a sizable portion of students who come to Kaplan, Heather had already taken the GRE after preparing on her own, and her scores were not high enough. She was a senior in college, with a hefty course load and a time-consuming job in her field that required a lot of travel.
Right from the start of class, Heather and I were in frequent email contact, figuring out how she should structure her study time so she could take her test a couple weeks after the end of a twice a week class. She was a diligent, goal-oriented student.
Her Test Day came, and she fell short of the scores she needed to be considered for the grad program she wanted. Her math score was a little over what she needed, but her verbal score was significantly below an acceptable level.
This is the point where too many potential graduate students passively accept their inadequate score fate, feeling powerless over what seems like an insurmountable obstacle.
“I’m over this test” she wrote to me. I replied, “You don’t strike me as someone who just gives up. Give yourself the day to stew, and then let’s get practical.” I sent my phone number, she sent hers, and although I was away on vacation, we arranged for a good time to talk.
Heather also wrote back that she’d calmed down after a run and talking to her parents and to a fellow student, a year ahead of her, who took the test 4 times until she got a barely adequate score, and now she’s in grad school.
We worked together to set up a specific set of strategies and a study schedule. Heather repeated some class sessions, partly to see if she could get some new insights, and partly just to keep up her studies. She committed to learning as many of the top 500 vocabulary words as possible (she got all but about 30 of them). She practiced eliminating wrong answer choices to improve her chances of getting right answers with strategic guessing.
To hone her reading comprehension skills, we came up with the idea of reading articles from economist.com, newyorker.com, ft.com and terryteachout.com. The idea was to read challenging writing quickly, actively and critically.
She stayed in touch, reporting on what she was working on. You can do something similar with a friend or family member; the point is to have someone–a “coach”– who’ll keep encouraging you to stick with your work and help you past the times when you feel stuck or frustrated.
Test Day #3 arrived, and I have to admit, I was nervous! The phone rang late that day, with Heather’s number on the caller ID. She did it! She maintained her math score and improved her verbal score so significantly that she could have her applications considered.
Today, Heather is in the middle of her first year in her first choice grad school program. She grabs me on Gchat periodically to catch up and let me know how things are going in school. Hearing from her always makes my day, and I’m glad to be able to share her story with you. My hope is that you can take a cue from the Heather’s persistence and focus in order to drive you toward GRE Test Day success.