By ThriveAP Intern and NP in Progress Ashley Prince

Can anyone else believe August is here already? It seems like yesterday I was out celebrating the 4th of July, and now summer is slowly winding down. I’m not complaining though; it’s been swelteringly hot here in Columbus, and I can’t wait for the cozy sweaters and crisp leaves of fall. Autumn isn’t all pumpkin spice lattes, though. It also means the dawn of new semester graduate school applications, and a looming GRE testing date.

While you may have been able to nail the ACT without studying, the GRE is much more difficult and requires some preparation. The two most popular prep methods are studying with the help of a test prep agency, like Kaplan (who I initially selected) or through independent study. Here are some pros and cons to each method to help you decide which strategy is right for you.

Test Prep Course Pros:

  • I’m not an independent studier. If there’s no hard due date, I’m not going to do it. Having to come into my GRE class with homework in hand kept me on top of my GRE preparation.
  • My verbal instructor achieved a perfect score on the verbal section of the GRE. I repeat: a perfect score. I knew the advice she was giving me was going to be effective.

Test Prep Course Cons:

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  • GRE study classes are not for those on a budget.
  • It can be difficult to find a test prep class at a time and location that fits your schedule
  • Kaplan, the company I chose to go with for my GRE study course, was adamant about using their method and approach to every single question. Sometimes they were right on, but on many questions I found their strategy confusing.

Independent Study Pros:

  • By making your own study plan, you have the freedom to work around your schedule studying wherever and whenever you want.
  • Your piggy bank will thank you.

Independent Study Cons:

  • If you’re not a self-motivated student, you may not be getting as much out of your study time as you could with an organized GRE study course.
  • Free question banks and study materials found online and commonly used by students studying on their own may not be as representative of the questions you will actually have on test day.
  • Some study questions will inevitably stump you (I’m looking at you, vocabulary). If you are preparing on your own you won’t have the resource of an instructor to lead you to the correct answer or explain things.

One last tip. Plan on taking the GRE twice. Super depressing to think about, I know, but I found out that even though I worked hard for months, I wasn’t completely prepared for the real thing. The questions were much more difficult than those I had studied, I swear the clock moved faster on test day than it did while studying at home, and I just had a huge bundle of nerves on my first test date. Now that I have one exam under my belt, I know better what to expect. 

How are you studying for the GRE? Let me know by posting a comment!


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