Tips for the GRE

Are you an engineer who’s been out of school for a couple years and are thinking about going back to the womb?  Time to take the GRE.

1. Buy a review book.  I picked up the Kaplan one.  I didn’t have the discipline to follow a rigorous course of study, but I did read through the test description, tips, and (most importantly) did all the example tests and exercises.  The only downside was that I couldn’t get the included CD to work in my computer.  Note that the GRE people will send you a practice CD in the mail about 1 week before the exam.  I also think there were practice exams on Kaplan’s site, but the site has extremely poor usability and I gave up after a few days.

2. Don’t drink coffee before the test.  Kaplan claims they’ve done experiments that show people who drink coffee lose focus midway through the test.  I had no problems staying awake without coffee; adrenaline is sufficient.

3. Write practice essays, especially a couple days before the exam.  Create an outline before you start typing; I followed a less rigorous version of what Kaplan recommended.  I struggled through my practice exam, but everything clicked into place on test day.

4. Do a lot of math problems.  The Kaplan math review workbook was fantastic. Work on doing simple arithmetic operations as quickly as possible.  There are also practice problems in a PDF file on the GRE website.

5. Be ready to cancel your scores if you ran out of time in the Quantitative section.  All the practice tests are deceptively easy for someone who is above average in math.  You’ll have more of the hard, tricky questions.  It’ll cost you ~$140, but as long as you’re a working stiff, this shouldn’t be significant.

Good luck!

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