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Thread: How important is the GRE; what did you do to study for it?

  1. #1

    How important is the GRE; what did you do to study for it?

    I've got a study book for the GRE and plan on taking it late this summer. If I am satisfied with my score, then I won't take it again, but if not...how much does this matter in the admissions process? I am not excited about signing up for some GRE class if it's only a small portion of what grad programs deem to be important.

    What did the other forum users do (if anything) to study for the GRE? Does the score affect scholarships like the SAT does for some undergrad programs?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    It's been a while since I took the GRE (2000), but here's what I remember --

    My undergrad college was one of the first schools to offer on-demand GRE testing. I registered for the test on a Monday and took it on a Wednesday. Never studied anything. Just showed up. Did well enough to earn a full ride to a master's program in history, which I turned down. Did well enough to earn a full ride to a master's program in planning some years later, which I accepted.

    (I took this same approach with the LSAT and scored well enough to earn a full ride to law school, too.)

    The importance of the GRE depends on the program, I'm sure. However, even if you don't do as well as you'd like, if you have a solid GPA and a nice portfolio, you should be in good shape.

    I think people tend to over-study for tests like this, when, quite honestly, there's just not much to be gained from studying. If I were starting over and planning to take the GRE or LSAT again, I would be most tempted to buy a book of crossword puzzles and word games. That would help more than anything (and be less expensive).

    Best wishes.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by warderjack View post
    What did the other forum users do (if anything) to study for the GRE?
    For my preparation I went to grammar school, junior high, high school, and college, and except for high school, I paid attention when I was there.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by warderjack View post
    I've got a study book for the GRE and plan on taking it late this summer. If I am satisfied with my score, then I won't take it again, but if not...how much does this matter in the admissions process? I am not excited about signing up for some GRE class if it's only a small portion of what grad programs deem to be important.

    What did the other forum users do (if anything) to study for the GRE? Does the score affect scholarships like the SAT does for some undergrad programs?
    I think the GRE is important for the schools that request it. I scored very highly on my GRES (800/660), and I received good funding packages from the universities that requested the GRE. When I went to the open house at one school, a professor I meet with at one open house had mentioned my "test scores" when he heard my name, so I think they were high enough that people took note of. If the university you are applying to doesn't ask for the GRE, however, I suspect it's of vastly less importance compared to competitive grades and good letters of rec. [For the record, I have a competitive but not elite GPA, a lower-tier school, and probably fairly average letters of rec and statement]

    As far as studying - brush up on your simple math - no logs or graphing. The verbal section is MUCH tougher than the math. Practice your vocabulary. Take the practice tests. Experiment with different vendors. I didn't use any specific test-prep program, but I also feel like I'm a good test-taker already, so learning "strategies" isn't as important to me. Your mileage may vary.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Sorry don't know, never took it.
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  6. #6
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I think the GRE is only as important as the rest of your accomplishments. I would imagine that the "top" schools look at this score and say if you don't get above X we will not take you, but I think that most schools weigh it with the rest of your admission information.

    I took the GRE in 2006 and did pretty well. I got a book and read through the questions. I do not recommend drinking the night before. It made the test much harder than it needed to be. But honestly, it is like the SAT. Stupid logic sometimes is just a good as deep studying.

    Good luck.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I am a hands on kind of studier, so I got a GRE math work book, the vocabulary flash cards and took a couple of practice exams prior to taking the test. Did ok. I am pretty sure, unless you are applying to a big name school, most places minimally expect your combined score to be over 1000.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    The importance of your GRE general score will depend on how each of the school(s) and programs you are applying to weigh them as well as your overall application package (what you bring to the table with grades, experience, etc). I believe when I was doing my research on this about a year ago, the "average" score for most of the top planning schools seemed to be around 1250 or so, about two hundred points higher than the national average of 1049, according to ETS.

    The math section is E-A-S-Y, assuming you were breathing during junior high and or high school. I scored 780, which is *only* 90th percentile. About 6-8% of the people that take the test every year get 800. The verbal section, on the other hand is more difficult for most people. My score of 620 put me yet again right around the 90th percentile, albeit with a much lower score. You only need a 740 on verbal to be in the 99th percentile. Oh, and also be a walking dictionary (at least the analogies and antonyms did me in). The writing section is largely something you cannot prepare for directly in the same fashion, at least in my opinion.

    Lastly, I would recommend utilizing ETS' free "Powerprep" software as a basic prep tool. Take the first practice exam and see what your scores are. It will give you immediate feedback on your weaknesses, both with regards to section and question type. It has a ton of sample/practice questions to work on, as well as a second practice test to take once you have done a little studying. I *raised* my score from the first Powerprep practice test from 1220, to 1400 on the real deal, just using the software. Admittedly, part of it was just getting back into the test taking mindset. See the link below and good luck!

    http://ntis01.ets.org/onyx/powerprepTestTakers.htm
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  9. #9
    GRE scores are important. Schools look at them for admissions. Obviously, some schools are more competitive than others. What is particularly important is to avoid very very bad scores which stand out and color any assessment of a potential student.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zaphod's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by strumpeace View post
    It's been a while since I took the GRE (2000), but here's what I remember --

    My undergrad college was one of the first schools to offer on-demand GRE testing. I registered for the test on a Monday and took it on a Wednesday. Never studied anything. Just showed up. Did well enough to earn a full ride to a master's program in history, which I turned down. Did well enough to earn a full ride to a master's program in planning some years later, which I accepted.

    (I took this same approach with the LSAT and scored well enough to earn a full ride to law school, too.)

    The importance of the GRE depends on the program, I'm sure. However, even if you don't do as well as you'd like, if you have a solid GPA and a nice portfolio, you should be in good shape.

    I think people tend to over-study for tests like this, when, quite honestly, there's just not much to be gained from studying. If I were starting over and planning to take the GRE or LSAT again, I would be most tempted to buy a book of crossword puzzles and word games. That would help more than anything (and be less expensive).

    Best wishes.
    *Experience not typical.

    I took one of those GRE prep classes it helped a lot. The thing with the GRE is that it is not all about what you know its about trying to trick you. In the end half the difficulty of the test is the test itself not the questions. From what I understand colleges don't care what your GRE is unless it is really high or really low. As long as you meet their threshold (which is usually 1100-1200 something like that) you'll be fine.
    "He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." Douglas Adams

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    planr - 780 is very impressive regardless. I'm no quant jock but I fancied myself well-prepared, and came up with a 750, good for 84th percentile. 5 years ago I pulled a 770 so apparently I back-slid a little, and that after an MBA! Verbal was 700 but I don't think programs care more about that than the math. The TOEFL is the great gatekeeper for people who aren't native speakers.

    As for advice warderjack, I would say take more time on your first few answers, because those are weighted more. The final questions only account for minor adjustments to your score. Don't be alarmed if you can't finish. I came up a few short in the math, and just clicked through with "b." Taking the extra time at the beginning probably saved me from a lower score. The verbal is pretty standard - get any guide with a list of words, make flash cards, and read them every day over lunch. The words really do show up.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Just a note...

    The scores everyone is reporting is likely meaningless. I believe that it has been announced that starting in the Fall of this year, the GRE will no longer be an "adaptive" test and instead offer a fixed set of questions, like the SAT. The difficulty and format of the questions (I think the verbal section in particular) will be overhauled.

    I think it's a change that will be beneficial for most students in that it will do a better job of measuring your "intelligence" rather than test-taking ability.

  13. #13
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    it depends...

    i scored HORRIBLY on the GRE but was still accepted with funding to each program i applied for, some of which were very competitive. schools must really look at the whole package and pick a class of people with different experiences, not just students with the top grades or test scores.

    i think it's important to package yourself well though -- send a cover letter with your application, get strong references, write a killer essay explaining why you're passionate about planning and you should be fine. good luck!

  14. #14
    I bought a book and everything too - will probably take it this summer. I don't plan on studying too hard. I feel like schools have to understand that this is a test that tests you on how to take a test, not on the actual material.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    So apparently I'm in the minority here - I'm not a great standardized test-taker, and they make me incredibly nervous. Especially after I've taken them and applied to schools, it's the part of the application that really (mentally) brings me down and will cause me not to apply to some schools - even if I could get in. It's mostly a paranoia from undergrad apps that someone will just look at my numbers and throw me away. I know that's not necessarily the case in grad school, but I figure great GRE scores can't hurt.

    To minimize my nervousness I just started a course and plan on studying quite a bit for the exam. I got a 1250 on the diagnostic test, which is fine, but to ease my nerves when application time comes around, I'm devoting the next month to GRE studying and hopefully getting at least 150 points higher.

    That's just me though. Applications as a whole (scholarships, jobs, schools, etc) really freak me out, so I decided this was the best way for me to calm my nerves when application season rolls around.

  16. #16

    in the same boat...

    So apparently I'm in the minority here - I'm not a great standardized test-taker, and they make me incredibly nervous. Especially after I've taken them and applied to schools, it's the part of the application that really (mentally) brings me down and will cause me not to apply to some schools - even if I could get in. It's mostly a paranoia from undergrad apps that someone will just look at my numbers and throw me away. I know that's not necessarily the case in grad school, but I figure great GRE scores can't hurt.
    I completely feel ya on that.... I honestly haven't taken a real math class since about 2003, so I'm pretty rusty over here. All these people reporting 700+ on each section are making me feel pretty dumb

    I wish I had friends who were taking it, so instead of sitting around watching the Real World we could sit around and do math problems or something productive....such is life

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by shelbycakes View post
    I completely feel ya on that.... I honestly haven't taken a real math class since about 2003, so I'm pretty rusty over here. All these people reporting 700+ on each section are making me feel pretty dumb

    I wish I had friends who were taking it, so instead of sitting around watching the Real World we could sit around and do math problems or something productive....such is life
    Your fundamental math ABILITY is more important that your knowledge - I've taken exactly one math class since basic trig my sophomore year of high school (12 years ago) - Math 111 which I took 2 years before I took the GRE. I scored 800. It's certainly not because I "know" alot of math. I have a natural aptitude that for various circumstances I've never developed, but it's enough to score high on the GRE's. There's little reason to be worried about the math section of the test.

  18. #18
    Manzell... those are words I like to hear! I definitely have math ability. We'll see how it goes.

  19. #19
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    gre/gmat/lsat

    is there a conversion chart that shows what the equivalent scores are for GREs/GMATs/LSATs? If not, can anyone shed any light on the gre to gmat conversation? Thanks

  20. #20
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    The closest thing to an "equivalent" would be to look at what scores get you to the 80th, 90th, 95th percentiles and so forth for each test. The problem in trying to compare them is that each test is quite different because the types of schools (general, business, law) have different demands. In most cases, especially with planning schools, you cannot substitute one for another, and sometimes need both (if you are applying to a dual program with a JD or MBA).

    Go to the ETS (www.ets.org) and poke around for current scores and corresponding percentiles and you'll have your answer
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  21. #21
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    The schools that I applied to essentially said that recommendation letters and the personal essay were weighted higher than GRE scores when deciding who to admit, which definitely helped take the pressure off when I took the test!

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    Reading through these replies, I'm glad I took the test quite a while ago, with the paper and pencil format, no writing section, and an Analytical component.

    I needed the test, because I had an average GPA and average letters of rec. My test scores were my ticket in. While I didn't get a full ride, they were high enough, especially in verbal and analytical, to get into all my grad schools and some partial scholarships. Math is my weak point on all standardized tests. Too bad I decided to wait for grad school, because the scholarships didn't wait.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I took it a long time ago and it had 3 sections, verbal/math/logic. I scored 780/650/800. I had a good undergrad GPA and related work experience (it was an MPA program) but the test must have helped quite a bit. When I stopped into the department before registering, the chair took me around to all the professors and introduced me as "the one with the really high GRE scores".

    I studied only for the math and logic portions, using the study guide book. I hate math. I only boned up on geometry, because I knew when I saw any algebra problems, I would just skip them, and I did.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    As part of the GSD's Career Discovery program there was an info session today about admissions to the GSD. They said that for planning the GRE is more important than for architecture/LA because a portfolio is not required. I don't know how much this generalizes, but it's something to think about.

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