Exam Prep First-Hand

6a00c11413d872819d00c11413d9a6819d-500pi.jpgA few months ago I had the pleasure of revising some GRE prep materials and I have to say it’s interesting to be in the position of being a student again, if – for now at least – only for the short term task of “revising”.

I found it funny but realized why traditional methods are so popular: they seem easier! My first realization, which was not so funny, was that my vocabulary sucks (see?). My favorite way to improve it though was through the use of flash cards. No, I didn’t use translation, but I did write a few “synonyms” on one side and never made up a sentence of my own. This seemed to be effective for short-term memory.

Another realization was just another reminder of the frustration learners must experience with the English language. The book I used recommended writing a succinct definition, “no more than one or two words”. Well, if the definition is one word, why do we need that harder word in the first place?! Of course in reality, the definition is not just that one or two words, but…something kinda similar.

I had a few theories about practice tests, and I thought I would share my experience for any teachers who might be contemplating doing the GRE themselves. Two full-length adaptive practice tests came free when I registered, as well as several shorter practice ones. I caved in and decided to buy three tests from an online provider and framed this expense as a way of avoiding the need to re-take the test. I also did the tests offered in a prep book (two?) borrowed from a friend, and worked through the practice exercises in it.

Compared to my final score:

My scores on the official practice tests were most similar to my scores on the real test, but…my verbal score was lower on the real test than on either of those practice tests (so much for flashcards and memorization)!

All of my scores on the tests I paid for separately were lower than my real scores, which kind of confirms my theory (“you’re doing poorly…buy more tests from us to do better!”).

Overall, I think the practice tests were helpful, even if it was a little disheartening to see the lower scores on the ones I paid for. As a teacher, I think the experience gives me a renewed empathy for exam prep students as well!