McNair Scholars

GRE Advice

Dr. Fortner's Advice for Succeeding on the New GRE

On 9/8/11, I took the new GRE because I wanted to know what the experience of registering, preparing for, and completing the exam would be like for Winthrop's McNair Scholars. The last time I took the GRE was in 1992, when the exam was administered on Opscan forms.

On August 1, 2011 ETS implemented a new version of the exam that begins with the two essay questions, includes an unidentified but mandatory experimental or research section, and eliminates analogies and antonyms. An onscreen calculator has been added and you can mark questions within a section and return to them before exiting that section. Based on my experience, I share the following advice for your success. —Dr. Cheryl Fortner

  1. Keep your studying simple.
    1. Review math facts*
    2. Learn vocabulary*
    3. Familiarize yourself with the exam appearance, calculator, format, and question types using the PowerPrep II software.
    4. Complete the PowerPrep II practice test in a quiet setting without distraction just like you will when you take the test.
  2. *One way to do 1a and 1b is to use the program's GRE flashcards to prepare for the exam. Reading the cards will help you learn new vocabulary, review important math facts, get ideas for strategies answering certain kinds of math questions, and practice answering questions.
  3. Drive to the testing building before you take the test. I took the exam at Prometric in Rock Hill which, at the time, was located in Tech Park off Dave Lyle and Anderson Road. The office is at the very end of the left hall. The staff was very kind. (FYI, the bathrooms are located inside the aesthetician's office suite.)
  4. Do not wear clothes with pockets. Every time you come to or return to the testing room, you will have to show every pocket while being video recorded.
  5. Bring a snack for the 10 minute break and leave it in your locker.
  6. Take the 10-minute break that follows the third section if for no other reason than to allow you a chance to clear your mind.
  7. Watch your time. Don't hide the clock. Use the clock to monitor how long you are taking on individual questions. In the verbal sections, you will have reading comprehension questions and those will likely take longer to answer than simple fill-in-the blank questions.
  8. Don't be afraid to skip a question that will use up too much time to answer. I skipped at least two questions in each of my quantitative sections. I marked them so I could answer them if I had time left in the section but I ran out of time and wasn't able to answer them. Nonetheless, my scores' range was high.

Advice from 2011 Winthrop McNair Scholars who took the GRE

  1. Skim or review over things you feel confident on, but really focus on subjects you know you are weak in.
  2. Real simple - RELAX! — Stop stressing!
  3. Be confident about information you have received from the McNair prep course.
  4. Be honest!
  5. Study vocabulary first then math-I did better on math than verbal and for my major, verbal scores count more.
  6. Study as much as you can, but get a good night's rest the night before and get there early!
  7. Just know that this test is nothing bigger than something that you've already done Have confidence and tackle it like you did in your course work.
  8. Before you start each essay, make a bullet outline with at least 10 bullets on your scrap paper to keep your organization tight.
  9. Be confident (even if you have to fake it at first)! And take as many practice test as you can; getting familiar with the format and time constraints helps more than you know.
  10. Don't panic! Take the allowed break and use that time to relax. If you find yourself freaking out, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
  11. Plan a stress-free treat (ice cream, a movie, etc) for yourself immediately after the GRE-you are going to feel mentally and physically exhausted from the entire process (studying, testing, etc) and if you will NEED that time to wind down. Avoid leaving something like a writing assignment or a shift at work in your schedule the day of (or possibly even after) the test.
  12. For the writing section, initially just go right in and begin writing to get all your ideas out on the table, but as you are doing this, PLEASE FOLLOW DIRECTIONS so that you are providing exactly what the question(s) are asking. Go with your instincts, and encourage yourself along the way!