Last year, I was driving back from the Bay Area after going to a friend’s wedding. In case you wondered, long drives are really for talking to God, especially a return trip to San Diego from the Bay Area! By the time I got home, I knew another round of grad school was in my future. It wasn’t too long before I realized that meant I would need to take the GRE. Yikes…I didn’t have to take the GRE for my first Masters program, and at this point I hadn’t touched a math class in seven or eight years! Some of those skills I used every day, but others were long gone.

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How I got a perfect verbal score on the GRE!
In order to meet application deadlines, I had to move fast. I immediately started researching how to prepare, and then I stumbled on Magoosh’s GRE study plans and I was hooked!
Magoosh was founded in Berkeley (Go Bears!) and the resources they offered were a fraction of the cost of other programs, so I signed up for a membership, started paying rent at Starbucks, and kicked it into high gear.
About two months later, I walked away from the GRE with a 158 on the Quantitative section, 5.5 on the Analytical Writing, and the big shocker: a 170 on Verbal, a perfect score! (It earned me a free Magoosh shirt!) I did have the advantage of completing a graduate degree before (so my reading and writing skills were pretty solid to begin with), but Magoosh was the only tool and plan I used to prepare for the GRE.
There are no shortcuts to preparing for an exam like this – and you wouldn’t want them. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination, but it should really stand for “Graduate Readiness Examination” or “Get Real Examination.” Grad school is really intense. I have been there, done that, got the Fuller Seminary t-shirt. I loved it, but it was HARD! You are going to need the reading, writing, and analytical thinking skills in any graduate program. Preparing for the GRE with Magoosh actually helped me to become a better student and writer.
Since there are no shortcuts, what do you do? We cafe scholars are usually pretty busy. I prepared for the GRE while working full time and serving in ministry. Some of you are preparing while still in school, parenting, working, or all three! We can’t just hook up to some knowledge machine and instantly know what we need to know, and we don’t have time to waste. We need to study smarter. Here are 5 ways Magoosh helped me study smarter.

5 Ways Magoosh Helped me Study Smarter for the GRE:

#1 Focused GRE Study Plans

Learn how the GRE Works!

Magoosh offers targeted study plans for students. You can choose a plan based on how much time you have to prepare each week, how many days or months you have to prepare for the exam, and which sections are hardest for you. The plans themselves are available for free on the Magoosh website (with printable versions available), and they break down daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. I chose the 30 day plan but took a little longer than that to go through it, and it helped me know which task to focus on each day to stay on track with my studies.

#2 Learn How the GRE Works

In addition to practice problems and lessons about math or vocabulary, the Magoosh lessons covered the full format of the test, including timing, scoring, and strategies for each type of question. Practice exams are very close to the real thing. On test day, this was huge. Part of studying smarter is removing those affective elements that will get in the way of learning or remembering on test day, and when test day came I felt like the environment, question types, and structure were familiar. That meant that these things weren’t getting in the way of my performance, and if I didn’t know an answer, I had strategies in my toolbox to figure it out.

#3 GRE Lessons & Video Explanations

The Magoosh program provides lessons for each of the subjects or skills required for the exam. If you get a practice question wrong, you can also watch a video to see the right way to do it. This really helped me with those math concepts I hadn’t touched in years, or with questions where my answer was right but not “best.” I learned how to really improve my “mental math” – solving problems quickly in my head to save time – through Chris’s videos.

Study Smarter for the GRE!

#4 Hundreds of Practice GRE Questions and Flash Cards

Magoosh offers online flashcards (from your computer or the app) to review the items that you should try to know on sight. This was great for those problems that I could figure out – but would take me too long. The flashcards improved my speed and memory so that on exam day, I could focus my time on more complex questions. Also, Magoosh includes hundreds of real test questions for daily review and full-length practice tests. Your answers go into a score estimator so that you can predict what you might score on the real deal and what areas you need to work on.

#5 Exclusive Facebook Group for Support and Questions

Magoosh subscribers get access to a private Facebook group where you can interact with the Magoosh team and other grad school hopefuls. This was like my personal cheer section. Students ask questions, get help solving problems they didn’t get, and motivate each other to keep going. The Magoosh team will jump in to throw out questions or answer yours, so you can get some personal attention. Day after day I was so encouraged by this group!
Ready to study smarter for the GRE?  If you want to test out Magoosh for yourself, they have a free 1 week trial, and at the time of writing this post they are offering 40% off ALL of their test prep programs (just until July 19th!).

What resources have helped YOU prepare for the GRE?

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