For many of you who are going to be applying this winter, the GRE may be something that you have taken multiple times in an attempt to achieve higher scores. Some of you (like me at this time last year) have been so caught up in everything else in your life that one day it dawns on you- I HAVEN’T TAKEN THE GRE! There are also those of you who have been very aware of the need to take the GRE, but have been holding out until the very last minute hoping that the school will send a friendly announcement stating that they have recently decided the GRE is no longer a necessary piece of your application. Keep dreaming, my friend.
Whichever category that you fit in, I will advise you to do something that one of my past social work professors always reminded his students to do- BREATHE! I will add to that golden piece of advice to also stay calm, take a step back, and realize the cold, hard truth that no one has the answer for how to ace the GRE. However, there are a few steps that I would suggest for you to follow in order to make it through the GRE journey and feel like a true pro. These are all things that I wish I would have been told prior to taking the exam.
1) Check into financial aid.
Yes, before you even sign up for the test or look at dates- contact your university’s financial aid department to see if you qualify for a reduced price on your exam. Many students do! FYI- this takes some time to process, so it is best to do it well in advance of signing up for the exam.
2) Educate yourself on what the heck the GRE is
The GRE can seem like a powerful, mighty force that you have no control over. Knowledge is power, and educating yourself on the ins and outs of the test will be a great starting point.
3) Sign up for the GRE
If you use the website listed above, you will be able to access the sign-up site for the test nearest you. This will help you to get a good idea of your preparation timeline.
3) Buy/Rent/Loan a GRE test prep book
I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a waste of money or time. I was lucky enough to locate a friend who had a GRE prep book which included online access to practice tests. This gave me a really clear idea of what type of content would be included on the exam, and where my strengths and weaknesses were. The online feature helped to guide my areas of focus, which was great since I was in the middle of my senior year and GRE study time was limited.
4) Sign up and attend a UNC GRE Test Prep session
The UNC School of Social Work offers only two more sessions this year! These test prep sessions are critical, because they go beyond the content-specific preparation offered by textbooks. You will learn test-taking strategies specific to the GRE that will be critical in operating under the GRE time constraints.
5) BREATHE…Stay calm…and Ace the GRE!!
On the day before the exam, go to bed early, clear your mind of all things GRE and get a good night’s sleep. Have a healthy breakfast the morning of the exam, arrive a little early, and make sure to have the items they require at check-in. Just a heads-up, the check-in process and overall feeling of the exam can be pretty strict and stressful, so the more prepared you are, the better.
6) Remember that the GRE is only a slice of your amazing application pie!
Yes, the GRE can offer admissions some insight into our test-taking abilities, writing skills, vocabulary and math knowledge, but it does not outweigh who we are as a person and future social worker. The admissions is also interested in our past educational performance, lifetime of work/volunteer experiences, professional interests, dreams, goals and reasons for choosing to apply to UNC. So don’t forget to balance your time out between all aspects of your application, and good luck!