Making Friends with the GRE: How To Overcome Test Anxiety and Perform at Your Best

Click here for more GRE tips“I can’t stop trembling….can’t eat….cry for little or no reason….I am so nervous.”  All of this from Janelle, a prospective graduate student on her response to scheduling a GRE test date.  I was not surprised that Janelle was nervous as almost all prospective graduate students are a bit anxious about admissions’ tests.  However, Janelle took “anxious” to a whole new level.   It was clear to me that I would need to develop a somewhat different plan of action to successfully help Janelle perform at her very best on this exam.

My first step was to listen carefully as Janelle shared all her feelings and fears. She said that she actually felt better just by having someone listen without judgement.  I told her that I would brainstorm some options and we scheduled a follow-up meeting.

I decided to “borrow” some of the techniques I use to deal with speaker anxiety in the public speaking classes that I teach at the undergraduate level. I was planning to use cognitive restructuring– changing the way we think about something.

At our next meeting I told Janelle that I had developed a three stage strategy to position her for success. I asked her to think about the GRE process like the development of a relationship.  In other words going from the acquaintance level to friend level to intimate level.   We were going to “Make Friends with the GRE.”  Here’s how we did it:

STAGE 1: Aquaintance Level—-This is the “getting to know you” stage of the process.

• Understand the GRE Testing program- Research the GRE general test and the discipline-specific subject tests especially in terms of available test administration dates, time limitations on retakes, score delivery options, etc.

• Determine which tests are required by the schools/programs of your interest—Check the admission criteria and the application deadlines to determine which tests are required and the application deadlines so that you can schedule the appropriate exams to meet all of the criteria of the school/programs of your choice. Keep in mind that while the GRE general test has multiple test administration sites and dates, the GRE subject test administrations are often scheduled only 2 or 3 times per admission cycle. Advance and careful planning is necessary to meet these deadlines so that you do not find yourself in a situation where your application is not complete by the deadline date.  Many programs will only review complete applications.

• Learn even more by surveying and requesting feedback from others who have taken the exam.  They may well have some tidbits of advice for you.   They may alert you to specific pitfalls to avoid.  Keep a list for future reference.

STAGE 2: Friendship Level— This is the “let’s become friends” stage of the process.

• Visit the ETS website to learn about the GRE subject tests offered and to access the associated subject test review books which will provide details on the content areas for the test, the weights assigned to each topic, as well as a practice test. This will provide you with a guide on what to study as well as how much time to allocate to specific topics. The subject test practice book can be downloaded from the web free of charge or will be mailed when you register for the exam.

• To prepare for the GRE general test, you should invest the time to diagnose the skill areas that need the most attention by identifying areas of weakness that require intensive review. These may include, but are not limited to, reading for meaning, analyzing and general organization of your ideas in short essay format, general mathematics, algebra, geometry, charts, etc.

• Take advantage of the diagnostic services offered by ETS which includes GRE’s Diagnostic Tests and Score It Now!, the online writing practice. Check out these low cost options on the ETS website.

• Make use of the GRE Powerprep software for reviews of the verbal and quantitative measure sections of the GRE exam.

• Be prepared to write 2 timed essays. One essay will present your perspective on an issue and the second essay will assess your ability to analyze an argument.  You can practice typing an essay response under timed conditions using GRE Powerprep software or you can pay for Score- it -Now! for online writing practice. The analytical writing measure serves as an assessment of critical thinking and the following analytical and writing skills:  articulation of complex ideas, clear and effective examination of claims and evidence, supporting ideas with relevant reasons and explicit examples, preparing a well-focused and coherent discussion, and displaying mastery of standard written English.

• Throughout this entire stage use positive self-talk as a confidence booster.  Place the emphasis on all of the progress you have made and continue to make.

(On a side note, I made sure that I was always available for confidence boosting and positive feedback)

 STAGE 3Intimate Level—- this is the commitment stage of the process.

• Become comfortable taking a computer delivered, timed, online exam by practicing in that type of environment.  If you only practice using a review book, the new delivery format may increase your level of anxiety and, as such, may impact your performance.

• Look back at how far you have come and continue to invest in the relationship you have established.  You may even learn to enjoy the challenge and the rewards that the relationship may bring.

• Last but not least, allow yourself enough time for the relationship to strengthen (prepare and study for the exam) and take hold.

At this point I am sure you are wondering if Janelle was successful.  Yes she was–she handled the stress very well and was accepted to her top choice schools. I was certainly proud to have helped her achieve her goal.

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own!Carol DrummerBy Carol Drummer, Former Hofstra University Dean of Graduate Admissions, who for 10 years reviewed and signed off on over 4500 admissions decisions per year and has taught communications and rhetoric since 1991.

Related Resources:

The GMAT, GRE and the Guy Who Knows Them Well
Should You Take the GMAT or the GRE?
Why You Don’t Need a Perfect GRE Score

The Admissions Team At The Very Center Of Business

Listen to the show!If Columbia Business School is the name you doodle on back of your notebooks, then you’ll want to get to know the folks who hold the key to acceptance.

Click here to listen to the recording of our conversation with the CBS admissions team – although they sound more like a family- and find out what the masterminds who shape the MBA class have to say about the admissions process and Columbia B-School.

00:03:18 – Meet the Columbia Business School Admission Team and hear why they love their jobs!

00:08:00 – An overview of the 2-year MBA Program at Columbia.

00:11:04 – What the J-Term is and who it’s for.

00:14:55 – A preview of the 2015-16 application, and what they’re looking for in this year’s essays.

00:18:07 – No longer a pilot program: No-cosignor loans available for international students.

00:20:58 – Why apply early decision.

00:24:13 – The journey of a submitted CBS application.

00:27:07 – The format and purpose of a CBS interview.

00:30:00 – Great features of CBS that the adcom members wish prospective students would know about.

00:36:47 – Suggestions for waitlisted applicants.

00:39:44  – Rejection does happen. What next?

00:44:27  – Ingredients of a successful application.

00:48:38  – The most common MBA application mistake. (But you won’t do this, right?)

Click here to listen to the show!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com

Related Links:

Columbia MBA Admissions
• Columbia J-Term
• Columbia JTerm app to be Released Early
• Experiences & Advice from Columbia MBA Student Kendall Miller
• Columbia 2014-15 MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines
• Get Accepted to Columbia Business School – free webinar recording

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Making International Student Loans a Prime Investment
• The Facts About Financial Services
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At the Nexus of Business & Law: Penn/Wharton’s JD/MBA
• Bruce DelMonico on The Yale School of Management

Check Out Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes! Check Out Admissions Straight Talk in Stitcher!

An Interview With Our Own: Dr. Rebecca Blustein

 Learn more about Rebecca Blustein and how she can help you get accepted!

Rebecca and Alex Trebek. Rebecca was a contestant on Jeopardy in March 2012. She came in second place!

Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. First up is…Dr. Rebecca Blustein.

Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees?

Rebecca: I earned my BA at UCLA (with a double major in English and Comparative Literature). After that, I went to Ireland for my MA in Old and Middle Irish. Then I returned to UCLA for my PhD in Comparative Lit. I’m a California native – I grew up in Oakland and now live in Los Angeles with my husband and two cats.

Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school/non-work book?

Rebecca: Hmm…that’s tough – there are too many to choose! I read almost constantly. (My Kindle is my insomnia buddy!) For light reading, I like mystery novels. To cheer me up if I’m having a bad day, PG Wodehouse is unbeatable. (I have a shelf full of his books.) And every once in a while I come across a book I think is so good I flip right back to the beginning and read it again as soon as I finish it. (Most recently: Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies.)

Accepted: How have your travels around the world influenced you as a writer?

Rebecca: In addition to living in Ireland for a year, I spent a summer in Russia and a month in Israel, and backpacked around Europe. I think that studying languages made me a better writer, and traveling made me a sharper observer.

Accepted: Can you talk about the road that led you to becoming an admissions consultant for Accepted? What jobs and experiences led you to this point?

Rebecca: During grad school, I took a job working as a counselor at the scholarship office on campus. That work – leading workshops, coaching students on their personal statements, helping them find funding for school, etc. – made me realize I really love working one-on-one with students to help them improve their writing and achieve their goals.

Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?

Rebecca: I enjoy working with people who are really excited about their plans for grad school – and it makes me happy to be able to help them through the process.

Accepted: How did funding applications become one of your specialties?

Rebecca: I worked at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center for four years before joining Accepted. I also successfully applied for various types of funding myself – so I know, first of all, what goes into the process, and second of all, what a big difference scholarships can make. With tuition rates what they are – across all disciplines and at all levels of study – scholarships are a great way of lowering loan debts and increasing access.

Accepted: What sorts of applicants do you mostly work with?

Rebecca: Master’s and PhD, across all fields. I also often work with medical and dental school applicants.

Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?

Rebecca: Research your options. Plan ahead. And stay organized.

Learn more about Rebecca and how she can help you get accepted!

Download our free guide: GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School ApplicationAccepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

Related Resources:

Graduate School Admissions Consulting and Editing Services
Med School Admissions Consulting and Editing Services
Plotting Your Way to a PhD: 6 Topics in PhD Admissions, a free admissions guide by Dr. Rebecca Blustein

6 Tips for Applying to Business School with Low Stats

Webinar: Get Accepted to Top B-Schools with Low Stats!

Can you show the adcom an upward trend?

For most business school applicants, “low stats” are GMATs and GPAs at the lower end of or below the mid-80% range for a given school. It may be difficult to find average GPAs, but if you have a 2.6, you know it’s low for almost any MBA program. Except for the most elite schools, where the number is higher, a GPA below 3.0 warrants a deliberate effort to counterbalance.

Here are 6 tips for applying with low numbers:

1. Analyze your situation. Which numbers are low – test score (GRE or GMAT), GPA, or both? If your GPA is low, did you have an upward trend that would show the committee you improved during college? Did you have one bad semester that pulled you down? If the problem is your test score, is there one section that is stronger than the other?

2. Address low quant scores (GMAT/GRE and transcript) by: taking additional courses for higher grades; highlighting your quant-oriented achievements in your essays; and asking recommenders to confirm your quantitative ability.

3. Address low verbal scores (GMAT/GRE and transcript) by: writing fantastic essays; taking additional courses that focus on business communication or involve substantial writing; and asking recommenders to comment on your communication skills.

4. Make your essays count! Draw on examples of your accomplishments, leadership skills, and exceptional impact to counterbalance the low scores.

5. Pick the right schools to apply to. Some schools are more focused on numbers, while others are known for a more holistic review.

6. Consider the optional essay. If your scores are below the 80% range, you’ll probably want to acknowledge and provide context for your situation. The optional essay provides an opportunity to briefly explain the circumstances behind your scores. If you write the optional essay, make it short and straightforward. Provide a brief explanation, take responsibility, and focus on evidence of your talents that counters the impression made by the low stats. Also, explain (or, ideally, show through example and anecdote) that either you have dealt with the problem causing the poor grades, or the circumstances no longer apply.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

Navigate the MBA Maze
Do Low Stats Sink Your App?
Should You Retake the GMAT?

Exclusive Low Stats MBA Webinar Airing Live on Wednesday!

You have just a few days left to register for our upcoming webinar and make time to focus on what we promise will be an enlightening, practical, and helpful presentation on how to get into top business schools despite low GMAT/GPA scores.Register for the webinar!Register ASAP for Get Accepted to Top B-Schools with Low Stats to reserve your spot.

Grab Your Spot! We’ll see you at 10:00 AM PST/1:00 PM EST on Wed morning (April 22nd).

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy