The ABCs of the GRE

Let’s talk through that dreaded GRE. First of all, it’s so exciting to read about programs like University of Minnesota and UW-Milwaukee that are no longer considering GRE scores as a part of their application! I’m loving the shift to a more inclusive, holistic application process, and am hopeful that more schools will follow suit.

For those of us whose dream programs aren’t quite there yet, though, let’s talk through the GRE and how we can do this the self-care way, because I’m not letting you go into this a stress ball.💙

I vividly recall anxiety-filled GRE discussions with my fellow undergrads, complete with questions such as, “When do I take it?” “When do I study for it?” “How do I study for it?” And then the worst: “Will my score be good enough?”

Let me preface this post with the words that we all need to hear the most: you are more than a number. I believe there is no such thing as a “bad” score. Just as with your GPA, your GRE scores are a part of the application, a piece of the puzzle, and in no way define you or your future capacity as an SLP. If you’re feeling the stress (I hear ya!), please use that as a mantra. Now we’re ready to break down the GRE as easy as ABC:

A: Action Plan

Our first step is to develop and carry-out your new minimalistic, low-stress action plan. First, note that the GRE is composed of three sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing. Since you know yourself the best, specifically act on opportunities for growth in the different sections, soaking in information at a reasonable pace, day-by-day, and a little at a time. Trying to memorize every formula and vocab word all at once is not only exhausting, but also is not possible! For me, this meant getting a study book to focus most of my energy on the Quantitative section. If vocabulary is your priority, when learning new words, it really helps to start using them with study groups and in overall more functional contexts– the word “erudite” might not be meaningful in itself, but you’ll find it so much easier to remember when you use it to describe yourself and your newfound GRE knowledge 😉 Also, check out apps where you can review Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes at your convenience: this way, you can practice using your amazing deductive reasoning skills to rock the Verbal section instead of taxing yourself to memorize every new word! In general, though, I believe the two parts of your action plan that will reduce the greatest amount of stress are to:

  1. Plan to take the GRE the summer before your senior year and to
  2. Plan to take AT LEAST one practice test before the actual exam. I recommend one at the start of your action plan, and one towards the end. ETS has some free ones here!

Taking it earlier gives you more freedom, comfort, and cushion to retake it; taking practice tests gives you practice building that all-important day-of-test stamina AND helps you see opportunities for growth in context. I promise, if you follow this A, you’ll be low-stress and ready to roll on test day. 

B: Breathe

Okay, so it’s the day of the exam. But you’ve got this, because you’ve already got your act together. Now, your only job is to show up. 😊

Truly, my best day-of-test advice is to breathe. Take deep breaths before and during your test, and treat every question and section as a new start. Remember: there is an Experimental Quantitative or Verbal Section on your GRE that does not count toward your overall score. There is no way to know which section is experimental: test makers use this to try out new questions for future tests (brutal, I know). And let me tell you: I had one Quantitative section that I knew I absolutely bombed (and that’s putting it lightly!!). I remember being thisclose to letting the negativity I felt after that section consume me and derail the rest of my test. Luckily, I breathed through it, and it turned out to be my experimental section. So friends, if there’s anything you take from me and the GRE, let it be the B: trust yourself, keep up that positive self-talk, and, remember to breathe.

C: Consider Your Scores

This brings us to our last letter, our C for Consider. As you get your test results back, consider your scores. Check out your dream programs on ASHA Edfind, and determine if your scores are at or near their approximate range for previous cohorts. But please do not get sucked into the comparison trap! There are absolutely students who get into graduate school with scores below this range; there are absolutely students who retake the test when they want to increase their scores. Remember: you are a unique applicant with so much value that you will bring to this profession when you get into graduate school. At this point, consider what is best for you, your overall application, your timeline, and your finances. Most importantly, if you do decide to retake the GRE, consider how you can adjust your action plan to get the growth you’re going for.

When you do find peace with these scores, coincidentally, C also stands for Chocolate. So, once you’ve made it here, have a piece on me 💙

What else can we do to make GRE prep as low-stress as possible? Let me know in the comments below!

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