Archive for GRE-GMAT

4 Tips to Ace the GRE

Julia Chung is born and raised in New Jersey, but hopes to be considered an honorary New Yorker. She is a second year MPA student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in Technology, Media, and Communications. After graduating from Vassar College with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Asian Studies, Julia worked at various nonprofits in New York City on issues including housing, immigration, education, and civic engagement.

Taking the GRE can be a daunting experience! Here are some tips to help get through the studying and exam taking process!

  1. Know what you know and don’t know

After you do your initial practice exam, look at your results. Which section did you do better on? Which type of question in each section did you do better on? If you’re stellar on math, but struggle in reading comprehension, spend more time on reading comprehension and just do some refreshers for math. If you aced geometry, but bombed probability, you know what to focus on. We’re all busy folks so you don’t need to go through the whole 3,000 pages of the GRE prep book if you don’t need to. Focus on what you know and don’t know!

  1. Make your own vocabulary flash cards

Don’t just buy or print out pre-made flash cards. One of the best ways to remember vocabulary is actually taking the time to think about the definition in your own words. Also write down alliterations, synonyms, or personal associations to help remember the word. The more ways you think about the word, the better! Below is my example of a flash card:

Additionally, when studying your flash cards, try to learn 10-30 new words each day on top of reviewing older flash cards. Split your older flash cards into two piles: the cards you always get right and the ones that you sometimes struggle with. Review the former once a week and the latter pile every other day.

  1. Plan so there aren’t any surprises on exam day

Take some practice exams leading up to the exam. The exams are long and you may need to get used to sitting and thinking for five hours straight. But also consider taking the practice exam during the time you scheduled for the exam. For example, if you schedule the exam to be at 8AM, take the practice exam also at 8AM. This can help you know how your brain works at that time (eg: my brain doesn’t naturally function at its prime so early in the morning so it needs some training).

What I also like to do is find reviews of the test center on Yelp or Google reviews before signing up for the exam. Do people say it’s loud and they couldn’t concentrate? Was the bathroom too far so they couldn’t take a break? Was there no parking? Of course take each review with a grain of salt, but sometimes it’s good to know so there aren’t any surprises!

Pro tip: you can bring your own disposable ear plugs to the test!

  1. Take a break the night before the exam

At this point there’s nothing more you can do! So let your brain relax and just swim in all the vocabulary words. Bring a snack to the exam, take a deep breath, and have fun. It’ll be over in four hours!

And don’t forget, when you complete the exam, you have five schools you can send your scores to for free! If you’re set on SIPA, send it to 2161. It costs $27 to send it later, so don’t get too excited and just leave!

Please note that SIPA admissions does not have a “minimum GRE/GMAT score.” The admissions committee reviews applications holistically, taking all application materials into consideration, including academic record, letters of recommendation, personal and professional life experience, among other qualifications.

Note from Admissions: SIPA requires either the GRE or the GMAT as an admissions requirement.

Niara’s advice on preparing for the GRE

A great piece of advice I received when I was first applying to graduate school was to book a date for the GRE as early as possible — this helps you plan ahead and outline what you need to study. But I also wanted to share some tips for the GRE from my own personal experience given that I took the GRE not that long ago.

Focus on your mistakes and what you don’t know

One of the best ways to improve your score on the GRE is to focus on the things you don’t know. This might sound obvious but there is a bit more to it, you have to really understand what you don’t know, meaning, it is very likely that you are making the same kinds of mistakes over and over again but not noticing a pattern. Effective GRE studying requires you to understand mistakes/errors, and your goal should be to not make the same mistake twice. I would even go as far as keeping an “error log” that tracks your mistakes based on content.  This should be your primary focus, studying from your error log and understanding why and how you are making those mistakes and then aiming to not make them again.

All practice should be timed

If you are one of the lucky people for who timing is never an issue then feel free to skip right ahead to the next section (what are you like, a genius, or something?). However, if you are a mere mortal, like me, then this piece of advice should come in handy: everything you are doing that is GRE-related should always be timed, always. If you are not timing yourself while you practice questions, it is basically like learning to fly an airplane by driving a car, which makes absolutely no sense! You want to recreate test-taking conditions as much as possible. The reality is you only have a limited amount of time to complete the test, so you need to get accustomed to answering questions in a timed setting.

No, you will not just “get it right” next time

That was way harsh Tai! But I have a point, I swear. If you are routinely making careless errors but disregarding them as silly mistakes, stop! Cease and desist! Basta! Para! These mistakes are communicating something, even if it’s a calculation error, it is something you need to be aware of. If you are making these mistakes now, studying in the comfort of your own home, you are very likely to make the same mistake on the actual test, because it’s timed and you’re under pressure and oh my god what were the Pythagorean Triplets?! The test itself can be nerve inducing, so you want to make sure you are as prepared as possible and reducing the number of careless errors when you practice.

Finally, and this might sound odd given what I’ve just said above, the GRE is just one aspect of your application. So yes, you should aim to do well, but it only tells a small part of the story.

Note from Admissions: SIPA requires either the GRE or the GMAT as an admissions requirement.

Don’t forget about these helpful blog posts

With the Fall 2016 application just one week away, I wanted to remind everyone of a few blog posts that will help as you finish your applications of admission to SIPA.

For those missing exam scores, “What’s with the GRE/GMAT and TOEFL/IELTS?” offers some great insight into how to self-report them. (Just keep in mind you’ll need to also upload a copy of your TOEFL/IELTS score report, which is a new requirement this year for our international applicants.) As for the official test scores: we only need the official records once you’re admitted to SIPA.

Also keep in mind that all three recommendation letters must be submitted by the application deadline. It’s OK if you submit your application before these are received, but follow-up with your recommenders and remind them of the pending due date. PA Adriana Popa and I share some great advice in “3 things every recommender should know” and “4 Tips for Letters of Recommendation.”

I also write about some insights into the MIA/MPA essay questions in “​How NOT to write your personal statement,” “How to answer the Fall 2016 short essay,” and last year’s “6 Quick-and-Dirty Tips For An Outstanding Admissions Essay.”

​If you’re stuck on how to format your quantitative and language resume, browse current student Yiting Xu’s “A Quantitative/Language Resume Breakdown,” which outlines the process thoroughly.

Regarding your missing college transcripts, we only need your unofficial records for admission. You can scan these (back and front, with grading scale) and upload them into your application, or upload a copy of your academic records from your university’s student portal. (Both self-uploaded versions are unofficial records, and are acceptable for admission purposes.)

And as an international applicant, this October 2015 blog post, “What I wish I knew as an international applicant” offers a few first-hand reflections on the application process.

If you need more help, review “Eloy’s Top 12 Application Questions,” which was our No. 1 blog post in 2015.

Thanks to our hardworking team, the Admissions Blog is full of helpful hints like these, so I encourage you to spend some time this weekend exploring the blog further. You can also take a closer look at all of your missing materials on your Status Page. Then, read this blog post that outlines the nuances with the Status Page, which can be tricky.

If you have any additional questions about the application process, please do not hesitate to contact us at sipa_admission@sipa.columbia.edu or 212-854-6216.

And don’t forget: the Fall 2016 application deadline is February 5, 2016. You may find out more about the admissions timeline here.

Good luck on your applications! Finish your applications here.

P.S. Confused by today’s meme? This should help.

A follow-up note to recent applicant emails

On Tuesday, the Fall 2016 fellowship application came and went. Read More →

Eloy’s Top 12 Application Questions

It is natural to have some questions about the application process. Prospective students want to make their application as complete as possible and it is always better to ask if you are not 100% sure of something. So here are the Top 12 application questions we’ve received thus far this year. Read More →

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—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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