In Part One of the GRE prep blog series, we prepared to prepare. Now let us get the right tools in hand. For me personally, Magoosh was heaven sent.
Step Three: Get a Magoosh Subscription
Magoosh is an ed-tech company based in California. They help students prepare well for exams like the GRE, the TOFEL, The IELTS, the GMAT, etc.
I got a Magoosh subscription for 149 dollars; that's 11k INR for 6 months. Thankfully, I had the Google WTM Scholarship money of 1000$ untouched. I took it from that. There are smaller plans of Magoosh if you have a lower budget.
Study plans & Video Lessons
Magoosh has got pre-made study plans based on how much time you have for your exam and how comfortable you are with the topics. The study plans take around 1.5 hours of your day; you are assigned a little verbal, and a little of Quant and some practice questions.
Magoosh has got video lessons for verbal, quantitative as well as AWA. These lessons cover everything from what are integers to advanced QC strategies for dealing with questions on probability and counting, which needs the Binomial Theorem. Even if you see the topic and go, I know this, watch the video anyway, at least skim through. The video might give you a hidden insight, a better way to think, a quicker approach to solving the problem, and maybe even make you love the subject more. They are through with the topics. Magoosh videos don't have tips to hack the exam; instead, the videos are directed such that you actually improve your quantitative and verbal reasoning. You come out a more knowledgeable person than you walked in, irrespective of GRE.
The score predictor
After you do around 50 questions, Magoosh starts predicting your score. More often than not, the predicted score is either exactly or a little less than the actual exam score if you took the exam then and there, says the Reddit folks. So you can easily see how well you are doing and how your pace compares with others. It has a detailed practice dashboard, where you can take a practice test or take customized practice sections. You can see detailed stats based on time, topic, and difficulty level, which will really help you see where you are weak and plan accordingly.
They are always there for you.
I don't know who writes the content in the reminder emails, the encouragement notifications, and the video lessons, but they do sure make it look like it a collective goal of the aspirant and the Magoosh team for us to excel in GRE.
In case you have got any doubts on any topics, they have got detailed blogs on it, and if that doesn't do enough, you could just mail them your doubt through the help chat widget, and they'll respond as soon as they can. By the time I was done with the GRE, I think they had started webinars too.
In case you need to take a break for whatever reason, just shoot the team an email to freeze your account, and it will pause your subscription. You can unfreeze anytime you like. Something that really helped me.
So what happened?
While I tried following one of those, I couldn't really stick to it. This might not be the case for you. I had to pause the exam to prep for the college project, then pause again for the university exam, which was postponed on the eve of the exam, pause again when fear of losing my placement kicked in, and pause again when I got to the placement after all and had to put in some extra effort for the first few weeks of the job, pause again when the uni exams came again, pause again when I moved cities, pause again when I got sick (which I to the date doubt was Corona), you get the flow. Lso, Perhaps I wasn't serious enough about time, and how it was passing by too because I was shocked at how quickly October came by. After the 8:30 to 6:30 office, cooking and other household chores, and trying to get a 6-hour sleep so that I don't feel like a sitting duck the next day at work, preparing for GRE became a luxury. The idea once the job started was to prepare after office hours, but most days than not, I was tired and would rather just watch Netflix and go to sleep.
But I finally learned after 12 years of school and 4 years of college that learning is like going to the gym. One, you gotta start slowly. You don't go straight to the gym and lift 100 kg. Instead, you start small. It will hurt like hell initially, and you will feel like this is all you can do, but you have got to keep at it. You will have to consistently find time to workout. You may have to make some lifestyle changes. You have got to eat right and sleep right and be CONSISTENT. Over time, your resistance will improve. You will get stronger and better and more closer to your goals. Discipline will come easier to you. Cheat days would feel more like you earned it than an escape. Preparing for the GRE or any competitive exam is just like this. You simply have to practice discipline and be consistent with time.
I learned this only towards the end of the preparation time, around October. Maybe a week before my first attempt at GRE. So here as some tips in case you are in a full-time position like I am.
Tips if you have a full-time job
If you have the luxury of staying at home or hostel, where all basic needs like laundry, food, cleaning, etc., would be taken care of by someone or some service, do that. I choose to partially stay home and partially stay in JMR Hostel in Kochi in the last month of my preparation. Compared to staying in my own shared flat, this made my preparation much easier since I was less exhausted.
In case you can't afford that, find some quick hacks. Cook meals once a week. If you are a Keralite, try making food without/ with less coconut and tomato. Those last longer. Have quick fixes for breakfast. You should barely take 0.5 hr a day on food reheating/prep on weekdays. Have all the luxury cooking time you want on weekends. Order yourself a good meal on Zomato/Swiggy for those tough days without guilt.
We can't compromise on work. So split your learning plan to a bit in the morning, a bit in the evening. So on my better days, I would work an hour in the morning before work, an hour after work( after at least a bath and an hour break doing nothing after work). You can use your weekends to have longer time hours.
If you are studying full-time for GRE, you can maybe spare a day a week as a break day. I personally took alternating Sundays on the beach for a break. All work and no play would make you dull. When some evening was more tiring than others, I motivated myself with a cafe visit.
Now that we know where we stand and have the right tools and mindset, let us get to the studying. Part Three of the blog goes here