Sunday, November 15, 2009

Taking the GRE for MFA Programs

The GRE is a requirement for most MFA programs, and a particularly annoying one considering it's not a major factor in your application.  But I will say this: The day I signed up for a GRE test date, and a Kaplan prep course, was the day I knew I was no longer just considering applying to MFA programs -- I was actually going to make a concerted effort to get into one.  Signing up for the test was quick, yet highly committal given the specific date and the $250 fee.

Perhaps some of you, like me, can consider signing up for the GRE your launch pad into grad school reality; throwing your proverbial hat into the ring, if you will.

I learned shortly thereafter that Kaplan was evil -- I invite you to read my account -- and that there are perfectly adequate resources for GRE preparation that you may find online, for free.  Which I suppose should come as no surprise.

1.  Comprehensive online test prep for the SAT, ACT, and GRE, founded by professors and graduate students who wanted to make high quality test preparation universally accessible. Nice.

The courses are organized in a fashion that is not overwhelming, so that you can plan your schedule of study fairly easily (I crunched mine into a three-day weekend).  Their review of the basic math you'll need for the quantitative portion is helpful and quick.  They provide clear instructive answers explaining why you got an answer on a practice question wrong (or why you got it right), taking special care to point out all the "traps."  And because it's all online, your practice will come as close to true GRE conditions as possible -- versus, say, using a workbook.  Just a fantastic service all around.

2.  FlashcardExchange:  This gem is more hidden.  Arguably, the only true guarded knowledge at Kaplan (and apparently not so well-guarded) is their list of high-frequency GRE words -- this is no joke.  There are roughly 600,000 words in the English language, and the average human vocabulary consists of 10,000 of those.  That leaves 590,000 words that test-makers could choose to baffle us with, but for some reason they are compelled to include a large number of their favorite 295 words on every exam.

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Tom said...

You know, some of us are not great writers, and the use of abbreviations without explaing what they are, has a tendency to turn off the reader.

What is GRE and MFA?

Jim C. said...

A little snarky, but you have a point. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination, the standardized test required for entrance into most grad schools.

MFA stands for Master of Fine Arts degree.

Brent Hanneson said...

Hi Jim,

In addition to the resources you've listed, we have some free resources that may help some of your readers with their GRE prep. Under the Lesson Modules tab of our website - - they'll find over 70 free GRE prep videos and practice questions.

Cheers and all the best,
Brent Hanneson | Greenlight Test Prep

Lyric Dunagan said...

That Tom guy can shut up. This blog post is the single greatest GRE prep resource I have found online. Thanks so much for sharing Jim! An extremely useful and entertaining read.