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How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE - Education (57) - Nairaland

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Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by sirRiddy: 6:31pm On Jan 05, 2016
I decided to start writing a memoir about my application for a Master’s degree in the United States today, the 1st of September, 2015. I saw a need to do this because I believe that having this would really help make the process easier for most people who want to do it without the use of agents. I have detailed the steps I took during the process of applying to MS programs in the US.

I applied to seven schools and sent all my application materials to the graduate schools.
They include:
1. Auburn University
2. Kansas State University (KSU)
3. University of Kansas
4. Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU)
5. East Tennessee State University (ETSU)
6. University of Arkansas, Little rock (UALR)
7. University of Central Arkansas, Conway.

I graduated from college in 2014 August with a 3.6/5 GPA, BS Computer Science. I started making enquiries about schools that would admit me to their MS program for fall 2016 and provide me with good funding. I came up with quite a number and had to scratch many off my list due to their high GPA and test score requirements. Some of these schools were Purdue University, Oregon State University, University of Maryland College Park. I got to know from most school requirements that I would require the GRE general test and TOEFL. These were standardized tests that schools used to appraise the strength of applicants. Some other programs like Psychology and Chemistry require that applicants write the subject tests.

School Search:
My interests were originally in IT/Software Project Management and I always thought I could pursue an advanced degree in the discipline, do good internships, and then acquire certifications to practice the profession. However, I was advised to apply to MS programs in Computer Science for the sake of viability and returns on Investment as well as the need to improve my chances of getting good funding. I used US news to search for Computer Science graduate programs. I then went through each of the department websites. I was impressed with Arizona State University (ASU) as I saw a Professor who was involved in research related to Software Project Management. I decided to make ASU my first choice school, even though it was ranked at #48 in the whole of the US, which seemed highly ranked for my profile. UMD has a good program too but their admission requirements were so intimidating. I started looking for decent programs that could guarantee my getting funded. But do these schools exist anywhere?

After getting to meet some altruistic folks on Nairaland, I got names like ETSU, MTSU and UALR. I had many schools on my radar like Wayne State University, Montana State University and Utah State University. My advice is to find as many schools as possible, then shortlist as things become clearer. Another advice is to make sure each school is contacted before one starts applying. Their email addresses and other contact information can always be found on their website. It is advisable to mail the graduate school and the department you would be applying to about admission requirements, whether you need your transcripts evaluated or not, funding and research opportunities. Be clear how things are done there before you apply. Also public/state schools have more funding than private schools. Some top private get external grants for research as well as substantial donations from large corporations and government that afford them to fund their students. Do extensive search on the schools you would be applying to. This will help you know the quality of their programs, the funding as well as the target on your GRE and TOEFL before you take these tests. For instance, ASU have it on their computer website that the medium Quant GRE score for their accepted applicants is 159. What this means is that anyone applying should be aiming for a 160 in the exam to meet their GRE requirements. Though, meeting GRE requirement does not automatically guarantee you admission to any program but this considerably improves your chances.

Contacting prospective schools:
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. I mailed each graduate program director, expressing interest in their programs, asking specific questions about their curriculum and research, as well as their funding opportunities. This made it easier to shortlist schools to apply to. Florida International University, for example, said they fund only the top 10% of accepted candidates and I did not want to take such huge risk. East Tennessee State University said they fund 25 students among their 40 to 45 graduate students. Wayne State University do not fund in the first semester and Utah State University only waive out-of-state tuition.
Especially for spring applicants, mailing your prospective schools can save you a lot of stress and cash.

Standardized tests:
I needed to write two tests to apply to graduate programs in the United States. The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General test and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are the tests that cost 195 dollars and 180 dollars respectively. I started browsing about the GRE as I had often heard of how taxing it was. I used blogs like Magoosh and Prepcrunch to read about the modalities of the test, people's experiences as well as the preparation materials required. I went to CMS in Lagos, purchased Barrons and Gruber books to study for the test. I got those books and started using Isolo Library as a study center around the end of August. I was awaiting the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and that would not be until November. After a month of study, I took the first Powerprep mock test and scored 153Q 151V. I was dejected as my target score was 160 in the Quant section. I went to Nairaland and got some good recommendations on better resources to use. These books were Manhattan, Nova, ETS books. Another issue was the erratic power supply in my area which was really hindering my prep. I moved to Ile Ife where I graduated from and spent over a month reading tirelessly and solving practice questions from different sources. I took my second Powerprep and my quant score improved to 156. I was still a bit scared but I decided that I would retake the test if I had less than 160. My test was scheduled for December 15. I took the test and got quite a good score: 162Q 154V 4.5AWA. These scores were good for most of the schools I was aiming for. I also prepared for my TOEFL and took it on May 2015. I got 107 but did not meet the 26 which was my target score for the Speaking section. I sent my GRE and TOEFL scores to all the schools and confirmed if they received them through telephone calls.
PS: There is a wonderful Facebook group, NEW GRE, for the GRE study that I found about a week to my test. I met great guys there and also got lots of materials and advice there. I also found a TOEFL group too and this was really helpful. Also, Notefull YouTube videos helped a lot.

Transcripts:
I got my transcripts evaluated by World Education Services (WES). What this means is that the body converts my GPA which is on a 5.0 Nigerian scale to a 4.0 US scale. This cost me 212 dollars. This was a requirement of some of the schools I was applying to. I sent the other transcripts directly to the graduate schools using regular NIPOST at a rate of 350 naira which took about three weeks. I confirmed that they all received them by calling them.
Most schools would not require WES evaluations, some would. Do not hesitate to ask your school about this and read their websites. Also, if you want to use the NIPOST service, do that only when your deadline is far as some friends have unpalatable stories about their services.

Personal Statement:
Most schools would require a student applying to a graduate school to write a Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose, detailing the career goals of the student, why he believes he is fit for that program as well as explaining how he would be a great addition to that program. I browsed different sites looking for good Personal Statements. Sites like msinus.com was a very good source for getting a lot of perspective before writing this statement. I wrote and edited a lot after inputs from a lot of good friends. I wrote a one and a half pages and tailored it to each school. Most schools would like you to include your research interests and how you would advance the discipline here.
There is a book that is quite good for learning how to write a good Statement of Purpose. It is written by Richard Stelzer: How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate Schools and Professional schools. You might want to get it.

Letters of Recommendation:
Usually, schools ask three faculty members of the undergraduate institution you graduated from to write a letter that explains to the admission committee what kind of student you were in school. It is supposed to detail your academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities and your personality. It is easier to get good recommendations when you have a rapport with your lecturers while in school. Also, ask your lecturers for letters as early as possible. Then, ask at least five as some might disappoint in the last minute.


Funding:
One of the dissuading reasons from applying to graduate schools is the thought of how to pay for it. The average tuition costs of graduate studies is 20000 dollars per year, some can be as low as 12000 dollars while those of private schools are way higher. There are other costs including living expenses (rent, food, and utilities), books, University fees, Room and Board. It is no longer news that most people cannot afford to pay given the high cost as well as the high exchange rate between dollar and naira.
Many graduate students get their school fees paid through Graduate Assistantships. They are usually three types: Graduate Research Assistantship, Graduate Teaching Assistantship and Graduate Administrative Assistantship. These positons are both academic and non-academic and require that students offer a service to the departments in the school for a number of hours in return for a partial or complete waiver of their tuition and some stipends to support their living expenses. This position can be renewed based on performance after a semester or a year. Some schools do not offer such until a student has spent at least a semester or year. This is why it is advised that applicants mail schools to know their policies before applying.
There are also Fellowships given to exceptional students who have demonstrated academic or scholarly leadership. Some schools offer scholarships but these usually cover a very small portion of the costs.
I have also come across scholarships like MasterCard Foundation Scholarship and I also know of a friend who is enjoying a Fullbright Scholarship. However, these scholarships are competitive and prestigious, and only the brave get them.
No matter your financial capability or academic standing, it would be wise to seek out for financial aid both from the schools you are applying to and any other sources that you know of.

Apply early
To increase your chances of getting admission and funding, apply early. Please do.

CONCLUSION
I got accepted into most of the programs I applied to (Almost all are not famous programs) but Kansas State University offered me an MS/PhD admission with a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (funded). This made my decision easy really as I have always wanted a PhD admission from the start. My low GPA discouraged me from applying to PhD programs. This means I would spend five years; getting an MS first after two years and proceeding to get a PhD three years later.
If you have a GPA of at least 4/5, I would advise that you try direct PhD programs (If you really are cut out for research).
Also, my program is not high ranked. It is 90 among Computer Science programs in the US. If you have a GPA of 4/5 and can make a 320 on the GRE, it would be good to try better programs (top 50 programs). Spread your risks though and I believe you will get into a very good program.
One more thing to do I forgot to mention is to go to each department website, look for professors who are doing research you like and read their journals actively. You can summarize it and send them a critique. You can never know who would reply you. Many who are hired as Research Assistants secure the positions using this means.

I believe this is detailed enough for application process for graduate admissions. Visa decisions are largely dependent on individual profile, level of preparation for the interview and luck as seemingly similar candidates have had different outcomes at the embassy from observation. Issuance of visas solely lies in the hands of the Consulate Officer and anyone can be denied if the official believes the applicant is not qualified. Denials in the Nigerian embassy are quite rampant due to the sheer volumes of applicants as well as the high occurrence of forged documents by applicants from the country. Adequate preparation for the interview, confidence and having ties to one’s home country are required for this process.

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Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by oluphy: 7:06pm On Jan 05, 2016
God bless you for this post. I am also awaiting admission decision tho I applied to jst 2 schs (LSU and University of western Ontario). Need GRE for only LSU but got Toefl waived for both schools, I have a GPA of 3.64. GRE:160Q 147V. Applying for MS chemical engineering. The only issue I have @ d moment is that my undergrad sch (OAU) says the transcript will take 2 weeks to be processed and 3 weeks to get to US. I have offered to paya for DHL service. Am hoping it gets ready b4 20th. Applied to only LSU in us cos broda, the application fees no easy, some kin small small cash u go dey spend sef join. Hoping to get the +ve news in Feb / March, congrats tho. God bless y'all in the group. Really helped me

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Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by sirRiddy: 7:14pm On Jan 05, 2016
oluphy
your quant score is impressive.
You should send your transcripts yourself either via uspost/nipost or DHL
depending on your financial capability. Track the docs using the tracking numbers
given to you by the courier companies. Wish you the best of luck!
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by chrisley024(m): 7:36pm On Jan 05, 2016
1M likes!
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Nobody: 8:12pm On Jan 05, 2016
Nice write up brother @sirrriddy ..I believe people will really learn from this.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Nobody: 8:20pm On Jan 05, 2016
oluphy:
God bless you for this post. I am also awaiting admission decision tho I applied to jst 2 schs (LSU and University of western Ontario). Need GRE for only LSU but got Toefl waived for both schools, I have a GPA of 3.64. GRE:160Q 147V. Applying for MS chemical engineering. The only issue I have @ d moment is that my undergrad sch (OAU) says the transcript will take 2 weeks to be processed and 3 weeks to get to US. I have offer
Is that the first time you will be requesting for transcript from OAU? if yes..then thats corect but if No, you can get it in 3days because I got 4 transcripts in less than a week and another one in less than 4days..dont let OAU send it for you, collect your transcript and send by yourself. (cant even remember OAU sending transcript for students)
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by essayHelp(m): 9:10pm On Jan 05, 2016
Congrats @sirRiddy. What other schools gave you funding? Also, did you apply for Spring or Fall?

Congrats again.

1 Like

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by paulbets: 9:15pm On Jan 05, 2016
Very detailed information.
Thank you for this writeup @Sirriddy
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by emmyluvly(m): 9:46pm On Jan 05, 2016
Abeg who get this GRE folder (E books) for EDo state and its environs? I want to come and copy if u don't mind pls.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Perotti: 12:46am On Jan 06, 2016
@sirRiddy: God bless you richly for this concise and insightful post. I find it highly salutory! Lemme ask did u get funding for the other schools you applied to or just KSU?
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Denvan: 4:13am On Jan 06, 2016
This is a milestone @sirridy. Generations upon generations will find this piece immensely insightful and helpful. Great work. God bless u. U can pm wen u arrive the state.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by DanjaNinja(m): 8:49am On Jan 06, 2016
@SirRiddy Impressive post, Keep it up bro.

If someone had told me this thread will be making this much progress, i would have doubted them. But thanks to you all, we are making great progress. Once again, a big thanks to all those who take out time from their busy schedule to make contributions here. God bless you all.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by ponpon(m): 11:23am On Jan 06, 2016
following this thread steadily God bless yall, maths skills have improved greatly with nova and 5lb manhattan...i need a book which can boost the verbal skills from zero to hero....like a nova-ic kinda verbal text

1 Like

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by sirRiddy: 1:40pm On Jan 06, 2016
Thanks guys. It is the least I can do for the gains I made from this thread. Hopefully, other members would do the same when they get admission and funding.

essayHelp I applied for Fall. Applied early October and got both admission and funding decisions in October. Pretty early and fast, huh? In the program, there are only 12 Graduate Teaching Assistantships and the deadline is January 1 for funding. So, if a better qualified candidate applies on the 2nd of January (when funding would likely have been shared), he is OYO. So, apply early.

Perotti, only KSU has funded thus far. Since I got that decision, I have pretty much forgotten about other schools. Infact, others have been asking me for my Statement of Account but I am not interested, have other things to sort out. UALR and MTSU said they would tell me if I will get a GA around April/May.

Denvan thanks for the kind words. I am sure you have settled nicely in the US now.

Oga Danjaninja Na you biko o…haha

4 Likes

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by pennstate(m): 4:37pm On Jan 06, 2016
emmyluvly:
Abeg who get this GRE folder (E books) for EDo state and its environs? I want to come and copy if u don't mind pls.
Can you come to Delta State?.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by emmyluvly(m): 5:39pm On Jan 06, 2016
pennstate:

Can you come to Delta State?.
God bless you sir. The blessings of this new year will abide with you and all membersof your family. I can come. Let me send you a mail so I get the details.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by chrisley024(m): 5:49pm On Jan 06, 2016

2 Likes

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by pennstate(m): 6:38pm On Jan 06, 2016
emmyluvly:

God bless you sir. The blessings of this new year will abide with you and all membersof your family. I can come. Let me send you a mail so I get the details.
Mail replied!
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Toluak: 6:54pm On Jan 06, 2016
Kudos to all the bosses in the house.This thread is a life saver.Am also considering studying in the US,Msc/phd biotechnology.Though have not taken the Gre n toefl test.I am looking at writing d gre by feb ending and d toefl early march for falls admission.I need help / advice for the general layout(aceing d gre test,schools,funding and all) cos am looking at falls admission.i had a 4.21 cgpa in microbiology.pls ur responses needed as soon as possible.For any other details my gmail is tolulopeabodunrin27@gmail.com.look forward to hearing my bosses reply.Thanks
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Nobody: 7:37pm On Jan 06, 2016
Toluak:
Kudos to all the bosses in the house.This thread is a life saver.Am also considering studying in the US,Msc/phd biotechnology.Though have not taken the Gre n toefl test.I am looking at writing d gre by feb ending and d toefl early march for falls admission.I need help / advice for the general layout(aceing d gre test,schools,funding and all) cos am looking at falls admission.i had a 4.21 cgpa in microbiology.pls ur responses needed as soon as possible.For any other details my gmail is tolulopeabodunrin27@gmail.com.look forward to hearing my bosses reply.Thanks
By Fall you mean fall 2016? If yes I dont think you can meet up, having in mind that you have not taken GRE nor TOEFL..Plan towards Fall 2017. Writing GRE, Toefl, SOP, geting LOR and sending transcript take time.Read this thread from first page to the last. You have all you need for the GRE here. P.S. To others that will write there email here for GRE materials to be sent to them,dont be lazy, read this thread first, if you have read it, you will know what to do and how to get materials. If you cant read this thread that isnt even up to 60 pages, I dont think you have the mental strength for the task ahead. Cheers.

3 Likes

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Nobody: 7:54pm On Jan 06, 2016
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Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Toluak: 8:08pm On Jan 06, 2016
Tnks for d response,i had gone through the pages n i saw d links for the grebooks online.though d oda link dat talked about sending a blank mail didnt give me any reply so i specifically put in my mail because i saw other people doing same and at this point i need to tap into the pool of experience of those that have gone ahead.More response is needed as regards the admission overview.thanks
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Nobody: 8:27pm On Jan 06, 2016
Toluak:
Tnks for d response,i had gone through the pages n i saw d links for the grebooks online.though d oda link dat talked about sending a blank mail didnt give me any reply so i specifically put in my mail because i saw other people doing same and at this point i need to tap into the pool of experience of those that have gone ahead.More response is needed as regards the admission overview.thanks
Okay. ...you can go through these sites to get more info www.msinus.com, www.thegradcafe.com, www.gradschools.com, www. USnews.com, edulix.com. All the best
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by fizzile(m): 8:42pm On Jan 06, 2016
Toluak:
Tnks for d response,i had gone through the pages n i saw d links for the grebooks online.though d oda link dat talked about sending a blank mail didnt give me any reply so i specifically put in my mail because i saw other people doing same and at this point i need to tap into the pool of experience of those that have gone ahead.More response is needed as regards the admission overview.thanks
Bro u can still get admitted if u r really ready for it. It all depends on how u plan urself. If u can take out this month and feb and spend somuch time on GRE preparation den u can. Then search for some schools and if u meet their requirements,u can start applying and also evaluate ur transcript or send ur transcript depending on which is obtainable. I think u can stl make it this fall 2016

2 Likes

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Cephas0009: 5:55am On Jan 07, 2016
Wow! Congratulations SirRiddy..I remember when I first came across dis thread, how much u guided me through the admission process and taking the gre, u have been a wonderful fellow and I believe this is a well deserved reward. Keep up d good work Sir.. Congratulations... I hope I will come share my transcript pretty soon
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by fizzile(m): 7:00am On Jan 07, 2016
Hey guys,I need an info. Please for those that made their application fees,please how much is dollar at the moment?
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Toluak: 9:24am On Jan 07, 2016
fizzile:
Bro u can still get admitted if u r really ready for it. It all depends on how u plan urself. If u can take out this month and feb and spend somuch time on GRE preparation den u can. Then search for some schools and if u meet their requirements,u can start applying and also evaluate ur transcript or send ur transcript depending on which is obtainable. I think u can stl make it this fall 2016



Aiit bro,thanks so much.will keep posting my updates for the needed guide.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Toluak: 9:25am On Jan 07, 2016
femi321:
Okay. ...you can go through these sites to get more info www.msinus.com, www.thegradcafe.com, www.gradschools.com, www. USnews.com, edulix.com. All the best
Thanks so much for this piece.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by layez: 11:51am On Jan 07, 2016
@Sirriddy,man u have been a blessing, ur advices and encouragement has been on pt!!! Congrats man, u deserve it, God bless.... Plus boss, I sent u a mail, biko
@Cephas009, bro has been good!!! U will also share ur awsome admission story IJN.....
@others, we will all excel ooooo.... Mk I go prep for ma exam, bt AWA and VS has been Hell oooo.... God help...
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by chrisley024(m): 12:39pm On Jan 07, 2016
Pls who knows about Exam Planet Nigeria/Mark IV Consult here?. Thinking of registering with them for 22nd January at PH venue.
Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Cephas0009: 1:07pm On Jan 07, 2016
layez:
@Sirriddy,man u have been a blessing, ur advices and encouragement has been on pt!!! Congrats man, u deserve it, God bless.... Plus boss, I sent u a mail, biko
@Cephas009, bro has been good!!! U will also share ur awsome admission story IJN.....
@others, we will all excel ooooo.... Mk I go prep for ma exam, bt AWA and VS has been Hell oooo.... God help...

Thanks broda, we will all make it in Jesus Name... Success in ur exam

1 Like

Re: How To Achieve High Scores On The GRE by Lamexx(m): 2:39pm On Jan 07, 2016
Just want to announce to everyone in the house that there is a potential school for every GRE scores. Just spread your risks and start applying. Cheers.

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