Final Thoughts on Competitive Exams



Updated June 8, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

Language is one of the most complex and essential of human inventions. Standardized tests like the GRE and TOEFL give you an opportunity to deepen your mastery of this invention. Think of these tests as invisible enablers that push you to prepare and help you acclimate to an English-speaking environment. In this chapter, we spoke specifically about the GRE and TOEFL, both administered by the non-profit ETS.

Before beginning your preparation, it’s important to know where you stand. Take a diagnostic test first. Use the various tables from the chapter, and more you can find online, to understand where you stand and set a goal for yourself. You have to begin with the end in mind. Once you do that, collect all the resources you need over the next few weeks or months to prepare. Don’t just stop with official text books. Take advantage of the free mobile apps out there that have pre-built materials.

We didn’t prescribe a day-by-day plan for you here because no two people are built the same. Rather, we want you to follow some best practices that will set you apart. First, practice every single day, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Science has proven time and again that this is the key to mastery. Use mnemonic techniques to remember abstract facts and concepts. Correlate words with images. Combine similar sounding words together. Read scientific journals. Find ways to retain what you read using the proven technique of spaced repetition.

Most importantly, keep testing yourself. You can’t improve something you can’t measure. Take inspiration from Aamir Khan and meticulously pore over your test results to find your Achilles’ heel. Spend the following week improving in that area. You will greatly increase the probability of getting your dream score with these best practices. However, even the best of the best cannot escape the tiny possibility of messing up. It’s OK. I know it feels soul-crushing, but you have the option to take it a second or third time. Just balance that with the time and money you have at your disposal.

A Little Reflection on Exam Prep

thinkDid you take a mock test?

What measures are you taking to improve your sleep?

Which memory technique seems most helpful to you?

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