Keep Testing Yourself

5 minutes

Youโ€™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 resourcesโ€”including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

This goes without saying. Practicing without testing is akin to wandering in a maze with no idea as to where youโ€™re going.

You canโ€™t improve something you canโ€™t measure.

If you have one month before your exam, you should take a test every five days, or at least once a week. This is so you can monitor your progress and get acquainted with the act of sitting in the same location for four hours and thinking critically.

โ€‹actionโ€‹First, even before you begin your practice, create a list of links with all the free practice tests you can find online for GRE* and TOEFL.*

Get this out of your way at the beginning when youโ€™re conducting all the research to collect resources. Based on the number of weeks you have before your actual exam, allocate one test for every five days, or every week if you have more than a month to prepare. Ideally, you should spend the day before the main exam either relaxing or doing some very light review of your material.

โ€‹actionโ€‹Second, when you are actually taking the test, try your best to simulate the test day environment by keeping your phone away and sitting in a quiet room.

Both the GRE and TOEFL give you a one-minute break after each section except the third one (or during the half-time), where you can take a ten-minute break. Do your best to follow the same schedule, and use the ten minutes to go to the restroom or eat a protein bar. Strictly stay away from your phone, close all the other applications on your laptop, and mute notifications.* If you take practice tests that donโ€™t have an inbuilt timer, itโ€™s very important that you time yourself using a stopwatch (preferably not your phone).

โ€‹actionโ€‹Finally, take time to go over the results of each test to identify the places you were right and wrong.

Remember Dangal, the biographical drama film about how a father trains his two daughters to become world-class wrestling champions? When Aamir Khan, who portrays the protagonist and father, sets out on a mission to improve his daughterโ€™s performance, what does he do? He finds a way to watch all the previous recordings of her fights and notes down the moments where she committed rookie mistakes. He then asks her to watch the same recordings and points the mistakes out to her, so she can avoid them the next time. Assuming this scene mirrored the true story well, that was the turning point in her career.

Weโ€™re asking you to be your own Aamir Khan.

Go through the results of every single test to understand your pitfalls. If you see most errors taking place in the text completion section under verbal, it means you havenโ€™t memorized the words and their meanings as well as you thought you did. Open a sheet and note down the feedback you have for yourself based on that test. Try being as detailed as you can. Your focus area over the next week should be the places where you did poorly in the previous exam. Whatโ€™s the point in learning something you are already good at, as compelling as it might be?

So by constantly testing yourself in a simulated environment and meticulously going over the results to find your weaknesses, you will see an improvement. Eventually, as the test day nears, you will find yourself feeling more and more jittery. The remedy here is to talk to yourself.

When you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, speak confidently about your capabilities.

You can do this.

Youโ€™ve come far and put in an incredible amount of effort. If you have been following most (or all) of our suggestions so far, nothing can stop you from seeing that dream score pop up on your screen soon.

Second Timeโ€™s a Charm

As you and your peers begin to prepare and write these tests, it is easy to be bogged into a mindset where you constantly compare yourself with others. She got 335 on her practice test, why am I not able to? However, she might not have had to stay up late every night to finish her final semester project. She might not be spending hours as the head of the rotary club. Be kind to yourself. No one else is wearing your shoes, except you.

Your only competitor should be the past version of yourself.

This isnโ€™t me preaching. Iโ€™m talking from past experience.

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