You know what’s even better than the GRE?
The Chemistry GRE!
I had the opportunity (read: obligation) to take this test recently, and unlike many, I found I had a really great time. For those who have yet to take it, the Chem GRE is a 3 hour long test where you are asked a variety of questions on all branches of chemistry, with the major focuses on Organic and Physical, with some inorganic, transition-metal, and analytical chem thrown in for good measure. In case you thought you read that wrong, you didn’t. The test is, in fact, three hours long. It is a very long three hours, and can be intimidating. Here are some tips and tricks to being successful on the GRE:
First, concentrate on the stuff you don’t know. Unless you finished all of your chemistry classes by the end of junior year (unlikely?), you probably won’t know some of the concepts outlined on the GRE. Pick up a review book and at least familiarize yourself with some of the basic concepts. For example, I had no idea what the 18-electron rule was for metal complexes before taking the GRE. It’s a startlingly easy concept to learn, and will earn you a couple easy points.
Second, take a day or two and review the stuff you haven’t looked at in a while. For me, that was P-Chem. A GRE book will help with this. Just remember that the GRE sometimes will go into absurdly small detail on some material you learned in sophomore year, so just stay on top of your chemistry knowledge. You’ll be surprised with how much you remember.
Third, remember to get some sleep. My test started at 8:30, which meant I had to leave the house at 7:45. I’m not really used to waking up that early, so it was really no fun. I’m sure all of you have taken enough standardized exams to know this, but just reminding you. Also, eat breakfast and get hydrated before the exam. It’s around 3 hours long and the exam proctors will not let you drink or eat anything while you’re taking it.
Lastly, and anecdote. This summer I started lifting weights with a friend of mine as a way to stay in shape (and secretly to be able to carry those 20 gal jugs of DMF around the lab and not hurt myself). He is an economics/philosophy major who is also a varsity swimmer, and has a lot of really interesting things to say about life. His philosophy on exams is this: treat it like a game! You win the game if you get the most points, and you’re playing against everyone else in the room. Games are fun. Therefore, treat the test as a game, and you’ll have a blast. I took this philosophy in with me, and really enjoyed all the really tough questions – they’re just chemistry, right?