The 'Carefree and Black' Guide to Standardized Testing
A carefree black approach to taking and tackling the GRE.
Advice from people who both hated and loved their GRE + LSAT scores.
This advice is all given with 20/20 hindsight. Coming from someone who's already been accepted into a dream doctoral program, therefore take my shade and advice how you want. Because in my mind standardized testing will ALWAYS be racist.
I’ve been holding off of publishing this post because I have a lot more interview to hold in order to offer as much perspective as possible but I figured I’d stop procrastinating and publish it now then continue to add to the post throughout the year!
So I'll start with my advice first considering that fact that this is my space then we'll get to my overachieving friends. I'm not going to give you test taking strategies or test day tips. I'm here to give you advice on how to protect your sanity while preparing for a test that has the potential to place you in what you see as your dream school, an academic program that you may have had your eyes set on since your junior year or if you're like me it's something you may have stumbled upon the summer before your senior year.
In my mind, the GRE represented much more than a test for me, in my mind, it was me tackling all the naysayers and people who thought a girl from Baltimore wasn't fit to have letters behind her name. In my mind the GRE made me face my own internal issues with imposter syndrome and my fear of never liking precalc.
I took a 1K dollar course through Kaplan and studied hours on end for the GRE and still got mediocre scores, ok maybe even below mediocre, but through the constant studying, practice test and Khan Academy videos I realized that this was just another hoop I had to jump though, another hurdle is thrown at young women and men from marginalized communities just trying to get a piece of the cake, a portion of what the "American dream" was sold up to be. As I was the only black woman in my prep class I quickly realized that regardless of how I felt about taking the course I should feel blessed to be in the predicament to have the option to take the course for free. Even though I was hit with a lot of adversity and imposter syndrome during the entire preparation process I took the attitude of doing what I had to do in order to move to the next step. Needless to say, my experience with preparing for and taking the GRE certainly wasn’t the highlight of undergrad I learned how to deal with the idea of feeling inadequate and imposter syndrome head on, that was the lesson learned for me throughout the entire process.
Here is some insight from women who have taken the GRE and the LSAT -
Test preparation tips:
The most common advice given in regards to testing prep was to take timed practice exams, which come with test prep books or may be available to you for free from your universities library.
A tip extended from a fellow GRE test taker was to, “USE YOUR RESOURCES!” Her college, Georgia State University, offered FREE courses to prep for the GRE. A lot of larger universities do offer test prep so take advantage of them, even if it’s a year prior to you wanting to sit for the test, it’s never too early to start preparing.
There are also a ton of YouTube channels dedicated to helping prep with various GRE concepts, especially for the math sections!
Mental heath tips:
When dealing with anxiety a fellow test taker said, “I wish I would've taken more time to study and meditate throughout the process so that my mind was a lot more focused.” I can also agree with that statement, too may time I gave the test too much energy and power over my emotions.
In preparation for the LSAT, a friend of mine said, “My mental preparation relative to the LSAT was two-fold: pre-prep and post-prep. Pre-preparation was for the actual LSAT exam day, post-preparation was for the period between the completion of the exam until the moment I received my score. Pre-preparation for the LSAT was pretty much me asking everyone I knew who took the LSAT what their experience was. I am an intern at a trade finance law firm, so I made it a point to informally interview some of the younger lawyers in the office to “get that real.” This mirrors the experience that I had with connecting to other black graduate students about their application process, I talk to anyone who was willing to share their experiences because I’m a true believer in learning from other people’s experiences.
“Give it to God. That’s the greatest advice I can give for preparing for the LSAT (preparing for anything in life, actually). Give it to Him and know that everything will be okay and more.” I honestly cannot stress this tip enough when trying to mentally prepare for any standardized test. It may be an overwhelming process, but don’t let your emotions control your actions and attitude.
Another fellow test taker said that when entering the test room on test day for the GRE said, “The day of, I continued to pray and quote scriptures, specifically "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I wish I would've taken more time to study and meditate throughout the process so that my mind was a lot more focused.”
I hope this was helpful, be sure to check back in a few weeks for more test tips! If you have any questions leave them in the comments below or email me directly!