As a college student, it can be difficult to think ahead in preparation for the future. Oftentimes, our attention is diverted by distractions such as a big exam at the end of the week or an anticipated fraternity party after a football game. Still, the time will come when you have to ask yourself, "What is the next step in my future?" If your answer is graduate school, then there is one certainty that you will encounter: the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Graduate programs across the nation usually require a minimum GRE score for admission--in combination with a minimum grade point average, recommendation letters, and other extraneous variables. Thus, one of the first steps in planning to enter graduate school is to prepare for the GRE. From my own experience, I detail here those techniques that were helpful, and I identify actions that are detrimental to optimal GRE test-taking success.

First, don't wait until the last minute to study for the GRE! Preparing for the GRE is extremely important, and time management and effective study skills are important for success. Many times, students will wait until the weekend prior to the test to prepare for it. Like any other test, preparation increases the likelihood of success. Additionally, how you prepare for the GRE may be an indication of how you will tackle graduate school. You always want to put your best face forward, and preparing for the GRE is the proper beginning. I started planning for the GRE during my master's degree program. In addition, I was also a high school chemistry teacher. Thus, time management became crucial to my preparation. I created a schedule to study and practice the different components of the test, spending more time on those areas in which I was weak.

Second, I would recommend utilizing GRE preparation materials offered by the Educational Testing Service ETS. It is not only important to understand the content of the test but the format as well. Preparation and study materials provided by ETS include past tests and allow you to become familiar--even comfortable--with the test format. For example, I purchased a GRE preparation book that encompassed practice test questions, answers, and explanations of answers. The book provided practice with sentence completions, word parts, antonyms, and analogies. Many of the words I practiced on the preparation material were also on the official examination. Also, certain components of the analytical reasoning require practice, practice, and more practice! GRE preparation material usually carries an additional cost. As a college student, this cost may seem exorbitant, but the long-term benefits are invaluable. Many schools have programs that offer GRE preparation courses, as well as financial assistance in purchasing materials. Other ideas include sharing with other students in the cost of purchasing the study material, as well as offering study assistance. It is important to remember that the GRE is an integral criterion of entering graduate school. By adequately preparing for the GRE through time-management techniques, effective study habits, and utilization of the preparatory materials available, you not only ensure success on the examination but acceptance into graduate school as well.

Biosketch: Ta'Mika Roddy is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois, and is currently a doctoral student in exercise physiology at the University of Mississippi. Her research interests involve metabolic and pathophysiological differences in the onset of obesity in African-American and Caucasian-American women. For further information, please e-mail Ta'Mika at missroddy@hotmail.com.