Graduate Student Dramatically Improves GRE Score

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Executive Summary

This case study tells the story of a recent graduate of Loyola University in Chicago.  By working with MyGuru for several months, focused  on his performance in the verbal and writing portion of the GRE, he achieved a high GRE score above the 90th percentile on Math and above the 80th percentile on Verbal Reasoning, a dramatic improvement relative to his starting point.

Introduction: Why We Develop Case Studies

MyGuru students seek private tutoring for a variety of reasons. 

Some are already scoring above the 90th percentile on a standardized test, but realize that getting into an Ivy League university or one of the top graduate, MBA, Law, or Medical schools is only getting more intense, and thus seek private tutoring to squeeze out a few extra points on the test.  But, others are truly struggling, scoring well below average.

For some students, the key issues are knowledge-based –meaning the students don’t know certain facts or understand certain concepts that they need to master to perform better.  But, in more cases than many people might realize, the issue is more emotional or psychological – the student just needs a private tutor to help them build confidence, relax, and perform.

The benefit of customized, private tutoring is that the particular situation, strengths, and weaknesses of the student can be understood and addressed by the tutor, thus improving performance.  The purpose of case studies is to illustrate how a particular student benefited from private tutoring.  Of course, your or your child’s particular situation is unique – but if you can draw some comparisons and identify some similarities, you might be able to envision how private tutoring would benefit you.

Student Situation

Conor attended Loyola University on the northern edge of Chicago, in Rogers Park.  He graduated in 2011 with a degree in Biology.  The results of his early practice tests were extremely high scores in GRE mathematics but average to below average scores in Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing.  He needed to raise considerably verbal and writing scores to be accepted into top graduate programs. 

He began studying for the GRE 6 weeks before the Educational Testing Service launched the revised GRE.  As his test date approached, he decided not to take the old GRE, and instead to continue to work with a tutor and prepare for the revised GRE.

The Tutor

The tutor we matched with Conor was Mike Z.  Mike’s background includes:

  • BA- Political Science and History, University of Miami in Ohio
  • PhD - University of Michigan – Political Science
  • SAT: 1530/1600, ACT:33/36, GRE:1510/1600
  • 5+ years of ACT, SAT, and GRE tutoring experience
  • Additional experience tutoring History, Political Science, and Mathematics (through Calculus)

Tutoring Approach

After an initial diagnostic session with Conor, Mike designed a three-pronged approach to helping him succeed on the GRE:

  1. Developed a detailed study plan focused on GRE vocabulary, since this was clearly Conor’s weakest point
  2. Designed intensive, customized preparation (i.e., practice problems and homework assignments)to help him maximize success for questions where he was familiar with words or phrases
  3. Directly observed timed testing sections to help improve time management and manage stress/frustration.  In other words, he observed Conor in action, helping him improve his approach to taking the test in real-time.

In total, Mike and Conor spent about 20 hours together preparing for the GRE.

Results Achieved

Ultimately, Conor achieved a significant increase in his GRE verbal score on his second test date, from around the 50th percentile to above the 80th percentile, through improved confidence, time management, and ability to overcome specific challenges posed by the content during the test.

Here’s what Conor had to say about working with Mike for his GRE prep:

"I used Mike for nearly 2 months of GRE prep last summer. We began studying together at the end of the old GRE and continued together while I prepared to retake the test with the revised version. 

First of all, from a character stand point Mike is a very nice amiable person who is a pleasure to be around. Although the material is quite dry, Mike helps to make it a bit more interesting.

From a tutoring standpoint, I thought Mike was incredible! I tried other tutors in the area that cost nearly twice (no exaggeration) and were nowhere near as good as Mike.  Mike is…the best because he is fantastic at recognizing strengths in the student and personalizing instruction for that particular student.

Maintaining a clear head, and approaching each question with a framework for selecting the proper answer is essential and that is what Mike works so hard to enable the student to do.   None of the other tutors I tried before finding Mike had this type of approach…

..since the revised GRE is so new, they only give ranges for test scores, not actual scores. Nonetheless, on verbal I got a range of 550 to 650 and on quant I got a range of 750-800, which certainly feels good.

All in all, Mike was absolutely great. I would highly recommend him."

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