Graduate Degree Applications

GRE Tips

The GRE exam is a big part of the journey towards a graduate degree from countries like the United States and Canada. It is also a huge deterrent to a number of otherwise well-qualified candidates. I think an impressive GRE score is within the reach of most candidates. All that is required is the discipline to study, and a lot of practice. Flash cards may be very helpful with respect to digesting the huge vocabulary list needed to ace the verbal section of the test. While I was preparing for my own exam, I tried to write 25 words – and their meaning – on opposite sides of a flash card, and learn them throughout the day. I also found the following resources to be quite helpful. Please feel free to suggest more contemporary resources, to further enrich this page.

Kaplan GRE PREMIER 2011

Kaplan’s GRE Test Prep happened to be the most challenging resource I used in preparing for my GRE exam. It was also the most beneficial as it enabled me to identify weak points and strengthen them accordingly.


Barron’s GRE Test Prep can be described in one word: comprehensive. It really provides a good exposure to the concepts being tested in the GRE exam. The tests are not as difficult as Kaplan though.


Like the name suggests, is a website dedicated to helping candidates prepare for the GRE. There is actually a subscription fee, but the site resources, including 5 timed practice exams for quantitative and verbal respectively, is well worth the investment.


Students from countries like India and Nigeria, where English is the language of instruction, will find the TOEFL exam to be a piece of cake. I still decided to put in one resource though. I honestly don’t think more is needed.


This Kaplan resource will help to get candidates comfortable with the nature of the exam. They really don’t need more than that to get an awesome score, assuming their language of instruction is English.

Letters of Recommendation Tips

Letters of recommendation can be a bit tricky. Even though they are a part of the application, candidates are not allowed to write them. However, I think candidates can positively influence the nature of their letters of recommendation by taking the following steps:

  1. Finish writing your statement of purpose on time.
  2. Have a working copy of your resume ready.
  3. Have a meeting with your recommender, and share these two documents with him/her. This will help to keep your story coherent and consistent throughout all parts of your application. However, try to stay within the limits set by the school your target institution. Some of them actually discourage drafting the letter for the recommender, or anything remotely related to that.
In choosing a recommender, please remember that the recommender’s position in the company is not as important as the nature of interactions between the candidate and the recommender. A direct supervisor is ideal. Other options can be indirect supervisors, or clients whom the candidate serves during the course of work. You can find some sample recommendation letters here, or by simply doing a Google search.

Statement of Purpose Tips

Apart from the GRE, most candidates find this to be the most difficult part of their graduate degree application. A good statement of purpose is usually an articulate expression of past achievements, current engagements and future goals. Good writing skills are also a big plus. Tips for the statement of purpose include:

  1. Start on time. This is not something that can be done in one night.
  2. In the weeks leading to your putting pencil on paper, consider journaling about what you like about your current job or discipline. Also think about what a perfect future career would be like, and what a horrible career would be as well.
  3. Check for spelling errors, and ask your friends to cross check as well.
  4. Make sure you don’t send a statement of purpose with the wrong institution on it. It sounds ridiculous, but I have done that twice. is a good starting point for getting your statement of purpose up and running.

2 thoughts on “Graduate Degree Applications

  1. Neat stuff…! Particularly good as it comes from you, the top GRE scorer in our batch.

    To your suggestion on enriching the content, I personally found ‘GRE Big book’ also an excellent resource. I guess it is out of publication but some old copies are still floating around. It helped me move up my verbal score from 40th percetile to 90+ percentile…a must-do study aid.

    Keep the great work coming Efesa!

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