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I’ve been AWOL for a couple weeks now, but have no fear. The GRE did not in fact kill me. It came close, but all is now well.

One reason I may have needed several weeks of healing and decompressing is that my GRE experience was such a whirlwind. Here are a few tips to avoid having a similarly harried experience of your own if you find yourself needing to sign up for the GRE while living in Taiwan.

1. Plan ahead.

The GRE isn’t offered as frequently in Taiwan as it is in the US or even more international cities, like Hong Kong. (Speaking of which, Hong Kong is relatively nearby, so it’s a good fail-safe if there are no convenient test dates in Taiwan – but no one wants to have to pay for a plane ticket just to take some stupid test.) Find out as soon as possible when you’ll need your GRE scores, so you can figure out which of the FIVE or so Taiwan test dates in the calendar year you’ll need to sign up for. Really. There will only be a few options.

2. Take studying seriously.

Duh, I guess. This is true for anyone taking the GRE anywhere. But because Taiwan offers fewer test dates, you may have to take the test sooner than you expected. My application for a certification program is due on August 1st. When I checked the GRE website for test dates and locations a couple months ago, I was dismayed to realize I’d have to take it just two weeks later. That gave me two weeks to study. Now, I know people who study for the GRE for months.  I knew I wasn’t going to do that, but I was hoping for a solid month of study time. Because that wasn’t an option, I knew I had to buckle down and put other things on hold for a couple of weeks, giving new meaning to the word “cramming” – and hey, when in the land of the cram school… why not?

3. Go to your test center early.

Again, this is probably true for anyone taking the GRE anywhere. However, it’s important to remember that while this test is completely in English, primarily for schools and opportunities in the west – you’ll probably be taking it with a room full of Taiwanese uni students. The people who greet you upon arrival might not speak much English, and the explanations before the test begins will mostly be in Chinese. Because of this, it’s a good idea to give yourself extra time to check in and ask any questions you may have.

4. Pray to the test gods.

I’ve heard of people here reciting special Buddhist prayers and mantras for success around exam time. It must work for some of them (because I’m pretty sure the hours they log at buxibans are not the key to success). Nothing to lose from trying it out!

Other than this, it’s mostly common-sense test-taking strategies like manage your time wisely and first do easy questions. With just a few added inconveniences, you too can be on your way to an adequately average GRE score in just a matter of weeks, even while living in Taiwan. Good luck!

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