THanks FOR GUidance
[Incidentally: I received my score mailing. I got 62 questions right and 8 wrong, for a raw score of 60. I am impressed that 4-5% of the test takers are doing better than that. Gives me hope for the future.]
People asked in the earlier thread where I posted my score about my preparation, background, etc. Here you go:
I graduated from UCSD in 1996 with a BSCS and a 3.9 major GPA. I get the impression that in those days the average CS curriculum was more rigorous. Among the programming projects I completed were: writing a debugger in 80286 assembly, writing a preemptively multitasking operating system in C, and writing an optimizing pascal compiler in C++. Point being that I worked hard for that degree.
That said, 12 years had elapsed and I hadn't touched CS theory since graduation, except to the degree that I've internalized it. So I was happy to see that three weeks of prep took me to the 95th percentile.
Here is my preparation advice:
1) The amount of material that MIGHT be covered is overwhelming. If you are conflicted about where to allocate your study time, realize that there is one source that is by FAR the most valuable in revealing what sort of questions you are likely to face, and that is the official GRE practice test. If you stray too far from the subject allocation and depth revealed by that test, you can easily find yourself spending days studying material relevant to a maximum of one test question.
2) Take the practice test under timed conditions. Use your results to guide your study. Take it again. Study again. Then take it again. At this point if there are any problems that don't come naturally (and not because you should have memorized the answer by now) then stop studying on an ad hoc basis and read something comprehensive.
3) Take the titanium bits test. This test is MUCH HARDER than the real test (at least than the one I took) and it gets into details that were not covered on mine and are not likely to be covered. That said, for the most part it's invaluable because of the detailed answer key.
4) If you aren't spending at least half your study time solving problems, then you are not really preparing. Another great source of problems (many more difficult than the real test will offer, but still excellent for illuminating one's knowledge or lack thereof) is the stanford exam archive.
5) The major non-problem-solving preparation I did was reading almost all the wikipedia pages on calmlogic's list and working through Intro to Algorithms almost cover to cover. I filled a whole spiral notebook with notes.
6) It's a multiple choice test, and like all multiple choice tests it is very important to know how to game it. The penalty structure is designed to be EV-neutral on completely random guessing, but you should be able to eliminate at least one answer on any question you are likely to see. That means YOU SHOULD ALMOST CERTAINLY ANSWER EVERY QUESTION. If that's not obvious to you then you should probably take a test preparation course. I taught at the princeton review for years so I'm pretty good at this aspect.
That's all I can think of. Good luck!
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