Derrick's Story: The Test-Prep Tutor

One of the hurdles that deters people from executing their purpose in life is “standardized testing.” Many people are either intimidated by the test, have had bad experiences with standardized test, or believe a paradigm that they ‘don’t do well on standardized tests.’ I was a person just like this; I did not initially test well because I did not understand that the test was not a test of my intelligence or competence but rather a test of my discipline to learn the specific tools required for me to do well on the test. For my test, I was avoiding taking my second Graduate Requisite Examination (GRE) in 2012. But before I tell you about my second GRE, let me tell you about my first GRE in 1999. Yes! 1999 shouts out to Prince. RIP.

It was 1999 my Junior year at Bethune-Cookman College when I was fortunate enough to get a slot at a Ph.D. prep summer program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MURAP, the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program). This forced me to attend a weekly GRE prep course for eight weeks throughout the summer. I largely went because it was a requirement to get my stipend and the women in the class keep most of my attention. In between daydreaming, flirting, and multitasking, I caught a few intangible lessons on how to take the GRE, how to prepare, the importance of repetition, and the importance of rigorously practice testing… over and over again. I remember the instructor saying, “After you have taken the practice test over and over again, you will begin to memorize the instructions for each section of the test, and you will quickly know what the test is looking for. It will save you time reading through the instructions because you already know the instructions.” She was right; eventually, I began to memorize the section instructions, and it saved me a lot of time on the actual test. Additionally, the repetition made me more comfortable with the test and the task at hand. 

Understand the governing laws and aims of the test in order to beat the test

The MURAP GRE Test prep course taught me the intrinsic value of repetition and how it pays off in ways that are conscious and subconscious by creating a mental space that makes taking the test an enjoyable experience. For example, there is “enthusiasm.” I learned in this GRE Prep course that it helped me to look at the test through a competitive lens as well as to understand the governing laws and aims of the test in order to beat the test at its own game. When I changed my mindset, taking the test became fun. Every time I would answer a question that I knew in my heart was correct, I would celebrate while taking the test. I would do a Tiger Woods fist pump, a head nod, or my  infamous chair celebration dance that looks like a mix between the Humpty, the Harlem Shake, and the Old Man Git Down. Yes it was probably hard to watch for my fellow test takers if they happened to glance from their computer screens, but for me it sent endorphins and adrenaline through my body and brain that gave me more energy and more confidence when I approached the next test question.

The practice of repetition began to give me a strategy to enter the world of the test and beat it at its own game. It would take me over a decade and a half to put words to this strategy and be able to easily articulate to my GRE students so that they could quickly approach GRE test prep and the test itself with a strategy for success. This was the infancy of the two laws. I scored well enough on that GRE in 1999 to earn acceptance into multiple graduate programs. The test was an opportunity to open doors for my purpose in life.


I was accepted to the top-ranked Masters in Public Administration program in the nation at Syracuse University. I even went to visit the college, with no travel budget. I called on the way and looked for any fraternity brothers in the area, and some brothers let me sleep on the couch. During my visit one of the brothers said, “If you like sunshine don’t come to Syracuse, the winters are depressing and cloud hangs over the city.” My GRE score was also good enough to get me into the University of Mississippi, where I visited and also stayed on the couch, this time at the fraternity house. My discussions with the Sigma brothers, who were students, were about the daily racism they encountered on the campus by students, staff, and faculty. My last visit and eventual choice was back home at UNC Chapel Hill where my GRE test score opened up the door to a Masters in Public Administration degree. Years later after opening my consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area, I got the desire to return to school for my Ph.D.

 

I knew I wanted to go back to school to pursue a doctorate in education, but the GRE had me shaking in my boots. I would make up any excuse so that I could mentally explain away why I didn’t want or need graduate education, but deep in my heart, I knew I simply didn’t want to spend time or discipline myself to learn the GRE tools. I wasted years of my life convincing myself why it was not the right time to take this leap of faith and pursue higher education. Finally, I got the confidence to make a firm decision to take the test and went online and booked a GRE test closest to my home. 

At this time, I lived in the Washington D.C. metro area, and the test was being administered at Howard University, one of the nation’s most historic colleges. I booked the test and prayed that it would go well and went about my regular life. I procrastinated, delayed, and prayed some more. Then I realized that in addition to prayer, I would probably need to study for this test or at least review the test before I took it. Two weeks before the test, I began to take practice tests and look up formulas and grammar rules that I had forgotten from primary school. As I began to study for the test, my confidence grew, and as my confidence grew, the practice test actually began to be fun. I enjoyed getting the correct answer to a question I had no clue of the week prior. I finally took the test, did well, and got accepted into the doctoral program in education at UNC-Chapel Hill. During my time in my doctoral program, I began to work for a GRE test prep company called Manhattan Elite Prep.

In addition to prayer I would probably need to study for this test.

I began to help other students study and prepare for this test and would do this for the next five years as I completed my doctorate. Through the process of tutoring student after student in the GRE, I began to synthesize the lessons into easily understood concepts and began to derive a 2-Law strategy to help students attack each question with confidence. My work with talented students, who were originally not good test takers, helped me to develop an easy-to-use strategy to quickly study for the GRE test. I found commonalities with my students’ needs for test preparation. Many would procrastinate by waiting until the last minute and then try to cram for the test weeks ahead of their booked exam date. So by the time they had spent thousands of dollars to hire me, they were already under the gun, under pressure, and some were out of money. This book is written to save people money, and time, by using a 2-Law strategy as a street map to success.  

 



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