The GRE (Graduate Record Exam) Test is the standardized test used to get admissions in various graduate schools or business graduate schools in various English speaking countries, especially the United States. Aspirants interested in pursuing a master’s degree, specialized master’s course, MS, MBA, MEM or doctoral degree can sit for the GRE Test. In addition to the GRE revised general test, there are seven GRE subjects’ tests that evaluate candidates’ knowledge in their respective field. GRE test is conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
What should be your first step?
As the very first step, it is crucial that you familiarize yourself with its basic structure and the timing for each of its sections.
- The Verbal Section: This comprises two thirty minute sections that will test your grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills.
- The Quantitative Section: This comprises two 35-minute sections that will test your geometry, algebra, arithmetic, and data analysis skills.
- The Analytical Writing Section: This is a single section with two timed essays (30 mins each) that will test your writing skills. One will require you to state your opinion on an issue and support it; the other will require you to evaluate an argument.
One more important thing you should know is that the computer version of the GRE uses computer- adaptive testing. Not sure what that means? In other words, if you answer your questions right, you end up with harder ones but these will be worthy of more points. Answer a few questions wrong, then you will end up with easier questions but these won’t be worthy of many points and your scores could take a hit.
What’s new in GRE?
The GRE General Test was replaced with the present GRE revised General test in 2011. Make sure you don’t wind up using any of the study guides or materials referring to that test version!
This revised General Test has introduced some cool new changes; let’s have a look at some of them…
- You can edit your answers within a section
- You can skip a few questions in your timed section and get back to them when you like — before going to the next section
- You can use an on-screen calculator
Your master plan:
One year is plenty of time, so you’re good to do. Start at least three to six months ahead of time with your prep. It is advisable students to hit the books from four to twelve weeks prior to D-Day so that they can cover all areas necessary. Research the internet well for all possible and recent GRE materials and invest in a few good study guides.
You can also use ETS’s Powerprep Software for practice. In case you’re interested, you will find this on the official GRE website. It is free and has two practice tests; we suggest you take one during the beginning of your prep and one right at the end, before the test to see your progress.
Test taking strategies:
Quantitative Reasoning (Math):
- This part of the exam is fairly easy for anyone with an engineering background, so that can be tackled by solving a few practice tests to ensure that your speed and accuracy is adequate. Aim at getting ALL questions correct.
- Make sure you train yourself well to calculate quickly and familiarize yourself with graphs and charts.
Part of the exam is where most Indian students need plenty of preparation. It’s important to understand here that the VR part doesn’t intend to test just your vocabulary, per se. Rather, it intends to test your reasoning and analytical skills, and vocabulary is just tool . Through comprehension exercises and other questions, the aim is to see how well you can analyze arguments and draw conclusions from a given text.
- Try and gauge your vocabulary by attempting a few tests given in the Barrons GRE book. If you feel it’s decent (you know at least 50% of the words), your job is rather easy.
- Try to at least complete the word lists given in Barrons. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a fairly good collection. There are about 3500 words in there, and it will take you a fair amount of time if your vocabulary isn’t great to begin with. Expect to spend about 3-4 hours per word list.
- If you need help with the vocabulary, try making flashcards, learning roots of these troublesome words, or associating them with pictures. (Experts advise students to learn from study guides that contain nearly 3,500 words.)
- Apart from this, you can check out online resources too.
- This will come largely with practice. As you work on the vocabulary, keep solving practice tests and analyze how many of your errors were not because of vocabulary issues but because of logical / reasoning issues. These are the ones you need to work on. You’ll get better with practice, and will also improve your vocabulary alongside.
- The GRE is not a test of raw vocabulary. Instead of merely mugging up words, try to put them in context. Get a feel of howthose words are used, where those words are used. Get a sense of whether a word is used in an approving sense or a disapproving sense. Try to appreciate the nuances between words that appear very similar in meaning but are still not interchangeable.
For the writing part, do as many practice essays as you can and get some feedback from reliable sources to improve your style of writing where possible.
Tips for GRE preparation
Verbal Reasoning Bonus Tips:
- Get used to the question formats that we discussed earlier. Practice and make sure are thorough with them.
- Read plenty of texts, especially complex ones. This will help you develop your comprehension skills. Do not focus too much on word lists. Instead, read as much as you can. This will help you improve your vocabulary and also your language skills.
- Do not be ashamed to get help. Use resources or talk to other successful GRE candidates that you might know of. There are also many preparatory courses that are available that can help you out. Do not feel embarrassed to enroll in one.
- Keep practicing with sample tests.
- Learn to keep time and practice trying to solve questions within the given time.
Tips to Ace the Analytical Writing Section:
- Read Sample Essays: The next best thing to writing essays is reading them. ETS has a great online resource of sample essays for both issue and argument tasks to help you understand what graders are looking for in your essays.
- Create Outlines:It is never a good idea to jump straight into writing the essay. During the preparation phase, prepare an action strategy for yourself to tackle the section effectively. It is a good idea to include the tasks of brainstorming and outlining before getting started with the actual writing. Spend the first three to four minutes thinking of different ideas. Write them down quickly, and then spend one minute on creating an outline for your essay. This outline will help you manage the coherent flow of paragraphs. Start writing only after this.
- Review Practice Essays:You’ll be able to recognize your error patterns, common mistakes, and other problem areas in your writing.
- Improve Vocabulary and Grammar:Graders look for sophisticated, GRE-level grammar and vocabulary. If you don’t have much preparation time, focus on grammar alone. Brush up on topics such as subject-verb agreements, active and passive voice, conjunctions, tenses, and the proper use of commas, semi-colons, etc.
- Learn how to Manage Time:Managing time is very important to ensure your final submission is error-free and of high quality. Budget the 30 minutes to have sufficient time for five activities:
- Reading the issue/argument as well as the instructions accompanying them.
- Brainstorming ideas
- Creating an outline
- Writing the essay
Tip for Quantitative Comparison – Compare, Don’t Calculate:
When preparing for the test, practice answering different types of questions and get to know what kinds of choices are usually given. Become familiar with the format of questions and options so that you do not waste time doing it on the day of the test.
Do not make these General Mistakes:
Most students commit a few general mistakes while preparing for the GRE.
- The GRE is an important test and is not something that you can get ready for at the last minute. Doing so will simply confuse you with the deluge of information, making you forget what you have already studied.
- There are a number of free online resources that offer guidance and practice tools for the exam. If you do not use them, you may find it difficult to finish the test on time.
- Each section of the test is distinctly different and requires preparation. If you do not practice equally as much for all the sections, your final score will suffer, even if you have performed exceptionally well in one section.
- Look for multiple guide books, sample questions, and tests online when getting ready for the GRE. Sticking to just one kind of study material will make your preparation less diverse.
Start early, keep looking for new sources online, study well, and time yourself frequently when completing questions.