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GRE preparation

Updated on January 6, 2012
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It's all about how you go about studying for the GRE.

So you want to go to grad school. You get all of your applications, transcripts and recommendations in when you suddenly see that the schools you are applying to tell you that you have to take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

What, you think? You just finished studying for final exams for your undergraduate school so you could graduate and now you have to take yet ANOTHER exam? What is this exam and why do people have to take it?

The GRE is an exam that is an entrance exam that most graduate schools require an applicant to take. It tests basic verbal reasoning, analytical, and math (both qualitative and quantitative) skills that the applicant should have acquired during their undergraduate college. The test has a general GRE and a subject based GRE. Some colleges require that you take the subject based test if you are going into certain fields, but they usually will specify that in their requirements. Most schools, however, just require you to take the general GRE exam.

If you look at the test without studying for it, you will notice that it is similar to other standardized tests you may have taken before such as the PSAT, ACT and SAT exams. So how do you go about studying for this exam?

To help you prepare for this exam, you might want to go out and buy the GRE preparation books such as the ETS, Barron's or Princeton Review. Those are good guides as to how to go about studying and preparing yourself for the GRE.

Once you get the book, skim the contents pages of the book to have an idea of what the format of the exam is. Here is what the general structure of the GRE exam is comprised of:

Analytical Writing (One section with two separately timed tasks): One "Analyze an Issue" task and one "Analyze an Argument" task- 30 minutes per task

Verbal Reasoning (Two sections): Approximately 20 questions per section- 30 minutes per section

Quantitative Reasoning (Two sections): Approximately 20 questions per section- 35 minutes per section

Unscored¹: Varies with exam

Research²: Varies with exam

¹An unidentified unscored section may be included and may appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section. It is not counted as part of your score.

²An identified research section that is not scored may be included, and it is always at the end of the test.

The Analytical Writing section will always be first, while the other five sections may appear in any order.

Once you see this, you might think, wow! I really don't know where to start studying. Here is a hint: take a practice test which may be in the book or on a CD ROM that you normally get when you buy the book. When you do so, try to take the exam of 3 hours and 45 minutes in a distraction free room with nothing but a few pieces of blank scrap paper and a few pencils. If you still have some time in between each section, check your work.

Once you have completed the exam, check the answers and score the exam like it would normally be scored on an actual GRE exam. Here is a table to show how the exam is scored:

GRE® revised General Test (tests taken on or after August 1, 2011)

Verbal Reasoning: 130 – 170, in 1 point increments

Quantitative Reasoning:130 – 170, in 1 point increments

Analytical Writing: 0 – 6, in half point increments

If no questions are answered for a specific measure (e.g., Verbal Reasoning), then you will receive a No Score (NS) for that measure.

When you are in the actual exam room, you will be able to report your scores to the colleges that you are applying to for graduate school. Isn't that a great feature?

Now that you know your scores, you will know in what areas you are weak in, and where you should probably start studying. You should take the weakest areas and study them first and move on to the stronger areas after you have understood the weak areas. Study the tips and tricks in the book. They will help you to answer and answer correctly, even if you don't have much time for each question.

You should give yourself a good 6-8 weeks of solid preparation for the exam. You can go the ETS webpage and register yourself for the test. Links to where you can get more information are provided below.

I hope these tips help you prepare well! Good luck! I am sure you will do very well so that you can get into the top college that you have selected! As always, comments, thoughts and ideas are greatly appreciated and welcomed!


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    • rlaha profile image

      rlaha 3 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

      Hi Writershub. Thank you so much for stopping by! Glad I could help!

    • Writershub profile image

      Ishita Kataria 3 years ago

      Very Informative Article. Thanks for sharing. Keep Up the good work. :)