What is the GRE?

How to Prepare and What Mistakes Not to Make

student taking GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), is used by thousands of graduate and business schools to make admission and fellowship decisions. Many graduate programs require scores from the GRE General Test as part of a complete application and some also require or recommend scores from one or more GRE Subject Tests. The GRE covers three major sections – Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

What is on the GRE?

Analytical Writing Section – In the first part of this section, you must read a paragraph on a general issue and then address that topic as you deem fit. Your ability to support your views with sound reasoning and examples are key elements to completing this section well. The second essay of the GRE writing section asks you to read and then critique an argument. You have to analyze and convey your reasoning clearly through your written response.

Verbal Reasoning Section – This section contains sentence completions, analogies, antonyms, and reading comprehension questions. Its purpose is to test your ability to form conclusions from written materials, recognize relationships between concepts and words, and to determine relationships between different parts of sentences.

Quantitative Reasoning Section – This section contains high-school-level math, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. This part of the exam aims to test your skill at solving a variety of different math problems, as well as to analyze your ability to use quantitative reasoning.

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GRE Scores

GRE test takers receive three separate scores, one for each section. Math and Verbal GRE scores fall on a scale of 130-170. Analytical Writing scores range from 0-6. The GRE score remains valid for five years.

What are Subject Tests?

The GRE Subject Tests test your knowledge of a particular subject like chemistry or literature. Not every school requires a GRE Subject Test, but many of the most competitive programs do. There are six GRE Subjects: biology, chemistry, English literature, math, physics, and psychology.

GRE Preparation

  • Take a practice. A benefit of taking a practice test is that you will become familiar with the test’s format and timing. You will also be able to review the test, and reading the explanations of every question will reinforce what you did right and help you understand your mistakes.

  • Set you study schedule. Studying most days of the week will improve your score more than studying one or two weeks a day.

  • Develop your study plan. You can first use a resource such as a GRE book or class to learn some strategies or content and then follow up by practicing what you just learned with test-like questions.

  • Determine your target GRE score.

  • Review your performance after taking GRE practice exams. Determine which questions you miss, which questions slow you down, or which questions you’re good at.

  • Read more to build your GRE vocabulary.
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Mistakes to Avoid during GRE Preparation

  • Studying for only two weeks. You can make yourself miserable trying to cram it all into two weeks and risk feeling even more miserable when it doesn’t produce the result you want.

  • Studying on the weekends because by limiting your study time to the weekends, you will hold yourself back from making the most of that effort.

  • Focusing on only one section. A balanced study will yield more overall improvement on the GRE because preparation is not just about overcoming your weaknesses; it’s also about playing your strengths.

  • Not going over practice exams once you have completed them. Going over your practice exams thoroughly will allows you to start sifting your performance for patterns, weaknesses and strengths, which teach you how you really want to study before taking the next one.

  • Only reviewing the questions you got wrong. You should check you right answers and determine what strategy you used to get that answer.