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As a graduate student applying to a university abroad, the application procedure can bring a lot of stress.
For students who need to submit their GRE scores to prospective universities, the test is perhaps one of the biggest causes of stress.
This doesn’t have to be the case, if you’ve allotted enough time to prepare for the exam. Performing well on your GRE test could give you the much needed competitive edge in earning you a spot at a great university. While the hard work needs to come from you, here is some useful information to get you started.
#1 What is Full Form of GRE?
GRE stands for Graduate Record Admission.
To pursue Master’s at most of the schools in the US and many schools in Canada, you would be required to submit your GRE score. Many schools in other countries many also give some weight to your GRE score. So if you are planning to pursue MS overseas, your default choice is to take GRE.
Consult school websites or a qualified counselor, like us, to know whether you need to take GRE and what would be a good score for you.
GRE is a 3 hour and 45 minutes, multiple-choice, multi-stage test.
The GRE Board oversees GRE tests, services and research and establishes all policies for the GRE Program, which is administered by ETS.
#2 What is GRE Syllabus?
The GRE measures your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. The GRE test has three sections:
- GRE Quantitative, also called Quant)
- GRE Verbal
- GRE Analytical Writing Analysis, also called AWA
GRE test score ranges from 260–340, with 0–6 rating for the Analytical Writing section.
#2.1 GRE Quant Syllabus
GRE Quantitative section assesses you following abilities:
- Understand quantitative information
- Interpret and analyze quantitative information
- Solve problems using mathematical models
- Apply the basic mathematical concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics
GRE Quant section consists of 2 separate 35-minute sections with 20 questions, each consisting of:
- Algebra: Includes, simultaneous and quadratic equations, inequalities, word problems, exponents, co-ordinate geometry and other operations regarding intercepts and slopes; application of these to real world problems.
- Arithmetic: Includes, integers and their properties such as factorization, divisibility, odd and even, prime numbers, remainders, ratio proportion, percentage, absolute values and decimal representations.
- Geometry: Includes, properties of lines parallel and perpendicular, different types of triangles like isosceles, equilateral and other polygons, circle and its various properties, Pythagorean theorems and areas/perimeters and volumes. Pay special attention to this topic as this is notorious for being too difficult for many students.
- Data analysis: Includes topics from statistics: mean, mode, median, quartiles, range, deviation etc. Ask questions about interpreting data with the help of tables, graphs, charts and frequency distributions, and answer questions involving concepts of Probability, Permutation and Combination.
#2.2 GRE Verbal Syllabus
GRE Verbal section assesses your comprehension skills i.e. how well you can comprehend written information.
Some questions need you to go through a passage, read it, comprehend the information, and answer related questions. While others test your ability to understand different sentence structures and your contextual understanding of words and sentences through text completion questions. Following are the keys areas in which you are tested in GRE verbal section:
- Analyze and draw conclusions from discourse; reason from incomplete data; identify author’s assumptions and/or perspective; understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative, and author’s intent.
- Select important points; distinguish relevant and major points from minor points; summarize text; understand the structure of a text.
- Understand the meanings of words, sentences, and entire texts; understand relationships among words and among concepts.
The GRE Verbal test consists of 2 separate 30-minute sections with 20 questions, each consisting of:
- Reading Comprehension: You will be given a passage to read and understand. Based on the passage, there will be questions for you to answer. Pay special attention to this section during your preparation as many students make mistakes by taking this section lightly.
- Text Completion:You will be provided with 1-5 lines of text with some pieces of vital information missing that you are supposed to fill in.
- Sentence Equivalence: You will be provided a sentence with a single blank that needs to be filled with two words from the six choices given below the question. Your two choices should complete the sentence in such a manner that the meaning of the sentence remains the same or similar with the two choices.
#2.3 GRE AWA Syllabus
GRE AWA assesses your analytical skills, which you present through your writing. It tests whether you can critically analyze an argument, rationally support your point of view and coherently present your ideas.
GRE AWA section, the first section that you would answer on the test day, consists of 2 separate 30 minute essay writing tasks
- Analyze an Issue
- Analyze an Argument
Through these essays, AWA section measures your ability to:
- Articulate complex ideas effectively, coherently and clearly
- Support your ideas with relevant reasons and examples
- Sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
- Demonstrate mastery of the elements of standard written English
#3 How is the GRE exam scored?
GRE exam is an adaptive test. Each section in GRE test is having a certain difficulty level assigned to it. Based on your performance in a section i.e. how may questions you answered correctly, you will be given the next section, which could be more difficult – thus allowing you to score higher – or less difficult.
Within a section you can skip questions, change your answers and control which questions you want to answer first. If do very well on your first verbal section, for example, the second verbal section you will see will be much more difficult. This is a good thing, because if you continue answering correctly, you can achieve highest score.
You will receive separate Verbal and Quantitative scores. These score are reported on a scale of 130 to 170, with one point increments.
AWA section is listed separately, and is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, with half–point increments.
#4 What is a Good GRE Score?
To give you a sense, here is the type of universities that you can aim for, based on our experience.
- With a score of 320+, you can realistically aim for top 20 universities in the US, assuming you have a GPA of 3.5 or more.
- With a score of 310+, you can realistically aim for top 20-50 universities in the US, assuming you have a GPA of 3.2 or more.
- You can still get admission into some good public universities with a score of 295+.
For any GRE score below 295, we don’t advise applying. With such low score, through you can still manage to get admission, but your entire purpose of studying overseas – for a global career and better standard of life – may get compromised. So, why so hurry? GRE is far simpler test than you may think and with a right approach you can easily crack 300+. Prepare again and get a better score.
You chances of admission will dramatically improve in all the above cases, if you also have relevant research experience, paper publications, internships and projects in related domain.
You can also maximize your chances of admission by carefully selected your target schools. Divide your target schools into three categories:
- Dream: Schools, where your academic ability is little below the class average. For example, your GRE score is 312, against the class average of 315.
- Reach: Schools, where you academic ability is at par with the class average. For example, your GRE score is 312, against the class average of 310.
- Safe: Schools, where your academic ability is above the class average. For example, your GRE score is 312, against a class average of 302.
Please be mindful that in addition to average GRE score, there will be many more factors to decide your dream, reach and safe schools. For example, your GPA, research experience (papers published, internships and projects), extra-curricular, historical data about class profile, school and program that you are applying to among others.
#5 What are the GRE Subject Tests?
The GRE Subject Tests test your knowledge of a particular subject like chemistry or biology. Very few schools require you to submit GRE Subject test score and, that too, when you are applying for a different major.
For example, you may have your engineering in Electrical Engineering, and you want to apply for MS in Neuroscience or Neuroengineering. Then some schools may ask for your GRE Subject Test score for Biology so that you could grasp Biology related concepts that would be required to pursue your MS successfully.
ETS offers GRE Subject Tests three times a year.
#6 How to Prepare for GRE Exam?
Start with getting the right resources for your GRE preparation. Following are some of the most effective resources to get you started:
- ETS Official GRE Guide (including the CD): This is the official guide by ETS and will help you tremendously in building your approach to the exam. The four tests (2 in the CD and 2 in the book) that come along with the book are very useful and I recommend that you finish each of them at least 2 days before the exam.
- Kaplan GRE Practice Tests: These tests are worth the money as they simulate actual GRE test conditions even though you take only one section at a time. I highly suggest that you finish the 20 sections (10 verbal and 10 Quant).
- Magoosh Online GRE Prep: You can use Magoosh’s GRE prep whenever you like, following your own schedule. This flexibility is especially beneficial, if you are a working professional and don’t have much time to prepare for GRE.
#7 Strategy and Tactics for GRE Quant
- Go through the Maths Review section in the ETS Official GRE Guide. You could get easily get blindsided by some obscure topics that you may not have come across earlier or may have forgotten. So please complete this section.
- After completing Maths Review, start with the Kaplan Practice tests and finish them before moving on to the full length tests. Some questions can be extremely tricky! Pay attention to each and every single word, number or comparisons in the question. Avoid loosing marks for silly reasons.
- Be extra careful in questions where a certain fact (like, X is a positive integer), comparison (0<c<d<1) or range of the variables (0<X<2) are mentioned. Many of the students make mistake in these are the questions for not reading the questions carefully.
- You will need at least 10 minutes to verify your answers. If you complete your test and still have some extra time, you may solve few questions again, which you found tricky in your 1st attempt.
- Remember to substitute values based on the ranges or inequalities provided in the question. It’s a sure-shot way of confirming your answer.
#7.1 Strategy and tactics for GRE Verbal
- Go through the Magoosh’s flashcard apps to memorized each and every word on all the decks. Finish these decks by half a week before the exam and keep revising them in the remaining days before the exam.
- If you are having difficulty remembering certain words, write those in a small notepad and go through them more often than other words.
- If you have more than a month or so before your exam, start reading the editorial sections in decent newspaper – Hindu, Wall Street Journal or New York Times, and make sure you know each and every word’s meaning thoroughly.
- Attempt the Kaplan Practice tests and finish them before moving on to the full length tests.
- Avoid guessing word meanings – GRE is known for words which hold opposite meanings to what they actually sound like. For example, two high frequency words in the test are extant (approximate opposite of extinct) and equivocate (to mislead or lie).
- During your practice test, go through each and every answer option carefully. Carefully consider each of them, before you rule any option out. This is especially true for the Reading Comprehension questions.
- Some strategies like Method of Elimination and Trigger Words are must-have tools in your arsenal.
- You should utilize the entire time allocated for each section. If you have finished answering all the questions, check and double-check each question until the time runs out.
#7.2 Strategy and Tactics for AWA
- Take AWA test, even when you take full-length practice tests on your own. This is the first section you will encounter in the test and can easily frustrate you if you are ill prepared.
- Practice! You should at least write around 6-10 essays to get a feel of the section and improve your typing speed.
- Read the sample essays in the various books mentioned above to understand key parameters for which you would be tested: coherency in response, continuity of thought, and clear and unambiguous expression of ideas with ample support in terms of facts or examples.
- Keep 5 minutes aside at the end for proof reading. Avoid the temptation to continue writing just one more idea. You are better off writing a a short, organized and succinct essay rather than a long, haphazard and with spelling mistakes.
#7.3 Strategy and Tactics for the Test Day
- Relax. If you’ve worked hard and prepared thoroughly, be confident that you’ve done all you can do. True testing terror comes from being unprepared; conversely, proper preparation breeds confidence. Nerves are normal, but how you deal with them is up to you. Channel your adrenaline positively to give you the energy you need to maintain your focus all the way through.
- The day after GRE. Remember that, while the GRE is surely important, it is not the end of the world. Put the GRE test event into perspective. Then do the best you can, which is the most you can ask of yourself.
- Prepare for the worst. I am not suggesting you to go for the test with a negative attitude. But you need to be ready to start the test with AWA topics, which never fascinated you, followed by your less favorite multiple-choice section (since the Math and Verbal sections can appear in either order). If something like that happens, you’ll be prepared; if it doesn’t, you’ll be relieved. You win both ways!
- Keep your focus. You may find the receptionist very attractive or the guy to the right of you may appear to breeze through his Issue essay in five minutes. Don’t let these distractions bother you! Stay focused on your objective and let the others take care of themselves.
- Choose your battles. Keep moving throughout each section. If a question isn’t working for you, guess and move on.
- Stick it out. By the time you reach the last section, you may be tempted to end your agony five minutes early. Hang in there and continue answering what you’ve practiced. Winners finish strong.
- Arrive early. Getting stuck in traffic is not the best way to start your GRE test. If the testing center is in unfamiliar region, you may even wish to scout it out a day or two before just to be sure you know your way. One less thing to worry about couldn’t hurt.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Okay, so what if the test room is not so cleaned or the staff at test center is not so courteous? Let is go, if you can’t do anything about it. Don’t allow small annoyances to distract you from your mission.
- Gear up for a long haul. Don’t get too excited – the big day is finally here! Slow down; you don’t want to exhaust yourself too soon. You’ll reach the test site, endure the usual bureaucratic technicalities at the test center, and then be shown to a computer. “Go time” isn’t until you’ve completed the testing tutorial and the first AWA essay prompt appears on the screen.
#8 Why do universities require students to write the GRE test?
GRE tests help universities assess the suitability of prospective students who wish to pursue their master’s degree at the university by providing a common measure to compare candidates’ qualifications. While there are GRE subject tests, most universities require students to send in their GRE general test scores.
#9 What is the structure of the GRE general test?
The GRE general test comprises 5 sections, of which, one section is for analytical writing, two sections for verbal reasoning and two sections for quantitative reasoning.
The analytical writing section involves analyzing and writing about an issue as well as an argument.
In the computer-delivered test, there is an additional section, which contains questions pertaining to either verbal or quantitative reasoning. This section is experimental in nature and is neither timed nor scored.
#10 How long is the GRE general test?
The length of the GRE general test varies depending on whether you have opted for the paper-delivered test or the computer-delivered test.
The computer-delivered test lasts for 3 hours and 45 minutes. You will be allotted specific time slots to complete each section.
In the analytical writing section, you will be given 30 minutes to analyze and write about an issue and 30 minutes to analyze an argument and write about it.
For the 2 verbal reasoning sections, you will be given 30 minutes to complete each. For the quantitative reasoning sections, you will have 35 minutes to complete each.
The remaining time can be used to attempt the experimental section. The paper-delivered test lasts for 3 hours and 30 minutes.
As was the case with computer-delivered tests, you will be given 30 minutes each for the two parts of the analytical writing section.
However, for the verbal reasoning section and the quantitative reasoning section, you will be given an additional five minutes for each part.
Hence, you will be given 35 minutes each, to answer the two verbal reasoning questions and 40 minutes each, to answer the quantitative reasoning questions.
#11 What is the verbal reasoning section all about?
This section basically tests your comfort level in terms of understanding text and grammar. It tests your ability to analyse and evaluate information, and distinguish between concepts and words.
It also assesses your ability to analyse the relationship between different parts of sentences. Questions in this section are of three types – reading comprehension, text completion and sentence equivalence.
Reading comprehension will focus not only on your ability to understand paragraphs, but your ability to hone in on the important points, infer information from the paragraphs that can either be found in the body or those that aren’t written but implied.
When you finish reading the passage, you should have figured out the author’s position in the piece as well as his or her opinion on the topic. These passages can be drawn from a vast field of subjects that range from the humanities to the sciences to business topics.
In terms of text completion, there will be incomplete sentences and you will need to fill in the necessary words according to the context.
For sentence equivalence, you will be required to fill in the blanks with the most appropriate option from the six choices provided to you.
In addition to figuring out which word best suits the context, you will also have to select the two top options among all the choices provided.
#12 What is the quantitative reasoning section all about?
This section basically assesses your ability to understand quantitative information and apply your mathematical skills and the concepts of arithmetic, geometry, algebra and data interpretation to solve problems.
As was the case with verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning has different types of questions.
Two of these are multiple choice questions – multiple choice questions with more than one correct answer and multiple choice questions with only one correct answer.
Some multiple choice questions will test your quantitative comparison skills.
You will also have to work on computational problems, where you enter a numeric answer after solving the problem.
If you take the paper-delivered test, you will receive a handheld calculator, and if you opt for the computer-delivered test instead, you will have an on-screen calculator.
#13 What is the analytical writing section all about?
This section measures your ability to critically analyse an argument as well as in issue.
In addition to your ability to analyse the passage, this section is also designed to test your ability to represent your ideas in a logical and clear manner.
If you choose to take the computer-delivered test, you will receive no advantages over a paper-delivered test taker. This is because you will have access to only a basic word processor with no spell-check.
#14 How is the GRE general test scored?
- Verbal reasoning: 130-170 in 1-point increments
- Quantitative reasoning: 130-170 in 1-point increments
- Analytical writing: 0-6 in half-point increments
#15 Can you help me prepare for GRE?
Yes! Check-out the following articles on GRE with practice questions, word lists and tips to score higher.