How to Study for GRE: Useful Tips and Resources for Acing your GRE exam

GRE Examination prep

The Graduate Record Examination, commonly referred to as GRE, is a requirement for admission into the graduate school, excluding medical and law schools. The GRE examination is a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that is assessed alongside the student’s graduate school application. These include teacher recommendations, college GPA, as well as the student’s job history. The GRE is designed to provide learners and graduate schools with common measures for comparing learners’ preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Excelling in your GRE examination can significantly increase your chances of getting admission into graduate school, which in turn has a long-lasting impact on your career progression.

What is GRE?

The GRE, as already mentioned, is a multi-choice examination that is used to assess the student’s readiness for graduate school. A high GRE score will certainly have a direct, positive impact on your business or graduate school application.

The GRE measures the student’s command of algebra, basic arithmetic, data analysis, and geometry, as well as college-level vocabulary. Most important, this exam measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Your GRE exam will be graded in three categories:

  • Verbal reasoning
  • Analytical writing
  • Quantitative reasoning

The three scores are generated by the following sections:

  • Verbal reasoning sections
  • Analytical writing and assessment sections
  • Quantitative reasoning sections

The Verbal Reasoning as well as the Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a scale of 170 and 130. The mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151 while the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153. The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in 0.5 increments, with a mean score of 4.0.

Is GRE important for your grad school?

Applying to graduate school can be a tedious task. From coming up with a personal statement to updating your resume and putting together your transcripts and letters of recommendation, it can be a ton of work to get around. As you go through the checklist of what you need to put together when applying for a master’s program, the last thing you want to grapple with is the GRE exam. But, why is GRE exam so important?

Taking the GRE is an assurance that you will be learning with the best classmates ever

While it may seem like you are all alone in the college admission process, the GRE exam is something every hoping to join a master’s program has to take. Armed with the GRE scores of prospective college applicants, admission officers ensure that they only admit the best students for the program. And just like in the real world, once you are admitted into a master’s program, you will be working with your classmates on most of your assignments and projects. Your GRE test score will give you and the admission officer a better understanding of your ability to handle the coursework.

A good GRE score will boost your application

From your checklist, you clearly understand that you will need to submit your resume, a statement of purpose, transcripts, and letters of recommendation alongside your GRE score. If you feel like one of these requirements is not as strong as you would want it to be, your GRE score is a great way to convince the admission officer that you’ve got great skills for the program. While a strong GRE score may not automatically grant you an admission, it can definitely help make up for the other areas that you might be weak in.

GRE helps determine your readiness for the grad school

There is no doubt that graduate-level coursework can be tough. By taking the GRE test, and scoring high in it, you will be demonstrating that you can take on graduate school courses in stride.

Your GRE score remains valid for up to 5 years

As already mentioned, the decision to join grad school is a huge one. If you decide that this is not the perfect year to start your master’s program, that is ok. By taking the GRE now, you will be able to use your score anytime within 5 years of taking the test. So why not take the test now and check one item out of your to-do list?

The GRE is a requirement for grad school admission

This is perhaps the most important reason why the GRE is important. Just as you had to take the SAT or ACT to get admission into an undergraduate program, taking the GRE is a necessity when enrolling for top masters programs in the United States.

What is a good GRE score?

When considering your GRE score, it is important that you look at the requirements of the graduate program that you are applying for. This will guide you on the ideal GRE score line to aim for. By establishing the mean GRE score of admitted applicants, you will be able to able to determine what makes a good GRE score for the specific program. Both the Verbal Reasoning as well as the Quantitative sections of the GRE are scored from 130 to 170. The average score for Verbal Reasoning is 151 while the average score for the Quantitative Reasoning is 153. The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in 0.5 increments, with the average score of 4.

How to Study for GRE: Important tips

While the GRE is crucial for your graduate or business school admission, studying for it does not have to be a herculean task. All you need to ace your GRE test is smart work, persistence, and a focus on your areas of weakness. Most GRE prep programs recommending dedicating eight weeks to GRE test preparation. If you intend to “cram,” you should at least set aside 2 weeks to do this. Most GRE prep study plans recommend setting aside at least 2 hours per day, six days per week for your study. As you can imagine, you will gain the highest benefit if you set aside adequate time for your GRE test preparation.

That said, here are seven tips that can help you prepare for your GRE test.

Know the exam’s structure

The first step in preparing for the GRE exam is learning what to expect in terms of the exam’s structure and format.  The GRE exam comes with three sections, and each has a time limit within which you will be required to complete the test.

  • Verbal Reasoning: This is a two 30-minute sections that test your reading, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. Here, you will be tested in sentence equivalence, text completion, and reading comprehension.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section comprises two 35-minute sections that will test your algebra, arithmetic, data analysis, and geometry skills. Question types include value comparisons, data analysis, and solving word problems. You will be allowed to use a calculator in the exam room.
  • Analytical Writing: This section comprises two 30-minute sessions that test your ability to write clearly and effectively. The first session requires you to state and support your opinion on a specific issue while the second session requires evaluating an argument.

In most testing centers, the GRE test is taken on a computer with the verbal and quantitative sections using computer adaptive testing. Thus, for every correctly answered question, the computer will give you harder questions that come with more points. Incorrectly answered questions will prompt the computer to give you easier questions. However, it is important to note that getting them right will not boost your score as much.

Prepare for the right test

The GRE General Test was replaced by the GRE revised General Test on August 1, 2011. However, online and print guides are still available for the former. That said, it is important that you access a recently uploaded program or guide so you can prepare for the most recent version of the GRE test. Some of the notable additions in the revised GRE General Test include:

  • The option to change or edit answers within a section
  • The ability to use a “mark and review” option to tag questions
  • The ability to scan through questions before proceeding onto the next section
  • An on-screen calculator for use when answering questions in the Quantitative Reasoning section.

  Come up with your GRE study plan

Whether you opt to attend classes, pick up review books at the library, or sign up for an online GRE test prep program, you need some help studying for the GRE. As already mentioned, it is important that you set aside adequate time, usually 4-8 weeks, for studying in preparation for the exam. If you are looking for online GRE exam prep courses or tutoring, platforms like The Princeton Review, Magoosh, and Prep Expert offer a range of test prep services both online as well as through in-person classes that you can sign up with. And if you are looking for a more independent study, these test prep companies also publish comprehensive resources that simulate the computer-adaptive testing used for the actual GRE test.

Whatever study program you opt for, you need to ensure that it adequately prepares you for the actual GRE exam.

Practice, Practice, and Practice some more…

Another crucial element of preparing for your GRE exam is practicing with different kinds of questions on the exam. The biggest challenge for the verbal section is usually the vocabulary, so you should consider investing more time in studying the roots of certain words. For the quantitative section, it is important that you come up with strategies for solving arithmetic faster and familiarize yourself with different kinds of graphs and charts. For the writing section, you need to practice essays so you will feel much comfortable gathering and expressing your thoughts effectively in the shortest time possible.

The idea is to mimic the conditions of the GRE exam as much as you can when practicing. For instance, you do not have to stress yourself out by solving basic calculations in your head because the current GRE version allows you to get into the exam room with a calculator. And since you will be assessed for grammar and spelling in the writing section, it is important that you do not practice your essays in an editor with autocorrect features activated.

Work on your vocabulary

During the GRE exam, your vocabulary will be tested using direct as well as indirect methods. For instance, you will need good vocabulary in order to answer questions correctly in the verbal reasoning section of the exam. Also, you will need to understand the meaning of words as you read through the passages as well as in the other sections of the test.

Most GRE study guides come with 3,500 words or more that you are encouraged to learn before sitting for the actual exam. While this may seem overwhelming, there are a couple of ways to boost your vocabulary. You can start off by picking just five to seven words per day and concentrate on learning and associating the words with pictures or contexts that will make them easier to remember. And if you come across a word that contains a suffix or prefix, you can use it to deconstruct the meaning – a helpful tip should you get stuck during the actual exam.

Identify your weak points and focus on them

As your GRE exam date approaches and your preparation gets clogged with practice tests and study resources, take time to cool off. Review how you performed in the latest practice tests and identify your lowest scores by section. For instance, if your Quantitative Reasoning scores are much lower than the other sections’ scores, it makes more sense to focus on this area.

Pay attention to the specific questions you got wrong. Review them and find the correct answer. You will soon figure out what is tripping you up, like rushing to answer questions before fully understanding them.

Come up with a strategy for the GRE exam

As already discussed, you will want to move through the questions as fast and confident as possible to score the highest possible grade within the allotted time. This calls for strategies in handling questions that you are not sure about.

For the writing section, you want to have a set routine for gathering your thoughts so you do not become disoriented during the exam. For the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal sections where questions have multiple choice answers, you will want to strategize on how to eliminate answers as fast as you can so you can make confident guesses.

For Quantitative Reasoning, you might want to plug in the provided answers rather than trying to come up with your own answers. For the verbal questions that have less concrete answers, you might want to consider the opposite strategy of coming up with an answer in your head and then selecting the best matching option. This way, you can make use of keyword characterizations like parts of speech and verb tenses to zero in on your answer.

All in all, the best way to handle every section and question will be largely based on what you feel most comfortable with, which is why preparing for the GRE exam is important.

Conclusion

Make no mistake, the GRE exam can be intimidating. You know you need to study and prepare to get a good GRE score. But, what exactly does this mean? How long should you spend preparing for the GRE exam? Knowing the amount of time you need to prepare for your GRE exam as well as having the right strategies will help you maximize your score and avoid wasting time. Check out these GRE prep resources today and set yourself for success in your GRE exam.

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