Prepare for GRE

GRE

One of the privileges of US universities is they consider all educational qualities in holistic manner, not just prioritize CGPA or any single accomplishment. So, anyone having low CGPA has still chances to enrich his profile with a decent GRE score. So why give up??

The full meaning of GRE is Graduate Record Examination. The Education Testing System (ETS) arranges the exam and maintains it. GRE is required for admission and funding for higher study in almost every university of North America regardless the nature of degree or program. Someone has the misconception that GRE’s only required for science related programs which is totally wrong. There’s no admission test for US/Canadian universities but they GRE is regarded as the admission test. Some business or law school requires GMAT/LSAT for admission but GRE is equivalent to GMAT/LSAT. So, GRE is the test with which you’ll qualified to any school. Some universities do not require GRE but it’s seen that those who got admission and funding had a good GRE score. And GRE score is not only required for North American universities, it’s required and accepted by almost every renowned university of the world. The best part is, if you prepare well for GRE it’ll cover up almost 80% of your TOEFL/IELTS test preparation. So, hold tight and take GRE!

Types

There are two types of GRE test- general test and subjective test. The subjective GRE is not always required but is much helpful for students from specific subject. There are seven GRE Subject Tests testing knowledge in the specific areas of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. The length of each exam is 170 minutes. The GRE general test is universally accepted and widely recognized over the subjective test. So, our focus of discussion is GRE general test. Again, the GRE general test could be paper based or computer based (online). In both cases you have to take part in the test in any of the ETS approved test centers near you.

GRE Score Validation:

The GRE score is validated for five years. That means once you take the GRE, you can use this score for any purpose up to five years whereas TOEFL/IELTS score is validated only for two years.  But if you want to improve your previous score, you can retake it at any time.

Test Structure:

GRE test is devided into three major parts. Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Analysis. In the Analytical Writing part, the critical thinking and mental discretion as well as writing capability of test taker is tested. In the Verbal Reasoning part, reading comprehension, critical reasoning and vocabulary usage is tested. The quantitative sections assess basic mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills. Most of the cases we are only concerned about the ver4bal and quant score, but the analytical writing score has definite significance as it reflects your writing competence which is very much wanted for research and publication. And for the STEM background/related studies, quant score has more significance over the verbal score.

Analytical Writing

Analytical Writing has two parts, Issue Task and Argument Task. The writing section is graded on a scale of 0–6, in half-point increments with each part 0-3 scale. The essays are written on a computer using a word processing program specifically designed by ETS. The program allows only basic computer functions and does not contain a spell-checker or other advanced features. Each essay is scored by at least two readers. If the two scores are within one point, the average of the scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than a point, a third reader examines the response.

Issue Task:

The “Analyze an Issue” task assesses your ability to think critically about a topic of general interest and to clearly express your thoughts about it in writing. The test taker is given 30 minutes to write an essay about a selected topic. The topic and necessary instructions of what you have to include in your writing is described in a small passage in the test. To know more about issue task with sample please visit https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/issue.

Argument Task

The “Analyze an Argument” task assesses your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate arguments according to specific instructions and to convey your evaluation clearly in your writing. The time allotted for this essay is 30 minutes. The test taker will be given an argument (i.e. a series of facts and considerations leading to a conclusion) and will be asked to write an essay that critiques the argument. Test takers are asked to consider the argument’s logic and to make suggestions about how to improve the logic of the argument. To know more about argument task please visit https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/argument/.

Verbal Reasoning

The verbal reasoning section is based on expertise in English literature as well as critical learning. It assesses the test takers reading comprehension, critical reasoning and vocabulary usage. There are three types of questions in this section- text completion, sentence equivalence and critical reading. The text completion questions are comprised of one or more blanks preferably in a sentence. The sentence equivalence questions are also fill in the gap type with one or more correct answers (mostly synonymous). Both the text completion and sentence equivalence assess the test takers vocabulary usage. In the critical reading part, a long/short passage is given and 1-5 questions (depending on the size of the passage) from the passage are asked. It assesses the test takers reading comprehension and critical reasoning capability. It’s the most crucial part of verbal section as it carries 50% weightage (10/20) of total verbal score.

In a typical verbal reasoning section, each verbal section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 30 minutes. Each verbal section consists of about 6 text completion, 4 sentence equivalence, and 10 critical reading questions. All the questions are multiple choice type. To know more about verbal reading section, please visit- https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/.

Quantitative Analysis

The Quantitative Reasoning measure of the GRE General Test assesses your basic high school/college mathematical skills, understanding of elementary mathematical concepts and ability to reason quantitatively and to model and solve problems with quantitative methods. In a typical examination, each quantitative section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 35 minutes. Each quantitative section consists of about 8 quantitative comparisons, 9 problem solving items, and 3 data interpretation questions. The answer type consists of numeric entry items requiring the examinee to fill in a blank and multiple-choice items requiring the examinee to select multiple correct responses. An on screen calculator is available while the test which allows only some basic/elementary mathematical calculation like addition, subtraction etc. This on screen calculator copies the answer directly to the answer box. Also you’ll get pencil and rough sheet to do your hand calculations while exam. For more details please visit- https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/quantitative_reasoning/

Exam Time, Arrangement and Marks Distribution

The GRE general test starts with the Analytical Writing part and it lasts for an hour. The scale for analytical writing part is 0-6 with half point increment. After that there is a total of 5 sets of Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Analysis sections, it’s not fixed whether the verbal or quant part appears first. Among 5 sections there could be 2 or 3 verbal and 3 or 2 quant sections. Of these five sections there is one experimental section, which is not mentioned or could be identified by the test taker and only four sections (2 verbal and 2 quant) will be counted for final score. Verbal or quant, with which the test starts has three sections and other has two. The verbal and quant sections will appear alternatively.

The experimental section, which can be either verbal or quantitative, contains new questions ETS is considering for future use. Although the experimental section does not count towards the test-taker’s score, it is unidentified and appears identical to the scored sections. Because test takers have no definite way of knowing which section is experimental, it is typically advised that test takers try their best on every section. Sometimes an identified research section at the end of the test is given instead of the experimental section. There is no experimental section on the paper-based GRE.

Each verbal section lasts for 30 minutes and quant section for 35 minutes. Both verbal and quant part has 20 questions in each sections. Although each section has equal 20 marks, the weightage of each question is not the same and the weightage is hidden from test takers. Normally there’s only a break of 10 minutes after first 2/3 sections and it’s fixed, you are not allowed to go out except this break.

The scale for verbal and quant part is 130-170. And the final score scale is 260-340. So, anyone registering the GRE general test will get 260 by default and then the marks obtained from the test (2 verbal and 2 quant sections) will be added to 260. The score and time distribution is shown below in tabular form-

Parts Sections Score per Section Time per Section Total Score Total Time
Analytical Writing Issue Task 0-3 30 minutes 0-6 60 minutes
Argument Task 0-3 30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 2/3 sections 0-20 30 minutes 130-170 60/90 minutes
Quantitative Analysis 2/3 sections 0-20 35 minutes 130-170 70/105 minutes
Break After first 2/3 verbal/quant sections 10 minutes

 

Best Time to Take GRE

Although there’s no specific best season to appear in the GRE general test, students are most likely to take it between August-December. In US universities, there are three academic sessions per year- fall, spring and summer. Among them, funding (scholarship) opportunity is more available in fall session as most of the students graduate/pass in this session. That’s why students planning to catch next year fall appears in the GRE within December. This is because the deadline of application starts from December. But if you cut a good score in GRE or have a good profile, you can apply to any semester because always there’s funding with the professors and they recruit students throughout the year.

Although this is not a threshold to appear in GRE, students prefer taking it in between their last two semesters (semester gap) who wish to enroll in higher study just after finishing graduation. For others who are planning to take a job or doing some research can your time to prepare. Actually the best time to take the GRE is when you are prepared well. But how do you know whether you are prepared well or not? This is something discussed in the preparation part.

Please keep in mind that the admission and funding process is “first come, first served” basis. As soon as you submit your application with all necessary documents, the evaluation of your application will be started. So, don’t just wait for the deadline after all others getting admission and funding. And you have to accomplish many other things as well like emailing, SOP, LOR etc. beside GRE. So, plan and distribute your time accordingly so as not to touch the deadline. The professors do not want to make delay taking new students, why do you?

Registration

Those who cannot concentrate on their study for GRE test, can register first and then start taking preparation. In that case, please keep adequate time difference before the test. From experience, optimal time for GRE preparation is three months. So, keep at least three months gap between your registration and test date if you are not prepared already.

It’s important to register earlier because all test centers are not well equipped or best serving, the best ones are booked earlier and during peak season (August – December) the seats are filled very quickly. So keep track of dates and centers available otherwise you might miss the expected date. Those centers having the ‘Prometric’ title are the best.

The registration fee for computer based GRE general test is 205 USD. You can change the date and time up to four days before the test date if available with a fee of 50 USD. You can send your GRE score up to four universities for free but you have to mention the university names just after finishing your test. Some centers allow some time after the test to decide and mention the names but it’s better to preselect those universities guessing your score. Or you can send your score anytime with a fee of 27 USD per institution.

You have to pay all these fees using an international debit/credit/visa/master card. Some local bank offers virtual credit/debit card for students those who don’t possess an international card. To get all the information and register please visit- https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register

Preparation

Students from ehnglish medium background or having expertise in english language and literature are at an advance level of preparation than others for verbal part. And students who are associated with intermediate or college (in the US high school) level math by teaching or any other means are also ahead of others in quant preparation. Preparation for GRE general test is simple and straightforward. There are three basic steps for GRE preparation-

  1. Memorizing words [for verbal and writing part only]
  2. Practice
  3. Mock/model test

 

Memorizing Words

Although there’s no established word list called ‘GRE words’, but as from experience some words are found common in GRE test. These words are called ‘GRE words’ or ‘High Frequency GRE Words’. The number of total GRE words to be memorized is not constant but it’s assumed that you have to memorize at least 350 new words to appear in the test. Normally it varies from 350-1000 or more.

Those who are familiar with English newspapers/articles or documentaries are clearly ahead for word memorization. They will find much of these GRE words familiar. So basically preparation for GRE starts from very early age. Actually now a days if you are an expert in English you’ll find yourself much privileged than others in any field.

Word memorization is necessary for both analytical writing and verbal reasoning part. For writing sections, using standard and non-repetitive words along with appropriate choice of words increases the quality of your response. For verbal sections, in the text completion and sentence equivalence part you are unable to choose the best answer without knowing the meaning of the words. Also to understand the summary of the passage and answer the questions in reading comprehension part, you have to know the meaning of major words. Besides, you don’t have to further memorize words for TOEFL/IELTS if you prepare for GRE.

Let’s see how to memorize words. Here are some tips to memorize words easily-

  • Reading English story books, newspapers and articles regularly. This site https://www.aldaily.com/ is a good one to read articles. For reading online, you can use any chrome ‘dictionary’ extension. By plugging in the extension, you just double click the word whose word meaning you want to know, the extension will show the meaning instantly. You can use the extension in your own language too (if available).
  • Using android apps. For example memrise, magoosh etc. Or search play store with ‘GRE words’.
  • Using flash cards. Flash cards are small hard pieces of paper. The word is noted in one side and meaning in another side. You can carry this cards with you anywhere anytime and take a look whenever possible.
  • By using white/black board in your home or work place. Write the new words with meaning and update with unknown words regularly by erasing the older ones.
  • Through websites. Here is a list of helpful websites-
  • http://memrise.com/
  • http://www.vocabulary.com/
  • https://gre.magoosh.com/
  • http://theteamxtreme.yolasite.com/resources/Barrons-333-High-Freq-Words-With-Meanings.pdf

Practice

Actually practice is the best way to cut a good figure in GRE test. This is necessary to know your shortages and manage your times. You can practice in many ways like using textbook, website or software. For the verbal sections, the reading comprehension part is most crucial as it takes much to finish reading those passages and answer questions. For the quant sections, problems of probability and statistics are much harder. So, put extra effort on this. Also for quant sections, time management is very important. You’ll get the questions easier but you might not able to finish all those questions in time. And a lot of calculations are required. Also if do better in any verbal/quant section, the next section is going to be much harder. This is an automatically set phenomena by ETS for GRE.

For practice, the following websites are seemed to be much helpful-

  1. http://www.kaptest.com/
  2. https://www.manhattanprep.com/
  3. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/khan_academy/ [these videos are helpful for Quant sections]
  4. http://gre.kmf.com/ [This is a website in Chinese language. A lots of GRE resources are available here. Take the help of Google Translate if you do not understand]
  5. http://www.grecenter.org/wp/realgre130q/[There are some practice questions here]

Beside these websites you can practice in Kaplan software for practicing. For the Analytical Writing sections, you have to practice typing a lot because you have to type it in the final test. For the verbal and quant sections although may not representing the final score, you can check your response/feedback (score you obtained) instantly. But for the writing sections, you cannot check your performance instantly. So for these sections, read sample response from ‘Official Guide’ and other websites or check with someone has a good hand in writing. You can also practice from different books. They are mentioned separately.

Necessary Books

There are a lot of books for practice available in the market. but most of the books content are availabe online now a days. so, students are less likely to buy books. Following are some books which you can buy and practice-

  1. Word Smart [This is for word memrization]
  2. ETS Official Guide for Verbal and Quant [Must read book]
  3. Verbal Grail by Aristotle [Particularly for Verbal sections]
  4. Manhattan 5 lb [Particularly for Quant Practising]

You can download most of the books from here- http://www.grecenter.org/wp/downloadvault/

Mock/Model Test

although you practice a lot and secure good scores, still there’s chance that you might not do well in the final test. this is because when you practice for an individual section, it’s very short compared to the final test and less distracting. But the final test is almost four hours long and much distracting as one section after another continues to occur. so it’s very essential to take part in full length mock test to judge the real test scenario. Different websites and coaching centres offer full length mock tests with a fee but some wesites offer free. the best one is PowerprepII by ETS. There are two full length test sets and this is free. You can download it from- https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep2/.

the rules for using Powerprep are taking the first one at least four weeks prior to the test date and taking the second one at least one week before the test date. This is because you’ll get adequate time improve your condition by judging through Powerprep. It’s assumed that you will get the score closer to your Powerprep score. So take it very seriously.

Necessary Tips:

  • Start your preparation as soon as possible with word memorizing and literature reading. Do not waste your time anymore.
  • Use POE (Process of Elimination) method when you are not sure about the correct answer in sentence equivalence and text completion part of verbal sections. This is eliminating the wrong answers if you know their meaning and choose best one from the rest.
  • Try not to use the on screen calculator because it’s time consuming. Try to use your brain and hand in the exam. But make sure you are not making mistakes. For large calculations, obviously use the calculator. But first make sure to understand what you can do with it and what you can’t.
  • Answer the statistical questions of quant sections at last. They are much time killing.
  • Build your skill in English literature reading, not just memorizing words. 50% of verbal score is reading comprehension.
  • Do not spend much time on a single quant problem or verbal passage.
  • Do not leave any question blank. There’s no negative marking.