GRE or Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test owned and proctored by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) and is a mandatory admission requirement for many graduate Schools in the United States and in many other English speaking countries. The exam is taken by lakhs of people from different countries all over the world and India has by far the highest number of test takers next to America with the numbers ranging from 80,000 to 1,00,000 per year.
GRE has been revised in the year 2011 and has been renamed as the GRE Revised General Test. Now, the name has been changed to GRE General Test, but with no changes in the test pattern.
So, how to score well in this really popular test, which opens doors wide for you to step into the United States of America: the Land of Opportunities?
There are certain things which, if done the right way, will help you ace this most popular exam.
1. Understanding what the test measures
The Analytical Writing section gauges your ability to think critically and your skills to write analytically, particularly your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.
The Verbal Reasoning Section measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your problem-solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis
2. Understanding the test format.
The GRE General test is a computer based test that extends for 3 hours and 45 minutes and the test includes six sections with a 10 minute break after the 3rd section.
The first section is the Analytical Writing Assessment which includes two separately timed tasks: the Issue task and the Argument task, each lasting for 30 minutes. Based on their performance, the test takers receive a score that ranges from 0 to 6 points in half-point increments.
There are also two Quantitative Reasoning and two Verbal Reasoning sections with 20 questions in each section. However, the time allotted for each Quantitative Reasoning Section is 35 minutes whereas it is 30 minutes for each Verbal Reasoning section. Test takers receive scores ranging from 130 – 170 each for both Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning Sections. The total score is the sum of the Verbal Reasoning and the Quantitative Reasoning section with ranges from 260 to 340 in one point increments.
There is also an Unidentified Unscored Section which can either be a Quantitative Reasoning or a Verbal Reasoning Section, but it does not account to the final score of the GRE exam.
Also, there may be an Identified Research section which is always at the end of the test, but even this section doesn’t contribute to the final score.
The GRE General Test is a section level adaptive test, which means that the complexity of questions in the next section are based on the test taker’s performance in the current section.
There are different question types on the GRE General Test and it is important that the test takers are well informed of these question types so that they don’t have to waste time reading the instructions during the exam. For instance, the questions with options given using ovals have only one answer, whereas the questions with options given using square boxes have one or more answers.
Furthermore, the test takers need to know that they can move back and forth within the question in a section and can also change the previously marked answers.
There is also an on-screen calculator to help students perform some calculations if need arises.
3. Knowing the test taking strategies.
Test takers need to develop certain strategies which help them to work smartly through the test and they also need to know that budgeting the time is very important. Especially in the Analytical Writing Assessment tasks, it is important to allocate a few minutes in the end to proofread and check for grammatical and typographical errors if any. It is important to perform well in the first section because, if performed badly, it has an adverse effect on your performance in the next sections.
Also, pacing is very important because all the questions within a particular section carry equal weightage and more time wasted on any single question can prove to be fatal in the end.
It is important to answer all the questions because there are no negative marks awarded for incorrect answers.
Try answering the questions which you are confident of in the first run and then in the second run, try answering all the remaining questions.
4. Enrolling for a training program.
Even though many test takers prefer learning from guide books or other materials, and few of them may be successful in securing decent scores on the GRE Revised Test, it is suggested that they enroll for a coaching program which gives them enough insights into the basic concepts and the test taking strategies which help them perform at a higher level than they really could do with self-study. This is because the test takers can benefit from the experience of the trainers as well as the material that is provided by the coaching institute. However, it is important to choose a reliable and a reputable institute because there are many institutes which have mushroomed over the years.
5. Getting the basics right.
Abraham Lincoln rightly said ”Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Basics are very important. If a person has a good knowledge of the basics, it can be applied in whatever exam he/she sits for. So having a knowledge of the basic math, grammar and English vocabulary is highly rewarding. So, it is important to start working on the basics if the GRE aspirant is weak in the aforementioned areas. There are many Android and iOS apps available to learn such as English vocabulary or math concepts using your mobile phone. This is extremely helpful because you can learn on the go. Alternatively, you can always refer to a standard newspaper to improve your vocabulary and your writing skills.
6. Scheduling time for preparation.
It is very important to schedule the time for preparation. First, the aspirants should, based on the deadlines for university applications, decide a test date and calculate the time that is available for preparation. Then, the available time needs to be broken down into smaller fragments allocating the necessary time to improve the basics, focus on the weak areas, and take practice tests. Finally, ample time needs to be allocated for proper revision of the concepts which have been learnt previously. Remember, when the smaller targets are met on a daily basis, the bigger mission automatically gets accomplished.
7. Practicing is the key.
Practice makes a man perfect. No matter how many concepts you have learnt, if you don’t apply those concepts to solve related questions, it is just a waste of time. Smart learners always learn concepts, and apply that knowledge to solve related questions. They learn new concepts, but also retain the old ones by revising at regular intervals. If you don’t revise, you forget things in due course of time and whatever time you have spent learning those concepts is a waste. So, it is very important to practice on a regular basis along with timely revision of concepts.
8. Being choosy with the preparation material.
With the development of technology and the advent of internet, everything is available with the click of a button. Lots of GRE preparation material is available on the internet and students are tempted to stock every available material and try following every strategy suggested in the materials. It is, however, a bad practice. Even though a lot of material is available for free, only some of it provides with practice content which replicates the GRE standard. So, be wary and choose reliable material for your preparation.
9. Networking with other test takers.
You can prepare with your other peers who are also preparing for the GRE Revised Test. This can be done by either forming a physical group and dedicate time for preparation or forming a group in the social media. Preparing as a group, with equally enthusiastic people, has its own advantages. It helps you to stay motivated and focused during your preparation. Also, you can share ideas to approach questions differently and this helps your improve your abilities to think in a different dimension. However, a study group which is not focused can worsen the quality of your preparation. So please be careful and make a wise choice.
10. Maintaining a positive attitude.
No matter how much you have prepared or how many questions you have practiced so far, there are always concepts you do not know or there are always questions you might not answer correctly. It is the same for every other test taker. So, let go off those things gracefully and try performing with your full potential. After all, it’s a test. Give your best and leave the rest to the Almighty.
Remember, your strength lies not in knowing all the answers, but in being open to all the questions.