GRE Prep Guide
Rachael Tanner, MSW, M.Div, PhD student, Ohio University
Rachael Tanner is a second-year PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at Ohio University. Rachael received her B.A. in English from Lynchburg University in 2002, and subsequently earned a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2007, and a M.S.W. from Rutgers University in 2008. After spending several semesters teaching in the English Department at the Community College of Baltimore County, as well as gaining her LCSW-C in the State of Maryland, Rachael entered the PhD program at Ohio University in English. As a teaching assistant in the English Department, Rachael enjoys teaching first-year writing students the skills and strategies they needed to be successful academic writers.
What is the GRE?
Every year over 200,000 students take the Graduate Examination (GRE) in order to pursue higher education. There are approximately 1,000 authorized GRE centers spread out over 160 countries. If you are interested in applying to a graduate program or business school, the GRE is most likely part of your future. Most take the GRE General Test, but there are also subject GREs. The subjects include: Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. The majority of colleges accept individuals based on their GRE score, personal statement essay, transcript, and recommendation. Depending on which program you apply to, the GRE could be a major factor in being considered a suitable candidate. This guide hopes to offer you key tools and advice to successfully conquering the GRE. After all, the GRE is viewed as a test that aides universities in determining/identifying who will succeed.
Why take the GRE?
The GRE is a standardized test that is found in addition to transcripts and letters of recommendations; providing graduate school admissions with insight on potential students’ levels of fundamental knowledge. The reasoning, critical thinking and analytical skills tested by the GRE offer schools the information they need to determine if student will succeed in graduate level classes.
Please note that not ALL graduate school programs require a student to take the GRE. Research your program before deciding to pursue the Exam. Some programs do not require it but heavily suggest you take the test – in that case it would be a good idea to sit for the exam.
Signing Up for the Test
If you are currently working on an undergraduate program and want to move to your graduate career immediately after graduation, it is recommended that you sign up for the GRE during your Junior year. A majority of individuals take the GRE in October in order to comply with college application deadlines. If you are thinking of taking the GRE more than once, you should also consider this when making the decision to take the test.
When is the best time to take the GRE? The most beneficial time to take the GRE is when you feel prepared.
The GRE has a cost of $205; additional charges might apply.
The GRE is a very important test. Most experts recommend that test takers prepare at least 8-12 weeks in advance. There is a vast amount of resources that can help you prepare. The providers of the test (the Educational Testing Service (ETS)) have a lot of free and reasonably priced resources that should be taken advantage of by test takers. There are also many types of books, online sources, videos and test prep courses. You can save money when you buy older edition test prep books. Bear in mind that the GRE was revamped in 2011. Books published prior to 2011 should not be used, for the outdated material will prove irrelevant to your success. Regardless of what works best for you, the number one thing we recommend is that you truly get familiarized with the test. The phrase “practice makes perfect,” applies to the GRE. The more practice tests you take the closer you will be to reaching your ideal score. It is also important that you track your progress. If you are not getting the desired results, we strongly recommend that a one on one prep course or a tutor be considered. There is no shame in looking for the help of experts. You want to have all the tools that will prepare you to get the best possible score.
The GRE will test you in more ways than you can imagine. We recommend that when you take practice tests, that you treat them as if you were taking the real exam. It is important to prepare for the material, but it is equally as important to conquer the psychological aspect of taking the real exam. There are many bright individuals who cannot deal with the pressure that comes when you enter the testing site and it ultimately takes a toll on their score. Be prepared mentally so you can truly focus on taking the exam. Relax.
Recommended Online Test Prep Resources:
Format of test:
The test is administered via computer, and it will take approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes with breaks in between to complete. The GRE consists of three scored sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative and an Analytical Writing section.
Verbal Reasoning (60 minutes, 40 questions):
The Verbal Reasoning Section assesses the reading comprehension and analyzation skills of potential graduate students. It tests the ability to identify the meaning of words, sentences, and content. It also tests your aptitude to understand written text and content. It exams your comprehension of sentence structure and ability to recognize the relationship between concepts and words. Understanding different kinds of meanings such as figurative meaning, literal meaning, and intended meaning, as well as determining the writer’s perspective or assumption from written content is a skill that will be tested throughout the section.
This part of the test is divided into two, 20 question sections that are 30 minutes each.
Types of Questions: Single, Multiple Choice, Numerical
Scoring: 130-170, in 1 point increments
1. Although it does contain some pioneering ideas, one would hardly characterize the work as __________.
Answer: C and F
- Read plenty of texts, especially those which are complex. This improve your reading
comprehension, and vocabulary, as well as develop your language skills.
- Practice answering different types of questions and get to know what kinds of choices
are usually given. Become familiar with the format of questions and options so that
you do not waste time doing it on the day of the test.
- Read the content carefully and understand it thoroughly, so you answer all the
questions with a full understanding of what is going on. Many multiple-choice
questions have similar-sounding answers. Read the entire question as well as all the
answers to make the best decision.
The Quantitative Test (70 minutes, 40 questions):
The Quantitative Test tests your basic math skills, understanding of mathematical concepts, quantitative reasoning, and problem-solving skills using quantitative methods. It measures your Mathematical reasoning skills, including solving problems for real life situations. This part of the test is broken down into two, 20 question sections each of which are 35 minutes. Many of the questions are word problems that involve applying appropriate reasoning and formulas to arrive at an answer. Algebra, Geometry, Arithmetic, Data analysis, and concept reasoning are the skills needed to complete this section. You will need a thorough understanding of these skills when implementing theories and formulas to the questions. A calculator is usually provided during this part of the Test.
Types of Questions: Single, Multiple choice, Numeric
Scoring: 130-170, in 1 point increments
John has more than twice the number of apples that David and Gerrard have together.
The number of apples that John has
Three times the number that David and Gerrard have together.
- The quantity on the left is greater
- The quantity on the right is greater
- Both are equal
- The relationship cannot be determined without further information
The answer is D.
- Read the questions carefully. Double-check computations for errors.
- Being in a hurry and misinterpreting questions usually happens when you are anxious or running out of time. You can avoid this by taking practice tests which will help with time management and assist you to becoming more familiar with the test.
- Questions with multiple answers is very tricky. Take an extra moment to look through all the answers before choosing the right one.
The Analytical Writing Test (two essays; 30 minutes each):
The purpose of this section is to showcase your writing ability in responding appropriately to a given task The Analytical Writing Section is the essay section which is comprised of two essay writing tasks of 30 minutes each, designed to measure your critical thinking ability and analytical writing skills.
The overall goal in both essays is to create a persuasive substantial thesis statement and to defend it over the course of several paragraphs.
It will be assessed on your ability to: 1. Articulate and explain ideas fluently. 2. Effectively support strong arguments with helpful examples and reasoning skills. 3. Discuss and maintain a logical, focused, and consistent discussion. 4. Manage the various cores aspects of written English.
Type of Question: Essay
Scoring: 0-6, in .5 point increments
Sample Essay Questions:
- When writing the essay make sure it’s clear, concise, cogent and free of grammatical errors.
- Be clear in your arguments and ideas so that the reviewer will be able to fully comprehend what you are trying to convey.
- Slow down the process a bit. If you start writing in a hurry, you run the risk of missing the entire point of the argument, which will hurt your overall essay. Spend 5 minutes brainstorming and make sure you keep the thesis statement in mind throughout the essay.
The GRE also consists of an unscored section or research section. The ETS uses the Research Section for research, while the purpose of the unscored section is to test out new questions that could potentially be integrated to a future GRE General Test. The test taker will not know which section is the unscored section. The Analytical Writing Test is always first, but the remainder of the test is given in random order. When working on a section you are given the opportunity to skip questions, which you can later return to before the time is up for that section. You can also change your answer before the time is complete.
Day of Test
As the exam approaches, it’s normal to feel nervous. You have done countless hours of studying and have most likely taken many practice tests. You have the knowledge in your mind but need to make sure you perform to the best of your ability on test day. Here are some tips for Test Day.
- Get a good night’s sleep: A tired mind makes more mistakes.
- Arrive early: 30 minutes early is ideal. You don’t want to be panicking when you are stuck in traffic. You will not be in the right mindset to take the test if you are frazzled.
- Dress comfortably and in layers. You cannot control the temperature of the room at the time of the test.
Bring a photo ID and registration form. Do not bring in a phone.
- The GRE is on a computer: There will be a short tutorial to show you the technical part of answering the questions.
- Take a deep breath, relax and focus.
Grading/ Sending scores to schools
The GRE is not a pass or fail exam, so test takers want to ensure they get the best score possible. The GRE is scored on a range of 130 to 170. The average GRE score is somewhere in the low 150’s. If your goal is a top tier school, a score in the 160’s might be needed. Two reviewers score the analytical writing section. The score is a result of the average from both scores which is then rounded off to the nearest 1.5 points. If the score for both readers is vastly different, a third reader evaluates the test. It takes approximately two weeks after the test to receive the score of the analytical writing section.
Since the GRE is administered via computer, at the end of the test you are given your score for the verbal reasoning and quantitative section. Before the test taker is given his or her score, they are asked if they want to view their score. If you choose to know your score you leave the test center with the results. On the other hand, if you feel you did poorly on the GRE you have the option to not know. In other words, the test taker can choose to cancel his/her score, and the test taker nor anyone else will know.
Before the test, you are given the option to select up to four colleges that you want the ETS to send your score to for free. You can also opt out from choosing any colleges at that time. Scores and additional scores can be sent out later via the ETS website, but they will be at an additional cost regardless of whether or not it’s your first score.
Once you take the GRE your score will be valid for 5 years from the date the test was taken. Unlike other entrance exams, the GRE allows you to send only your highest score or all your scores to the colleges of your choosing. Keeping this in mind, it is encouraged to take the GRE more than once if you feel you can improve your score.
GMAT v. GRE
As previously mentioned, the GRE is for individuals who intend to pursue a graduate program or in some cases business school. The GMAT and the LSAT are other entrance exams. The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is for those who wish to go to Business school. Like the GRE, the GMAT is made up of a Verbal and Quantitative section. It is very important to see what the requirements are of the program you choose to apply. In some cases, business schools will give applicants the option of submitting a GRE score instead of a GMAT. If you have this option, we recommend you get familiarized with both tests and determine which one you feel more comfortable with.
For those interested in becoming lawyers, the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is for you.
Data science is an emerging graduate school option. In the last 5 years, there has been significant growth in the number of data science master’s degrees being offered. A majority of the graduate programs require a GRE or GMAT scores for entry. If you are interested in learning more about what a data science degree has to offered please visit www.discoverdatascience.org