Introduction to GRE Test Preparation
- 1 Introduction to GRE Test Preparation
- 2 How do I sign up to take the GRE?
- 3 What is on the GRE?
- 4 What resources are available for GRE test preparation?
- 5 Are there any practical tips that will help me with my GRE preparation?
“If you liked the SAT, you’ll love the GRE.” Well, maybe not – but if you want to go to graduate school in the sciences or liberal arts, you will probably need to take GRE General Test. The GRE does have many similarities of form and content to the SAT, but tries to measure some of the skills that you have developed in college and will use in graduate school.
Although these skills are ones you’ve been developing for years, preparing specifically for the GRE by studying and completing practice tests can definitely help you improve your score.
How do I sign up to take the GRE?
The GRE General Test is administered by computer at a testing center. There is also a paper format of the GRE, available only in parts of the world where computer-based testing can’t be done. To find a testing center near you and register online for the GRE, go to www.ets.org. The test costs $115.
Currently, graduate school hopefuls can take the GRE on almost any day of the year; but beginning in October of 2006, the Educational Testing Service will administer the GRE on a more limited basis. From then on, there will be about 30 test days a year. This means that you will need to register earlier, to make sure you get the test date you need for your graduate school applications.
Also be sure to figure out whether you need to register for a GRE Subject Test. The ETS administers the GRE Subject Tests only twice a year, usually in December and April. Find out whether your graduate program requires one of the Subject Tests as soon as possible, so that you can register for a test date that is timely for your applications. There are eight Subject Tests: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Computer science, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology.
What is on the GRE?
There are three main sections on the GRE General Test: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. If you take the test before October 2006, these sections will add up to around three hours. After October 2006, the test will take about four hours.
The analytical writing section is first on the exam. You will type two short essays into the computer, and college professors working for ETS will grade them on a scale of 0-6 (in 0.5-point increments). There are two kinds of questions, and you will answer one of each: Issue Topics and Argument Topics.
For the Issue Topic, you will present your opinion on one of the statements or questions provided (for the Issue Topic you will have two options). For the Argument Topic, you will read a statement of someone’s opinion and analyze the reasoning of that person’s argument.
You will evaluate the writer’s thinking and opinion rather than offering your own. You will have 30 minutes for each question (45 minutes on the Issue Topic until October 2006). You will need to organize your response, write well, and make your essays interesting for the readers, who may read hundreds of responses to these same two prompts.
The verbal reasoning section consists of one 30-minute section until October 2006, and two 40-minute sections afterwards. One of the main requirements for doing well on this section is the ability to read an unfamiliar text and understand it well. This area of the test also has questions on vocabulary and grammar.
The quantitative reasoning section — also known as “math” — now consists of one 45-minute section, and will be in two 40-minute sections after October 2006. In the past, the format and contents of this section have been very similar to that of the math section of the SAT.
Scores for verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning have been on a 200-800 point scale for decades, but will soon change, most likely to a 110-150 point scale, in one-point increments.
What resources are available for GRE test preparation?
Test experts recommend that you prepare for the GRE over a period of at least three months. You have a complete spectrum of options for GRE preparation available to you, and you will be able to choose how to prepare based on how much time you have, your learning style, and financial considerations.
ETS will mail you a CD-ROM with practice tests and other study aids when you register for the GRE. The CD-ROM is free, and is a great place to start. Take one practice test under realistic, test-like conditions, as a pretest. Then you can evaluate how much test preparation you want to do. Free practice tests are also available online from the ETS website, and from www.princetonreview.com and www.kaptest.com.
Kaplan and Princeton Review are the trusted leaders in GRE preparation, although other companies such as Barron’s and Peterson’s also have produced good review books. Princeton Review and Kaplan both offer a wide range of products and services: review books, individual tutoring, and prep courses. The review books are the cheapest option for GRE preparation, in the $20-30 range.
These books also come with CD-ROMs. It will be important for you to take several practice tests under test-like conditions, if only to get used to the experience of sitting at a computer answering test questions for three to four hours. However, working through the various types of questions on paper, as you go through a review book, will also be very helpful.
If you decide to take a prep class, you can be confident that you will improve your score — both Princeton Review and Kaplan offer money-back guarantees. Currently, Princeton Review charges $1049 for an eight-week course, and Kaplan charges $1099.
For individual GRE preparation tutoring, whether through Kaplan, Princeton Review, or an independent tutor, expect to pay $40-50 an hour. This can be a great option if you learn best in a one-on-one setting, or if you are basically an independently motivated learner who just needs to clarify a few points on the content of the GRE or on test strategy.
Are there any practical tips that will help me with my GRE preparation?
Keep these things in mind as you’re preparing for the GRE:
• Even if you are in a prep class, your own self-discipline will be the determining factor in how much you are able to prepare before the test. Try to make a schedule and stick to it. Pacing yourself will help you learn and retain the most information that will help you on the test.
• The ETS is changing the GRE to try to make the skills it measures correspond more closely to the skills you will need in graduate school. Try to prepare for the test in ways that also line up with the reasons you want to go to graduate school in the first place — test preparation can be hard and boring work, and you need to keep your perspective. For example, if you need to practice reading comprehension, read something that might be relevant to your future graduate studies. Princeton Review provides a free six-month subscription to Time Magazine as part of their GRE prep class; if you’re not taking a prep class, consider arranging something similar.
• Make sure you fully understand the directions for the different sections — then you won’t have to spend as much time reading through them on the day of the test. However, plan to read the directions for individual questions carefully, so that you can make sure you are answering the question that the test is actually asking, and not one you remember from a practice test.
• To minimize stress on test day, take care of all the logistical details ahead of time. Make sure you know exactly how to get to the testing center, and how much time it takes with traffic. It is also a good idea to speak with someone at the testing center, even if you registered online, to make sure you will be bringing everything you need. You will not be allowed to take the test without identification, so plan to bring your license and possibly a second form of ID.
• Figure out ahead of time about how much time you will have per question in each section. Then you can stay on track with the clock, and avoid having to rush at the end.
• There is no penalty on the GRE for guessing. Do not leave any questions blank.
• Remember, you are not your GRE score! The GRE has a purpose, but it is not to tell you whether or not you are worth anything, or even whether or not you are smart. If you work hard, but keep yourself from taking GRE preparation too seriously, you should come out of the whole process relatively unscathed. Good luck!