The GRE exam is an abbreviation for Graduate Record Examination that is conducted by the Educational Testing Agency, or ETS, based in New Jersey. This is the same agency that is responsible for conducting the GMAT and the TOEFL exams. The GRE is a standardized test that is accepted by almost all universities in the United States and Canada. There are several universities in Europe and Australia as well which demand a GRE score for their graduate-level requirements. Over 600,000 students take the GRE every year. The scores are valid for 5 years, post which, if required, you will have to take the test again. The GRE is conducted across 1000 test centers in 160 countries. Students must register themselves for taking the exam once on the ETS website with a fee of $205.
The GRE exam is conducted for a total duration of 3 hours and 30 minutes – including breaks. There are three main sections in the test – Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The main test, however, includes 6 sections in total since the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are repetitive. It is a computer-adaptive test where the difficulty level of each section depends upon the number of correct answers in the previous section of the same type. The more difficult questions you answer correctly, the better chances you have of a higher score.
If you are planning to take the GRE test as a part of your application process, read on to find out more details. You will also find a few interesting tips and tricks for your preparation strategy in the end. It must be noted that we will be referring to the computer-based test here. The paper-delivered GRE is conducted twice a year in parts of the world that do not have access to a computer test. The content of the test and the type of questions remain unchanged. There is a slight change in the pattern of the test and the duration of the different sections.
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TEST PATTERN AND SCORING
As we have already mentioned above, the GRE is a computer adaptive test with 6 total sections that need to be answered in 3 hours and 30 minutes, approximately. The detailed break-up is given below.
- The first section is the Analytical Writing Section which must be completed in 1 hour. Test takers are required to write two essays in 30 minutes each. You cannot fluctuate the time between the two. The first essay will be an ‘Analyze and Issue’ task while the second one will be an ‘Analyze an Argument’ task. Make sure that you allow yourself adequate time to check for obvious errors and grammatical mistakes.
- The next section will be a Verbal Reasoning section. Here, students must answer 20 questions in 30 minutes. All questions will have multiple answer choices and it is highly likely that most questions will have more than one correct option. You must choose all the answer options for each such question to be awarded full marks. This section consists of three types of questions – Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence, and Reading Comprehension.
- The third section is a Quantitative Reasoning Section. Here, students must answer 20 questions in 35 minutes. We will come to the syllabus for this section later. Certain questions here will be fill-in-the-blank type where students will have to calculate the answer and write it in a box. There will be an on-screen calculator available at all times for all calculations.
- The fourth and fifth sections of the test are verbal and quantitative reasoning sections alternatively.
- The sixth section can either be a verbal reasoning section or a quantitative reasoning section. You will find it out in the test.
- There will be a 1-minute break after every section that you can choose to take. There is a longer 10-minute break after the third section. You may or may not choose to take it.
Scoring for GRE can be a little difficult to understand. We have written about the process in detail here.
- The Analytical Writing Section of the exam tests accesses a test taker’s critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It aims at scoring you for your abilities to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focussed and coherent discussion. Scores in this section are reported on a 0-6 scale with 0.5 point increments.
- The Verbal Reasoning Sections in GRE is aimed at measuring a candidate’s ability to analyze and evaluate written material and integrate information obtained from it, to analyze relationships among different parts of a sentence, among different words and concepts. This section is marked on a 140-170 scale with 1 point increments.
- The Quantitative Reasoning Sections of the test are scored similarly as the verbal sections – on a scale of 130-170 with 1 point increments. It is aimed at accessing a student’s basic mathematical skills, knowledge, and understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, ability to reason quantitatively, and solve problems with quantitative methods.
- There is one section in the GRE, after the Analytical Writing Section, that is unscored. However, you will not be able to predict which section that is and hence you must attempt each section equally sincerely and give your best. The purpose of this section is to try out newer and older GRE questions and compare them with each other based on scores.
- There is also a research section that may be included at the end of the test. It is also unscored and is used by ETS for research purposes. It always appears at the end.
- The Analytical Writing Section does not have any syllabus per se. Students must practice writing on several topics and time themselves while doing so.
- For the Verbal Reasoning Section of the test, students must prepare basic sentence structuring, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, tenses, parallelism, modifiers, idioms and idiomatic expressions, antonyms, synonyms, pronoun agreement, and subject-verb agreement. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list as there is not well-defined syllabus for this section.
The broad topics for the quantitative reasoning sections are given below:
– integers, factorization, prime numbers, exponents, roots, estimation, decimals, ratios, percents, etc.
– permutations, combinations, relations, functions, inequalities, quadratic equations, intercepts, slopes of lines, etc.
– parallel and perpendicular lines, circles, triangles, 3-D figures, mensuration, etc.
– types of data, representation of data, descriptive statistics, probability, etc.
Again, it must be noted that this is not an exhaustive list.
TIPS TO SCORE WELL IN GRE
Here are a few tips to help you get your desired GRE score to take you a step closer to your dream school.
- The GRE exam requires candidates to study smarter and not harder. This is why you must take a practice test right at the beginning of your preparation and then work on your weaker areas.
- According to a Magoosh survey, 68% of students received their target score in their first attempt. It is better to work smartly and have a proper strategy so that you do not have to retake. After all, the GRE is an expensive exam.
- Make sure that you analyze your mistakes well and don’t make them over and over again. Keep a separate notebook to log them during practice.
- Take the test as early as possible so that you have ample time to prepare yourself and also enough time to get your scores and retake the exam, if you have to, before your application deadline.
- On the day of the test, make sure you are well-rested and calm. Take the breaks that are offered in between to relax.
Always remember that while the GRE scores are important, they are not ultimate when it comes to your application. They are just one part of it. Your overall profile matters as a whole when it comes to the final decision. Be confident and happy throughout the whole process and you will definitely get what you truly deserve.