If you are considering graduate school after finishing your bachelor’s degree, then you should expect to take the GRE. The GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, is similar to the SAT in that it tests your verbal, writing and quantitative analysis, demonstrating that you have the basic skills and the knowledge of a college graduate. Most university graduate programs require that you take the GRE for admission; in some cases, you may be required to take a subject test as well to prove your preparedness for entering the program.
The GRE test itself is offered all year round in testing centers nationwide. Most people take the computer-based test, although some testing centers still offer the paper-based exam. When you register for the test, you choose a date and time that works for you and visit the testing center at the designated time to complete the test in a controlled environment. Like the SATs, you can take the GRE as many times as you need to improve your score. While many students opt to take the exam in the fall of their senior year, before graduate school application deadlines, some take the test in the spring of their junior year or even over the summer in order to leave plenty of time for a re-take if necessary.
What to Expect
The GRE consists of three sections: verbal, quantitative analysis and analytical writing. In the verbal and quantitative sections, you’ll answer a series of multiple choice questions. Verbal questions include reading comprehension and vocabulary-based questions. In the quantitative section, you’ll need to perform math problems based in geometry, algebra, and basic math. For the writing section, expect to write short essays on assigned topics to demonstrate your ability to articulate and support an idea as well as your grasp of basic writing mechanics.
The test is timed; if you take a computer-based test, the test averages about 3 hours and 45 minutes. The paper-based test takes about three and a half hours. In either case, the analytical writing section comes first, and the remaining subjects are divided into sections that are randomly mixed up for each individual test taker.
What You Need to Know
For most people, the general knowledge that you gained from four years of college will help you do reasonable well on the GRE. However, if it’s been four years since you took a math class – you’re an English major, for example, and only took the minimum requirements for math – you will probably want to brush up on your formulas and calculations to be prepared for the quantitative section. If you’re taking a subject test, be sure to study the basics of your field, including important people, places and dates. You won’t encounter those specific types of questions on the GRE; you aren’t trying out for a trivia show. Take some time to study Latin roots of common words. You might not know exactly what a particular word means, but if you know the root prefix or suffix, you can generally infer the meaning and the correct answer from the available choices.
How to Study
Like most tests, the more time you have to prepare for the GRE, the better. With several weeks or months to get ready, you can break your study time into manageable chunks and focus on the areas you need to brush up on.
While test preparation courses can help you improve your score, you can still do well studying on your own. Review the preparation guide provided by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and take the free practice tests on the ETS website to get a baseline score and a plan for what do study. Visit the bookstore and pick up one of the many available test prep guides. Most include several practice tests as well as study plans and a review of basic concepts. If you’re really struggling in one area, consider working with a tutor to build your skills. The time and expense will be worthwhile when you get a great score.
While the GRE is an important part of your graduate school application package, remember that it’s only part of the story. Admissions committees also consider our undergraduate record, recommendations and supporting materials when making a decision. Just take time to prepare – and not just the night before the test – and do your best. Soon, you’ll be part of a new class of graduate students.
This guest post article was written and provided by Marissa Krause who longs to be part of women in leadership and has just finished her degree online this last fall and to begin her own online marketing company.