Before we start preparing for any exam, it is important that we understand the exam thoroughly. It is very important to know what the test is about, what the test aims to measure, what is the pattern of the test and understand various sections of the test.

Understanding GRE

The Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test conducted by ETS (Educational Testing Service) as an admission requirement for most of the Graduate schools in the United States. GRE is required to apply for Masters and Doctoral degrees in various Universities across the world. The GRE scores are accepted in most of the Universities in the US, and many top universities in UK, Singapore and Australia. The exam is conducted throughout the year and the score is valid for 5 years, but most of the colleges and Universities prefer scores within last three years.

GRE is a computer based test, paper based test is also available but only at places where computer based testing is unavailable. The level of emphasis and significance of the exam varies from school to school or is different in different universities.

What GRE intends to measure?

The exam aims to measure analytical reasoning, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and critical reasoning skills acquired by a person over a long period of learning. The test consists of specific algebra, geometry, arithmetic and vocabulary.

  • Analytical Reasoning: This section intends to measure the critical thinking and analytical writing skills of the applicant. It aims to evaluate the ability of a person to effectively articulate and support complex ideas.
  • Verbal Reasoning: This section intends to measure the ability to analyze and evaluate written material bring out the information given in it.  
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section intends to measure basic mathematical skills and data analysis like concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and the ability to reason and solve problems.

Structure of GRE

The computer based GRE test consists of six sections. The first section is always analytical reasoning and then there are two verbal sections, two quantitative reasoning sections and one section of either an experimental or research. These five sections can be in any order. It takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the test.

In the paper based test, the analytical reasoning section is split up in two sections of issue task and argument task. The next four sections comprise of two verbal reasoning sections and two quantitative reasoning sections. There is no experimental or research section.

  • Analytical Writing Section: This section has two components or tasks, which can be issue task and argument task. The applicant is asked to write an essay with no spell check feature. The essays are scores by the readers on a 6 point scale. The whole section is of one hour, with 30 minutes time for each task.
  • Issue task: The applicant will be presented with an issue statement selected from the pool of questions published by ETS. The applicant has to present a compelling case and explain his/her own position and take over that issue. One should make sure that they read the issue statement carefully. Making note of the complexity of the ideas and various points of views is important before you proceed on writing the essay. The applicant gets 30 minutes for this task.
  • Argument task: The main aim of this task is to assess the ability to understand, analyze and evaluate arguments and then convey your own take over that argument through your writing. The applicant will be presented with an argument i.e. a series of facts and considerations leading to a conclusion and will be asked to critique the argument in a written essay. The applicant can make suggestions about how to improve the logic of the argument and are expected to address the logical flaws of the argument, but not to provide personal opinions over the subject.
  • Verbal Reasoning Section: This section aims to assess reading comprehension, critical reasoning and vocabulary usage. Each verbal section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 30 minutes. There are 6 text completion questions, 4 sentence equivalence questions and 10 critical reading questions.  
  • Quantitative Reasoning Section: This section intends to measure the basic mathematical skills and reasoning ability. It assesses the ability to reason quantitatively and to solve problems with quantitative methods. The test consists of 9 problem solving questions, 8 quantitative comparisons and 3 data interpretation questions. The content of this test is high school mathematics and statistics.

Pattern of the Test

Preparing for GRE

To prepare for GRE one needs to practice a lot on time management. The more accurate answers one can give in a short time is advisable. Let’s understand the preparation throughout the sections.

    • Analytical Reasoning: More the practice of writing essays, more one will score. In this section working on vocabulary is recommended but working on logical reasoning is also important. While practicing you should analyze yourself if the errors were because of the vocabulary mistakes or logical reasoning issues. The practice of vocabulary doesn’t mean mugging up new words, it is important to learn how to use these words appropriately in context.
    • Verbal Reasoning: The aim of this section is not to assess your vocabulary of the candidate but to measure the reasoning and analytical skills and the using the vocabulary as tool to answer the questions. Practicing on the comprehension will help in the preparation, the aim is to see how well you can analyze arguments and draw conclusions from a given text.
    • Quantitative Reasoning: It is basic high school level mathematics and statistics. The more practice one does will increase the speed to solve the questions. Speed and accuracy is important for this section.

Some tips:

  • Make a schedule or a time table to start with the preparation and make sure you follow that time table.
  • Use official materials for practice especially for analytical reasoning section i.e. for issue and argument task pool questions.
  • Find a study partner with whom you can discuss the problems and also refer to for the mistakes you are making while practicing.
  • Continue practicing the practice problems and practice papers.
  • Work on your vocabulary by reading more.
  • Learning new words is good but knowing where and when to use those words is important. Learn the context of the words and not just the meanings.
  • Be consistent with your practice.
  • Be calm, composed and confident.