No one relishes the idea of taking the GRE® (Graduate Records Exam) – but it is still one of the best predictors for success in graduate school, and a way for application reviewers to apply a common standard when assessing prospective students. As Douglas MacArthur said, “Preparedness is the key to success,” so here are some tips that I hope will help as you prepare for the GRE®.
Confirm if/when you need it: When enquiring about a degree program, confirm whether or not the GRE® is required, because sometimes it’s not. If the test is required for the degree you are pursuing, know the test dates available to you, so that you can provide scores in time for your application to be considered.
Understand the GRE® test structure: Knowing what to expect before you take the GRE® will decrease your test-taking anxiety. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) develops, administers and scores the GRE® General and Subject Tests (along with other standardized tests like the TOEFL®) in more than 180 countries. Start by reviewing the ETS website, where you will find clear explanations about, and examples of, the types of questions asked (verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing). The ETS site explains what is and is not allowed. For example, when taking the computer-based general test, you can skip questions and revisit them later, but you can’t bring in your own calculator.
Dedicate time to preparing for the test: Several students have told me that the best preparation for the GRE® is to take lots of practice tests. There are books you can buy that include practice tests, prep classes you can take, and plenty of resources online (both free and at-a-price). The ETS website provides some free GRE revised general test prep materials, including software that allows you to download a practice test.
The GRE® Revised General Test: On August 1, 2011, the ETS launched the GRE Revised General Test. According to ETS, this new test “eatures a new test-taker-friendly design and new questions, and more closely reflects the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school.” When looking at test-prep options, make sure they are geared toward the GRE® Revised General Test. The scoring system changed as well. For example, Verbal Reasoning scores used to be reported as a score between 200-800 in 10-point increments, but now are reported as a score between 130-170 in 1 point increments.
Day of test: Know where to go, bring the correct ID, dress so that you’ll be comfortable in either a cold or warm room, and leave your cell phone outside the testing room. You’ll be testing for almost 4 hours, so be well-rested, -hydrated, -fed and ready to go! No question counts more than another, so you will want to work as quickly as you can while maintaining focus.
International students: For information about how to register for this test outside the USA, contact the U.S. Educational Advising Center in your country or visit the ETS website (from this link you can select the location where you plan to take the test).