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The Definitive Practice Test Guide for the GRE
- About the GRE Test
- Sections of the GRE
- What to Expect on Test Day
- Best Ways to Study for the GRE
- GRE Tips and Tricks
- GRE FAQ:
About the GRE Test
The Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE test, is a vital step in applying for graduate or business school. The exam was developed and is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). Questions on the GRE test closely approximate the type of thinking that you will be required to do in graduate or business school. It assesses your ability to succeed in such programs of study.
There are three main sections of the test, each of which has different question types.
Verbal Reasoning: multiple-choice, multiple-choice with more than one answer, and select-in-passage questions, where you must highlight the portion of the passage that pertains to the question being asked.
Quantitative Reasoning: multiple-choice, multiple-choice with more than one answer, and numeric entry.
Analytical Writing: Long-form essay composed of two parts, each timed at 30 minutes— Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument.
The overall time to take the exam is approximately three hours and 45 minutes, including time for breaks. The Verbal Reasoning section has two 30-minute sections with 20 questions in each, the Quantitative Reasoning section has two 35-minute sections with 20 questions in each, and the Analytical Writing section has two 30-minute parts. Doing well on the GRE test often involves understanding what to expect within each section of the test.
Sections of the GRE
There are two tasks in this section of the GRE, Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument.
You will be given 30 minutes (paper and computer versions) for each part of the Analytical Writing section of the GRE.
Neither the paper nor computer version of the GRE provides access to any sort of spelling or grammar correction program. The computer version does have cut and paste, insert, delete, and undo functions.
This section of the test is graded twice, first by a human evaluator and then by a computer program. If the scores are the same, that score will be recorded. If the scores differ, the writing will be graded by another human. Then, the two human scores will be averaged and that score will be final. Scores for this section range between 0 and 6.
The Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE deal with your understanding of basic math concepts. You should be able to use reasoning within the mathematical methods used. Topics covered include concepts from Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis. There are no questions from the areas of Calculus, Trigonometry, or other more advanced math courses.
Each of the two Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE is timed for 30 minutes (35 minutes each for the paper version).
This portion of the GRE is divided into two sections of 30 minutes each (35 minutes each for the paper version of the test).
The Verbal Reasoning sections of the GRE not only involve reading comprehension, but also measure how well you can make judgments, based on the material you have read. There are three types of questions in these sections: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence.
What to Expect on Test Day
The GRE is a long and difficult exam that requires very complex thought patterns. Achieving a good score is essential in fulfilling dreams of graduate or business school. Because of its difficult nature, taking the GRE test can be very stressful. Much of the anxiety test-takers often experience can be managed by having a good idea of what to expect on the day of your exam, and by doing plenty of studying.
The GRE test is rather long, so you should expect to be at the testing center for at least four hours. Given this, it’s crucial that you get a good night’s sleep and a nutritious meal before arriving to take the exam. You should also dress in layers to ensure that you can be comfortable in the testing room, no matter what temperature it is. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled testing time. This will provide you with ample time to familiarize yourself with the testing center, register, and get comfortable.
What to Bring
You are required to bring at least one form of valid, government-issued identification, that exactly matches the first and last name used for registration. ETS recommends that you bring a secondary form of acceptable identification as well. If you do not arrive with a valid ID on time, you may be required to forfeit your registration fees without taking the exam. Some testing centers also collect biometric data during registration, such as voice and photo identification, finger or thumb prints, video recordings, or signatures.
While most people take a computerized version of the exam, a paper version is sometimes used. If you are taking the paper version, bring three or four sharpened #2 pencils and your admission ticket with you on the day of the exam.
What Not to Bring
You should not bring any personal items, testing aids, scratch paper, reference materials, or food and beverages with you on the day of the exam. These items are prohibited and will not be allowed with you in the testing room. You should also plan to attend alone as no friends or relatives may be with you in the testing room. If someone does accompany you, they will be required to wait outside. Electronic devices, such as cell phones, smartwatches, and calculators, are also prohibited. If the examinee needs a calculator while taking the test, one will be provided by the testing site.
Best Ways to Study for the GRE
Take GRE Practice Tests
GRE practice tests are one of the best ways to ensure that you are prepared for all the types of questions you will encounter on the exam—and that there are no surprises! GRE practice tests help you to understand the type of complex thinking that is necessary to succeed on test day. In addition to providing an understanding of the question types, GRE practice tests can help test-takers to identify their strengths and weaknesses in each exam section, which can help you to create a more effective study plan.
Use Alternative Study Methods
Many people who take the GRE test find that they can retain information better when they use alternative testing materials, such as flashcards for the GRE and study guides for the GRE. These materials often complement and supplement GRE practice tests for a more holistic studying experience.
Simulate the Testing Experience
While using a variety of studying tools is crucial to performing well, it’s also helpful to simulate the entire testing experience. This action is especially important since the GRE is a long test. When you take the entire test back-to-back (as you will on your test day), you get a better idea of how well you perform under time constraints and under pressure. This information can help you to know how to best use your time on the day of your actual test.
GRE Tips and Tricks
Eliminate Wrong Answers First
Unlike many other tests, the answer to questions on the GRE is often not obvious—after all, the test is designed to measure capacity for complex reasoning and thought processes. In many instances, your best bet is not to look for the correct answer first, but to quickly eliminate the ones you know are wrong. This method narrows down the options and can make it easier to ultimately select the correct answer.
Start With the Easiest
Some questions require you to fill in multiple blanks. In these instances, don’t look to solve them in order; try looking for the easiest one first, identify that correct answer, then move on to the next easiest. As you go through this process, you can begin eliminating some of the answers and narrow down the field of potential solutions until there is only one left.
Pay Attention to the Structure of Passages
In the Verbal Reasoning portion of the exam, you will be required to read passages and respond to them. It’s important not to get too caught up in the content of the passages itself. In nearly all instances, the questions are geared more toward identifying elements of the argument and relationships between the different concepts, rather than the content itself.
1. How much does it cost to take the GRE?
The current fee for taking the GRE in the United States is $220, although there may be substantial additional charges if you register late or have to reschedule.
2. If I’m not happy with my score, can I retake the exam?
Yes, you can retake the test up to five times within any 365-day period. However, you must wait at least 21 days before retaking it.
3. How long will it take to receive my scores?
GRE test scores will be available online through your ETS account within 10-15 days after your testing date.
4. How do I send my scores to my designated schools?
You may send your scores to as many as four institutions, as it is included in your testing fee. You will designate your score recipients at the testing center on the day of your exam. You can send them to more than four institutions for an additional fee.