Heading off to Grad School? Tips to Prepare for the GRE

The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE as it is more commonly known, is a test you must take when applying to grad school; it is kind of like the SAT, but with some important differences. For example, how well you do on the first set of questions for the verbal and quantitative reasoning portions of the test will determine the difficulty of the remaining questions—the better you do, the harder they will get. Like any other entrance examination, you cannot just wing it the day of; you must thoroughly prepare, no matter how well you did in college or how high your SAT scores were.

Review Basic Math Skills

Much of the basic math you learned in high school takes center stage in the GRE; even if you have memories of breezing through basic algebra and geometry during sophomore year, you are now many years removed; it is likely you do not remember much and it is important to review these basic concepts.

Preparing for the Verbal Section

In order to do well on the math section of the GRE, a basic understanding of high school math concepts will typically suffice; but, when it comes to the verbal section of the test, you will need to step up your game. This part of the test contains three components: reading comprehension, text completion and sentence equivalence. When studying your prep materials, there are some recommended strategies to help you tackle these questions as best you can. For reading comprehension, remember that everything you need to answer the question is right in front of you; do not consider any outside information when formulating an answer. Read the passage for the first time without any consideration for the questions you need to answer. For the text completion and sentence equivalence, do not automatically focus on words that mean the same as the words in the original statements—the correct choice may not mean the exact same thing, but produces an equivalent sentence.

Consider a Prep Course

The GRE is not really designed to test what you learned in school; it is a test of your critical thinking skills. The test is specifically designed to be different from what you studied in college. So, being a superstar crammer or getting exceptionally good grades does not necessarily translate to strong critical thinking skills. A prep course can be a good investment; it is pricey of course, but if it will help you maximize your score. These classes use proven methods that unlock your ability to think critically and help you become more familiar with the format of the test.

Take Practice Tests

The format of the GRE is very different from other tests you have taken, and if you are not taking a prep course where practice tests are part of the game, you should definitely be making this part of your self-study regimen. No matter how great your vocabulary or how polished your essay writing, going into the test with no idea of how it is laid out can be ‘’suicide’’ as one GRE content director from the Princeton Review put it.

The GRE is something that everyone applying to graduate school must take at some point in the admissions process, whether you plan to get your  masters in hr or French literature. The unconventional format coupled with the emphasis on critical thinking makes it a challenging test to take, even for the most ‘’book smart’’ amongst us. You should allow yourself at least three months to prepare. If you are still pursuing your undergraduate studies, start reading as much as you can, and consider taking some higher level English courses to polish your writing skills.


About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who covers all things education and enjoys informing others how to easily navigate going back to school.


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