GRE Study Tips That Get Results

Are you dreaming of pursuing an advanced degree at an American university? Then passing the Graduate Record Examine (GRE) is a must. As you probably know, this is the standardized test that most universities require along with the broader application process. This article offers Indian students tips for preparing for the GRE. Keep in mind that the only GRE option for students in India is to take the computer-based version. The cost to register is $195.

An Upward Trend

More and more Indian students are looking to receive a master's or PhD at an American university. Indeed, in 2013 there was a 70% increase in the number of Indians taking the GRE exam! In total, more than 90,000 Indians took the GRE that year. According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which creates and administers the test, this trend is likely to increase further into the future. Clearly a lot of Indians recognize the power of an American university degree.

Are you thinking of pursuing an MBA? Consider this: The ETS also states that in 2013 more than 1,100 business schools required the GRE in order to enter their academic program. This was a 12% increase over the previous year. The bottom line is that if you dream about entering a graduate program in the states, the GRE is likely to be the most important 3 hours and 45 minutes of your academic career!

How Important is the GRE?

In a nutshell, the GRE is extremely important! The main thing is that it allows university admission committees to evaluate the ability of their applicants based on a standardized measure no matter where in the world they come from. Once in the graduate program, the student will have to demonstrate their verbal, quantitative and analytical skills anyway, so the test is seen as a way to prove that the student has what it takes to succeed at the graduate level.

So now that you understand how important the GRE is, here is the information you need to succeed on it:

Familiarize Yourself with The Exam

Understand the structure of the exam, how much time you have to complete each section, and what the exam entails.

  • The Verbal Section: This is made up of two 30-minute sections that test your grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
  • The Quantitative Section: This is made up of two 35-minute sections that test your geometry, algebra, arithmetic, and data analysis skills.
  • The Analytical Writing Section: This is a single section with two timed essays (30 mins each) that test your writing abilities. One essay asks you to take up a position on an issue and justify it; the other asks you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an argument.

It is also worth mentioning that the computer version of the GRE uses computer adaptive testing. This means if you are answering the questions correctly, the questions become progressively more difficult, although they are worth more. Likewise, if you are struggling, the questions become easier, but naturally they are worth less.

Be Aware That the Test Format Changed in 2011

As you are prepping for the test, note that the version that you will take is different from the way it looked a few years ago. This means you should make sure to use study materials and guides based on the current version!

Here are some of the changes that were made:

  • You can now edit your answers within a section
  • You are now free to skip questions in each section and return to them before moving on to the next section.
  • You now have access to an on-screen calculator

Develop a Study Strategy

This is not a test that you can cram for at the last minute. You need to give yourself between 3 and 6 months to prepare. Some students attend test prep courses whereas others buy a few GRE prep books and study on their own. Which strategy is right for you? Before we explore this question, let's look at what the experts have to say. Princeton Review suggests studying between 1 and 4 months before test day so that you can cover all of the necessary areas. Buying a new guide can be pricey, so you should consider purchasing a used one as it is just as good. Again, make sure you are not buying a guide that dates before 2012. There is also plenty of free material online. The official GRE website also offers Power prep Software when you want some additional practice. This includes two free practice tests. We would advise you to take one at the beginning of your test prep and the second when you are getting ready to wrap things up before the real one. This will allow you to measure your progress.

As They Say, Practice Makes Perfect!

Take as many practice tests as you possible can. Make sure to take them based on the actual exam's conditions, including the time limits. By the way you take the real test, you will be so familiar with the process that it won't feel any different from the practice tests.

  • On the verbal section, if you need to strengthen your vocabulary knowledge, we suggest using flashcards, learning the roots of the more challenging words, and using pictures to make connections with the words. The good news is that are study guides that can help you learn the most common words. The bad news is that some of these guides suggest that you focus on 3,500 words!
  • On the quantitative section, brush up on your math and geometry skills, especially if it's been a while since you've taken a math class. Study graphs and charts.
  • To prepare for the writing section, write as many practice essays as possible and ask others for feedback.

Note that since you are being evaluated on your grammar and spelling, turn off the autocorrect features. These obviously will not be available when you take the actual test.

Come up with Strategies that Work Best for You

If you are struggling with some of the questions, your best bet is to start by eliminating the choices that are obviously wrong. Virtually all of the questions contain at least one borderline absurd answer option. This will increase the odds of you choosing the right answer. On the writing section, maintain focus and keep your thoughts organized. Do not give into the pressure.

Manage Your Time Well!

Keep in mind that the time allowed for each section is extremely limited. This is why you should not spend too much time on questions that have stumped you. Remember that you can always go back to them.

The first strategy is to place emphasis on the first 10 questions. Be as certain as possible that you have chosen the correct answers. Again, if you get the answers right, the subsequent questions will become more difficult but you will gain more points. While it is easy to become overwhelmed with stress, do not let it get the best of you. If you notice the questions getting harder, it means you are doing things right. If they are becoming easier, you know that you need to do better. But don't let this fact get you down. Just keep plugging away.

Improve Upon Your Weaknesses!

As you study, you should be able to determine your strengths and weaknesses if you take the time to evaluate yourself. Review your performance and place emphasis on what you need to improve. As you examine your incorrect answers on the prep tests, ask yourself why you got them wrong. Keep working on these issues until you have completely mastered them.

Keep it Interesting!

There are plenty of ways to prep for the GRE without merely taking practice exams. Play Bridge, crossword puzzles, Sudoku and anything else that keeps your mind stimulated.

Do not neglect your physical health either! Do things to keep your heart pumping. This could include a little jog every morning or some calisthenics. Research has found that you can boost your cognitive abilities by 20% by doing cardio exercises! It can also help you with fatigue, especially on test day. Keep in mind that you will be sitting at a computer for a few hours and your brain will need all the help it can get!

Getting enough rest is also important. You should sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day, including on the night before the test. Some people will try to go to bed really early and get 10 hours of sleeping, thinking that more sleep will improve their alertness. But in reality, oversleeping can actually make your head cloudier. So do not overdo it.

Wait for the Results!

Your official GRE scores will be available around two weeks after you have taken the test. You can access the results on your "My GRE" account. Your scores will also be sent to the specified universities that you have indicated.

Disappointed with the results? No worries! You are permitted to take it again every 21 days and up to 5 times within a calendar year!

Final Thoughts

While these suggestions will not guarantee a great score, if you take them to heart you can certainly improve your results. Keep in mind that each academic institution has its own general score requirements based on how difficult it is to get into that university. Typically, you want to score around 152-158 on the verbal section, 153-158 on the quantitative, and score a 4.0 on the writing. Your GRE score is valid for 5 years. Good luck and we wish you the best as you pursue your academic dreams!