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GRE Preparation Tips

Graduate Record Examination or GRE is a test that remains an admission requirement into Masters Programme in the United States (US) and many other countries. The Educational Testing Services conducts General GRE Test.

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It is very important for a candidate who wishes to appear for General GRE Test that he / she must first acquaint with process involved in appearing for General GRE test. The whole process begins from Registration and en route towards availability of special testing arrangements. A prospective candidate must be prepared for the three aspects of the General GRE Test – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical writing.

Preparation Tips for computer based General GRE Test

As mentioned earlier, General GRE Test is assessed on the basis of three sections in particular, which are:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing

The present section provides some preparation tips and tricks that a candidate may apply while appearing for General GRE Test.

Strategy to follow for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning

There are different formats to answer questions in General GRE Test. Candidate will be asked to select a single answer choice, he / she can also be asked to choose multiple choices for a question or sometimes a question can be asked to answer in numeric terms. In compute based General GRE Test, an on-scree calculator is made available to the candidate while attempting Quantitative Reasoning Section.

Since the testing software has “mark and review” option, a candidate can conveniently skip the question that he / she faces difficulty with. The software bookmarks the questions that a candidate might want to revisit or review before submission of final answers. A complete list of all the questions of a particular section is provided with the status quo of answers provided in the review screen. Here is a sample review screen:

GRE Preparation

Spending too much time on the review screen is not suggested as it is only a helping feature to keep tab on the progress of a candidate. The marking in Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning is based on the correct answer only. No mark is subtracted on answering incorrectly. It is advised for a candidate appearing for General GRE test to answer every question as it will up the probability of getting good score.

If a candidate finds any question extremely difficult, he / she should not waste time on it. Candidate must first attempt questions that he / she can solve certainly thus saving time in the end for pondering over some questions which require greater thought process.

Strategy to follow to attempt Analytical Writing section

Since there is specified time period for each section i.e. 30 minutes, it is important to calmly think over the situation provided in the Analytical Writing section and act accordingly. If a candidate plans his / her moves strategically, then he / she might complete the given task in the specified time period very efficiently. It is important to give a good thought to the situation, plan an answer accordingly and finally delivering a good essay on it.

It is very important to restrain from mistakes as much as possible. Occasional typographical, spellings or grammatical errors would not affect the marking but persistent mistakes or errors can definitely prove to be a factor for scoring low marks. Candidate must form a draft first and then submit the final answer after reviewing thoughts put into the answer and errors should be rectified.

Candidate will be provided with scratch paper before the commencement of the General GRE Test. Candidate can have the scratch paper from the test administrator whenever required while the test goes on.

There will be a ten minute break following the third section and a minute’s break will be given between the other test sections. Section time will not stop in any given case if a candidate takes a break other than scheduled breaks.

Preparation tips for paper based General GRE Test (Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning)

 The questions, as said earlier, are of various kinds. They can be answered in a single choice or the answer can be selected as more than one, also answer could be asked in numeric form. Candidate is required to answer the question accordingly. An ETS calculator is provided in order to attempt Quantitative Reasoning section.

Candidates can skip and come back later to the question that he / she is facing any difficulty with. This can be done within the stipulated time period for any particular section from Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning. Candidate must answer the questions as many number of answers have been asked, if he / she does not respond to the question as required or does not answer the question at all then no score will be granted for the same.

Candidate should apply a strategy while answering the questions. In a particular section out of both Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative reasoning, candidate must attempt the question that he / she finds easy. Pondering over difficult questions will waste the candidate’s time. It is necessary to come back in the remaining time and give a thought to the questions that require extra efforts.

The test center supervisor designates a particular section for specific period of time to the candidate. Candidate must manage his / her time accordingly as it is not possible to go back to the given section after attempting other section. Supervisor at the test center will announce, “Please stop work” for that section and those who continue even after the announcement can be dismissed from the test. Candidate must carefully and calmly fill in the answers in the test book provided.

Strategy to attempt Analytical Writing section

Like in computer based answering method, paper based General GRE test must be attempted carefully within the time limit of 30 minutes. Candidate must imply thought process and frame the answers in the mind accordingly. While writing the answer on the paper it is important to stay focused to avoid mistakes. Although typographical, spellings or grammatical errors can be overlooked but persistent and frequent mistakes can cause some marks to the candidate. Therefore, candidate must go through the writing process very carefully.

There will be a 10-minute break following the second Analytical Writing section. Section timing will not stop if a candidate takes an unscheduled break.

Read More About GRE Exam Pattern

Section Wise Tips

  1. Verbal Reasoning

To attempt General GRE test, candidate must polish his / her verbal reasoning skills which includes analyzing and evaluating written material and synthesizing it further. It assesses candidate’s ability to analyze relationship among component parts of sentences and recognize relationship among words and concepts.

There are three types of questions in verbal reasoning section:

  • Reading Comprehension- This section includes understanding meaning of individual words and sentences, meaning of paragraphs and larger bodies of text. It also comprises of distinguishing major and minor points, summarizing passages, reaching to conclusions, reasoning from incomplete data to infer missing information and analyzing the text as a whole. There will be 10 passages to perform all the given tasks. Passages will be drawn from the physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, business, arts and humanities and everyday topics and are based on material found in books and periodicals, both academic and non-academic.
  • Text Completion- A good reader must absorb the given information and acquire the ability to comprehend, analyze and interpret the given information with good reasoning skills. Similarly, a candidate must perform these functions when a particular passage is provided to him / her and answer the questions or fill in the blanks accordingly.

The questions will be from a passage of one to five sentences out of which three or more blanks will be given to fill. Partially correct answers will not be marked. Candidate must get a sense of the passage before answering the questions and he / she must first attempt the questions that seem easy. Candidate must try to get sense of the words or phrases that seem to complete the sentence and then act accordingly while choosing the correct answer.

  • Sentence Equivalence- This part of the test analyzes the candidate’s ability to complete the given passage with the help of partial information. Sentence Equivalence questions consist of a single sentence with just one blank, and they ask you to find two choices that lead to a complete, coherent sentence while producing sentences that mean the same thing. There will be six answer choices for one blank in single sentence. Candidate will need to wisely choose two from the six given choices.
  1. Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative reasoning helps to assess candidate’s ability to perform basic mathematical functions, understand elementary mathematical concepts and solve problems using the quantitative mathematics. It is assessed on the basis of four criteria:

  • Arithmetic- Topics for arithmetic include:
  1. Properties and types of integers, such as divisibility, factorization, prime numbers, remainders and odd and even integers; arithmetic operations, exponents and roots
  2. Concepts such as estimation, percent, ratio, rate, absolute value, the number line, decimal representation and sequences of numbers.
  • Algebra- Topics for algebra include:
  1. operations with exponents
  2. Factoring and simplifying algebraic expressions
  3. Relations, functions, equations and inequalities
  4. Solving linear and quadratic equations and inequalities
  5. Solving simultaneous equations and inequalities
  6. Setting up equations to solve word problems
  7. Coordinate geometry, including graphs of functions, equations and inequalities, intercepts and slopes of lines.
  • Geometry- Topics for geometry include:
  1. Parallel and perpendicular lines
  2. Circles
  3. Triangles — including isosceles, equilateral and 30°-60°-90° triangles
  4. Quadrilaterals, other polygons, congruent and similar figures, three-dimensional figures, area, perimeter, volume, the Pythagorean Theorem and angle measurement in degrees.
  • Data Analysis- Topics under this include:
  1. Basic descriptive statistics, such as mean, median, mode, range, standard deviation, interquartile range, quartiles and percentiles
  2. Interpretation of data in tables and graphs, such as line graphs, bar graphs, circle graphs, boxplots, scatterplots and frequency distributions
  3. Elementary probability, such as probabilities of compound events and independent events; conditional probability; random variables and probability distributions, including normal distributions and counting methods, such as combinations, permutations and Venn diagrams.

3) Analytical Writing

Analytical writing includes two separately timed analytical writing sections- Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. Candidate shall exercise his / her comprehension and analytical skills in this section of the test. In the first section, candidate will have to read and analyze the passage to prepare his / her own arguments on the basis of the articulation of the facts. However, in the second section, candidate shall check the soundness of the facts put forward by the author in the passage. Here are the details to both the sections of Analytical Writing section of GRE test:

  • Analyze an Issue- In this section, candidate is required to think and analyze various topics. Candidate exercises his / her abilities to comprehend, write and present the topic and various perspectives through which it can be analyzed. Candidate should be precise in his / her presentation of arguments and must avoid presentation of vague ideas in his / her writing script. It is important to state the position of your standing point on the basis of the passage and write your agreements and disagreements accordingly. The task should be performed within the time span of 30 minutes.
  • Analyze an Argument- In this task, candidate is required to logically analyze the soundness of the arguments put forward by the author of the essay and their implications and assumptions in it. Candidate in this section is not required to either agree or disagree with the arguments. Also, presentation of candidate’s opinion is not required for this section. Candidate must look for specific quotes or arguments put in by the author. This will enhance the quality of the answer provided by the candidate.

Sample Paper for General GRE Test

Before appearing for General GRE test, candidate must try to solve some sample papers for the examination. Candidate appearing for General GRE test will get an overview of the structure, types of questions and marking criteria while solving a sample paper. It not only helps in understanding the examination pattern but also increases the confidence of the candidate while taking General GRE test. Along with this candidate can work on the time management skills for each given section.

GRE Practice Test and GRE Sample Test

GRE Sample Test papers and GRE Practice Test are made available for candidates to view general advice, sample questions with rationales, scoring guides and tips for answering the questions.

A software has been developed to practice sample question papers.  The timed tests simulate the test taking experience, including the test-taker friendly design features like moving back and forth and changing answers within a section, as well as the on-screen calculator. The sample General GRE Test will include: one full-length paper-delivered test, test-taking strategies, sample Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning questions with explanations, sample Analytical Writing topics, scored Analytical Writing responses and reader commentary and information on how the test is scored.

Recommended Books and Study Material

The makers of General GRE Test have come up with official test prep book. The book includes a copy of the POWERPREP II, Version 2.2 Software CD — includes four complete practice tests (two in the book and two on CD), hundreds of authentic test questions, explanations for many answers, test-taking strategies, sample essay responses with reader commentary, etc.

The book is also available in eBook versions- POWERPREP II, version 2.2 is Mac- and PC-compatible.

Preparation tools for Differently abled persons

Preparation material for differently abled persons is equally available. Many materials are downloadable, and others can be ordered from ETS Disability Services. Some preparation material cannot be downloaded such as Braille, recorded audio or hard copy large print, if candidate requires these or any other materials in a format not listed here, he / she should contact Disability Services Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact details are as follows:

Phone: 1-609-771-7780 or 1-866-387-8602 (toll free for test takers in the United States, U.S. Territories and Canada)

Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET (except for U.S. holidays)


Fax: 1-609-771-7165
Attn: GRE — Mail Stop 05Q

Mail: ETS Disability Services
P.O. Box 6054
Princeton, NJ 08541-6054 USA

Subject GRE

There are seven subjects in GRE test such as: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. Following are the content specifications of every subject:

  1. Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry- 36%
  • Cell Biology- 28%
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics- 36%
  1. Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology-33% to 34%
  • Organismal Biology- 33% to 34%
  • Ecology and Evolution- 33% to 34%
  1. Chemistry
  • Analytical chemistry- 15%
  • Inorganic chemistry- 25%
  • Organic chemistry- 30%
  • Physical chemistry- 30%
  1. Literature in English
  • Literary analysis- 40% to 55%
  • Identification- 15% to 20%
  • Cultural and historical context- 20% to 25%
  • History and theory of literary criticism- 10% to 15%
  1. Mathematics
  • Calculus- 50%
  • Algebra- 25%
  • Additional topics- 25%
  1. Physics
  • classical mechanics- 20%
  • electromagnetism- 18%
  • optics and wave phenomena- 9%
  • thermodynamics and statistical mechanics- 10%
  • quantum mechanics- 12%
  • atomic physics- 10%
  • special relativity- 6%
  • laboratory methods- 6%
  • specialized topics- 9%
  1. Psychology
  • Experimental sub score- 40%
  • Social sub score- 43%
  • Other areas- 17%

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