How To Study For The GRE
Similar to high school students that take the SAT for colleges, graduate students take the GRE for graduate schools. The GRE has the same goal as the SAT. Both tests want to generally test your knowledge and reasoning skills. But the GRE can be particularly tricky. Sometimes, it covers subjects that test-takers might not have learned about in years. Here we will outline first, what exactly the test is, and second, how to study for the GRE.
Structure of the GRE
The GRE writes has questions that “reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do—and the skills you need to succeed”. In other words, the GRE is more about the process of thinking and analyzing than possessing troves of concrete knowledge. To assess these processes, the test is split into three parts:
- Verbal Reasoning (score scale: 130-170) – assesses your ability to analyze, to draw conclusions, to understand multiple meanings within language, to identify/understand aspects of a given text, etc.
- Quantitative Reasoning (score scale: 130-170) – measures test-takers knowledge of, and ability to interpret, basic mathematical concepts like arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. A calculator is included for this portion.
- Analytical Writing (score scale: 0-6)– this section evaluates your ability to articulate complex ideas through evidence-supported writing, as well as your grasp on basic English grammar and syntax
The GRE is about 3 hours and 45 minutes long. The Analytical Writing section has two tasks. The first is to “Analyze an Issue” and “Analyze an Argument”—to complete, 30 minutes per task. Next is Verbal Reasoning, with 2 sections of 20 questions each. There is a ten-minute break after the two Verbal Reasoning sections. Each section must be completed in 30 minutes (if an online exam) or 35 minutes (if a paper exam). Certainly use this time to stand up, take a sip of water, and stretch your legs. The final portion is Quantitative Reasoning. This section has 20 questions on each section and 35 minutes to 40 minutes per section.
How to Study for the GRE
For any standardized test, the best study approach is one involving practice exams. Using materials that come directly from previous tests will help. Free preparation materials are available on the GRE website. You can also buy practice books if you need something more concrete. When you start studying, the first thing you should do is take an entire GRE practice exam. This will determine your baseline score. Once you’ve done this, you will have a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to how to study for the GRE.
Next you’ll want to create some sort of study plan. The recommended study time for the GRE is 4-12 weeks, so divvy up any material that needs reviewing at a pace that works for you. Be sure to save the last week or two for review—on the 12th week of studying, it can be difficult to remember the contents of week 1.
Aside from working on your knowledge of the GRE content, you’ll also want to work on your ability to test under certain conditions. If you’re taking the GRE online, toy around with the virtual calculator to be sure you know how to use it come test-taking day. If you’re taking the GRE in person, complete your practice work in pen and pencil to build endurance. Also, read up on and study GRE vocabulary—this will help you not only to score better on sections related to English, but also to better understand the wording of questions across the exam at large.
Now that we’ve covered how to study for the GRE, get going—and good luck! One of the great things about the GRE is that you can take it several times, and many schools allow you to send your highest scores from each category. With a bit of time and preparation, you’re sure to get a score you’re happy with.