The Graduate Record Examination, commonly abbreviated as GRE, is a standardized test that needs to be taken for admission to many graduate schools in the USA and other English-speaking countries The GRE General Test, designed by Educational Testing Service (ETS) to test writing, verbal and quantitative skills aims to evaluate students regardless of their undergraduate specialization.
Starting August 1, 2011, the GRE has been revamped with the intent to make it more student-friendly. Direct vocabulary questions have been removed.and an on-screen calculator is provided for the Quantitative Reasoning section. As a promotional offer, test-takers are being offered a 50% discount on the fee (roughly Rs. 8500) for the months of August and September.
The GRE consists of 3 types of question sets. The exam starts with Analytical Writing, and Quantitative and Verbal Sections (see box) follow in random order. In addition to the mentioned sections, the test will contain an Experimental Section disguised as a normal Quantitative/Verbal Section. Your performance in this section will have no bearing on your score, and is intended to help ETS create better tests. You might also receive a Research section at the end of the test, which will contain specific instructions. A 10-minute break is provided at the end of section 3, making the test almost 4 hours in duration.
How is it evaluated?
Your written pieces are evaluated by experienced GRE readers engaged by ETS. Overall performance for Analytical Writing is reported on a 0-6 scale, in half-point increments. Both the tasks will be separately marked on a 0-6 scale (in single point increments), and the scores averaged. Key parameters include depth and quality of your argument; logical flow and use of correct and effective grammatical structures. Minor typos, provided they are few in number, will not detract from your overall score.
The Quantitative and Verbal scores for the revised General Test will each be reported on a 130-170 scale in single point increments. This means that even if you get all questions wrong, your score stands at 260, with the maximum possible being 340. After all questions have been answered, Your raw score (based on the number of questions you attempt successfully) is normalized by taking into account the difficulty of questions and the day of the examination. There is no negative marking for individual questions.
The new GRE scoring scale is not ready yet, and scores will be reported starting in mid-November for students taking the test in August and September . However, a tentative score range on the old scale (200-800 for each section) is displayed at the end of the test.
While the old GRE was a Computer Adaptive Test (correctly answering a question meant getting a tougher one next up), the revised GRE is a Multi Stage Test, which means that all the questions within a particular section carry equal weight. However, the difficulty of the next Verbal/Quantitative section depends on your performance in the first.
The Mark and Review tool
The revised GRE, unlike the old version, allows you to come back to a question, provided you have time remaining for that section. The ‘Mark’ button at the top of the interface can be used to highlight a particularly difficult question you want to attempt/revise later. The Review screen, which can be accessed at any time, allows you to quickly navigate to any question (the Marked questions are so indicated). Once you move on from a section, you cannot return to it.
How to Prepare
As most people find the Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE comparatively easy, preparation for the exam is generally associated with learning by heart the 3,500 words listed out by the famous Barron’s. However, the new pattern ensures that mugging overtly difficult words is neither necessary nor sufficient. The difficulty level of direct vocabulary testing has decreased significantly, and the focus is now on your understanding of the subtleties of sentence construction. While knowing the meanings of so-called ‘high frequency’ words and other commonly used words is important, ensure that you also understand words in their proper contexts.
Reading Comprehension questions test your ability to analyze the text’s meaning and to understand the purpose of language tools employed by the author. Reading issue-centric articles in eminent publications such as Wall Street Journal, Time and Frontline regularly should help develop the skills necessary to tackle these questions. Make sure you develop the habit of reading critically: try to keep a track of the main points being made, and how examples and grammar are used to make a point. In tandem with regular practice, this should also enhance the effectiveness of your writing.
Practice is very important: take fully timed practice tests to familiarize yourself with the interface and question types. There are quite a few books which provide practice questions and general tips for the revised GRE. The test-makers, ETS, have released their own guide, as have Kaplan and Barron’s. A variety of free material can be found online as well, on websites like The Princeton Review and GREEdge.
Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t get distracted by easy questions, especially in the QR section. They might be followed by a tricky one and you might just overlook your mistake.
- Don’t worry about learning by heart the meanings of inordinately difficult words. The challenge lies in understanding a phrase/word’s usage.
- Use the 10-minute break to freshen up, maybe grab a quick snack. Attempting the first three sections in succession can be quite taxing, and you want to be refreshed and alert for the next 90-100 minutes.
- For the Analytical Writing section, focus on keeping your language clean and your logic lucid. Flowery words and convoluted sentences are not required.