GRE: Your guide to success


GRE: Your guide to success

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations, provides an essential gateway to graduate and business schools. It also helps to open up a wide variety of educational opportunities, and you may wish to take the test for the sole purpose of keeping your options open. Whatever the reason, success in this standardized test is crucial. So how to you prepare and study for this unique examination? This guide will help you understand what is involved in the GRE and how you can best prepare yourself to achieve the results you deserve.

GRE General Test vs GRE Subject Test

The GRE General Test features questions that are relevant and useful to the courses you will be taking at graduate or business school. The General Test is all you need to gain entry to your desired institution, however, if you have intentions on majoring in a specific subject area, then the GRE Subject Test will help set you apart from your competitors. If you have an undergraduate major or extensive background knowledge in any of the following areas, the GRE Subject Test may be useful for you;

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

This guide will look at the GRE General Test, but it is worth considering taking the Subject Test as an extra if you feel it will broaden your opportunities.

What is Involved in the GRE General Test?

There are three sections in the test; analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. The test can be taken on a computer or on paper, and you have the opportunity to skip questions that you don’t feel comfortable with, as well as the opportunity to go back and change your answers. If success doesn’t come the first time around, you may re-sit the test. This may sound appealing (and inhibit your need for thorough preparation), but the cost for the test must be paid with each attempt. It is highly recommended to prepare adequately in order to achieve your desired result the first time around.

Let’s look at the test sections in further detail:

Analytical Writing – this section requires focused responses that articulate complex ideas that are supported with relevant reasons and examples. You must examine claims and evidence, and maintain a concentrated discussion with a high level control of standard written English.

Quantitative Reasoning – this section examines your ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information. You will use mathematical models to solve problems and your basic skills of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis will be tested. You are allowed to use a calculator when completing this section.

Verbal Reasoning – here you will analyze and draw conclusions, identify the author’s assumptions and/or perspectives, and understand the author’s intent in a literal and figurative manner. You will be tested on your ability to summarize text, selecting the key points from the text as well as understanding the structure of the text. Your understanding of the meanings of words and sentences will be tested, as will your ability to recognize relationships between words and concepts.

How to Prepare and Study for the GRE

The skills required to succeed in the test are developed over a period of time and not related to any particular field of study. For this reason, preparation is crucial to success. Unlike many other examinations, where content can be revised and learned, the GRE measures your ability to respond to the information given. By gaining an understanding of the types of questions asked in the test, you will be able to develop the skills to answer the questions accurately and confidently. The following five points are easy ways to prepare and study for the GRE to ensure your greatest success.

1. Spend Time

Like many other examinations, last minute studying is not useful. The more time you spend preparing for the GRE, the better your results will be. It is recommended that you spend 4-12 weeks developing your skills for the test. Naturally, spending more time will result in the best outcome possible.

2. Create a Study Plan or Schedule

Whilst success in the GRE should be your priority, the fact is that life often gets in the way. Job commitments, exercise, social engagements, and relationships must also take place. In order to spend the necessary time preparing for the GRE, you need to make sure you allocate enough time. Take a look at your week and designate certain times to study, as well as what you will study in each session. Be prepared to make some sacrifices, but remember that it will only be for a short while. Your study schedule needs to be realistic, specific, achievable, and flexible. Use an old fashioned, pen and paper diary or calendar, or schedule study sessions into your phone.

3. Study Sample Questions

There is no point spending hours and hours preparing for the GRE if you aren’t preparing effectively. It can be easy to get carried away revising content that is not relevant to the examinations. The most valuable tool you can use is to focus on practice and sample questions. These give you an excellent understanding of the type of questions that will be asked. Sample questions are easy to find, as are explanations for the correct answers to help ensure you are practicing correctly. It is advised to attempt the sample questions within a time limit. This helps stimulate the time pressure of the examination.

4. Personalize Your Program

By understanding your own strengths and weaknesses you will be able to cater for your specific needs. Spend more time on the areas you find difficult, or on the subject areas that are most relevant to your educational goals.

5. Use a Tutor

Enlisting the help of a professional tutor will help you remain motivated and on the right track to success. They are able to provide valuable feedback and you can really fine tune your skills in the one-on-one environment. A good tutor will be able to assist with your study schedule, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and respond accordingly.

Finding a good GRE tutor in your area can be difficult. They need to not only have the knowledge and skills to teach you, but also understand your goals. A personality match is also crucial – feeling comfortable around your tutor will ensure you ask plenty of questions and are honest about your understanding of key concepts.

Overall, sitting for the GRE does not need to become a stressful event. Understanding how the test works, the types of questions asked, and implementing some valuable study tips will ensure you achieve the results you need to take your education to the next level.

About Babbette M

Babbette is a writer for, a site that helps students connect with tutors.