GRE Preparation- How to Ace it?

gre preparation
In order to make the full use out of your GRE preparation, you must understand what particular set of skills do the questions in each section of the test are trying to evaluate.
Let us take a closer look at each section in detail and examine some sample questions.

Gre Preparation: A Section-wise Analysis
GRE Quantitative Reasoning
GRE Verbal Reasoning

GRE Preparation: A Section-wise Analysis

  1. GRE Analytical Writing Section

This section tests your response to given tasks with variable instructions. Your ability to present articulate arguments, agree or disagree with ideas, support your point of view, and analyze statements will be evaluated.

The section has two essays, with 30 minutes allotted to writing each of them:

  • Issue – write an analysis
  • Argument – write an analysis

The Issue Essay

How to improve your Issue Essay Score in GRE test?

gre preparation issue

In this essay, you will be given a claim and instructions on how the claim should be discussed. Check this sample claim and instructions on building the essay around it:

“The drawbacks to the use of nuclear power mean that it is not a long-term solution to the problem of meeting ever-increasing energy needs.”

Write a response in which you identify whether you agree or disagree with the claim. As you consider your position, address reasons that could challenge your position.

A claim like this will force you to think critically, come up with arguments (both pros and cons) and present them in simple, articulate and comprehensible terms. Read on to know how this can be achieved, briefly.

 GRE Tips on Issue Essay

  • While your GRE preparation is in full-force practice essay writing as much as you can. And before you start writing, take a few minutes to think about the issue at hand deeply. You will notice that arguments – both for and against – start popping up in your head. Make a note of them.
  • Start with presenting both sides of the claim objectively. This will give an even, balanced position, and lends credibility to your essay. The instructions ask you to ‘address reasons that could change your position’, so be impartial and fair.
  • Do not make statements in the air. Make substantial arguments and support them with facts (or figures if you can).

    Let us assume that you agree with the claim given. Highlight the drawbacks: Environmental damage, safety issues, costs. And if you disagree with the claim, argue that all these barriers could be overcome. Give examples of how it was done in other countries or sites. Craft your sentences well and build up an argument in support of your position.

  • Remember, the examiner is not interested in knowing if your position is the right one or not. His or her concern would be:How you think – is it clear and precise?
    How you write – is it simple and straight to the point?
    How you communicate – is your argument logical and defendable?
    Overall, does your essay make a point clearly and cohesively?
  • If your GRE vocabulary, syntax and grammar are spot on, in addition to the above points, your essay would be a winner.

The Argument Essay

How to improve your Argument Essay Score in GRE test?

gre preparation argument essay

In this essay, you will be given an argument and you will be asked to analyze it and articulate your analysis. As before, you will be offered instructions on how to go about it. Here’s a sample argument:

The following appeared in a memorandum from the owner of the Jupiter

Café, a small, local coffee shop in the downtown area of a small American

“We must reduce overhead here at the cafe. Instead of opening at 6:00 AM weekdays, we will now open at 8:00 AM. On weekends, we will only be open from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM. The decrease in hours of operation will help save money because we won’t be paying for utilities, employee wages, or other operating costs during the hours we are closed. This is the best strategy for us to save money and remain in business without having to eliminate jobs.”

Write a response that examines this argument’s unstated assumptions. Make sure you explain how the argument depends on those assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions are wrong.

As you can see, this is a case of taking action to prevent some other events from unfolding. You need to study this situation, interpret it in the context of the planned measure and offer critical analysis. And as always, clarity of thought, relevance of interpretation, strength of analysis, and accuracy in articulation and communication get you more points.

GRE Tips on Argument Essay

  • During your GRE preparation, make it a habit to resist the temptation to start writing immediately. Spend a few minutes understanding the situation, and putting yourself in the center of action, for you to get a first-hand feel. As thoughts and points come to your mind, remember to note them for later use.
  • In this specific argument, you will want to examine the assumptions stated first. The validity of these assumptions leads you naturally to the conclusion stated. So your starting point would be the assumptions themselves – if these are irrelevant, then the stated conclusion would be invalid too.
  • For example, do the closed hours at the coffee shop really translate as savings – considering there would be business lost as well? Conversely, does the cost of having the store open two hours earlier offset the income generated in those two hours? Does it make sense to close the coffee shop in its busiest time, as it would result in income loss? All these points lead us to the fundamental premise of assumptions, prompting us to question their legitimacy. Analyzing these assumptions forms the core of your essay.
  • The examiner would watch out for your ability to spot the baseless assumptions, analyze them against the conclusion offered, and support the essay with other examples and scenarios. Needless to add, all of that should be presented in clear, concise English.

Additional GRE Tips on Basic Writing

As an aspiring graduate school student, good writing is a skill that you must possess – or develop during GRE Preparations. Here are some GRE tips that will help you write well – meeting your immediate need in writing the GRE test essays, as well as your all time need of writing with simplicity, elegance and grace.

  • Keep it simple. This is the golden rule in writing – be it the word you choose, the way you craft your sentence, or the sense you want to convey.Remember that the slightest hurdle in the flow of writing stops the flow of thought in the reader’s mind. Complex sentences and complicated structures get muddled, and the point you are making gets buried in the complexity.Simplicity facilitates clarity of thought and ease of understanding. The reader gets a feeling of satisfaction at having grasped your writing with the least difficulty.
  • Simple, however, does not mean boring. There is a significant difference between being simple and being ‘simplistic’ – your words and expression can be simple but your thoughts can be lofty and profound. A mature point of view and the most sophisticated insights can be expressed through simplicity in language and sentence construction. Make it a point during your GRE preparations to try to write simple yet attractive.
  • Choose your words with care. Again, simple hardly means uninteresting, so use the most appropriate word for the occasion, one that conveys the precise meaning you have in mind.In addition, there are several words that could be confusing in usage:proceed / precede
    affect / effect
    principal / principle
    its / it’s
    your / you’re
    stationery / stationary
    whose / who’s

    Take care to use the correct word in each case. The right word enriches your prose, and enhances the readability and value of your writing. Practice this during your GRE Preparations
  • Frame your sentences precisely. How do you begin a paragraph? Or rather, how do you begin your essay itself? You need a sentence that grabs the examiner’s attention and launches the essay effectively.To ensure this, again, you need to be simple. The point you are making should be emphatic, even if it is expressed in simple sentences. As your writing makes one point after another, remember to break your thoughts into thought clusters – and your writing into paragraphs. Here, ensure that your paragraphs are linked seamlessly through the first sentence.Add variation to your sentence structure. Use different types of sentences, and once in a while, use a long sentence after several short sentences. Make sure that the flow is smooth and it reads naturally.
  • Be grammatically correct. Are you unsure about your abilities in grammar? Get help, take lessons, practice your writing and keep checking your prose for grammatical accuracy. There are many online tools that help you check your grammar, for free. Use them and ensure that your writing is error-free.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning

This GRE quantitative reasoning section of the test evaluates your strengths in interpreting and analyzing, solving problems, understanding basic math skills and concepts, and applying them in real life scenarios. For example, with reference to situations identical to those given in the Analytical Writing section, how good are you in analyzing them and interpreting data from those situations?

In some questions in GRE Quantitative Reasoning, there could be more than one right answer. So you need to select all the correct answers – if you select only one correct answer or select both correct and incorrect answers, you get no credit whatsoever since the entire answer will be deemed incorrect. Keep in mind that the GRE test is not in favor of partial credit.

Here is what the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section is about:

  • Two 35-minute sections, with 20 questions per section
  • Four types of questions:
    Numeric Entry
    Multiple Choice – Select One
    Multiple Choice – Select One or More
    Quantitative Comparison

All the above questions can appear in any type: Numeric Entry, Multiple Choice – Select One, or Multiple Choice – Select One or More. They may appear on their own independently or could be bunched together in a Data Interpretation set. Each set would have tables, graphs or any other device with information in it. The questions require you to analyze or interpret this information.

Numeric Entry

numeric entry gre preparation

As the name suggests, this type of question requires you to enter your answer. And most often, it will be a number. There will be no answer choices to choose from. Typically, you will be filling a single box with an integer or decimal, or filling two boxes (one above the other) with a fraction. Those with strong calculative skills have the edge over others in this section.

Having said that, there are ways and means to ‘strategize’ and optimize your time even here. For one, you can use the Onscreen Calculator to do the math, saving you time. (More details on the Onscreen Calculator in the next section.) For another, if you are unsure about a particular method to be used in solving a question, defer it for later. Either you set a limited time to solve it, or skip it for the moment. You can always revisit it at the end of the paper.

Using the Onscreen Calculator

gre preparation calculations

This is a basic calculator with just five functions: Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and square root calculation. You can use this calculator while completing the Quantitative Reasoning section. The ETS believes that using calculators and solving problems “mirror the types of analysis students will face in graduate school” – because it shifts the focus to critical analysis than mere computation.

Using the calculator is likely to reduce the human error in computing, but the downside is that you could fail to spot the shortcuts in the questions. If you are used to working it out, you are bound to go through several steps that eat away precious minutes leaving you with less time to complete all sections. A good approach is to learn to efficiently use the Calculator during your GRE preparation for Data Interpretation sets – those that use large numbers, and heavy values and percentages.

How to improve your GRE Quantitative Reasoning Score?

  • Strengthen Your Basics.

You need to have a strong grasp over triangles, integers, etc. Because if your basics are not up to the mark, then this will lead into overall decrease in scores.

  • Maintain a good balance of all types of questions.

Some students often end up practicing only a particular type of question. Therefore, it may prove to be insufficient on the D-day. So practice different types of questions with varied percentages each time to make sure that you are prepared for all types of surprises that this section may show.

  • Avoid Over use of the calculator.

It has been observed that over use of the calculator provided in the GRE test can lead to over dependency on the same. Further it also results in slowing down the speed. So use your brain for calculation as much as you can.

  • Practice with the Right Materials.

You need to practice with those kind of materials which are neither too easy or are unlike the actual thing that you are going to face in the test. Choose your preparatory material carefully.

GRE Verbal Reasoning

gre verbal preparation

The GRE verbal reasoning section test, tests your high-level cognitive ability and complex reasoning skills. You will be given text material and passages to evaluate your reading and comprehension abilities, and your reasoning skills.

In order to facilitate your GRE Preparation, let us understand what the GRE Verbal Reasoning section is all about:

  • Two 35-minute sections, with 20 questions per section
  • Three types of questions
  1. a) Text Completion
  2. b) Sentence Equivalence
  3. c) Reading Comprehension
  4. i) Multiple Choice – Select One
    ii) Multiple Choice – Select One or More
    iii) Select-in-Passage

Let us look at these question types one by one.

Text Completion

You will be given up to five sentences, with up to three blanks. You will need to fill in the blanks by choosing the right word from the answer choices provided. The number of answer choices supplied may vary – for one blank, you will have six answers to choose from; and if there is more than one blank, you will have three answer choices for each blank. Please note that, for you to earn credit, all the blanks in a question should be correct. Since there is no partial credit, even if one blank has an incorrect answer and the other blanks have correct answers, the entire question will be considered incorrect.

Sentence Equivalence

This type of question is identical to Text Completion above, but a little more complicated. You have blanks to fill, and you have a word bank to get your answers from. Now comes the difference. For each blank, you have six answer choices – but there are two correct answers. You need to detect both of them and as before, just one correct answer will render the entire question wrong.

This seems tricky but you can actually turn it to your advantage. To illustrate, the two correct words should give the sentence the same meaning. So if you find a word that seems right, look for its equivalent match in the lot – if there is none, you know that this word is incorrect. Any word might appear perfect in the blank, but if you do not find its ‘partner’, you can safely assume that it is not the right one.

Reading Comprehension

You will be given passages from books or periodicals, which could be academic as well as non-academic in nature. A typical passage could be five paragraphs long, and can be drawn from the sciences – physical, biological, social – or arts or even humanities. As mentioned earlier, there are three types of questions in this section:

  • Multiple Choice – Select One (with one correct answer)
  • Multiple Choice – Select One or More (with multiple correct answers)
  • Select-in-Passage – you need to click on the sentence that is central to the passage.

Let us look at these questions in detail.

Multiple Choice – Select One and Multiple Choice – Select One or More

The first type is the conventional multiple-choice question with one correct answer. In the second type, the questions have more than one correct answer, and three answer choices. No short cuts here. In both types, you will have to read the passage carefully, understand the author’s intent, and only then can you be sure of what the answers are. These are not simple words that you need to find from the passage – you need to comprehend the key thought of the passage and the details given in support of that thought. But the passages tend to be short, and the answer choices are limited, so it is rather easy to arrive at the answer.

The thing to watch out, as always, is over confidence. Read the question carefully, then read it again, and read it a third time if you are not clear about what is being asked. Then read the passage again, and arrive at the closest answer in your mind. Now match this answer to one of the three choices given. This could be the best way to attempt this section.

Multiple Choice: Select-in-Passage

This type of question assesses your ability to identify a particular detail in the passage given. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds – often, the passage would be phrased in broad terms and the question would ask for a specific detail.

In most cases, it would be a sentence – the most important one in the passage. By way of an example, you would be required to spot a sentence that addresses the commonality between opposing points of view. Or you may have to pick out a line that hints at why the expected result did not happen.

To be able to do this successfully, you will need to understand the context of the sentence, and the author’s purpose in placing it at that specific point in the passage. If you can recognize the theme of the passage and identify its purpose, and then revisit the question, you would be in a better position to answer correctly. As before, when the answer forms in your mind, go back to passage to spot a sentence that matches it.

How to improve your GRE Verbal Reasoning Score?

  • Start thinking as a Test Creator.

You need to understand the minds of test makers i.e. the persons who make the GRE verbal test Questions. You need to understand about differentiating between the wrong choices popularly known as distractors and the correct ones.

  • Develop a sense of speed

It is important to build up on speed as there may be instances where you get stuck up in a difficult question. In order to do well in this section, you need to pick up speed and that can happen only and only through practice.

  • Understand and build up your vocabulary.

In order to perform well in the GRE verbal reasoning section, it is important to learn and increase your vocabulary. Try using these words in your daily life in order to remember their usage.

  • Reading out of your comfort zone

It is important for you to read outside your comfort zone so that you do not get struck with an alien topic on your exam day. Read lot of topics which seem boring as this will definitely help you in preparing for the worst situations.

  • Read Newspapers daily

Now that is an old time advice, but it definitely helps. Specially the editorial column is a must for you as it gives you opinions both for and against Reading comprehension topics which shall help you a great deal in GRE Verbal.

Taking the GRE Test – General Tips

gre preparation

If you are a serious contender for GRE exam, chances are that you would have already come up with a plan to study GRE Preparation. These points will help you fine tune your plan further:

  • Research the graduate schools you are interested in. Determine their cutoff, average and admission scores and come up with your own target score. Set up this goal early in your plan – working without such an objective is like fumbling in the dark in GRE Preparation.
  • Complete your registration process. This will serve as a concrete motivation for you as well as a goalpost you need to work towards. Decide on a date in advance – if you are early, you will get your preferred date and time as well. If at a later date you feel unprepared, you can always push your date further.
  • Take full-length practice tests. It helps to build your mental stamina, gives you a sense of time during the exam, and also familiarizes you with the computer-based testing format.Take at least three full-length practice tests during your GRE Preparation: One at the beginning of your study, one midway, and the last one towards the date of the exam. The first practice test will tell you what to watch out for early on, the second will track your progress and facilitate focused preparation, and the third will get you ready for the final exam.
  • Build on your strengths, working on them for consolidation. But never ignore your weaknesses. Also work on your ‘areas of opportunity’ – your chance to gain maximum points in each section. Devote more time to make the most of your scoring opportunities.