What Is It?
The GRE is a standardized exam, a lot like the SAT/ACT, to
test basic critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and
quantitative reasoning skills that everyone acquires over an education regardless
of field of study. It is a general test because anyone with a college
background should be able to complete it. The math is very basic for this reason.
This exam is used by universities to determine aptitude and anyone seeking to
attend a US university is wise to take it, as most universities still require
scores. There are three sections:
Analytical Writing: This section involves responding
to two essay types, analyzing an issue and analyzing an argument. They are
looking for the ability to articulate and support ideas, examine a claim and
evidence, sustain a clear and coherent train of thought, and display a control
of the English language. The thing is to maintain a focused discussion and
answer the prompt. They want to see if you can give a measured and thoughtful response.
Verbal Reasoning: This section includes questions concerning
vocabulary, reading comprehension, and word relation. Knowing the word itself is great, but the test
wants you to then complete a sentence or relate the word to an equivalent. The reading comprehension questions are
similar to most reading comprehension standardized test questions. It’s about
figuring things out with the given information.
Quantitative Reasoning: This section includes questions
on math topics such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. This
section is mostly concerned with the ability to reason using math models and
numbers. Like the Verbal section, its about figuring things out using the given
The exam is roughly 4 hours long, with the sections and 10-minute
break with the intermittent one-minute breaks between sections You are allowed
scratch paper to work things out on.
Since I will be spending days on each questions type. I will
reserve specific strategies for those days. Here are general tips from the book
and my McNair resources.
Know administrative procedures, types of questions
and instructions for them, number of questions, and the timing for sections.
These save you hassle and time on test day.
Keep a strong mentality. Try to remain composed
and not get flustered. If the questions are getting harder, it means you are
advancing, since the test is adaptive. Be confident since every new test is a
new opportunity. This exam is just as combative as you make it.
Experience is key. Take lots of practice tests
to build up stamina. This exam is 4 hours with minimal breaks. And take
practice tests in as similar of an environment as you can.
The test is adaptive, so the difficulty of the
next section depends on your previous performance. However, always do your best.
Don’t try to perform a certain way to get an easier section.
This test measures skills, not content. You won’t
know everything. Just use context and puzzle things out.
There is no penalty for wrong answers, so answer
The “Mark” and “Review” features let you mark
questions and then see a list of what you marked Use this to mark questions you
are unsure of or need to revisit. And always answer the easiest questions first.
Setting a Goal
I took a practice test last summer. I have my scores below
and my goal scores. Engineering requires a high Quantitative Reasoning score,
so that is my main focus. However, a high holistic score is always best. My
goals are in the highest percentiles to keep me competitive.