A high GRE score is your first step towards getting a graduate degree. The GRE, or the Graduate Record Examination, is a computer-based test that forms a crucial part of most graduate school admissions packages. Since we are talking graduate school, the stakes are obviously high, and the GRE is more challenging than the SAT. However, there is no cause for concern, as you can ace your GRE by following a few easy steps.
Know what to expect
Even before you start preparing for GRE, acquaint yourself with the general pattern of the test as of 2013. The revised version of GRE was introduced in August, 2011 and has three sections - Verbal Reasoning (two 30-minute long sessions), Quantitative Reasoning (two 35-minute long sessions), and Analytical Writing (two 30-minute long sessions). The Verbal section has questions related to sentence equivalence, text completion and reading comprehension. This section is known to be challenging even for voracious readers as your vocabulary has to be very strong. It would be a good idea to start reading a lot and focus specifically on building a solid vocabulary. The Quantitative section has questions from arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis. Officially, the difficulty level is limited to high school math but the questions might be trickier even as the concepts remain the same. Finally, under the Analytical Writing section, you will have to write a brief essay and evaluate an argument.
Don't be boggled by the computerbased format
More importantly, some of you might have to get used to a computer-based set-up. While taking GRE, you can go back and forth through the questions, change answers, and mark questions for reviewing later. The test also allows you to use a calculator during the Quantitative section.
The GRE uses progressive grading on a section basis; that is, your performance in the first section will determine the difficulty level of your next section. So, if your second Verbal section is particularly challenging, it means that you performed well in the first Verbal section and vice versa. For the Quantitative and the Verbal sections, you will be marked between 130 and 170 points while for the Analytical writing section, the points will vary between 0 and 6.
Brace yourself by solving sample questions
All your prep will count for nothing if you have no practical knowledge about the kind of questions that come up in GRE. Start preparing at least 6-8 weeks before the exam and look for sample questions. By reading through them, you will get a fair idea about the nature of the test and the kind of skills you need to score well.
Stay ahead of the time equation
Each Verbal and Quantitative section consists of 20 questions which have to be answered in 30 and 35 minutes respectively. Remember this equation throughout the exam, especially when you get stuck on a single question. Time and again, take note of your position and decide the amount of time you can afford to spend on every question. After all, you don't want to ruin your score due to lack of time.
Practice, practice, practice
A practice test is the best way to prepare for GRE as it gives you a first hand experience of the computer-based test. By taking these tests, you will get used to the format and you will also come across thousands of new questions everyday. Start taking these tests a few weeks before your GRE and analyze your performance regularly. Make a graph of your scores and ensure that it points upwards.
Polish off the rough edges
After majoring in a particular field for four years, your knowledge of other fields is rusty at best. For instance, it's normal for an English major to feel a little uncomfortable about the Quantitative section. The important thing is to identify your weak sectors and devote extra time to them. It will take some hard work and patience but eventually, you will get into the thick of things. Until then, keep trying and don't take no for an answer. Good luck!