Preparing for graduate school in the 21st Century United States includes much more than filing an application, requesting references and submitting one’s CV. One of the most important components of a graduate school prospect’s application will be his or her GRE scores. The GRE is a standardized test administered by ETS, the same creators of the SAT and AP exams. It is composed of three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and the analytical section. The purpose of the GRE as a whole is to assess whether or not a student is ready for graduate-level study and helps to affirm his or her qualifications for graduate school.
How does a prospective student looking at graduate schools prepare for the GRE? First, the student must consider one’s strengths and weaknesses in regards to the basic skills and knowledge obtained from middle school to one’s current upper level status at university. To help with this, learn what skills each section of the test analyzes and compare that to your performance on similar sections found on standardized tests such as the SAT, and also the core curriculum courses that one took during your undergraduate years at the university. Here is a general overview of what each GRE section tests:
Verbal Reasoning is a multiple choice section of the exam which examines one’s mastery of vocabulary, grammar, basic writing skills, and reading comprehension. Therefore, in order for a student to receive the score she or he wants in this section, he or she needs to make sure that they have a strong English vocabulary, excellent knowledge of grammar, basic writing and proofreading skills as well as strong reading comprehension. If a prospective graduate student realizes that none of these adjectives describe his or her ability, then it will be necessary for the student to memorize vocabulary words, study grammar rules, particularly those related to tenses and agreement, and read high quality journal articles and books to prepare for the content in the reading comprehension section. If necessary, consider purchasing a good GRE prep book, hire a tutor or take a GRE prep course.
Quantitative Reasoning is a multiple choice section of the exam which analyzes one’s ability to problem-solve using basic concepts of mathematics. The mathematics on the GRE are basic and can be mastered with a strong knowledge of middle school and high school arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and data analysis. If a prospective student realizes that they did not master arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and data analysis while in middle and high school and/or they have forgotten much of what they learned, than they need to restudy these concepts either alone or with a tutor, GRE prep book or GRE prep course.
The Analytical section of the GRE evaluates the prospective student’s critical thinking and analytical skills through his or her ability to write. Students normally are expected to write two essays, one that analyzes the given topic while the other has to persuade the reader to your position of this topic. In order to master this section, the student will need strong writing and critical thinking/logic skills. If the student realizes that writing is not their best subject and/or would describe their writing skills as “weak” than he or she will have to practice writing GRE-style essays, persuasive and analytic essays by using GRE prompts in a GRE prep book, as assigned by a tutor, in a GRE prep course or through one’s own initiative.
Finally, one must make sure to become familiar with the type of questions asked on each section and take as many practice exams as possible. To find practice exams and questions, go to www.ets.org or look in your nearest bookstore for a GRE preparation book. It is important to practice taking the exam because when a student takes the GRE each section will be timed, and even though one will not know the exact content of the questions asked on the exam, learning how to answer the question types in each section in a timely fashion will be crucial in increasing one’s score. Good luck!