5 Strategies for Understanding & Destroying the GRE

Five strategies to help you feel like a GRE champion!

“Give me more standardized tests!”, the college students shouted desperately, “We love them!”. Thus, the beautiful, the glorious General Record Exam (GRE) was graciously provided for us all as a step in the graduate school admission process. Ok, we may not all be happy about it (let’s be real, few of us are), but this is actually a test that you, as a Denisonian, are 100% capable of destroying! Seriously. Follow these five strategies and feel like a champion.

1). Get to know the GRE

Before you slay a dragon, you must study it. Is that a saying? It is now, you can quote me. So here are some quick hits to understand the GRE:

                • This online test is meant to examine your overall aptitude for graduate school. Think of it as the ACT/SATs snootier big brother.
                • It has three timed sections: Analytical writing, quantitative, and verbal.
                • The GRE is widely used for Masters, PhD and Business program admissions, but not every program will require it.
                • It is offered at specific testing centers most weekdays and weekends year-round.
                • GRE scores are valid for five years from test date (so some student take it before they graduate if they are considering graduate school but want to work for a while first).
                • The total testing time = 3 hours and 45 minutes (plus timed breaks, yay!).
                • Points are not deducted for wrong answers! Yessssss.
                • Cost: $205 (I know, not the greatest).

2). Set a score goal and study smart

Not every graduate program values the GRE the same. Some schools establish minimum GRE scores per section, or widely share the average GRE scores for their entering cohorts. Before you begin studying, audit your selected graduate programs to see what their expectations are regarding scores. Know that the GRE score will be considered in collaboration with your undergraduate GPA to get a wider view of your academic performance and potential. Once you have established a score goal based upon program expectations, it is time to design a study plan. The typical Denisonian tends to spend 2-3 months studying for the GRE at a moderate pace. You should not focus you study time equally between all three sections. Instead, ask yourself:

                • Which section do I think is most valued by my graduate program?
                • What section is my natural strength? Which is my weakness?

3). Select the best study option for you

You do not need to take a GRE online or in person prep course. I repeat, not everyone needs a prep course. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) produces the GRE and also provides a wide range of free and low-cost study materials, including a free math review, which personally saved me during my GRE study time. The GRE is a very transparent test, and the content is predictable. The Knowlton Center also provides a library with test resources, including GRE books. Stop by Burton Morgan 306 to check one out!

4). Practice in real conditions

ETS provides free practice tests. Use them! Get use to the pacing of the test, the online features, and the structure of the test itself. Make sure to debrief the practice tests to learn what went well, what you missed, and to adjust your study plan as necessary.

5). Be ready for test day and to interpret your scores

You’ve studied, you’ve stressed, and now the day of the test has arrived. On test day:

                • Arrive early! At least 30 minutes early, because check-in is quite a process.
                • Bring your official ID that exactly matches your registration name (or no GRE for you).
                • Know that you’ll be given scratch paper and an onscreen calculator.

Understanding the scoring process

                • Analytical Writing: 0-6 in half-point increments (typically shoot for a 4 and above).
                • Verbal: 130-170 in 1-point increments, and you will be given a percentile score that lets you know where you are in comparison to other test-takers (try for 50% minimum, 70% or above ideally).
                • Quantitative: 130-170 in 1-point increments (try for 50% minimum, 70% or above ideally).
                • You will see unofficial scores at testing center when you finish, except for writing (a real-life human scores that later!).
                • You can choose to send 4 free scores to grad programs then if you like your verbal and quantitative unofficial scores.
                • After test day, you can send scores through ETS, selecting whichever test date scores you want ($27 per recipient, just so you know).
                • Expect your official scores in 10-15 days (fingers crossed!).

A Knowlton Center Career Coach would be happy to sit down with you and help you think through how to prepare for the GRE. You don’t have to tackle this alone! Log onto Handshake, call 740-587-6656 or stop by Burton Morgan 306 to get started.

Authored by Sara Stasko, Associate Director for Graduate School & Pre-Health Advising