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The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for most graduate schools in the United States and many more universities across the globe. GRE is owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and is conducted in over 180 countries. With scores accepted at thousands of graduate schools, including business and law, it is a must for anyone who aspires for grad-school abroad.

In this article, we have tried to give you some general information about the GRE general and subject tests, and a path to prepare and get a safe score. We have also covered some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about GRE with some really useful advice from our seniors who had appeared for GRE and had been admitted to prestigious universities around the world.

Check out the official website – https://www.ets.org/gre

Wikipedia page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduate_Record_Examinations

General Information – 

ETS manages two GRE tests, the General Test which checks the student on his/her verbal and mathematical knowledge and the Subject Test which examines the fundamentals of the subject he/she is interested in. The Subject Tests this year include Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology. Here is some general information about these two GRE tests.

Who Takes the GREProspective graduate and business school applicants from all around the world who are interested in pursuing a master’s, MBA, specialized master’s in business, J.D. degree, or doctoral degree take the GRE. From the perspective of our institute, Data from Insight’s Senior Survey 2019 suggests that ~45% of the UG students who graduated this year appeared for GRE.

When should one take it – The available timings for the test are very convenient, with tests conducted all year round. Slots can vary according to the exam center. All the details are clearly given on the GRE website. As for the Subject Test this year, there is only one date available in India, 26th October, so register soon if you are planning to take it as the deadline for registration is the 13th of September.

As the dates of the GRE General Test are distributed over the year, it gets difficult for the student to decide when should he/she sit for the test. There is no clear answer to this question. One can only say “you should take the test when you are prepared for it”. As stated by the past students, it generally requires an average of 40 days of preparation which can also vary from student to student. Looking from the preparation point of view, the start of the autumn semester of the fourth year seems to be the best time to sit for the test, as you get full summers for the preparation.

 Some people start early, prepare for it in winters of the third year and sit for the exam at the start of the spring semester. As mentioned earlier, it completely depends on the student. If you are confident enough to score high in the middle of the semester, registration is all you need.

How much would it cost –  ETS charges a hefty amount of $205(~14000 INR) and $150(~11000 INR) for students to appear for the General and Subject Tests respectively. That’s not all, for this fee, you are allowed to fill four recipients at the time of registration. By recipients, we mean the institutes for which you are going to apply with your GRE score as a basis. If you want to send score reports to more than four recipients, it is going to cost you $27(~2000 INR) for each Additional Score Reports. And that’s not all, the institutes also charge you for application which overall can cost you very high if you apply to too many institutes. Don’t forget to add the cost of preparation material too.

Where Are The Exam Centres –  In India, you can take the General Test at computer-based centers in almost all tier 1 cities, and in some tier 2 cities too. There are four centers near IIT Bombay, two in Mumbai, one in Goregaon West and in Andheri East and one each in Nashik and Pune. Check the website for more up to date test dates at these centers.

For the GRE subject test, you can register for a pen-paper based test in Mumbai at Mumbai Teachers. There are 5 other centers in India in the following cities – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi, Pilani

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Examination Format and Scoring  

    GRE General Test

In India, the GRE General Test is only computer-based which can take up to 3 hours 45 minutes. It is broadly divided into the following three measures.

Analytical Writing – Two tasks | 30 minutes each ||  Max-score of 6 ||| Increment in half-points

Each task the measure requires you to write a compelling short essay according to the task’s requirement. Read the task and the instruction with it carefully before you start writing.

  1. Analyze an Issue – You will be given a general statement from the sphere of life, for example, politics, society or economy. You have to write your views stating how much you agree or disagree with the statement. Generally, it’s quite a complex statement, one can have strong opinions in favor or in disfavor of the statement. 
  2. Analyze an argument – You will encounter a series of statements, each statement continuing the previous one, forming an argument. Beware, You may not have any prior knowledge on the topic. The argument is flawed most of the time (from past experiences), what you have to do is dissect it, analyze it and write a thorough counter-argument against the given one.  

In this section, the scoring is not based on how perfect your views are, rather this is to analyze your critical thinking and persuasive writing. So it becomes really crucial to follow the instructions given below the issue or the argument paragraph and write accordingly. Grammatical mistakes can add some negative credit on your score. Attached here is a pool of examples for each task of analytical Reasoning and it is assured that you will be answering one of these questions in the examination.

Pool of Questions

Verbal Reasoning – Two sections | 20 questions each || 30 minutes each |||  Score starts from 130

This measure of the GRE is to check your ability to analyze and evaluate written paragraphs. There are three types of questions for you to answer.

  1. Reading Comprehension – As it is clear from the name, this will surely remind you of old high school examinations. There will be on average 10 paragraphs out of 40 verbal questions. The questions can be single/multiple-select multiple-choice or sentence selection from the comprehension.
  2.  Text Completion – Given a comprehension of 5-6 sentences with 1-3 blank spaces in between, you have to fill in the spaces with the words from 3-5 choices given separately for each void. The right answer is the one that is logically and grammatically correct and adds an overall sense to the paragraph. No credits are given for partially correct answers. 
  3. Sentence Equivalence – Question consists of a single sentence with one blank space, you have to select two words from the given 6 choices which give the same sense and meaning to the sentence. Remember, the words with the same meaning may not be the right answer. Score increases if you get both of them right.

Quantitative ReasoningTwo sections | 20 questions each || 35 minutes each |||  Score starts from 130

This is the measure of the test you will find the easiest. It includes basic mathematical questions on Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Data Analysis. The questions can be single/multiple-select multiple-choice or numeric entry. Data interpretation questions are grouped together and are answered based on the data given.

Analytical Writing measure is always at the start of the test. Other than the above detailed 4 sections on Verbal or Quantitative, there is an extra section which can be either based on Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning. All these 5 sections are juggled in any way possible. You get a 10 minutes break at the end of 3 sections.

If the extra section is marked, it is placed there for research purposes and you have an option to skip it if you want. It always appears at the end of the test. If there is no mark on any of the 6 sections, then one of the sections from the measure which has three sections is unscored. But there is no way you can distinguish between the three, so you must put your full effort to get a high score. 

Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures are section-level adaptive. This means the computer selects the second operational section of a measure based on your performance on the first section. The raw score for each measure is the number of questions you answered correctly. The raw score is converted to a scaled score which reflects the same level of performance for every student. The extra section does not contribute at all to the adaptation process.

GRE Subject Test – 

There is only one section for the subject test spanning over 2 hours 50 minutes. Questions from various topics are numbered randomly. No. of questions varies depending upon the subject. For most subject tests, questions are multiple-choice with five options. You can look up the topic-wise weightage of questions for the respective subject here.

https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/

Preparation

Before diving into dozens of material and practice tests available online, one must introspect and decide which section of the test needs one’s most attention. In general, IITB students have a strong background in mathematics, so they are already well prepared for the quantitative measure, most of them only need to solidify their English vocabulary and understanding. For Analytical Reasoning, one way to go is by practicing the different types of questions. The pool of questions is quite big and honestly, you wouldn’t want to waste a long time solving all the questions. 

Selecting the practice material plays a crucial role in your preparation. Here are some of the best material you can try your hands on. “An Official Guide to the GRE” is provided by ETS to get you started with the preparation. As soon as you form an ETS account you have access to two free “Powerprep” Computer-based tests that are valid for 90 days from the day you first start them. Other than that, there are three Powerprep plus online tests with a diagnosis report at the end of the test, each priced at $39.95. These computer-based tests will give you a real-time experience of the GRE General Test.

Other than ETS, there are excellent materials provided by Princeton, Manhattan, Barrons, Magoosh. Students say ETS material is good enough for preparation but you may wish to try other options. All of these have their own real-time computer-simulated mock tests at almost the same price as ETS. For Verbal Measure, Magoosh came up with something called Flashcards which helps you improve your English Vocabulary. You can also read books, newspapers, and articles to refine your understanding of the language.

As for the subject tests, ETS provides you a free practice test book for the selected subject. The questions in the GRE subject test are not that difficult. If you cover all the topics and have a sound knowledge of it, you should be able to get a good score. Past papers in the case of Subject Test are a reality check on your knowledge as there is not much other content available on the internet. Subject Tests may check you on time management skills, so practice accordingly. 

You must be having a lot of questions right now about the GRE, subjects and the score. In the next section, we have answered a few such questions from the perspective of an IITB student.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. How much time do I need to prepare for the GRE General Test?
    There is no single answer to this question but from the experiences of IITB students around 40-50 days(1-2 hours a day) should be enough to hone your verbal skills to get a good score in GRE.
  2. Should I take the GRE Subject Test?
    A good score in GRE and a good background in the field you are applying is enough to secure your admission in your desired program. But in cases like the program of your interest explicitly mentions about GRE subject test, you are planning to change your field of work or you do have a solid educational profile you must have a good GRE subject score on your application. If you are confident enough to succeed without it, It will save you a lot of money. It is always suggested to go for the GRE subject test as it may give you the upper edge to fellow students.
  3. How do I use my GRE score?
    Your GRE scorecard contains your score in every measure as well as in the subject tests. ETS sends the scorecard to different universities and programs on your request. Most grad schools are usually concerned only with the section that more closely relates to what your program will be focusing on. That’s why at the time of preparation, you may want to focus on the measure which concerns you the most at the time of application.
  4. What is considered a good score in GRE?
    For GRE General Test you are scored out of 340, considering only the verbal and quantitative measures count to the score. Some students do get marks 325 and above, but a score above 315 is considered a good one. Also, it mostly depends on the measure closely related to the curriculum you are applying, if it includes a lot of mathematics, the university may not judge on not having a perfect score in the verbal section.
  5. What else do I need to get admission in the program I wish to join?
    A good score in GRE assures the university that you have excellence in academics, but that does not mean you won’t face other problems like communication. Depending on the language of the particular institute curriculum, they may demand a score in a language exam like most of the English Institutions accepts the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the name explains the significance. 

Ending Remarks: We will be releasing another article that will give you more information about TOEFL and how to prepare for it.