So you’re thinking about graduate school. That means your next standardized test of choice will probably be the GRE. To break It down a bit, the LSAT is for law school, the GMAT is for business school, and the GRE is for other masters programs. Like taking the SAT or ACT in high school, the GRE is meant to showcase what you already know and your capability for succeeding in a rigorous graduate program. There are three sections: verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing. The test is administered completely on the computer. This means you’ll get your quantitative and verbal scores back immediately. Those two sections are scored between 130 and 170 and your two essays are scored between 3.0 and 6.0 in half point increments.  The test consists of two essays, two math sections, two verbal sections, and one experimental/research section of either verbal or math. Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s address what you really need to know before taking the GRE.

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  1. If you even need to be taking it

I’m being serious. Sure, you’re going to grad school, but does your program require the GRE? Many schools are moving away from standardized testing, so be sure to check. However, even schools that don’t require the GRE often give preference for admissions or fellowships to applicants with good GRE scores. Since the test is expensive though, over $200, you’ll want to be sure it’s in your best interest to take the test before shelling out the registration fees.

  1. How to survive with only basic calculator functions

We are so blessed to have scientific and graphing calculators that will find the center of a circle, plot a graph, etc., but when it comes to the GRE, your calculator is pretty basic. It divides, multipes, adds, and subtracts and that is about it. It’s still super helpful to have a calculator at all, but when you’re doing practice tests at home, don’t rely too strongly on your fancier functions. Pro tip: learn how to do the fancier functions using the basic functions. Learn that pi is 3.14. Learn how to do exponents on your own efficiently. It’ll save you time in the long run.

  1. How to approach a quantitative comparison question

Math is math, right? Wrong. On the GRE, about half of your quantitative questions will be quantitative comparisons, as seen below. These questions are why I advocate so strongly for practice tests. These aren’t your typical math questions, but there are ways to approach them. I’m a huge fan of just picking a number for X or Y and substituting, but for questions like the one below, you do kind of have to know what you are doing. I won’t go through exponent rules, you can look them up if you’re struggling, but you have to realize you are essentially being asked to compare two numbers. Which number is bigger? If, after a minute or so, you have no idea how you would even figure it out, you might not have enough information. That’s a valid answer. Do a lot of these practice questions. You won’t regret it.

  1. How to write each type of essay effectively in 30 minutes

The analytical writing component of the GRE was my favorite part because I had read a lot of example essays and know exactly what to do. Remember in high school when you were taught to do a five point essay with an introduction, three body paragraphs addressing three points, and a conclusion? Bring it back for the GRE. In fact, that’s all you’ve got time for. The two essays are each allotted thirty minutes. In the first, you’ll be given a statement such as “The government should require taxi drivers to pass background checks” and you have to either agree or disagree and give your argument. Simple as that. In the second, you’re given an argument of sorts, very basic, and you have to evaluate it by pointing out what that person may have missed or overlooked, any logical fallacies, etc. It’s a lot like doing the opposite of what you did in the first essay. Your best bet for succeeding in the essay portion is to read a lot of sample essays, practice writing them in thirty minutes or less, and outline. Also, proofread. The word processing software on the GRE does not have spell-check, but it can be counted against you if you misspell basic words or have glaring grammatical errors.

RELATED READ: 5 Things To Know Before Taking The LSAT

  1. The verbal section’s tips and tricks

The GRE verbal section has something in common with reading on the ACT and vocabulary on the SAT, but it’s a bit more intense. The vocabulary is definitely more difficult. You should study common lists, which are available online. I like to try and use the word in a sentence to cement the meaning in my head. Many of the verbal questions will have you pick two words, and you have to get both right to get the question correct. Always think carefully on those and make sure your choices are congruent.  Then, when it comes to the more analytical verbal questions, don’t be afraid to ask questions of yourself. Reread multiple times, and don’t assume something that isn’t written in plain text. When you’re asked about authorial intent or the true argument, don’t hypothesize based on what you know about the subject. Stick to what is on the page. There are also a bevy of practice verbal tests out there. I highly recommend you practice as much as possible.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member