How to Prepare for the GRE TEST

In my experience as a certified language teacher and Principal at schools and learning centers around the world, this is the question I am asked time and time again, “How do I prepare for the GRE test?”.  When beginning the process of studying and preparing for a test it is difficult to know where to begin.

We are here to help you.

As you plan to get ready for the GRE General Test it is important to have a strategy.  It is important to know what steps to take in order to achieve an excellent result on this test.  I will walk you through the steps and strategies you will need in order to cross the finish line and win the race (and try to have a little fun while you prepare for the GRE).

Let’s get started! 😃

Step 1: What does the GRE Test assess?

The GRE General Test focuses on ways of thinking.  The test assesses the ways that you take information in and how you make sense of it.  The test works to make sure that you UNDERSTAND what you are seeing, hearing, and writing.  These are skills that you will need when you become a professional.  For example, these skills are extremely important for individuals who plan to enter the world of business and for those looking to practice law.  All professional positions require the skill of reasoning.

What is reasoning?

Reasoning the ability to make sense of something.  Reasoning involves making logical connections between things and then being able to come to a conclusion.  A simple example of reason is this: 

If I plant one seed – I will get one flower.

If I plant two seeds – I will get two flowers.

I can now conclude, using reason, that if I want to have a garden filled with many flowers – I will need to plant lots and lots of seeds.

Reasoning is making sense of information that we experience.

Step 2: Become familiar with the parts of the GRE General Test

The GRE General Test has 3 main sections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Quantitative Reasoning
  3. Analytical Writing

Let’s look at each of these sections separately so that you know what to expect and how to study.

1. Verbal Reasoning

According to the GRE General Test website, this portion of the test focuses on the following:

  • Measures the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discussions
  • Reason from incomplete data
  • Understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author’s intent
  • Summarize text
  • Distinguish major from minor points
  • Understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts
  • Understand relationships among words and among concepts

STOP: Look at this list. Are there portions of the Verbal Reasoning section of the test that you know that you can do?  Are there portions that you are not familiar with?  Take a moment to locate the portions of this section that you will need to work on in order to be ready to take the test.  We will come back to this later.

2. Quantitative Reasoning

According to the GRE General Test website, this portion of the test focuses on the following: 

  • Measures the ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information
  • Solve problems using mathematical models
  • Apply the basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis

STOP: Look at this list.  Are there portions of the Verbal Reasoning section of the test that you know that you can do?  Are there portions that you are not familiar with?  Take a moment to locate the portions of this section that you will need to work on in order to be ready to take the test.  We will come back to this later.

3. Analytical Writing

According to the GRE General Test website, this portion of the test focuses on the following:

  • Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills
  • the ability to articulate and support complex ideas with relevant reasons and examples
  • examine claims and accompanying evidence

STOP: Look at this list.  Are there portions of the Verbal Reasoning section of the test that you know that you can do?  Are there portions that you are not familiar with?  Take a moment to locate the portions of this section that you will need to work on in order to be ready to take the test.  We will come back to this later.

Now that you are familiar with what will be covered on the GRE General Test – you might be asking yourself: how is the test scored?  How will I be assessed on these skills?  This brings us to our next step.

Step 3: Become familiar with how the GRE General Test is layed out

The first two sections of the test are very similar in the way that they are presented on the test.  The Verbal Reasoning and the Quantitative Reasoning sections have very similar layouts.  The Analytical Writing section is a little different.

Step 4:  Make sure that you are aware of the time you have to complete the GRE General test

One part of the test that makes it difficult is that it is timed.  Many people studying for the test do not take this into account.  It is important that you remember that the clock is ticking as you work to complete each section of the test. 

WAs you prepare for the GRE test, it is important that you remember that you will not be given endless amounts of time to complete the GRE General Test.

As you practice for the test, be sure that you are keeping track of how much time each task takes you.  Any section of the test that is missed will be given a mark of zero.

The breakdown of the time given for the test is as follows:

1. Analytical Writing section

This section is ALWAYS first on the test.  You will be given 2 separate tasks in this section.  One task will involve analyzing an issue and the other will involve analyzing an argument.  You will be given 30 minutes to complete each of these tasks.

Analyze an issue = 30 minutes

Analyze an argument = 30 minutes

Total time for this section = 60 minutes

2. Verbal Reasoning section

This section is not always second.  Sometimes this section might be third and the Quantitative Reasoning section will be second.  The placement of this section is not always the same – keep this in mind as you prepare.

For the Verbal Reasoning portion of the test you will be given a total of 40 questions. This portion of the GRE General Test is broken up into 2 sections.  Each of these sections will contain a total of 20 questions.  You will be provided with 30 minutes to complete each of the 2 sections.  This means that you will be given a total of 60 minutes to complete this section.

Section 1 (20 questions) = 30 minutes

Section 2 (20 questions) = 30 minutes

Total time = 60 minutes

3. Quantitative Reasoning section

This section is not always third.  Sometimes this section might be second and the Verbal Reasoning section will be third.  The placement of this section is not always the same – keep this in mind as you prepare.

For the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the test you will be given a total of 40 questions. This portion of the GRE General Test is broken up into 2 sections.  Each of these sections will contain a total of 20 questions.  You will be provided with 35 minutes to complete each of the 2 sections.  This means that you will be given a total of 70 minutes to complete this section.

Section 1 (20 questions) = 35 minutes

Section 2 (20 questions) = 35 minutes

Total time = 70 minutes

4. Unscored sections

There are two additional sections that may appear on your test. These sections are not scored but still must be completed.  The tricky part with these sections is that you will not always know if they are scored or not.  With this in mind, you should simply answer all questions on the test even if you suspect that the question will not be scored.

These sections are for research purposes for future or past GRE General Tests.  They are also for introducing possible questions for upcoming tests.

These sections are NEVER first on the test and if the questions are for research purposes – they will appear at the end of the test.

A good rule to follow is to simply answer ALL questions on the test.

Next you might be wondering how your answers are scored and this takes us to step 5.

Step 5: Get to know how the GRE General Test is scored

The scoring is very straightforward and looks like this:

Analytical Writing section 0-6 points in half point increments

Quantitative Reasoning section 130-170 points in 1 point increments

Verbal Reasoning section 130-170 points in 1 point increments

Remember that if you do not answer a question you will be given a NO SCORE for that question.

Step 6: Know what you should study for each section of the GRE General Test

Each section of the test covers different reasoning skills.  It is important that you know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to studying and preparing for the test.  Each section covers very specific ways of reasoning.  

What to study for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE General Test

For this section, there are five parts to focus on.  As you read through each part that we discuss here – take note of the ones that you need to work on.

  1. You will need to write clearly and effectively.  You will need to be able to write paragraphs and sentences that explain your thoughts and ideas in a way that is easy to understand.  The ideas that you will write will be complex in nature and will need to be clear and concise.

Can you do this?  Are you able to write clear and concise sentences?  Are you able to explain your thoughts and opinions in writing?

  1. You will need to provide support for your ideas with relevant reasons and examples.  The ideas that you write about will require evidence in the form of examples and reasons why you state them.  You need to prove that what you are saying is true.

Have you done this before?  Are you able to come up with examples for things?  Are you able to explain yourself by giving sound and logical reasons?

  1. This section involves examining ideas and arguments as well as evidence that goes along with these claims.  You will be required to look closely at claims that are made and to process the evidence that goes along with them

Are you able to look closely at what you are reading and to process examples and evidence that go along with these them?

  1. You must stay focused on your answer and make sure that you develop well structured paragraphs that prove your point.  Your arguments need to be logical and easy to follow.

Can you write an essay?  Have you ever written a series of paragraphs based on your own opinion?  Can you make a thesis statement?  Can you form a paragraph with a topic sentence, examples, and explanations? 

  1. Your writing must be free of spelling and grammatical errors.  As you write, you must be mindful of your use of English.  Be sure that you use a professional tone in your writing and that you take some time at the end of your answer to go back and edit for errors.

Is your spelling satisfactory?  Are you able to write sentences that are free of grammatical errors?  Are you able to edit your own writing?

Examples: Analytical Writing section

Remember that this section is broken into 2 parts: Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument.

The Analyze an Issue section of the GRE General Test is an opinion essay.  You will be required to write a well structured series of paragraphs that provide an opinion on a topic.  Most of these response questions will ask you if you AGREE or DISAGREE with respect to something. You must choose a position and then provide reasons why by providing evidence and examples in the form of a series of paragraphs.

Typically, the Analyzing an Issue section involves two parts:

  1. Do you agree or disagree and why  AND
  2. Consider another aspect provided 

For example: Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

Be sure that you address both parts in your series of paragraphs.

The Analyze an Argument section of the GRE General Test involves determining what the main argument is in a paragraph.  Typically a paragraph is provided that asserts some sort of claim and you are required to identify that claim and discuss it.

Typically, the Analyzing an Argument section involves two parts:

  1. Identify the argument AND
  2. Explain how the argument works within the piece

For example: Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

On to the next section …

What to study for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE General Test

For this section, there are three parts to focus on.  As you read through each part that we discuss here – take note of the ones that you need to work on.

  1. You need to be able to understand various levels of meaning.  You will also have to draw conclusions from data that is not always complete.

Do you know how to make an inference?  Are you able to distinguish between literal and figurative language?  Do you know how to determine an author’s intent?

  1. You will have to sort through text and determine the importance of each point being made.  You will also have to be able to summarize a piece of text.

Can you distinguish between major and minor parts of a text?  Can you write a summary?

  1. You must be able to understand a range of vocabulary words and complex sentences.  You will be asked to provide answers that require knowledge of grammatical sentence structure.

Are you able to identify a variety of words?  Are you able to complete sentences using the current word or term?

Examples: Verbal Reasoning section

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE General Test includes 2 types of questions

  1. Multiple choice
  2. Select the correct word or sentence

These questions are delivered in three different ways:

  1. Reading Comprehension

In this portion of the test, you are required to read a short passage and answer a series of multiple choice questions based on the passage.

  1. Text Completion

In this portion of the test you will be given a passage to read.  This passage will be missing a variety of important words.  You must choose the word that is missing from a list of words provided.

  1. Sentence Equivalence

This type of question is very similar to the text completion section.  You will be given a sentence with a missing word and you must choose the correct word from a list of possible choices.

Now to our final section …

What to study for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE General Test

For this section, there are three parts to focus on.  As you read through each part that we discuss here – take note of the ones that you need to work on.

  1. You will need to be able to interpret and analyze data that pertains to numbers

Are you able to interpret graphs?  Are you able to interpret word problems?

  1. Mathematical model solving

Can you identify characteristics of shapes?  Are you able to compare quantities and identify differences?

  1. You must have basic understanding of algebra, geometry, and data analysis

Can you interpret yx points on a graph?  Are you able to calculate angles on various shapes?

Examples: Quantitative Reasoning section

The Quantitative  Reasoning section of the GRE General Test includes 3 types of questions

  1. Multiple choice
  2. Enter the correct number
  3. Comparison questions

These questions are delivered in three different ways:

  1. Interpreting Figures

In this part of the test you will be shown graphics and figures and you will be required to answer questions that pertain to them.  Typically the format of these questions is multiple choice.

  1. Word Problems

For these questions you must be able to read through a piece of writing and to determine the correct answer.  These questions pertain to money, IF statements, and other mathematical concepts.

  1. Formula Related Problems

These questions require you input information provided into mathematical formulas and to arrive at a numeric answer.  These questions require you to input an exact number as the answer.  There is no multiple choice for this option – you must arrive at the exact answer and record it.

For the Quantitative Reasoning section of the test, it is important that you use online resources in order to practice your basic mathematical skills.  Be sure that you are very familiar with all concepts mentioned here.  There are many online resources that allow you to practice and refresh your knowledge with respect to these concepts.

Step 7: Practice, Practice, Practice

The internet is filled with a lot of valuable tools for you to use and practice for the GRE General Test.  

Do not simply take the test without trying out many practice questions beforehand.  Also remember to make sure that you time yourself while you are answering each question so that you will be confident with your time management when you are writing the test.

Here are some great additional resources for you to use in you GRE prep journey.

GLEN — maybe you can provide some links here — I dont know how or if you want to do it …

I really do wish you the best of luck with scoring high on the GRE Standard Test.  I am confident that if you follow the steps that I have outlined here – you will score high on this test.

Good luck on the GRE Standard Test and good luck in your bright future that lies ahead!