Surviving the GRE

By: Katie

Many people who plan on attending grad school have heard of the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. The GRE is basically the grad school version of the ACT or SAT, except more daunting. Before taking the GRE, I heard primarily horror stories from GRE survivors. And, I’ll admit, studying for and taking the GRE is not the most enjoyable thing you’ll do. However, there are several things you can do to make the process less stressful and give yourself the best shot for success. Here are some of my tips for making the GRE as painless as possible.

First of all, make sure it’s required.

Before you start preparing for the GRE, make sure you actually need to take it! Only certain areas of study use the GRE in admissions decisions, and within those areas, only certain programs will require it. Before signing up for the test and cracking open a prep book, look at the programs you’re interested in to see if you even need to!

Space out your preparation.

I’m so grateful I took the GRE during the summer. Doing so meant I could focus on preparing for the GRE without worrying about doing any other homework or studying. Make sure you sign up to take the GRE so that you’ll be able to study regularly for a few months leading up to your test date and not cram or skimp on your studying because you have so many other responsibilities.

Figure out what type of preparation works for you.

There are many ways to prepare for big tests, so think about the ways that work for you and focus your studying based on that. Does using flashcards to memorize words or equations work for you, or do you like learning them through completing practice questions and problems? Does doing a lot of practice tests help you, or do you prefer reading mini refresher chapters or going to a prep class? With all the time you’ll spend preparing, make sure the methods you choose work for you.

Take advantage of free prep materials.

Once you know what type of prep works for you, look into all the free materials available. On the ETS website, you can find a few free, full-length practice tests you can complete. These are great, because they’re written by those who create the test and will give you the best idea of what the test will be like. Beyond practice tests, you can also find several different apps or websites for vocab flashcards that can help you prepare for the verbal section. If you want further prep materials, look closely at what the books or other materials will give you before purchasing them. Prep materials vary widely, so pick one that has the resources you need.

Know which schools you want to send your scores to.

On the day of the test, you can send your scores to four schools for free. If you want to send your scores later, you’ll have to pay $27 per report sent. Even if you don’t know exactly which programs you’re applying to, pick four you’re interested in and put those down. If you don’t end up applying to those programs, that’s fine!

Take it easy the days leading up to the test.

You’re not going to learn much more in those last few days. Just take that time to relax and make sure you’re well-rested and mentally prepared for the exam. You also should take those days to make sure you know exactly where to go for your test and what to expect when you get there. Which leads me to my final tip…

Know what to expect the day of the test.

Security for the GRE is no joke. You can’t bring anything inside – not a water bottle, a jacket, chapstick (all of which I wanted with me) or anything else. You will also likely be filmed and have several other students around you taking different tests and moving in and out of the room. If either one of these is a concern for you, contact your testing center to see if alternate arrangements could be made. To prepare for what taking the actual test would be like, I found it helpful to take a practice test under the conditions of the real thing. This meant taking each section back-to-back, with breaks only at allowed times and time limits on the sections and breaks. Preparing in these ways ensures there won’t be any surprises on test day.

While it’s important to study hard and fully prepare for the GRE, it’s also good to remember that how you do on the GRE probably isn’t going to decide whether you get into a program or not. The GRE is just one of several factors considered in admissions decisions, so don’t take it too seriously!

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Basics to Know About the GRE Exam

By: Taylor

As I’m getting closer to graduating from UMD, I am considering my post-graduation decisions more seriously. As a junior, I am looking into a variety of graduate programs trying to find one that will fit my interests and needs. I quickly realized that for most graduate school options that I am looking into, I will need to take the Graduate Record Examination or the GRE. I personally had no idea what this test entailed, where I would take it or when, so I began to research! Today I will share with you some of my findings.

The GRE is offered 1-3 times per month based on your testing center (there is one located in Duluth). You can take the test as many times as you would like, just not more than once in the same month. There is a fee associated with taking the exam each time. As far as formatting goes, the test is divided into three parts: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. These are chosen because they are skills that are used in a variety of fields and are not career or field specific.

When is the appropriate time to take the exam? There is much ambiguity with this answer. I found out that test scores are valid for approximately five years. So even if you’re looking into taking a break between undergrad and graduate school, you can still take the GRE now. It is wise to plan ahead and talk to admissions counselors at the schools you’d like to attend. They will give you useful advice about scores they want to see, and also when application deadlines are. You can then plan accordingly, to make sure you are finished early enough to have your scores sent in. You can also budget enough time to take the exam a second time in case you aren’t satisfied with your initial scores. Also important to note, not every graduate program requires you to take the GRE. You may have to take a different entrance exam or no exam at all. Check the admissions requirements for each program to know for sure.

There were a lot of sites available that offered advice for the GRE. Some of the reoccurring themes were: make sure to study, memorize math equations, and take practice exams. I also found that there is an abundance of free study materials online. Even the GRE website offers a free software that will give you practice exams, vocabulary words, and much more.

If the GRE is something that is of interest to you, I recommend checking out their website. There is a ton of useful information about submitting your scores after the test and it also goes into great detail about what you can expect to see on the test. Good luck!

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