How to Prepare for GRE Exam: Complete Guide

Every student aspiring for higher education at topmost colleges and universities abroad and in India require a good GRE score. Unfortunately, most students remain in dark about the two different types of GRE tests and how to study for them.

In this complete guide, I will provide complete details on types of GRE tests and how to prepare for GRE.

Therefore, let’s begin by understanding why GRE tests and what are they all about.

how to prepare for GRE

Understanding GRE

The full form of GRE is Graduate Record Examinations. Worldwide, GRE tests are administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Since 1936, educational institutions around the world are using GRE to ensure that students with the right aptitude get seats for the course they wish to study.

GRE isn’t a compulsory requirement for every college or university. However, if you’re planning on studying abroad especially in the US, an educational institution would most likely demand a GRE test score along with your admission papers.

There’re two distinct types of GRE tests: General and Subject. Most educational institutions will require scores of either of these two GRE tests.

However, you might have to present scores of GRE General as well as GRE Subject tests in exceptional cases, while seeking admissions to highly specialized courses.

Now let’s see how GRE General differs from GRE Subject tests.

Difference in GRE General and GRE Subject

There’re five major differences between a GRE General and GRE Subject tests. I’ll explain these briefly so you can better prepare for the GRE exam you wish to apply for.

  1. A GRE General scores are required while applying for Graduate and Post Graduate studies at several colleges and universities. A GRE Subject test score is asked only while applying for highly specialized courses.
  2. A GRE General test covers a total of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning and Qualitative Reasoning. In stark contrast, GRE Subject deals with eight different subjects and you’ll have to pass the one a college or university requires. The GRE Subject is held for Psychology, Computer Science, Physics, Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and English literature.
  3. You can take a GRE General test round the year after enrolling on ETS website and proper preparation. It’s available online and offline- at exam centers decided by ETS. On the other hand, GRE Subject test are not available online. Hence, you have to attend the test at a center decided by ETS in your country. GRE Subject tests are available in April, August and October every year, though the schedule may vary according to your country.
  4. Scoring for GRE General and GRE Subject tests differs vastly. For GRE General, you have to score between 120 and 170 points. Your score is calculated on basis of one-point increments GRE Subject tests scores are calculated from 220 to 900 points with increments allotted in 10 points each.
  5. The cost of a GRE General and GRE Subject test is very different. A GRE General test costs between $200 and $225 depending upon your country of residence. ETS pegs the median cost of a GRE General test at $205. However, GRE Subject test costs $150 per subject around the world.

These five differences make it very clear that you need to prepare for the two kinds of GRE tests in different ways.

Preparing for GRE General

The first thing to remember is that passing GRE isn’t something you can do by merely memorizing a few things here and there, which is unfortunately, a common practice among students nowadays.

Instead, you’ll have to exert extra efforts with lots of seriousness to crack the GRE General test and score high. That’s because every college and university requires a minimum score to be eligible for application.

Meaning, if you score lesser points than what a college or university stipulates, your application for admission won’t even come up for consideration.

This automatically translates as losing out on an excellent opportunity to study at some of the respected seats of learning. This has a cascade effect on your entire career and without exaggeration, your entire life too.

Follow these simple tips to prepare for a GRE General test.

1. Know Where You Stand

Here’s my first tip to prepare for GRE General: find exactly where you stand. As I explain earlier, GRE General consists of three tests: Qualitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Reasoning. These are skills you can’t really acquire by reading text books or study material.

Understandably, there’re lots of books and online courses available that teach you how to crack these three tests.

However, in my opinion, the best way to pass these tests is by using own skills and fine-tuning them with a lot of studies from available material.

The best way to begin your GRE General journey is by trying a few free mock tests available online, without reading any books or study material. Depend on your own reasoning skills to crack these mock tests. Each of these mock tests provide you a score.

Since every college or university has different minimum GRE score requirements, use this simple guide to know where you stand. And if you’re falling short of this minimum score, find areas where you can do better.

2. Fix Your Target Scores

Finding where you could do better is very important because that automatically guides you to the second step: Fixing your target scores. Obviously you’ll have a shortlist of three to five colleges and universities where you want admissions for graduate or post graduate course.

Find out what’s the minimum GRE General scores are acceptable for admission to colleges and universities of your choice.

As I say earlier, each educational institution has its own parameters for GRE General’s scores to admit students.  You can easily find these minimum score requirements by checking websites of these colleges and universities.

As the old adage goes: always aim for the Moon. Meaning, once you’re aware of the minimum GRE General’s scores requirement, aim at scoring much higher. This improves your overall chances of getting admission to the educational institution of your choice.

3. Identify Your Gray Areas

Now that you know the difference between scores you’ll get without any preparations for a GRE test and minimum GRE scores necessary to gain admission to your chosen college or university, things get easier.

The next step is to carefully identify your gray areas. This is fairly easy since you’ve already taken the mock test and found scores as I’m suggesting earlier in this article. Results of the mock tests will clearly indicate your strong points and gray areas.

And once you’ve made a list of these gray areas, draw a complete plan to patch them up. This isn’t as difficult as you might falsely believe. The scores will clearly show you where you lag as well as strong areas.

Focus on further strengthening your strong areas. This is something that most GRE General applicants fail to do. They believe they’re strong in some particular areas and neglect them while focusing on weaker ones. That’s the wrong way to prepare for GRE General tests.

When you also strengthen your already strong points, you’re actually aiming for a higher score instead of merely targeting the minimum scores.

At the same time, get ready to put in a lot of hard work to cover those gray areas where you can definitely do much better.

4. Define Your Approach to the Test

GRE General requires a specific approach. That means, you’ll have to decide for yourself, the manner in which you’ll handle and answer every question and tests.

Here’s some vital information: each part of a GRE General topic requires a different approach altogether. You cannot afford a fixed mindset to respond to every question and challenge.

There lots of study material available from ETS. These are official products and publications of ETS or the authority that administers the GRE General test. Buy any of these official ones:

They have superb practice sessions that will also provide deep insights into how to tackle a Analytic, Quantitative and Verbal tests from GRE.

Furthermore, you can also download a few free resources from the official ETS website as well as paid ones. I recommend you to go for all these free resources at the beginning and later, go for the paid ones, if necessary.

5. Online or Offline

Majority of GRE General candidates opt for the online test. Therefore, concentrate your energies on cracking the online version. Unless of course, your region doesn’t have online tests or you have specific reasons to opt for offline ones.

It’s very easy to get mock online tests and start practicing on them daily. Go for the ones from ETS as well as some other providers.

Though ETS is the official one, there’re some superb mock GRE General tests available from other providers. When you use a combination of both, you’re better prepared for GRE General because you’ll also learn different approaches.

6. Enhance GRE Vocabulary

And finally prepare for GRE test by improving your vocabulary to suit ETS and the university standards. There’s no shortage of free online study material that would help you learn complex grammar and other skills that hold the key to improving your GRE General vocabulary.

I’m emphasizing on GRE General’s vocabulary since this is the portion where most candidates flounder and fail. Actually, the vocabulary part isn’t all that difficult. Unfortunately, most candidates lose on this account because of overconfidence.

Nowadays, coaching classes that tutor you on how to improve vocabulary and develop an approach to cracking GRE General are also available. I have no personal opinion about these classes.

If you would love to attend coaching classes, look for those having a superb track record in your area. They usually advertise their top scorers. However, beware of tall claims by these coaching classes.

Preparation for GRE Subject

Now that you’re aware about cracking GRE General test, here’s how you can prepare for GRE Subject test too.

Follow Same Steps as GRE General

The steps that I’ve described above for GRE General are the same ones you’ll need to follow for GRE Subject test too.

However, you can skip the Vocabulary part of the preparations for GRE General. Also, you’ll require a different approach to pass GRE Subject test.

Download Free GRE Subject Resources

Once you follow these steps, the next thing to do is download the relevant free study material from ETS, the organization that administers GRE Subject tests. You can also register on a very reputed coaching class online to master the best ways to crack a GRE Subject test.

Take Free Practice Tests

There’re lots of free GRE Subject tests available online. The best way to prepare for GRE Subject is to take as many of them on your chosen subject. According to GRE test experts, the GRE Subject can be much tougher to crack than GRE General. Hence, the more you practice, the better.

More Ways to Prepare for GRE

There’re three excellent resources that I must mention while writing on how to prepare for GRE.

Both these resources help you prepare for both GRE General and GRE Subject. That’s because the Facebook page features regular updates, free bonus resources, quiz contests as well as comments from other GRE General and GRE Subject aspirants.

You can learn a lot from their comments too. You can also ask questions or seek free advice from ETS experts using the Facebook Messenger.

The Instagram account carries a lot of tips and tweaks as well as important updates of GRE General and GRE Subject.

ETS’ official YouTube page is a goldmine of resources to prepare for GRE tests. You can watch free videos and tutorials on how to crack GRE General and GRE Subject on the YouTube channel.

In Conclusion

Before concluding, I’ll add that it’s not easy to prepare for GRE if you go with the mindset of merely memorizing a few things and attempt the test or believe your existing skills are sufficient. What you require is intense focus, hard work and right resources, which I have listed above.

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