The first step in preparing yourself is to learn what to expect from the exam's format and structure. The GRE has three types of sections, and each has a time limit in which it must be completed:
- Verbal: Two 30-minute sections testing vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension skills. Question types include text completion, sentence equivalence and reading comprehension.
- Quantitative: Two 35-minute sections testing arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis skills. Question types including comparing values, solving word problems and analyzing data. As of Aug. 1, 2011, a calculator is permitted.
- Analytical Writing: One section with two separately timed 30-minute essays testing your ability to write clearly and effectively. The first asks you to state and support your opinion on an issue, and the second asks you to evaluate an argument.
In most testing places, all sections of the GRE are taken on a computer and the verbal and quantitative sections use computer-adaptive testing. This means that if you answer questions correctly, the computer will give you harder questions that are worth more points. Answer them incorrectly, and you'll get easier questions -- but getting them right won't boost your score as much.
It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with how the computer interface works to ensure that you're used to the format. You can learn more about the system, in addition to how to schedule your exam, at the GRE Web site [source: ETS].