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How the GRE Works

Preparing For and Taking The GRE

From the time you decide to sit for the GRE until you answer the last question, the key to success lies in your planning, preparation and pace. Working backward, you need to determine when you want to enter graduate school. Ask yourself: Do you want to start graduate school in the fall after your college graduation or take time between the two? Once that is determined, lay out a strategy to prepare for the exam and pace yourself.

This is not a test where cramming works.

One approach is to first

take a practice test online to determine the areas you need to strengthen. PowerPrep, free software offered by ETS, includes two free practice tests including scoring of the verbal and quantitative sections. For a small fee, ETS will also score your essays.

Next, register for the test several months in advance of the date you prefer. Fall is the most popular time to take the GRE, in order to meet graduate school admission deadlines. So register early to make sure you get a spot.

Once the date is set and you have a handle on your strengths and weaknesses, choose a test preparation strategy that works best for you. These goal-oriented study methods can help you pace your preparation:

  • Score-based -- Use a study manual and take practice tests until you reach your score goal.
  • Time-based -- Commit to studying for a specific amount of time each day or week
  • Material-based -- Commit to studying a chunk of material each day or week

[source: Gradsource]

There are numerous GRE test preparation resources for sale, or available online at no cost. Additionally, you may consider tutoring, classroom courses or online courses.

ETS strongly encourages test takers to pace themselves during the exam. And taking practice tests throughout the preparation phase helps you know what to expect and establish a familiar rhythm for when your test day arrives. The GRE recommends the following strategies for completing the exam:

  • Read the directions carefully before you begin.
  • Budget your time for each section and frequently consult the on-screen clock.
  • Carefully read each question to determine what is being asked. Eliminate the wrong answers and choose the best of the remaining options.
  • Try not to get hung up on one question; it's important to try to finish each section.

[source: ETS]

After preparing for and taking the GRE, the only thing that stands between you and graduate school is your score. On the next page, you'll learn how the test is scored and the scoring changes being made to the new GRE.