GRE Study Guide
Chapter 1 – Understanding the GRE Looking to get your graduate degree? First you will need to ace the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)! Easily one of the most popular standardized tests for students, the GRE is a set of general and subject tests that will assist you in gaining entrance to your preferred program of choice. Here you will also find details of the GRE format, question structure, and scoring system.
Chapter 2 – Verbal Reasoning Verbal reasoning is one of the three sections that make up the general GRE test. It tests your ability to understand and analyze high-level prose via two tasks, each of which must be completed within 30 minutes. Each task, in turn, falls into one of three categories of multiple choice questions: 1) reading comprehension, 2) sentence completion, and 3) sentence equivalence. An overview of each of the three types of questions, verbal reasoning tips, and study strategies follows in the chapter.
Chapter 3 – Quantitative Reasoning The second section of the general GRE test is quantitative reasoning, which is also the lengthiest and the most important of all the three sections. It is a test of your mathematical and numerical abilities, and real-world applications of the same. This section analyzes four key skills: 1) arithmetic, 2) geometry, 3) algebra, and 4) data analysis. An overview of each skill tested, the detailed topics under each skill-test, types of questions to expect, and more follows in the chapter.
Chapter 4 – Analytical Writing Analytical writing, also known as an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), is the last section of the general GRE test. It is the essay section, where your ability to think critically, and write analytically, is tested via two essays of 30-minutes each. The former skill is tested through analysis of an issue, while the latter is tested through analysis of an argument. Scores are awarded on the basis of three assessment criteria. An overview of the two AWA tasks, tips on how to write good essays, breakdown of the AWA grading/point system, and a comprehensive AWA preparation strategy follow in the chapter.
Chapter 5 – Common Mistakes Made on the GRE The GRE is one of the most popular standardized tests in the world, and with good reason. This also makes it one of the most difficult tests in the world. Even the slightest of mistakes can cost you dearly, and possibly prevent you from securing a seat in a graduate university of your choice. Check out the common mistakes graduate aspirants make while taking the GRE, as well as a list of the top mistakes by section, in this chapter.
Chapter 6 – Do Not Ignore These if You Want to Score Well on the GRE When it comes to preparing for the GRE, a keen eye for detail will save you. When it comes to taking the actual test, ignoring key details will destroy you. Is your GRE preparation strategy foolproof? Have you mastered the complex art of managing time while taking the test? Browse through the final list of top tips to prepare and perform well in the GRE by reading the final chapter of The GRE Guide.
Introduction to the GRE
What is the GRE?
The GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. It is a type of standardized test for students who aspire to join post-graduate programs in the U.S. and other countries. The GRE is divided into two types of tests. The first one is a general test, and the second one is divided into subject tests. When speaking of GRE, priority is always given to the general test at first. The general test is what all applicants must take, unlike the subject tests, which are specific to their chosen subjects.
The general test contains questions that are designed to simulate the thinking abilities, which you would need at a business school or any other post-graduate course. The general test contains various sections that include analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. The verbal and quantitative reasoning tests are scored on a scale between 200 and 800. On the other hand, the analytical writing section relies on point-based scoring, where six points are the highest that can be scored. The verbal reasoning test aims to measure a candidate’s ability to evaluate and analyze written content and process the information found within that written content. Quantitative reasoning tests your ability to solve problems by using quantitative methods, which might include arithmetic, algebra, data analysis, and geometry. The Analytical Writing section tests abilities related to writing and critical thinking. It tests your ability to explain and support ideas or concepts in a fluent and efficient manner.
Who Takes the Test?
The GRE is taken by a wide range of students who aspire to enroll in graduate courses or business school. The aspiring applicants come from all over the globe, and their general aim is to pursue a master’s degree, doctoral degree, or even a top MBA online program. The GRE helps in measuring the abilities and skills of the candidates using a common system, especially since the applicants originate from various cultural and educational backgrounds. The GRE results are then used by various panels that oversee admissions, fellowships, or scholarships as a supplement to already existing undergraduate results, recommendation letters, and various other necessary qualifications.
The test is taken at authorized centers located across the globe in various countries, cities, towns, and so on. To be more specific, there are around 1000 authorized GRE centers located in 160 countries. Most of the countries offer the computer-delivered tests throughout the year. In fact, in Korea, Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, the computer-delivered test is available up to thrice a month. The countries that do not follow the computer-delivered test system use an alternative system called the paper (delivered) GRE test. This type of GRE test is conducted thrice a year in the months of February, October, and November.
Overview of Question Types on the GRE
There are 3 main sections in the GRE General Test. These sections include Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Each section is designed to test your general intelligence and is not at all related to your expertise in a chosen field of study. In fact, some would say that the General Test is much more relevant than the chosen field of study.
- Conduct an analysis of a piece of discourse and derive conclusions from it.
- Use reasoning skills with help from insufficient data.
- Determine the writer or author’s perspective or assumptions from reading the written content.
- Understand different kinds of meanings such as figurative meaning, literal meaning, and intended meaning.
- Identify significant points and distinguish them from less significant points.
- Make sense of textual structure and also summarize the given text.
- Understand the meanings of specific words, sentences, and whole paragraphs.
- Understand the connection between words and concepts/ideas.
The Quantitative Test:
- Interpret quantitative data or information and then analyze it.
- Find solutions to problems using mathematics.
- Implement mathematical systems such as algebra, arithmetic, data interpretation, and geometry to solve problems.
A calculator is usually provided during this part of the General GRE Test.
The Analytical Writing Test:
- Articulate or explain ideas fluently.
- Support these ideas with the help of examples and reasoning skills.
- Analyze claims and their related evidence.
- Discuss coherently and with focus.
- Manage the various core aspects of written English.
The entire purpose of the Analytical Writing Section is to help you showcase your skills in responding appropriately to a given task.
GRE Question Structure
There are two particular types of GRE General Tests. One is the Computer-Delivered Test, and the other is the Paper-Delivered Test. The following breaks down what you can expect from each type.
The Paper-Delivered Test:
- Time: The time given is 3 hours and 30 minutes for the entire test. The test contains a total of 6 sections with a 10-minute break provided after the completion of the second section.
- Time per section: Each test is provided with a particular time limit. The Analytical Writing Test is divided into 2 sections. Each section must be answered in 30 minutes. The first section involves the analysis of a problem while the second one involves the analysis of an argument. Similarly, the Verbal Reasoning Test is divided into two sections with a total of 25 questions per section. The time provided is 35 minutes for each section. As for the Quantitative Analysis Test, there are two sections again with 25 questions each. The time provided for each section is 40 minutes.
- Order of the tests: The Analytical Writing Test is always the first part of the GRE General Exam. However, the other two tests may arrive in any order.
Candidates are allowed to skip and return to questions in the sections provided under Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning. The answers can also be changed if needed.
The Computer-Delivered Test:
- Time: The time provided for the Computer-Delivered GRE General Test is 3 hours and 45 minutes. There are 6 sections in the test with a 10-minute break being provided after the completion of the third section.
- Time per section: The Analytical Writing Tests contains a single section that is divided into 2 separate tasks. Each task must be completed in 30 minutes. The first task is to analyze a problem, and the other is to analyze an argument. Similarly, the Verbal Reasoning Test has 2 sections with 20 questions each. The time allotted per section is 30 minutes. The Quantitative Reasoning Test has 2 sections with 20 questions each and a 35-minute time limit per section.
- Extra sections: There will be an Unscored Section or a Research Section provided, too. The Research Section will usually turn up right at the end of the test. The Research Section is provided for ETS’s (Educational Testing Service) research purposes, while the Unscored Section helps ETS try out questions that may be incorporated into the GRE General Test in the future. The Unscored Section also helps ETS compare the scores between earlier and newer editions of the test.
- Order of the tests: The Analytical Writing Test is always the first, while the others may appear in any order. This is why even the Research Section or the Unscored Section must be treated as scored sections, in order to complete the test on time.
Questions can be skipped and returned to later, for which you are provided with ‘Mark’ and ‘Review’ features for each question. Answers can also be edited and corrected, if required.
The Scoring System for the GRE
The scores of the GRE General Test are valid for up to 5 years from the date of testing, after which you must take part in the test again if needed. These are the following scoring patterns for the GRE General Test:
- Verbal Reasoning: 130-170 with an increment of 1 point.
- Quantitative Reasoning: 130-170 with an increment of 1 point.
- Analytical Writing: 0 to 6 points with an increment of half a point.
Sections that go unanswered will be marked as ‘NS’ or ‘No Score’. The scoring processes for the Computer-Delivered Test and Paper-Delivered Tests are similar. First, a raw score is calculated for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Sections based on the number of correct answers given. The number of questions with the right answers and the statistical aspects of the questions are factored into the raw score, as well. So two candidates who give the right answers to the same number of questions end up with varying scores, which is explained by the complexity of the questions each of the candidates answered.
The raw score is then is scaled to the final score using the method of equating. The final score is then fixed to reflect the differences in the complexity of the questions that appeared in different versions of the test.
As for the Analytical Writing Test, scoring is carried out by two readers who assess the answers based on writing skills and critical thinking abilities. Minor grammatical errors are usually overlooked; however, serious ones end up affecting the overall score. The readers score answers on a 0-to-6-point scale with half point increments. The average for both reader scores is calculated and rounded off to the closest 1.5 points, resulting in the final score for the Analytical Writing Test. If there is a wide difference between the scores provided by the first two readers, then the test is evaluated by a third reader.
What is ScoreSelect?
The ScoreSelect option allows you to send in only your best scores to the institutes or schools you are applying to. It basically means that you can take a GRE test twice and then choose the best scores to send.
When the time comes to actually send in the scores, you can choose from the following options:
On test day:
- Most recent: The scores from the current test can be sent.
- All options: It allows you to send scores from all the General Tests you took within the past 5 years.
- You can also choose not to send in any of the scores for the time being.
After test day, candidates can send in extra score reports for a small sum.
- Most recent: Scores from the most recent test can be sent in.
- All options: Scores from all the GRE General Tests from the past five years can be sent in.
- Any option: Any particular set of scores can be chosen and sent as per your wishes.
The benefit of the ScoreSelect System is that you can choose to send in only your best scores. Plus, the schools or institutes will only have access to the scores that are sent to them. They will have no information about your performance on other GRE General Tests.
Additional GRE Resources on Getting Started:
What is assessed in this section? One of the most basic expectations for graduate-level students is that they are able to make sense of high-level prose and also analyze it. It covers the ability to know the meanings of words, sentences, paragraphs, and the entire textual content as a whole. This is exactly what is assessed by the Verbal Reasoning part of the GRE General Test. The questions that are presented in the Verbal Reasoning Test are designed to test your ability with regard to comprehending written text or content and evaluating it. It also tests your knowledge of sentence structure analysis and your ability to identify the relationships between concepts and words.
Three Types of Verbal Questions
The Verbal Reasoning Test is divided into 2 sections or tasks, each of which must be completed in 30 minutes. In each section, you will face 3 particular types of multiple-choice questions, which include:
- Reading Comprehension
- Text Completion
- Sentence Equivalence
Overview of the Three Verbal Question Types
- Reading Comprehension: The Reading Comprehension questions are specifically designed to test your command over understanding written text. This also includes testing your strengths in the area of text analysis, your ability to break down primary and secondary points, and your ability to identify the writer’s perspective. Around ten passages will be provided, and all of them will be non-fiction. The passages will be borrowed from subjects that range from physics and biology to social sciences and humanities. Each passage will be accompanied by a set of 6 questions that may pertain to the individual meaning of a word or sentence or may involve analyzing the entire passage. The answering process also varies for each question. You may be asked to choose one right answer or more than one right answer. You may also be asked to identify the answer from within the passage itself.
- Text Completion: The text completion questions are designed to assess your skills with regard to reading. The objective of the test is to find out how well you can evaluate the text that you read. Therefore, critical or important words from the given text are omitted. You will be asked to replace these omitted words or phrases in order to arrive at a passage that makes sense or is coherent. The test is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, it can be extremely challenging, especially since the identification of one omitted word from the passage or text may depend on the identification of another omitted word from the same passage or text.
- Sentence Equivalence: This particular question type is quite similar to Text Completion. However, here, the questions are designed to assess your ability to make sense of an incomplete sentence and then choose the appropriate conclusion to the sentence. You will be asked to opt for two unique phrases or words that finish an incomplete sentence in such a way that it creates 2 finished sentences that enjoy the same meaning. The trick lies in focusing on the first part of the given sentence as it usually provides the clue to completing the sentence appropriately.
Study Strategy and Helpful Tips
Preparation for an examination such as GRE requires a lot of effort and hard work. Therefore, a strategy must be put in place. According to experts, you must dedicate at least 4 to 12 weeks of your time to prepare for GRE. Apart from improving your existing set of skills, experts advise that you practice using sample GRE tests. Taking practice tests has been known to significantly contribute to higher scores on the GRE Verbal Reasoning Test. You can also make use of the PowerPrep II software provided by ETS. The software provides you with sample tests that are exactly like the actual GRE Verbal Reasoning Test. This will provide you with an added advantage as you will have an idea of what to expect, especially when it comes to navigating and operating the Computer-Delivered Test. This will also save time and allow you to focus on the actual test.
You can also make use of various study resources provided by ETS. These resources are either free or available at very low prices. Some of these resources even include guidance videos that provide preparation strategies and tips. Another excellent resource is the Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test. This resource provides tons of sample tests along with complete paper-based practice tests. The guide can be purchased as a paperback or downloaded as an e-book. You can also choose from a wide range of GRE study resources that are provided by third parties. They are available at bookstores, and the prices vary. Most of them are quite reliable; however, experts advise you to do some research on the third party resources before spending on them.
Another misconception that you might have about the Verbal Reasoning Test is that you are required to have a skilled vocabulary. Having a skilled vocabulary is definitely advantageous, but what’s more important is your ability to understand text. Therefore, make a habit of reading advanced texts on a regular basis. Also, make sure to check out various definitions and new words. Once again, sample tests are the best way to test your vocabulary.
The questions on the Verbal Reasoning Test are made up of different formats. Therefore, it is necessary that you read all the given instructions before answering the question. This will help you determine what type of answer you must provide. With regard to the Computer-Delivered GRE Test, you can always mark questions and skip them. Once you’re done with the remaining questions, you can come back to the skipped ones and try solving them. You also have the option of editing your previous answers, if you feel they might be wrong or incomplete.
The scoring of the Verbal Reasoning Test depends on how many questions you’ve answered correctly. There is no negative marking or credit for wrong answers, which means answering every question is the best thing to do. The ideal strategy to use here is to answer all the questions you know first, and then go back to the ones you aren’t sure of.
5 Verbal Reasoning Bonus Tips:
- Get used to the question formats that we discussed earlier. Practice and make sure are thorough with them.
- Read plenty of texts, especially complex ones. This will help you develop your comprehension skills. Do not focus too much on word lists. Instead, read as much as you can. This will help you improve your vocabulary and also your language skills.
- Do not be ashamed to get help. Use resources or talk to other successful GRE candidates that you might know of. There are also many preparatory courses that are available that can help you out. Do not feel embarrassed to enroll in one.
- Keep practicing with sample tests.
- Learn to keep time and practice trying to solve questions within the given time.
Additional Verbal Reasoning Resources:
- Introduction to the Verbal Reasoning Measure
- Resources for GRE Verbal Test
- GRE Verbal Reasoning Questions
Quantitative Reasoning is one of the most important and exhaustive sections in the GRE test paper. It assesses your reasoning skills in math and your ability to apply these concepts to real-life situations. It includes solving problems, most of which are given in the form of word problems. It tests your skills from the word go, converting words into mathematical problems, applying appropriate reasoning, and using suitable tools to come up with the correct answers. The section is quite extensive and can test your skills to the limit, so prepare accordingly to ensure that you are not overwhelmed when you take the test.
What is Assessed in the Quantitative Reasoning Section?
There are four major skills that are analyzed in the section: arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and data analysis. The analysis includes both knowledge and application skills of the theories that you have studied. The Quantitative Reasoning Section of the GRE tests your basic math skills, understanding of mathematical concepts, quantitative reasoning, and problem-solving skills using quantitative methods.
The section includes basic mathematical principles and operations. Some of the topics covered in this section are:
- Integers, their types, and their properties:
- Prime numbers
- Even and odd integers
- Arithmetic operations, roots, and exponents
- Absolute value
- Sequences of numbers
- Decimal representation
- Number line
The section tests your ability to apply simple mathematical concepts to actual problems and solve them using quantitative reasoning and is comprised of topics like:
- Factoring and simplifying algebraic equations
- Problems with exponents
- Relations, equalities, inequalities, and functions
- Quadratic and linear equations
- Simultaneous equations and solving inequalities
- Converting word problems into equations and solving them
- Graphs for slope of lines, functions, equations, intercepts, inequalities, and coordinate geometry
The geometry section comprises only elementary geometry and does not test your ability to construct proofs. Understanding basic concepts and knowing Pythagoras’ theorem should get you past this section without much difficulty.
- Perpendicular and parallel lines
- Triangles, including 30-, 60-, and 90-degree angles, equilateral triangles, and isosceles
- Similar and congruent figures
- Three-dimensional figures
- Pythagorean theorem
- Measurement of angles in degrees
The topics covered in this section are usually taught under basic algebra or as an introduction to statistics in high school. Here are some of those topics:
- Basic descriptive statistics
- Standard deviation
- Interquartile range
- Interpretation of data – Tables and graphs
- Bar graphs
- Line graphs
- Circle graphs
- Frequency distributions
- Elementary probability
- Independent events
- Compound events
- Counting methods
- Venn diagrams
Anyone who has finished high school should be able to understand these concepts and apply them to basic analysis.
Most of the math that is included in the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE is elementary, covering only those topics that are taught at the high school level. It does not include high-level mathematics like calculus. If you go back and study some of your high school math books, they could become reference guides for your GRE preparation.
Although the level of understanding expected for mathematical concepts is fairly elementary, your skills will be tested to a large extent at times in the section. Understand all the basic concepts thoroughly, and then practice applications in as varied forms as you can. Sample questions and test papers that are available online can help you prepare well. We have also included a few links (at the end of the section) to test questions.
Four Common Types of Quantitative Reasoning Questions
The Quantitative Reasoning Section in the GRE test has four major areas, as discussed earlier in the book. These four areas are further tested in a number of ways to test your skills and expertise in the basics of math. Various types of questions based on different branches of the subject are used to understand your level of quantitative reasoning skills in elementary math.
The Four Types of Questions:
- Multiple choice questions – select one option
- Quantitative comparison questions
- Multiple choice questions – select one or more options
- Numeric entry questions
Pay particular attention to the multiple choice questions and ensure that you choose answers accordingly. Do not get confused between the single-option and multiple-option questions.
Here is a breakdown of the four different types of questions you will come across in the Quantitative Reasoning Section.
- Quantitative comparison questions – In this section, you have to compare two quantities, compute them, and figure out the values for each based on the information provided in the question. These types of questions usually have a standard format for the options. The first two options suggest that one value is greater than the other.The third option states that the quantities are equal. The last option says that it is not possible to find the values with the information provided. If choosing the last option, ensure that you have checked the other options well and are absolutely certain that the problem cannot be solved with the information given.
- Multiple choice questions – select one option – You will have five choices from which you will have to choose the correct option based on the answer you get by working on the information provided in the question. The advantage here is that you know the answer is one of the five options, which narrows down the possibilities of you going wrong. Scan the options properly before you start working on the question. Doing so will give you a good idea of what the answer might be. If your answer does not match any of the options, check for mistakes in computation and reasoning, then reread the question to see if you have missed any important details.
- Multiple choice questions – select one or more options – These questions also have five options. However, you can choose more than one option in this set of questions. Do not get confused between multiple choice questions. Read them carefully and answer accordingly.Some questions will explicitly tell you or indicate somewhere in the wording as to how many options you can choose. Some questions will keep it open-ended and leave it up to you to decide the number of options to choose. These questions generally relate to averages or a range. Scan the options well as that may give you a good idea of the options you will need to choose. Keep computations simple as these questions are relatively easy to answer.
- Numeric entry questions – These types of questions may be a little trickier than the other three and may require more time to solve. There are no options provided, so you have no indicators to compare your answers with. Read the questions carefully, ensure that you enter all the right values during computation, and pay attention to the answer boxes.Some answer boxes will indicate what kind of answer is expected. You may be expected to give the final answer in miles or kilometers, in feet or meters, as an exact answer, or with the decimal point rounded off. Go through the requirements carefully before and after doing your computations to ensure that you have followed the instructions well. Double check your answer before entering.
When preparing for the test, practice answering different types of questions and get to know what kinds of choices are usually given. Become familiar with the format of questions and options so that you do not waste time doing it on the day of the test.
The Analytical Writing Section, also known as the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), is the essay section of the Graduate Record Examinations. It comprises two essay writing tasks of 30 minutes each, designed to measure your critical thinking ability and analytical writing skills.
Your overall objective in both essays will be to create a compelling and convincing thesis statement and to defend the same over the course of several paragraphs. You will be assessed and graded on three key parameters, which are your ability to: a) express complex ideas clearly and support them effectively, b) build strong arguments and evaluate them, and c) maintain a logical, focused, and consistent discussion.
Inside the Analytical Writing Section
The two analytical writing tasks included in AWA are – (1) the Analyze an Issue task, and (2) the Analyze an Argument task. Both tasks are complementary in essence. One requires you to take a stand on a given issue and justify it. The other requires you to assess whether someone else’s stand is logically correct or not.
Analyze an Issue
This task involves a relatively generic issue of broad interest. You will be presented with an opinion on the issue as well as a set of instructions, which outline how you should respond to the issue in question. Your task is to evaluate the issue, form your own views about the given opinion (that is, to agree or disagree with the given opinion), and to build an argument in support of the views or opinions. Your argument must be supported with reasons and examples.
Analyze an Argument
This task involves an argument which has already been made with regard to a certain issue. You will be presented with a set of instructions that outline the criteria you should consider when evaluating the argument. Your task is to assess the logical soundness of the argument in question. You must assess the claims made by the arguments and evaluate the reasons and examples it provides in support to opine whether or not the given argument is rational and appropriate.
4 Tips to Ace the AWA
Before you begin preparing for AWA, here are four things to know about the section:
What is Being Measured?
- The focus of the Analytical Writing Section is your ability to make clear, reasoned judgments and to express them coherently. It is not to test your knowledge of any particular subject or discipline. Thus, specific content knowledge from the given test is not graded in this section.
- Each essay is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in single-point increments. Your final score for the section is the average of the two essay scores rounded off to the nearest half-point. Thus, the final score is reported on a scale of 0.0 to 6.0. Analytical writing graders are trained to award the scores in 30 seconds or less.
As a control measure an automatic essay grader is also used in calculating your scores. The purpose is to ensure the ETS-trained grader has made no mistake in scoring your test. The automatic essay grader, or E-rater, is an electronic software application that follows its algorithm to grade both essays and award a final score between 0.0 and 6.0. If the scores awarded by the E-rater and the GRE grader differ by more than one point (on the 0.5 scale), your essays are sent to another ETS-trained grader for reevaluation.
You Earn Points for:
- The quality and depth of judgments/arguments made.
- The logical flow of judgments/arguments in the essay.
- The use of correct as well as effective grammatical structures.
What is Considered a Good Score?
- Getting scores between 0.0 and 2.0 is both undesirable and uncommon. The vast majority of students get between 3.0 and 6.0, which can be considered a “good score” in general. To better understand the grading system and the meaning of each score, you can check out the score level descriptions provided by ETS.
What is Considered a Good Essay Length?
- While there is no specific word limit or recommendation on the same, for that matter, longer essays tend to score better than shorter ones given they’re appropriate in terms of quality and depth. Longer essays that are not substantial will result in a low score. You will also have to consider the 30-minute deadline for each essay.
- It is generally a good idea to limit the length of your essay to five paragraphs: one each for introduction and conclusion and three in the body of the essay. Ensure each paragraph is structured well (see below to learn more about structuring) and presents a new, compelling point.
How do you Write a Good Essay?
Writing a good essay is all about preparation and practice. Now that you know what skills are measured in the Analytical Writing Section, you can direct your preparations accordingly. A good essay can be characterized by three C’s:
- Clear – There is a reason why simplicity is considered the ultimate expression of sophistication. Ensure you present your ideas in a direct, lucid, and clear manner. You don’t want to impress with complex sentence structures as graders actively look and score for clarity. Using an advanced, GRE-level sophisticated vocabulary is recommended, however, as it improves scores.
- Cogent – Graders look for strong, compelling arguments from your side. To get a high score, you want to choose strong reasons and develop specific examples to express cogency. The trick is to express cogency in complex arguments and clarity in language at the same time.
- Coherent – The different ideas and opinions expressed in your essay, as well as the reasons and examples you present in their defense must be logically connected to one another. Ideas must flow logically, and so should paragraphs.
Apart from the three C’s, you also want to pay attention to your grammar. While minor grammatical errors here and there will not affect your scores, major errors or several minor errors definitely will. There’s a fifth parameter, as well, which will help you score well in the analytical writing section: structure.
Because your graders only have 30 seconds to grade your essays, they take a cursory glance of the essay first, stopping to read only what feels important. When glancing through, graders look for well-structured essays marked by distinct paragraphs, which 1) start with a topic sentence, 2) build into the opinion with examples and reasons, and 3) conclude with an articulation of the topic sentence formerly stated.
When practicing for this section, mark yourself on the three C’s of good essays as well as the structure and the grammar.
AWA Preparation Strategy
The single most helpful strategy is to practice, practice, practice. Writing your essays within 30 minutes and grading them (or having them graded by friends or family) will help you build speed and stamina. Keeping this in mind, here are six keys to preparing intelligently for the analytical writing section:
- Read Sample Essays:The next best thing to writing essays is reading them. ETS has a great online resource of sample essays for both issue and argument tasks to help you understand what graders are looking for in your essays.
- Create Outlines: It is never a good idea to jump straight into writing the essay. During the preparation phase, prepare an action strategy for yourself to tackle the section effectively. It is a good idea to include the tasks of brainstorming and outlining before getting started with the actual writing. Spend the first three to four minutes thinking of different ideas. Write them down quickly, and then spend one minute on creating an outline for your essay. This outline will help you manage the coherent flow of paragraphs. Start writing only after this. Follow the same strategy when taking the actual test as well.
- Review Practice Essays: You’ll be able to recognize your error patterns, common mistakes, and other problem areas in your writing. When reviewing, also take time to correct the mistakes and then read the final draft as one of the sample essays. Over time, you will become more aware of yourself and where you go wrong in the three C’s, grammar, and structure, thereby minimizing mistakes in the test. Use the scoring guide to grade yourself and monitor progress over the week. You should aim to move up the grade scale every week.
- Improve Vocabulary and Grammar: Graders look for sophisticated, GRE-level grammar and vocabulary. If you don’t have much preparation time, focus on grammar alone. Brush up on topics such as subject-verb agreements, active and passive voice, conjunctions, tenses, and the proper use of commas, semi-colons, etc.
- Learn how to Manage Time: Managing time is very important to ensure your final submission is error-free and of high quality. Budget the 30 minutes to have sufficient time for five activities:
- Reading the issue/argument as well as the instructions accompanying them.
- Brainstorming ideas
- Creating an outline
- Writing the essay
Spend no more than five minutes on brainstorming.
Outlining the essay and proofreading the final essay in the end can be done within three to five minutes, as you don’t need to comb through the essay. Only check for large grammatical errors. Thus reading the issue/argument and instructions, plus writing the essay are the most time-consuming parts of the test. Aim for at least 20 minutes of writing time.
Leverage the published pool of topics.
The ETS also shares the entire pool of essay tasks, from which the Issue and Argument tasks are selected for your GRE exam. The Issue topics and Argument topics are listed categorically, and the topics you get in your test will be nothing more than a lingual variation of the topics from the pool.
Taking the Computer-delivered GRE?
The ETS has developed a dedicated word processor for use in the Analytical Writing Section. Only basic functionality such as cut, paste, delete, insert text, and undo previous action are available on the processor. Spelling and grammar checking functionality is not available. Therefore, when practicing for computer-delivered GRE tests, it is a good idea to either turn off or not use any additional features apart from the ones on the ETS word processor.
Additional GRE Analytical Writing Resources:
Most Common Mistakes Made by GRE Candidates
The GRE is a difficult exam, and it takes a lot of preparation to get it right and score well. If you are not well prepared or are simply nervous, you are likely to make mistakes. You may enter wrong values during computation, understand passages incorrectly, or take too much time and be left without enough to finish all the questions on the test. Here are a few mistakes that most candidates taking the GRE make in particular sections or overall through the entire test.
Most students commit a few general mistakes while preparing for the GRE.
- The GRE is an important test and is not something that you can get ready for at the last minute. Doing so will simply confuse you with the deluge of information, making you forget what you have already studied.
- There are a number of free online resources that offer guidance and practice tools for the exam. If you do not use them, you may find it difficult to finish the test on time.
- Each section of the test is distinctly different and requires preparation. If you do not practice equally as much for all the sections, your final score will suffer, even if you have performed exceptionally well in one section.
- Look for multiple guide books, sample questions, and tests online when getting ready for the GRE. Sticking to just one kind of study material will make your preparation less diverse.
Start early, keep looking for new sources online, study well, and time yourself frequently when completing questions.
Common Mistakes in Analytical Writing
The analytical section is tricky as it tests language skills, logical reasoning, and creative ideas.
- Spelling errors and typos are common when writing or typing quickly. Words get misspelled, or you end up spelling them wrong. For example, you may type ‘use’ as ‘sue’, thereby completely changing the meaning of what you say.
- Not being clear in your arguments and ideas means that the examiner checking your paper will not be able to fully understand what you are trying to convey.
- Errors in sentence formations are another major problem. Sometimes, you may have a thought that you are trying to convey but may end up writing long sentences that lose their meaning at the end and are plain confusing to read.
- If you start writing in a hurry, you may actually miss the point of the argument and may misunderstand the entire point of the essay.
Take your time and do not rush through this section.
Common Mistakes in Quantitative Section
This section tests your skills with numbers and analytics.
- Errors while writing an answer like not putting a negative sign or not using the decimal point can cost you points on the final score.
- The most common mistake is entering wrong numerical values or using addition instead of subtraction as it can completely change your answer.
- Being in a hurry and misreading questions usually happens when you are nervous or running out of time.
- Confusing single-option and multiple-option questions can cost you dearly, as you may end up losing multiple points for such errors.
Read questions carefully, and double-check computations for errors.
Common Mistakes in the Verbal Section
This section tests your language understanding and writing skills.
- If you do not read a passage carefully or understand it well, you could be answering all the questions for that passage wrong.
- If you choose one correct and one wrong answer in sentence equivalence, you will lose out on scores for the entire question.
- Many multiple-choice questions have similar-sounding answers, and it is common to get confused and choose the wrong option.
- Using the same words over and over again, or using the same idea in different sentences throughout the essay, can cost you points.
Read passages carefully, and double-check answers and essays for mistakes.
You can get rid of most of these errors simply by being better prepared and knowing how to time yourself to finish the test well in time. Prepare well, be confident of your knowledge and reasoning skills, and you should be able to score well on your upcoming GRE test.
Do Not Ignore These if You Want to Score Well on the GRE
Here are a few tips to prepare well, answer correctly, and finish your test on time for your upcoming GRE test.
- If you find a question difficult, mark it for later review and move on to the next one. It will help save time; you can get back to the question later and view it with a fresh perspective.
- The Quantitative Reasoning Section will usually give you one option for an on-screen calculator for the computations.
- There is an option to view all the questions in one section on a single page. Use it to get an idea of the kinds of questions before beginning your test for each section.
- Time yourself for each question or each section and ensure you stick to the timeline. Doing so will ensure that you finish the test on time and do not miss out on any questions.
- Take timed tests during preparation so that you know which sections are faster to finish and which questions take more time. It will help you set a timeline for the actual test.
Keep these tips in mind and you will find it easier to manage your time during the test and give it your best shot.
Before the Test Prep Work
Before applying for GRE, make sure that the institutions and the courses you are applying for accept GRE scores. Here are a few facts that you should pay special attention to during your GRE preparation as well as on the actual test day.
- Register on the official GRE website to get email alerts for submission dates and other important dates and updates. It will help you make sure that you do not miss out on any submissions and payments in the midst of your preparations.
- Know that most business schools do not have a preference for GRE or GMAT. However, check with the school or schools you are applying for and the details of the programs you wish to enroll in to know the specific requirements.
- Check the cost of taking the test, and ensure that you have the amount ready so that you do not have to rush at the last minute to arrange for funds.
- Check various online sources to get more details about GRE. If you are not a native English speaker, you can take the test in multiple other languages, as well, so check for the details before applying.
- Calculators are provided at the center, so you need not carry or use your own.
Pay attention to these small details. They can help you with important decisions about taking the test or the scores you need to target as well as ensure that you are on time and at the right venue for your tests. Know all the rules and regulations and follow them strictly if you do not want any last minute problems at the test center. Look at the list of documents to be carried to the center, and keep them ready beforehand.
Sample Test Resources
Here are a few links to sample questions and GRE test papers online that you can refer to and use when preparing for the test.
The last link is a timed test that you can take once you have prepared for the various sections and want to check if you can complete the test on time. It will help you time yourself better for the actual test.
GRE is an important test. Be prepared for biometric testing at the center (a few hours before the test). Do not write any information related to the test on your personal belongings or clothing. Phones and all other electronic devices are barred from test rooms, so make sure you leave them outside. Only analog watches are allowed in test centers.
If you have any health related problems or requirements which may prevent you from taking the test on a particular date, specify it while filing the application itself so that your request can be accommodated accordingly. Wear comfortable clothing during the test. Read through all the rules of the test so you go to the test center prepared accordingly. Stay calm, and you will be able to attempt the test better and give it your best shot.
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