If you are a student in high school, you have probably taken your fair share of standardized tests. Some school districts rely on standardized testing more than others and there is a great deal of debate about the pros and cons. No matter how you feel about the subject personally, you must be practical and accept the reality that you probably won’t get into college without taking some kind of test.
Most colleges and universities require either the SAT or the ACT – sometimes both. But there is another standardized test out there that you may need to think about – the GRE. In this article, you will learn what the GRE is, when you might need it, and how to prepare yourself so that you can get the highest score possible for your application.
What is the GRE?
The GRE is the Graduate Record Exam and it is the test that is most commonly required for graduate school admission – hence the name. Similar to the ACT and the SAT, the GRE is divided into three main sections: analytical writing, verbal, and quantitative. The analytic writing section comes first and, to complete this section, you must read a paragraph about a general issue and then respond in writing. Those who score the test look for evidence of sound reasoning skills and the ability to provide examples to support your views – you have 30 minutes to complete this portion of the test.
This video explains the GRE.
The analytical writing section comes after the verbal section. This section tests your vocabulary as well as your ability to use proper grammar and to comprehend written material. In taking this section of the test you’ll be asked to answer questions involving analogies, sentence completion, and antonyms. You may also need to respond to some questions to test your reading comprehension. Finally, the math or “quantitative” section of the GRE follows the verbal section. In this section, you will be tested on your ability to use quantitative reasoning skills and to solve different kinds of math problems.
Another important thing you need to know about the GRE is that there are two versions – the General Test and the Subject Test. The General Test is the one that has already been described – it measures your analytical writing, verbal, and quantitative reasoning skills. The GRE subject test, on the other hand, measures your skills in specific subject areas. The GRE subject test is available in six different subjects: biology, chemistry, English literature, mathematics, physics, and psychology. Whereas the general test measures your overall education, the GRE subject tests are generally geared toward students who already have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field.
When is a GRE Necessary for Applications?
Now that you understand a little bit more about the GRE, you may be wondering why you would ever need it for a community college application. After all, it is called the “Graduate Record Exam” for a reason – it is usually required by graduate school programs and business school programs. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. For example, if you are returning to school after several years, your old SAT or ACT scores may no longer be a relevant example of your skills. All colleges (including community colleges) want to see that you have the academic skills to succeed in your program of choice.
This video offers tips for taking the GRE.
If you are returning to school after taking a few years off (or more than a few), taking the GRE may be a better option than re-taking the ACT or the SAT. The beauty of the GRE is that it is a general test of your academic skills – it covers many of the same things that you would find in the ACT or the SAT but at a slightly higher level. Even if you are applying for an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree program, having a decent GRE score will probably help you more on your application than having a high SAT or ACT score that is five years old (or more).
Study Tips to Ace the GRE
Whether you’ve been out of school for a while or you’re heading straight to community college after high school, you probably want to do some studying before you take the GRE. If you’ve recently graduated, you have a bit of an advantage because much of the content you’ll find in the GRE will still be fairly fresh in your mind. If you’ve taken a break from school for several years you may have to work a little bit harder to bring all of that knowledge back, but it is definitely possible – it just takes some time and a lot of studying.
This video shows you how to prepare for the GRE exam in 30 days.
Here are some simple tips to help you study for the GRE:
- Start off with a GRE practice test – this will help you to familiarize yourself with the kind of questions and the type of content you can expect when you take the real GRE. It will also help you to determine where to focus your time and energy when you start studying.
- Invest in a quality GRE study guidebook and some flashcards. You may also consider enrolling in a GRE prep class, though they can be pretty expensive. If you are able to learn well enough by following a guidebook and you have given yourself enough time, studying on your own may be the best way to go.
- Create a study schedule – this will help you to stay on track so you don’t end up cramming at the last minute. You should start studying at least 2 months before the test if you really want to be prepared but you don’t have to spend four hours a day studying – just set a goal for each week and spread out your studying when you are free.
- If possible, study for about 1 to 1 ½ hours a day five days a week, breaking it up into 30-minute sessions. You should also carry flashcards with you so you can practice throughout the day.
- Take another practice test about one month before you take the GRE to see how you’ve progressed in one month of studying. Again, pay attention to your performance in each section so you know where to focus your studies for the time you have left.
- Keep studying but take one practice test each week leading up to the actual test – in addition to gauging your progress, this will also help you to get used to the test’s format and the timing of it.
- After taking each practice test, carefully review the explanations for the answers you missed – if you just read the answers that you got wrong, you won’t actually learn anything. Taking the time to read the explanations will help you to know what to do the next time you encounter that kind of question.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the GRE is just another test. If you don’t do well on the first try, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doomed. It may just mean that you need to study a little bit harder and give it another try.
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