Cracking the GRE Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2020
What is the GRE? Who makes the test? What’s a good score? The answer to these questions and many others lie within this chapter. In the next few pages, we’ll give you the lowdown on the things you need to know about the GRE.
CRACKING THE GRE
For a lot of people, taking a standardized test such as the GRE usually engenders a number of emotions—none of them positive. But here’s the good news: The Princeton Review is going to make this whole ordeal a lot easier for you. We’ll give you the information you will need to do well on the GRE, including our time-tested strategies and techniques.
The GRE supposedly allows graduate schools to get a better sense of an applicant’s ability to work in a post-graduate setting—a goal that is unrealistic indeed, considering that the people who take the GRE are applying to programs as diverse as physics and anthropology.
However, it’s safe to say that the GRE is not a realistic measure of how well you’ll do in grad school, or even how intelligent you are. In fact, the GRE provides a valid assessment of only one thing:
The GRE assesses how well you take the GRE.
Got it? Even so, you still want to do well on the GRE, because you want grad schools to take you seriously when they consider your application. With this in mind, you should cultivate several very important skills when you’re preparing for the test; each of them is attainable with the right guidance (which we’ll give you), a strong work ethic (which you must provide), and a healthy dose of optimism. Who knows? Maybe after working through this book and learning how to crack the test, you’ll actually look forward to taking the GRE.
So what exactly is this test you’ve heard so much about?
WHAT IS THE GRE?
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a 3-hour, 45-minute exam that’s used to rank applicants for graduate schools. The scored portion of the GRE consists of the following sections:
One 30-minute Analysis of an Issue essay
One 30-minute Analysis of an Argument essay
Two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections
Two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections
The Verbal Reasoning sections test your skills on three different types of questions:
The Quantitative Reasoning sections measure your prowess in four areas:
Arithmetic and Number Properties
WHY DO SCHOOLS REQUIRE IT?
Even though you will pay ETS $205 to take the GRE, it is important to note that you are not their primary customer. Their primary customers are the admissions offices at graduate programs across the United States. ETS provides admissions professionals with two important services. The first is a number, your GRE score. Everyone who takes the test gets a number. It is difficult for admissions committees to make a decision between a candidate with a 3.0 and a 3.2 GPA from drastically different schools and in two different majors. A GRE score, on the other hand, provides a quick and easy way for busy admissions offices to whittle a large applicant pool down to size.
Applicants could come from all over the world and will certainly have an enormous range in academic and professional experience. How does one compare a senior in college with a 32-year-old professional who has been out of college working in a different industry for the past 10 years? A GRE score is the only part of the application that allows for an apples-to-apples comparison among all applicants.
The second service that ETS provides is mailing lists. That’s right; they will sell your name. You can opt out, but when you sit down to take the test, ETS will ask you a whole bunch of questions about your educational experience, family background, race, and gender, as well as other biographical data. All of this information goes into their database. In fact, ETS is one of the most important sources of potential applicants that many graduate programs have.
Another reason schools require the GRE is that it ensures that most graduate school applicants are qualified. It helps to weed out the people who might be considering grad school, but who can’t get their act together enough to fill out applications. When you ask a program how important the GRE score is to the application, they may say, “it depends” or “not very” and that may be true as long as your score is in the top half. If your score is in the bottom half, however, it may mean that your application never gets seen.
So the GRE may have little relevance to any particular field of study you might be pursuing, but as long as it helps graduate programs uncover potential candidates, and as long as it is the only tool available to compare a diverse candidate pool, the GRE is here to stay.
WHO IS ETS?
Like most standardized tests in this country, the GRE is created and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private company located in New Jersey. ETS publishes the GRE under the sponsorship of the Graduate Record Examinations Board, which is an organization affiliated with the Association of Graduate Schools and the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States.
ETS is also the organization that brings you the SAT, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Praxis, and licensing and certification exams in dozens of fields, including hair styling, plumbing, and golf.
The GRE is administered at Prometric testing centers. This company specializes in administering tests on computer. They administer citizenship exams, professional health certifications, dental exams, accounting exams, and hundreds of other exams on computer. When you arrive at the center, they will check your ID, give you a clipboard with a form to fill out, and hand you a locker key. Despite the fact that they already have your information, you will be asked to fill out a long form on paper. This form includes an entire paragraph that you have to copy over—in cursive (they specify this)—that states that you are who you say you are and that you are taking the test for admissions purposes. This process will take you about 10 minutes, and you can complete it while you wait for them to call you into the testing room. The locker is for all of your personal belongings, including books, bags, phones, bulky sweaters, and even watches. You are not allowed to take anything with you into the testing room.
When they call you into the testing room, they will first take a photo of you and, in some cases, fingerprint you before you go in. They will give you six sheets of scratch paper, stapled together to form a booklet, and two sharpened pencils with erasers. Then they lead you into the room where someone will start your test for you. The room itself will hold three or four rows of standard corporate cubicles, each with a monitor and keyboard. There will be other people in the room taking tests other than the GRE. Because people will be entering and exiting the room at different times, you will be provided with optional headphones.
Test Day Tips
Dress in layers, so that you’ll be comfortable regardless of whether the room is cool or warm.
Don’t bother to take a calculator; you’re not allowed to use your own—just the one on the screen.
Be sure to have breakfast, or lunch, depending on when your test is scheduled (but don’t eat anything weird). Take it easy on the liquids and the caffeine.
Do a few GRE practice problems beforehand to warm up your brain. Don’t try to tackle difficult new questions, but go through a few questions that you’ve done before to help you review the problem-solving strategies for each section of the GRE. This will also help you put on your “game face” and get you into test mode.
Make sure to take photo identification to the test center. Acceptable forms of identification include your driver’s license, photo-bearing employee ID cards, and valid passports.
If you registered by mail, you must also take the authorization voucher sent to you by ETS.
Stretch, drink some water, go to the bathroom, and do whatever you need to do in order to be prepared to sit for this four-hour test.
While your test structure may vary, you should expect to see something like this when you sit down to take the exam:
The first section of the test collects all of your biographical information. If you fill this out, you will start getting mail from programs that have bought your name from ETS. In general, this is not a bad thing. If you don’t want them to sell your name, or you don’t want to spend the time answering their questions, you can click on a box that tells ETS not to share your information.
Once all of that is done, you will begin your first scored section, the essays. The two essays will be back to back. You have 30 minutes for each essay. Immediately after your second essay, you will get your first multiple-choice section. It may be math or verbal. You will have a 1-minute break between sections. Here is the structure of the test:
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Part I: Orientation
2 General Strategy
Part II: How to Crack the Verbal Section
3 The Geography of the Verbal Section
4 Text Completions
5 Sentence Equivalence
6 Reading Comprehension
7 Critical Reasoning
8 Vocabulary for the GRE
Part III: How to Crack the Math Section
9 The Geography of the Math Section
10 Math Fundamentals
11 Algebra (And When to Use It)
12 Real-World Math
14 Math Et Cetera
Part IV: How to Crack the Analytical Writing Section
15 The Geography of the Analytical Writing Section
16 The Issue Essay
17 The Argument Essay
Part V: Answers and Explanations to Drills and Practice Sets
Part VI: Practice Tests
18 Practice Test 1
19 Practice Test 1: Answers and Explanations
20 Practice Test 2
21 Practice Test 2: Answers and Explanations
Appendix: Accommodated Testing
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