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Prior GRE Test Information

The Old GRE Test Basics

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Prior GRE Test Information

Copyright Flickr user Jeff Keen

Prior GRE Introduction

As I'm sure you already know, the GRE Test has changed in a big way. This article reflects the content of the old test and will not be updated to reflect the new changes. If you're interested in learning more about the Revised GRE - the current test - Check out the details here: Revised GRE 101

What Is the GRE Test?

Both the Graduage Record Examination General Test and the GRE Subject Tests are standardized assessments developed by ETS, a non-profit company with expertise in the area. They are used as a part of the admissions process for graduate schools across the country. ETS offers both pencil-and-paper and computer-based versions of the tests, so they fit the needs of students vying for graduate spots from New York to Seattle.

Some schools may require both tests for admissions, so you’ll need to check the university policies before you miss a registration deadline.

What Is on The GRE Test?

Sadly, your complete undergraduate knowledge of keg-stand protocol won’t help you prepare for this baby. You’ll be tested in the following areas.
  • Verbal Reasoning: In a nutshell - Can you read? Can you identify complex relationships between words and concepts? Do you understand the different parts of a sentence? Can you put together an answer from a passage you’ve dissected? Let’s hope so.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: In a nutshell – How’s your algebra? Geometry? Arithmetic? Quantitative reasoning? If your skills are a little rusty since Algebra 101 in undergrad, you’d better brush up!
  • Analytical Writing: In a nutshell – How good are you at explaining what you mean? Can you clearly support your ideas with evidence, reasons, and examples? Can you creatively focus your ideas into a well-organized, carefully-spelled, and grammatically correct composition? This section accounts for one hour and fifteen minutes of the test, so you should prepare yourself accordingly.

How Are the GRE Test Sections Broken Down?

The sections and timing are different on the paper-based and computer-based tests. The paper test will keep you sweating for about three hours; the computer-based test runs around three hours, forty-five minutes. In the U.S., the paper-based test is no longer even offered. So unless you live in a few places across Asia, you'll be taking the computer-adaptive GRE.

Paper Based Test Breakdown

Computer Adaptive GRE Breakdown

How Does the GRE Test Scoring Work?

In truth, it’s complicated, especially for the GRE computer adaptive test. Because both the quantitative and verbal sections are adaptive, the questions given to you reflect how you did on preceding questions and the requirements of the test design. So, if you’re answering all of the questions correctly, you’re going to start getting harder questions with more points available to snag. Plus, there is an unscored section on the test and a separate research section, neither of which affect your scores. The problem is, you won’t be able to tell the real sections from the research sections, so you’ll have to do your best on them all. No slouching!

The nice part about taking the GRE on the computer? Instant gratification – at the end of the test, you’ll be asked whether or not you’d like to see your score. You can click “yes”, see the score, and it will be recorded and sent to your universities of choice. You can click “no” if you believe you bombed the test, and the computer will record that you took it, but will not send out your GRE scores.

On the paper test, the scoring is simpler because obviously, the questions do not change based on your performance.

Like the SAT, both the verbal and quantitative sections can earn you between 200-800 points. The writing section can garner you anywhere from a 0-6.

Mean Scores from 2004-2007

  • Verbal: 462
  • Quantitative: 584
  • Writing: 4.0

What's a Good GRE Score?

Reporting Your Scores

How Do You Prepare for the GRE Test?

ETS, the makers of the GRE, offer free test preparation materials to anyone who registers for the GRE. Plus, you can try these options:

  • GRE Diagnostic Service: For the cost of a meal at Applebee’s (fifteen bucks), you can have ETS diagnose your strengths and weaknesses on a practice GRE. They’ll also compare your score to that of your peers. Not cool for those with weak egos.
  • Tutors: Kaplan offers an array of tutoring services for those of you with some coins to drop. The good news? They’ll guarantee you points on the GRE. The bad news? You’ll need to refinance your house. Try posting on Craig’s List for a tutor. Many teachers or professors are willing to tutor on the side for nominal fees, and although they probably won’t guarantee you extra points, you won’t have to sell a kidney on the black market to pay for it.
  • Books: Good old-fashioned paper is the way to go, especially if you’re taking the paper-based test. If you browse through the aisles of your local bookstores, you’ll be sure to find a tome to suit your needs. For a cheaper approach, get the latest version on eBay. Many wholesalers will give you big discounts on overstocked items.

What Are the GRE Subject Area Tests?

The GRE General Test basically gauges your critical thinking and analytical skills. If a university needs to understand your knowledge of a particular subject, then they may require a subject test in one of these areas:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Check with your admissions counselor to be sure you’re taking the tests you need. You don’t want to be left out of your school of choice because of a GRE Test technicality. But by now, I’m sure you’re aware of this. You’ve made it this far, right?

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