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Top Six Tips for Taking the GRE

By Ryan Ellis
On February 18, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

So, you’re nearing the end of your undergraduate career. What’s next? If you’re considering going to graduate school, you might want to look into their application requirements.

Some Universities require their potential students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Remember when you thought standardized testing was over after the SATs and ACTs? Yeah, you were so wrong.

The GRE is a four-hour, $205 exam that goes as follows: First, you are allotted 30 minutes to create a paper that deconstructs an argument. Secondly, you are allotted 30 minutes to create a paper where you give an argument for an issue. Lastly, you will have five 30-35-minute examinations over Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning respectively.

For the final section of the exam, there will be an extra Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section that is arbitrarily placed and will have no impact on your final score.

The Verbal Reasoning section of the exam focuses on your vocabulary and your reading comprehension skills. There will be questions that will ask you to complete a sentence with a word that makes the most sense and you will also have to find a synonym for that word. In addition, there will be one-, two- or three-answer questions for word placement in a given sentence.

The Quantitative section tests your math skills. The general test does not require much knowledge in the math field. The exam will not be testing you over calculus, however, it does focus on algebra, geometry and arithmetic. Within this section, you will be presented with questions regarding problem solving and quantitative comparison.

This seems like a daunting task, and it is. Here are the most important tips to consider when preparing to take the GRE.

1. See if you are eligible for a fee reduction - The GRE will cost $205 to take. However, ETS will discount that price by 50 percent if you come from a low-income household. Even though $100 is still a large hunk out of your pocketbook, it makes the exam fee less dramatic.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. - The GRE will stress you out. It is a computer-based adaptive test that gets progressively harder the better that you do. There are tests available almost every day across each state, so allow yourself plenty of time to physically, mentally and spiritually prepare because it is going to be exhausting.

3. Brush up on your math skills - Chances are, you haven’t even thought about math unless you are multiplying how much your next check is going to be in your head or you are thinking about how much to tip your server (it’s 20% percent). This is problematic. The best thing that you can do for this area of the test is to look at old notes from your last math class. If this doesn’t work, try using YouTube to remind yourself of some of the basic algebra and geometry concepts.

4. Try using vocabulary flashcards online - Websites such as have free vocabulary flashcards that can help you master basic, common and advanced words that you will probably see on the GRE exam. There are 50 words per subsection, and you can either mark the word as “Known” or “Unknown” and the program will adapt itself so that you are able to drill the words into your mind.

5. Consider purchasing an ETS Test Preparation book - The test-prep book costs around $30, but it offers vital information about the GRE exam, as well as providing questions that will be similar to what you experience on the actual test day. If you purchase this book and allow yourself plenty of time to practice with the book, you should expect to have a better experience with the exam than plenty of other people who have taken it.

6.Breathe - Hate to say it, but those four hours are not going to be the best four hours of your life. At times, it may seem like the test is never going to end and that you might actually be stuck in purgatory. When the existential crisis sits in, it is important to remember to breathe. You will be given a 60-second break in between sections, as well as a 10-minute break after you complete your third section. Use those 10 minutes to stretch and to get some fresh air. Remember to take deep breaths as you go through the exam and keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it. 

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