A Beginner's Guide to GRE Prep: Here's Where to Start

2 years ago | Posted By: Dr Venkat Reddy | Category: GRE

A Beginner's Guide to GRE Prep: Here's Where to Start

Good GRE score

Over 700,000 people take the GRE each year. If you want to score in the 90th percentile, you must beat 630,000 of them.

What is GRE?

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a test designed by The Educational Testing Service (ETS) to measure a student's verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing abilities before they are admitted to graduate, and business schools worldwide.

Globally, the GRE is the most popular standardized test, with a significant number of undergraduate students studying for it. Some of the best business schools, including some of the most prestigious universities, are now accepting the GRE score, and not surprisingly, the best schools require higher scores on the test.

According to the latest figures released by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which conducts the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in India, the number of Indians taking the GRE in India increased by nearly 20 percent. Hence, if you intend to make significant progress in improving your GRE score, switching study plans and other approaches randomly and then crossing your fingers hopelessly won't work. It is imperative that you have something that can give you real information about the GRE, how it works, and what it tests, so you can be more prepared.

You can't get into the grad school of your dreams if you don't take the GRE, no matter how well you did in school, whether you went to a top college or not, or how many papers you published in international journals. While all the above factors are considered during the admissions process, achieving high scores on the GRE has nothing to do with them.

GRE Test Format:

Throughout this chapter, you will discover everything you need to know to score exceptionally well on the GRE. This chapter focuses on the general features of the test, from the format to scoring, from calculators to basic strategies to help prepare.

GRE Test Structure:

Here is a breakdown of the GRE test structure:

1. Two 30-minute essays as part of the Analytical Writing section

2. Two 20-question Verbal Reasoning sections (30 min each)

3. Two 20-question Quantitative Reasoning sections (35 min each)

There may also be a Section Unidentified, which could be either verbal or quantitative, in addition to the above-mentioned sections. There may occasionally be a designated optional Research Section (which would not be the case if an Experimental Section was present). The system decides at random whether you'll get an experimental or a research section, so no one can predict which one you'll get.

Sections on the GRE

GRE tests consist of six sections, each divided into three categories: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability. Let's quickly discuss each section. 

GRE Analytical Writing

GRE Analytical Writing section comprises of two tasks:

  1. Writing an essay that explains your point of view about a particular topic

  2. Writing an essay analyzing the reasoning behind an author's argument

Each essay has a time limit of 30 minutes. It is not possible to skip essay questions; you need to complete one before you begin the second.

GRE Verbal Reasoning

Each section of Verbal Reasoning consists of 40 questions:

  1. 20 Fill-in-the-blank questions: Sentence completion sort of questions

  2. 20 Critical Reading Questions: Reading and reasoning based on passages

GRE Quantitative

Quantitative (math) sections consist of two sections, each with 20 questions. The 40 questions include:

  1. 15 Quantitative Comparison questions

  2. 17 Multiple-choice questions

  3. 4 Multiple-Answer questions

  4. 4 Numeric Entry questions

How long does the GRE take?

The newly revised GRE test timings take approximately three hours and 45 minutes to complete, including breaks and reading instructions before taking the test. Overall, there are six sections.

  • Two Analytical Writing Essays – 30 minutes each, total 60 minutes

  • Two Verbal Reasoning Sections – 30 minutes each, total 60 minutes

  • Two Quantitative Reasoning Sections – 35 minutes each, total 70 minutes.

  • One Unscored Unidentified Section – 30/35 minutes, depending on the section: Verbal or Quant.

  • A 10-minute break between the third and fourth sections.

The essays always appear first, while other sections may appear in any order. During the test, test-takers may also see the third section on verbal reasoning or quantitative reasoning. The computer-based GRE may also include an unscored research section.

When is the best time to take the GRE?

Don't make a rash decision. Taking the GRE at the right time is just as important as how to take it. It is a well-known fact that many students take the GRE at the wrong time and suffer the consequences. To ensure you score high on the GRE and avoid complications during admissions, you will need to learn when the best time to take the GRE is. 

  1. Students should take the GRE when they are in their penultimate year of academic study. In other words, if you plan to study abroad right after graduating, then you should take the GRE during your second last year of college.

  2. Working professionals can take the test whenever they are ready to do so. However, they must adhere to deadlines.

GRE for Spring intake?

If you are planning on applying to the Spring intake, you need to take the GRE at least 12 months before you start your program. 


GRE for Fall intake?

For the Fall intake, you should start preparing now and start taking mock exams. It is best to take both exams (GRE & TOEFL) in May/June. Make your shortlist of universities in March/April, and finish your SOPs/LORs by August. Following this timeline will ensure no deadlines are missed.

From the date of the examination, the GRE and TOEFL scores are valid for five years and two years, respectively. You can take your tests whenever you feel confident. Test dates are flexible, and they are offered frequently.

How to register for the GRE?

GRE slots can be booked quite easily. Simply visit ETS' website and register. Upon logging in, you can schedule a GRE appointment at your convenience. The GRE test schedule fills up very quickly, so it is best to book your slot as soon as possible.

When to expect results?

Approximately 10–15 days after the date of your test, your official scores will be available in your "My GRE Account" and sent to your score recipients.

What is a good GRE score?

The official reports by ETS show the average quantity score of a GRE test taker worldwide is 151.3, with a standard deviation of 8.7. The average verbal score is 150.8, with a standard deviation of 8.5. The world average for the composite GRE score is 151.3 + 150.8 = 302.1. So, if you scored over 302, you scored better than half of the test takers worldwide. Is 'better than average' equivalent to 'good'? Not at all!

That's where standard deviations come into play. The sum of the average and standard deviations results in a quant score of 160, and a verbal score of 159.3. Therefore, your composite score would be 160 + 159.3 = 319.3.

That's quite a good score. Based on this calculation, you may assume that a score between 320 and 340 is good. A score of 320 is around the 80th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 80 percent of the test takers around the world. It must be an excellent score.

The takeaway:

While it is true that practice makes perfect, it is not just the practice that counts. It is impossible to get a great score on the GRE by simply taking twenty practice tests without assessing your progress. You read that correctly. You won't improve all that much by doing just a few practice tests. The best way to improve your performance is to use the data you receive at the end of a test, check your results, and review and analyze your results thoroughly.

At Gradeway Prep, we believe proper planning & execution are the two most important factors a student needs to focus on if they are interested in being successful in competitive exams. We have devised a comprehensive strategy and tools to help you with the tests you need to take for your courses both in India and abroad. We are a results-driven company with a track record of mentoring thousands of students towards their dream courses.