GREady: Get Ready for Graduate School

Do you want to attend graduate school? If the answer is yes, shift the gear in drive. This blog will help you 1) stay informed about graduate programs, 2) decide on graduate schools, 3) apply for graduate schools (including the GRE and personal statements), 4) prepare for interviews, 5) find funding and lots more. Although this site cannot guarantee a masters or doctoral position, it does promise that you will be a very competitive candidate for your desired program!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

GRE in a Nutshell

The majority of graduate school admissions, with exception, require every applicant to submit an official GRE score. The GRE consists of three sections: verbal (qualitative reasoning), mathematics (quantitative reasoning), and analytical writing. Each one of these sections are scored separately and then are reported in sections and a total score (1600, not including analytical section).

Verbal Reasoning (score range: 200-800):
The Verbal Reasoning section consists of 38 questions, which will be answered in the time limit of 30 minutes. ETS states that the verbal reasoning section measures the ability to analyze and evaluate written material, relationships in sentences and relationships between words and concepts. What you can expect: antonyms, sentences with missing words to fill in, reading passages, and analogies. Sentences and antonyms are the most straight forward; in the case of sentences choose the word the makes the most sense and in the case of antonyms choose the word the most opposite to the major word the test gives you. In the ETS test preparation they include reading passages involved in science and other diverse topics. WARNING: Do not believe test preparation materials. English, History and Art are the topics predominately covered. I know that when I found this out, everyone in my test preparation group could hear me groan. For most of us, history and English just do not hold our enthusiasm and attention. Solution: Prior to taking this section (will appear after analytical writing), bring or see if the testing center has some coffee or other caffeinated beverage. I know most test preparation groups will tell you not to do this as it might make you jittery. However, I say risk being jittery as opposed to falling asleep and or having to re-read the passage more than twice to get just one answer. Furthermore, be aware that there are some key questions that ETS will ask of every passage such as: what is the author’s main point, mood and inference questions (I will go more in depth about this in future articles). Analogies are another topic that is a bit sore for students. For some reason, ETS believes that all graduate students need to master this area. Again, like the reading passages, there are some key relationships ETS is look for: part to whole, whole to part, profession to workplace, thing to function, and intensity (meaning if something is stronger than the other word, i.e. scarcity is to dearth…). If you do not know the answer to a particular question and the Process of Elimination (P.O.E.) is not working for you, just make an educated guess and move on.

Quantitative Reasoning (200-800):

The Quantitative Reasoning section consists of 30 questions, which you will need to answer in 45 minutes. This section is more difficult than the verbal reasoning section so more time is given. ETS tests for mastery of basic concepts in arithmetic, geometry and data analysis, reasoning quantitatively and solving problems in a quantitative setting. Expect a lot of geometry questions. Be sure to review over this heavily. If you are like me, you have not seen geometry since high school. ETS especially likes testing you on angles; look over the rules for interior angles, anterior angles and corresponding anterior angles. The reasoning in a quantitative fashion takes place in the form of a graph or figure. Do not assume these to be easy. The GRE will purposely try to trick you be marking the graph as 10 and having that number represented in a legend saying that 10=10,000. The possible answers to each question are created to stump the student; basically, ETS officials determine what the most common mistakes students would make and then the place those mistakes in the answer choices. Devious, huh? Also, be aware that ETS states that they will only be testing on math encountered by every college student. WARNING: Do not believe ETS. If you are scoring well in the math section, there is a possibility you will receive a calculus question.

Do not spend a lot of time on any one question. Time is your enemy here, even more so than the verbal reasoning section. If you do not know the answer, use P.O.E. and move on. If you are lucky enough to have the paper version, remember you can always go back. Your best bet to do well is just really review over parts of high school and college mathematics.

Analytical Writing (1-6):

Believe it or not folks, this is the easiest section in the GRE. Analytical Writing is usually tested in the beginning and offers a ten minute break afterwards. I suggest that you take this optional break and slam a cup of coffee to wake up for the qualitative section. The analytical writing section consists of two parts, which are combined to give you a score ranging from 1-6. The sections are:

Analyze an issue (45 minutes):

The GRE gives you two prompts, which are a couple sentences stating 2 perspectives that ETS wants you to evaluate. You chose one prompt. Before you click on which issue you want to evaluate (remember, you can’t turn back), make an outline of the one you think you want. Be sure to only spend 5-7 minutes on this since you are working against the clock. If in the start of your outline, you cannot think of what to put next, you know that this issue is not the one for you to discuss so you better chose option B. In your essay you must either: 1) accept the perspective, 2) disagree with the perspective, 3) state that only time will tell or 4) reject the prompt.

The first two options are pretty much straightforward, you like it or you don’t. The third option means you have to give cases for both views and in conclusion say that it is premature to conjecture at present but the future will determine which side will prevail. The fourth option, the one that is less commonly used and is my personal favorite, means that you do not even agree with how the prompt was given. In other words, you can say that the prompt oversimplifies the issue and how or the prompt is too narrow and how that is so. In either case, you must give supporting evidence.

Be sure to leave extra time so you can re-read and edit your response. Your analysis should consist about 5 paragraphs. Intro., three supporting with evidence, and a conclusion that sums up your major points.

Analyze an Argument (30 minutes):

This section is a little bit more challenging. The GRE prompts you with someone’s opinion in a form of an article about a particular issue. Instead of writing about your own perspective, you must evaluate how this argument was given, if there are any apparent flaws and what should be done to strengthen it. Your analysis, like the perspective task, should consist of 5 paragraphs with supporting evidence (also create an outline). Note: these paragraphs need not be long. A lot of the prompts use the argument by anecdote. This is a major problem because it oversimplifies the issue, which you need to highlight. The best way to do this is to state how it oversimplifies it and give examples or scenarios. Also, many articles will focus on numbers, such as the annual sales revenue of Mark’s Apparel for men is $200,000 so if Sally’s Clothing Store produces a men’s line, we should see a jump in sales. You can state that is assuming that men do not care about the specialty of the store and would go to any store that sells men clothing. Furthermore, you can state that it is not certain if that was for a particular month or year. It is expected that during holidays, such as Christmas, sales would go up. In addition, I would put that a cost-benefit analysis should be done or even a poll should be conducted. If you get into specifics, your score should jump to at least a 5.

To learn more about the GRE, go to:

GRE and Psychology Subject Tests

ETS website

GRE Guide


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