Preparing for the GRE? As with any other exam, the mantra is to study hard, practice more, and be realistic in your approach. However, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not just another test – it’s a bit different. You probably know already that the GRE as taken in India is a computer-based section-wise adaptive test. Read ahead for some things you may not have considered.
Understand GRE scores
After the GRE you get three different scores: a Verbal Reasoning score (130-170), a Quantitative Reasoning score (130-170), and an Analytical Writing score (0-6). For each of these measures, you get both a score and a percentile ranking.
The score and the percentile ranking are two different things; the percentile matters more than the score does. A Verbal score of 162 would give you a percentile ranking of 90, but a Quantitative score of 162 is just 83 percentile. Take this into account while deciding your target scores.
The GRE doesn’t give you any composite or total score – reason enough to treat the Verbal and Quant scores separately.
Do Your Research, Set Your Target
Do your research. Which programs are you interested in? Which university? How competitive is admission? What was the average GRE score for last year’s incoming class? You need to know the role of the GRE in the admission process at your target programs. What about work experience, extra-curricular, and co-curricular activities?
Decide your target scores according to all this, especially your area of study and your target universities. For example, a safe Quantitative score for a student of English or History will be lower than a safe Quantitative score for an Engineering student.
Plan Your Preparation
Then plan your preparation according to your target scores. You need to take a diagnostic test to find your starting score. The gap between the two shows how much work you must do over the next few weeks or months to get a desirable score on the GRE and secure the admission you want. Do you have the time? Are you ready to put in that hard work?
Being pragmatic means you need to make considered decisions about your time and effort.
For example, suppose you want admission for an engineering program. Further, suppose that the average Quantitative score for your discipline in your target university is 164 and the average Verbal score is 152. Finally, suppose your mock test scores are in the range of 162-164 in Quantitative and 155-157 in Verbal. What should you be working on? Would it be pragmatic if you were spending long hours learning word lists with your vocabulary flash cards? No, that would be foolish. Of course, if you and another friend both get 170 in Quant, the Verbal score might just become the differentiating factor. But the Quantitative score is certainly more important at this stage, and your efforts must be directed towards improving your performance in the Quantitative section.
In most cases, a little help will make things easier for you. Do not hesitate to get that help – some good study material, some good vocabulary building tool, some good practice tests, may be a GRE Prep Course.
Keep Your Eyes on the Goal
Most importantly, don’t lose hope, be calm, and stay motivated! To achieve your goal, it is really important that you believe in yourself. You need to remain positive not only while taking the GRE but also while preparing for the GRE. Believe in yourself and remember that every wrong answer during practice is an opportunity to learn something, a step that will help you get to the right answer next time.