How to Prepare for the GRE

Misty Hance
Misty Hance
Assistant School Principal; Ed.D. in School Leadership, Carson-Newman University, TN

In order to apply for most graduate programs, applicants will need to be in good academic standing and pass the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The GRE is a national exam administered by the Educational Testing Service to show the competency level of the applicant.

What are the GRE Components?

The GRE is comprised of three main components to assess writing, vocabulary and reading, and math skills. The test is comprised of the following:

  • Analytical Writing
    • Analyze an Issue
    • Analyze an Argument
  • Verbal Reasoning
    • Text Completion
    • Sentence Equivalence
    • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning
    • Quantitative Comparison
    • Problem Solving

The writing component has a separate timed essay for each type of writing. The verbal and quantitative reasoning components are each tested in two sections allowing the test taker to have a short break between each if necessary. Aside from the essay component, the rest of the exam is multiple choice.

How to Prepare for the Exam

Because this exam is comparing your abilities to others globally, you will want to be prepared to take this high-level assessment of knowledge.

For the analytical writing component, you will need to understand how to analyze a topic and write an essay according to a provided prompt. In order to analyze an issue, you will read a passage and create a response. In order to analyze an argument, you will again read a passage, but this one is based on a given opinion. You will then argue for or against that opinion, similar to a debate. For both sections, you will need to be able to quickly collect your thoughts through brainstorming and prewriting, and then write a coherent essay within a 30-minute time frame.

There will be questions for each subsection on both of the tests for verbal reasoning. In order to score well on the text completion and sentence equivalence sections, you will need to have a sophisticated vocabulary and knowledge of context clues and affixes on words. For the text completion, you will fill in the up to three blanks in a sentence in order to make it entirely comprehensible.  For the sentence equivalence, you must choose two separate words to make one logical sentence. The comprehension section deals with reading a passage and answering questions based on the main idea, details, and related inferences.

The math component assesses your ability to understand algebra, geometry, and basic math functions. You will need to be able to compare numbers rather than compute answers. For the problem solving, you may be asked to find all of the correct answers in the answer choices. You will need to be familiar with reading graphs and charts as well.

The Importance of Taking Practice Tests

The importance of taking online practice exams cannot be stressed enough. First, it helps you prepare for the time limits and the format of the exam. In addition, you can take notes and seek clarification for topics you do not understand. This is an extremely challenging exam, and while the practice tests may seem laborious, they will help you improve your understanding of the exam.

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