I guess my GRE experience isn’t exactly trivial. The fact is, I registered just four days before the test. It happened so, because until the last one I expected that I wouldn’t have to pass it – I chose several programs on purpose, where passing GRE is optional, moreover, it’s an additional waste of money and time and a lot of stress, given the complexity of the test.
I calmly prepared the rest of the documents until I carefully re-read the requirements for the program I was most counting on. “GRE Subject Test is not required”, the page read. I don’t know how it happened that after reading the requirements a million times, I didn’t pay attention to the word Subject, believing that my entry would cost only by passing IELTS.
The fact is that the GRE exam can be of two types – general testing (General) and subject testing. Apparently, my consciousness pretended to be wishful thinking, taking the requirements incorrectly, and spared me 3 weeks before deadline – then I realized the need to take GRE in 3 days. I had no choice.
It is impossible to say that I have prepared for three days, of course, because in this case I would not have scored a single point. About three weeks before the test, still undecided whether I would take the GRE or not, I decided to ask what it is. As I expected, everything turned out to be very bad – unknown English words (I’ve been learning English for 5 years, no less!), probability theory in crazy form, function f(x) in tandem with logarithms (my nightmare). Plus to all two essays in English, it’s absolutely unclear about what. I had to start preparing right away, just in case.
The most unexpected thing for me was that preparing for GRE is really very interesting. It was as if I’d been back for ten years, sat down at the desk and had to calculate the surface area of the cube. At the same time, most of the trial tests give an immediate result – and it’s so interesting to test yourself again and again. I didn’t grind anything (almost), read algebra books or take courses. Everything I needed was on my computer screen.
What do you need to know to successfully pass the GRE?
Math is to remember everything.
The tasks of the mathematical part are not to say that it is very difficult – any school program has 90% of this test. But I believe that if you are prep for gre, the school for you is far behind, namely, at least 4 years of university. Therefore I advise you to refresh your memory of the following – all kinds of formulas for all kinds of figures: area, volume, diagonal calculation through the sides, diagonal calculation of sides, surface area, cone height, ball radius, etc.
Further – what is the discriminant, what to do if there is more than one Latin letter in the equation, how to deal with the X in the cube. Remember how to make an equation from a problem or from given coordinates. The training below will help in this regard.
For advanced mathematicians – probability theory, factorials, logarithms, f(x), fractional degrees, ratios, how to draw a graph by the equation (comes across very rarely). All this should be well known if you expect a result above 153 points.
And most importantly – learn the terminology. This applies to everyone who passes GRE. It would be very offensive to fail the math part with a crackle just because you didn’t know what “prime number” means, wouldn’t you?
English – get over it.
GRE is a test for everyone. It’s also a test for Americans, Canadians and Englishmen – everyone who’s going to enter a master’s program that requires test results. A good example of how awful GRE is can be the average grade of students in the USA for the language part – 152 out of 170. That is, out of 40 times, the average American with a Bachelor’s degree was right only 22 times (the minimum score for the Math and Verbal sections is 130).
If you still intend to pass the exam better than the average American graduate, you will need at least some time. The language part often contains words that you will see for the first and the last time on the exam – archaisms, literary synonyms, special terms. Of course, with proper preparation it is quite possible to reach a score above 165, but you have to understand that if your language is at a good Advanced level, you will need to spend a lot of effort and not one month. And it certainly won’t help if you learn as many as 500 new words the night before your exam.
The main skill without which you can simply not come to GRE is reading. Half of the questions are like, “What did the author mean by unemployment?” – and a few answer choices that all seem quite logical if you don’t go into the text. In short, if you are able to read a research paper in English and understand what it is about, 150 points are guaranteed.
Essays are about thinking like a criminal.
Personally, I thought that part was the weirdest of all. A little bit about the essay (part called Analytical Writing).
The first part gives you a vague statement (“States must increase the budget for space exploration projects”) and asks you to consider this statement from all sides, then agree or deny it and argue your decision.
The second part is an excerpt from a non-existent letter that presents a problem, several arguments and a recommendation: “Villa Rio is washed all day and Villa Baggio is celebrated again! Maybe they have a better dishwashing agent? Mr. Mayor, we should buy three tons of Fae in Villa Rio!” You are asked either to assess the objectivity of the arguments, or to indicate the conditions under which a recommendation would be useful, or to suggest what other reasons might have caused the problem initially.
Probably sounds a little uncertain, so the main thing is to understand what is expected of you. Fortunately, ETS has kindly explained what is required of an applicant.
The main thing when writing an essay is to read the assignment carefully and take it really personally. It is said to evaluate the arguments – so evaluate it! Pick on every word, justify why you are right, look through all possible options and put them in the text. In doing so, try to remain objective and take into account all possible conditions – the examiners expect you to evaluate the statements of both the first and second part of the test in terms of a comprehensively erudite person with critical thinking. Follow the task thoroughly – any deviation to the side will take away your score.
To accurately assess your level in this part of the task, you can no longer do without the opinion of a professional. If you’re not aiming for a score above 4.0, check out the ETS website with sample assignments and practice. This will help you gain confidence and make you think about inaccuracies in your language. For the latter, the complexity of terms and English proficiency are also evaluated when calculating scores. It is best to use familiar words, semantic strings (however, moreover, additional, finally, etc.) and to keep track of the logicality of statements.
Examples of the GRE test
Probably the best way to start training is with the official ETS software called POWERPREP II. Personally, I got to it the day before the exam and only used it a couple of times for training.
Basically, if you want to know what awaits you at the exam, close all the doors, mute all the sounds, remove everything from the table, put your foreign passport in front of you and turn on POWERPER II – voila, you’re on GRE. The software repeats the exam itself (except for the tasks, of course) – the same preliminary explanations, the same “take a 60 second break and press Continue” – in general, for fear of the unknown will help.
Probably, there are many different unofficial examples of GRE in the network, I personally used the GRE Guide website – apparently, it was made by a “fan” of GRE, who took it a thousand times. Now I can say that this test is very similar to the real one (maybe even a little bit more complicated) – the countdown time, absolutely the same structure, the result at the end, plus you can see in which tasks there were errors, there is also a correct answer and WHY it is correct.
In the beginning, I simply spent hours following the suggested 20 variants, gradually writing out unfamiliar words and looking for formulas. Then it became clear to me that there were so many words, that I could not learn them in three weeks or three months. Frankly speaking, it was at this stage that I changed my mind to pass – it seemed to me that it would be a waste of money, because the level of the test I can not, and not only in terms of language. The fact is that in the western education system mathematics is a bit different. Some tasks could be calculated almost on fingers, others seemed to me to be something from the nuclear physics section. Besides, the last time I saw mathematics was 5 years ago.
In general, I decided not to pass anything, but sometimes I came back to the site out of boredom – I liked to solve problems, write words and see the results in solemn VR=144 and QR=150, which personally seems to me a brilliant result for a man who almost does not prepare.
Registration takes place on the ETS website (a company that also conducts GMAT and TOEFL), and almost everyone says that you need to register at least a few weeks in advance. In my case, it turned out to be wrong. I signed up around December 15th (the exam took place on December 19th, respectively). When registering you need to specify personal data, information about education and answer a few questions for statistics (parents’ education, training materials, etc.) – all this is not displayed anywhere and the test results are not affected. You should also fill in the column “Indented field of studies”, or the desired direction of study. If you happen to be applying for more than one program (philosophy and creative writing), you will only need to choose one. In addition, the admissions committee of all universities will see which subject is listed as the main one.
The cost of the test – 195 USD, you need to pay at once, you can do it with Visa and MasterCard. In general, with the registration I was lucky. Or maybe all the bikes on the topic “Get ready for the year, register for two” – only bikes. In any case, when I came to the appointed time, the exam was taken by only one young man who completed the test an hour earlier than me. And yet, just in case I advise to register for two weeks – it will at least be psychologically pressed on you and make you prepare.
How hard is the gre?
I would love to tell you exactly how the exam goes, but I can’t – everyone signs a non-disclosure agreement about the exam before starting, etc. What if ETS sues me? However, I can probably take a chance and share the next one:
I can’t write it off.
Even if you are a master of conspiracy, the surveillance system is too good and the price of an error is too high. Moreover, the ticking clock on the screen does not assume a few minutes to reach the shaking hand to the cheat sheet in the sock and read its contents secretly from the inspector. If, however, you have forgotten where in the triangle of hypotenuse – miss the question, you can return to it later (suddenly the answer comes out of the bowels of consciousness?). In addition, one question equals one point, and if you get caught cheating, ETS has the right to zero out the test results completely. That is, on the cherished day you will see on form 130/130/0.0, and it will be possible to correct it only in a month and a half – this is the company policy.
Especially if you, like me, spent several nights behind the site with examples of GRE. The most exciting thing is counting down the time. After several attempts to pass a trial test, it becomes clear that 5 minutes of non-blinking glance at the word “buxom” will not open its meaning to you. If you want to be able to see all the tasks you are assigned, don’t delay more than one and a half minutes.
Cat in a bag
As the inspector will explain to you before the test, you will have to pass an unnecessary 30-minute block, which is necessary for statistics and will not be counted in the results. It can be either a mathematical or verbal part. They say it’s almost impossible to calculate, but I’d say it’s possible. Exactly in the middle I got a mathematical block with absolutely unclear tasks – I’m sure I haven’t solved any of them. The suspicion that this is the “statistical block” arose from the first task, and, fortunately, it was so. But still, I strongly recommend to solve all tasks in good faith – what if ETS decides to change the program tomorrow and you don’t calculate this elusive statistical part?
Just like in the trial tests, you will know your result immediately (except for the analytical part). And a good inspector will help you send the test results to 4 universities free of charge. You can find the final result in your personal cabinet on the ETS website (personal cabinet appears at registration) in 2 weeks, the paper certificate has not been sent at all recently – the electronic certificate is official.
In conclusion, probably you would like to know my result. Frankly speaking, I don’t know how proud or ashamed I am, considering how much I have prepared (not at all). But relative to the average results of foreigners, everything is not bad: the verbal part – 149, mathematical – 154, analytical – 3.5. In general, it’s no surprise. But, as there are no specific requirements for the number of points on the very program for which I decided to give GRE, I took my result quite calmly and I don’t think that it will significantly affect the decision of the commission. Of course, it’s a bit of a shame that I wasn’t a genius who clicks jobs like nuts no matter what the language or complexity. But life is what it is.