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Cheat Sheet

The GRE Test For Dummies

Getting into a graduate program means passing the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Remember these tips for doing well on the Verbal Section, Math Section, and Analytical Writing section, as well as info on how to deal successfully with the computerized GRE.

Tips for Mastering the Verbal Section of the GRE

Unless you’re an English geek, the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) Verbal section probably intimidates you more than any other. But you can master the GRE Verbal questions using the following tips and approaches for each section of the test. However, first, pay attention to these general tips:

  • Use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to determine the gist of an unfamiliar word.

  • Guess quickly if you’re stumped. The computer won’t let you go on until you’ve marked and confirmed an answer, and believe it or not, answering a few questions incorrectly hurts your score less than not finishing a section.

Approach Antonym questions by

  • Creating an approximate definition of the word in your mind

  • Predicting the obvious opposite

  • Remembering that words can have more than one meaning

Avoid getting stuck on a Reading Comprehension question by following these tips:

  • Choose positive or neutral answers, not negative ones.

  • Guess quickly and move on when you encounter Roman numeral and negative/exception questions, because they’re often tricky and time consuming.

  • Avoid picking an answer simply because it’s true. Always make certain that it answers the question correctly.

When faced with Analogies,

  • Create a sentence that shows the relationship between the two words and then use that sentence on each answer choice.

  • Beware of answers with inverse relationships (for example, part to whole when the question was whole to part).

For Sentence Completion questions, be sure to

  • Read the entire sentence to get its gist before looking at the individual blanks.

  • Search for key connector words (such as because, although, and however) that may change the meaning of the sentence from what you’d expect.

  • Predict whether the blanks need positive or negative words.

And last, but most certainly not least, remember: This test is rated PG — Proctor Guarded. Proctors have been genetically altered to have eyes in the backs of their heads; they’ll catch you if you bring crib notes, so do all your prep before taking the test.

Tips for Taking the Computerized GRE

In the age of electronics, even the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is computerized, and the electronic version presents questions based on your previous answers. Don’t be intimidated, though; taking the computerized version should be no problem for you if you remember these three tips:

  • The first five or so questions in each section are critical, so take your time to answer them correctly.

  • You can’t skip and go back to a question, so guess quickly and move on when you’re stumped. Remember: You benefit from answering every question more than you lose by getting a few wrong.

  • Keep an eye on the clock. Sprint to the end if you have to, being sure to fill in something for every answer before time runs out.

Tips for Mastering the Math Section of the GRE

Success on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) Math section has a great deal to do with applying logic and common sense. Following are some tips for how to do your best on this section of the test:

Before you start

  • Lose the calculator (it’s not allowed). The proctor will provide scratch paper.

  • Remember that the GRE tests algebra, geometry, and arithmetic, not calculus or trigonometry.

  • Memorize formulas before you take the test. The GRE doesn’t provide them.

Following are some tips for those tricky Quantitative Comparison questions:

  • Triple-check your answer before hitting the Confirm button on the computer, because the answers to Quantitative Comparison (QC) questions often aren’t the obvious, first-response answers.

  • Remember that the answer choices are the same for every question. Choose A if Column A is greater; B if Column B is greater; C if the two columns are equal; and D if insufficient information is given. E is never a choice in the QC-question realm.

  • If the columns seem to be equal, do the required calculations to prove that they are.

  • Play the “what if” game by plugging in 1, then 2, 0, –1, –2, and 1⁄2. If the answer depends on what you plug in for the variable, choose D.

And now for some Problem Solving tips:

  • Note what the question specifically asks you to find: perimeter, area, length, degree, fraction, percentage, and so on.

  • Before you begin working on a problem, read the answer choices. You may be able to estimate and answer without working out the solution.

  • Plug answer choices into the question to see which one works. Do the easy choices first; you may not have to do the hard ones.

Tips for Mastering the Analytical Writing Section of the GRE

When you sit down to begin the Analytical Writing section of the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), you must argue your perspective on an issue presented in the test and to analyze an argument as well.

Keep these tips in mind as you do your analytical writing:

  • Answer the question specifically, making your opinion known to the readers in the introductory paragraph.

  • Use all 45 minutes to create a three- to five-paragraph essay, giving supporting reasons and examples for your perspective (and anticipating and addressing counterarguments).

  • Create a final paragraph that summarizes, not merely repeats, the points of your essay.

When you analyze an argument, use these pointers:

  • Identify the assumptions the writer is making and discuss how reasonable they are.

  • Provide outside counterexamples or supporting information to strengthen or weaken the argument.

  • Avoid giving your opinion on the topic; the point here is to discuss how well-argued the essay is as written.

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