Getting into the graduate school of your choice is a whole lot easier if you score well on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). This collection of GRE test-taking tips and key information can help get prepared so that you can perform well on the test, get into graduate school, and achieve your career goals.

What to Expect When You Take the GRE

The GRE is a computerized test taken at a local testing center. Other test-takers may also be there, working on the GRE or a different exam, but you’ll be in a booth, immersed in your own test. Lasting up to four hours, the GRE is a marathon, challenging your stamina as well as your skills. The following table outlines the sections of the GRE, including the number of questions and time limits of each. The essays are always first, but the other sections can be in any order.

Section Number of Questions Time Allotted
Analyze an Issue 1 essay 30 minutes
Analyze an Argument 1 essay 30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 20 questions 30 minutes
Break 10 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 20 questions 35 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 20 questions 30 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 20 questions 35 minutes
Unscored Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning 20 questions 30 or 35 minutes
Possible Unscored Research Section 20 questions 30 or 35 minutes
Total testing time About 4 hours

What to Bring and Leave at Home on GRE Test Day

The GRE proctors are strict about the items you’re allowed to bring into the testing center. Make sure you come prepared on test day by bringing all of these things:

  • ETS authorization voucher: Bring the verification that you’ve signed up for the exam on this day, at this time, here at this location. If the testing center makes a mistake and loses your reservation, you need to show that you are actually reserved for this time.

  • Comfortable clothes: Testing centers tend to crank up the A/C. The last thing you want is to be shivering during the exam. Wear two layers of long-sleeve clothing, and you can always remove one if you’re warm.

  • Map or directions to the testing center: The GRE is intense enough; let the drive there be easy, especially if your test is in the morning, putting your drive in the midst of rush-hour traffic. You may also want to scope out the area ahead of time and find parking.

  • Photo ID: The GRE testing centers sport some tight security. You may not be allowed to take the test unless you can verify who you are.

  • Water and a snack: Your break is 10 minutes, some of which is spent checking back in when you return from the restroom. You don’t have time to go grab something. Bring water and a snack so you can use your precious few minutes getting refreshed. Some testing centers give you access to your locker during your break, and some don’t. But the proctors always tell you where you can leave your food and water.

The GRE proctors are also strict about the items you can’t bring into the testing center. If you have any of these items with you, you’ll be asked to keep them in your locker while taking the exam:

  • Books and study notes: You’re not allowed to use books or notes, so why bring them? Leave them in your car or at home. A student almost had his scores cancelled because he took a text book out of his locker during his break. Fortunately, he didn’t open the book, so he was allowed to keep his scores, which was good, because he had scored well.

  • Cellphone and wallet: Your cellphone and wallet stay in the locker while you’re taking the GRE.

  • Calculator: If you bring a calculator, it too will stay in the locker. The GRE provides a computerized calculator for the Quantitative Reasoning sections, so you don’t need to bring one.

  • Your own scratch paper: The proctors will take away anything you bring and provide their own scratch paper for you to use.

Your GRE Study Plan

Preparing for the GRE can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t touched the math for years or are rusty with the verbal. It may seem that there’s too much to study, and you’ll never get through it all. The good news is that you mastered these topics at one time: You graduated high school and completed college. You are merely returning to a familiar path.

The other good news is that the GRE has a specific, limited scope of material that it asks about. For example, on the quantitative side, you’ll see plenty of square roots but never a cube root. The math questions you see in 1,001 GRE Practice Questions For Dummies are based exactly on this scope of material. Learn to answer these math questions, and you’ll be prepared for the real thing.

On the verbal side, the GRE uses many of the same vocab words over again. Learn those words in 1,001 GRE Practice Questions For Dummies and you’ll know a lot of the words on the exam. You won’t know them all, but you’ll know enough to do well.

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