10 Things You Need to Know About the Revised GRE

By Ron Woldoff, Joseph Kraynak

You’ve probably heard stories from your friends about the GRE. Rumors abound, growing wilder with each telling: “You have to know calculus!” (Absolutely not true.) “It’s an open-book test this year!” (You wish!) “You can use an on-screen calculator!” (Actually, this one is true.)

Here are ten key facts that you need to know when prepping for the exam and heading into the testing center.

  1. You May Return to Previous Questions in the Same Section

    The GRE allows you to return to previous questions in any given math or verbal section as long as you haven’t moved on to the next section, which wasn’t true with earlier versions of the GRE. One effective strategy is to flip through the questions, answer all the easy ones first, and then go back through to tackle the challenging questions.

  2. The GRE Doesn’t Penalize for Guessing

    To discourage examinees from making wild guesses, some standardized tests deduct points for wrong answers. The GRE doesn’t do this. Questions answered incorrectly count exactly the same as questions left unanswered, so you’re better off guessing than skipping.

  3. The GRE Uses a Percentile-Based Scoring System

    The GRE is a competitive test. Immediately after you complete the test, you receive an estimated percentile ranking based on the test-takers’ scores from the previous year.

    The number of GRE test-takers worldwide increases each year. More test-takers means more graduate-school applicants, which makes admissions more competitive. This means that scoring as well as you can on the GRE is more important than ever.

  4. Practice Makes All the Difference

    Although you may not be able to dress-rehearse the entire test-taking experience, practicing the test makes the actual test-taking experience feel more familiar and reduces the element of surprise. Take advantage of the practice tests included in GRE For Dummies, Eighth Edition (Wiley). Also, the practice software ETS provides has the exact feel of the actual GRE, so make it something you know well. Write the practice essays, too, making the entire experience as familiar as a day at the office.

  5. You Must Study for the GRE

    Though stories of unprepared folks scoring dramatically high are out there, incidents of unprepared folks bombing and having to retake the GRE are far more common. So prepare for the exam.

  6. The GRE Is Different from the SAT

    You’re not the same person you were in high school. You’ve matured, developed better study habits, and come to the shocking realization that you’re in charge of your own destiny. Maybe you didn’t study much for the SAT, figuring that you could always get into some college, somewhere, regardless of your score. You were probably right. But getting into graduate school isn’t as easy, and the GRE is more challenging than the SAT.

  7. The GRE Also Measures Your Stamina and Performance under Pressure

    The GRE measures a number of things besides your math and verbal aptitude. It measures your ability to prepare, your stamina, and your performance under pressure. Many people are quite capable of solving math problems with plenty of time and room for mistakes, but only those who have honed their skills through practice can come up with the right answers when the timer is ticking and the pressure is on. The good news: You can build or strengthen these skills, too!

  8. The General GRE Is Not Program-Specific

    The GRE is accepted for entrance into almost any graduate program, from Construction Management to Physician Assistant to Master of Social Work. Even MBA programs are accepting the GRE. Regardless of your field of study, the GRE is probably part of the admissions process.

  9. You Can Practice the GRE on Your Own Computer

    The only way to experience the real GRE is to take it. However, you can simulate the test-taking experience on your own computer and get as close to a real-life experience as possible. After you’ve studied and acquainted yourself with the different question types, practice on your own computer.

  10. You Can’t Bring Anything into the Testing Center

    The testing center staff wants to ensure zero opportunities of cheating on the GRE. Because of this, you can’t take anything in with you — not even a wristwatch. You can store food and water in a locker, but be prepared to empty your pockets and be fingerprinted upon entering the actual testing area.

    Don’t bring your GRE books, even if you intend to leave them in the locker. If the proctors suspect you of checking the books during your breaks, you may not be allowed to finish the exam.