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How to prepare for the GRE

What is the GRE exam all about? This article offers GRE prep tips to students who are looking to take the test as part of their overseas education plans.

Kavitha Vijeyavelan

Your GRE prep doesn’t have to be all drab; there’s room for some fun. Improve your cognitive ability through Sudoku, puzzles, and the solving of a variety of problems.

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Been eyeing the USA as your dream study destination from as far back as you can recollect? Well then, whether you like or not, you have to get yourself prepped for the GRE — if you are looking for studies at the graduate level. The GRE, as you may already know, is a standardised test that most graduate schools in the USA consider as an admissions requirement. Only the computer-based version is available within India. Currently, registering for the GRE test will cost you USD 195.

Jaw-Dropping Stats!

What’s interesting to know is that there was a 70% surge in the number of Indian students taking up the GRE in 2013! ETS (Educational Testing Service), responsible for the creation and the administration of the test, predicts that this rise is here to stay. ETS revealed that there were more than 90,000 GRE applicants from India alone and that too just in 2013. Woah! That’s a whole lot of students we are talking about! That, in short, is the popularity of the GRE among present day Indian students — like yourself.

ETS also tells us that there are more than 1,100 B Schools that acknowledge GRE scores for their MBA programs and (get this) that there has been an increase by 12% (from the year 2012 i.e.) in the number of international programs that accept GRE scores. This is precisely why the GRE test could be one of the most important four hours (three hours and forty five minutes to be accurate) of your student life!

Who takes the GRE seriously?

If you are wondering why GRE is so important to Universities, here is the main reason. The GRE allows Universities' admissions committees to compare numerous applicants from around the globe on one scale and measures general aptitude and a variety of other skills that are required for succeeding in graduate study.

Now that you know exactly why the GRE is given as much importance as it is, here are a few pointers on how to ace it! Ready? Here goes…

Learn About It!

As the very first step, it is crucial that you familiarise yourself with its basic structure and the timing for each of its sections.

  • The Verbal Section: This comprises two thirty minute sections that will test your grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills.
  • The Quantitative Section: This comprises two 35-minute sections that will test your geometry, algebra, arithmetic, and data analysis skills.
  • The Analytical Writing Section: This is a single section with two timed essays (30 mins each) that will test your writing skills. One will require you to state your opinion on an issue and support it; the other will require you to evaluate an argument.

One more important thing you should know is that the computer version of the GRE uses computer- adaptive testing. Not sure what that means? In other words, if you answer your questions right, you end up with harder ones but these will be worthy of more points. Answer a few questions wrong, then you will end up with easier questions but these won’t be worthy of many points and your scores could take a hit.

Don’t Live In The Past!

The GRE General Test was replaced with the present GRE revised General test years ago (2011 if you were wondering)! Make sure you don’t wind up using any of the study guides or materials referring to that test version!

This revised General Test has introduced some cool new changes; let’s have a look at some of them...

  • You can edit your answers within a section
  • You can skip a few questions in your timed section and get back to them when you like — before going to the next section
  • You can use an on-screen calculator!

These can make a world of a difference to your test taking experience! Don’t you agree?

Your Master Plan!

Start at least three to six months ahead of time with your prep. How would you rather go about it? Go to a class three times a week or just pick up one of the top GRE study materials from a library and get started? Before you answer that, we’d like to tell you that experts, according to Princeton Review, advise students to hit the books from four to twelve weeks prior to D-Day so that they can cover all areas necessary. Research the internet well for all possible and recent GRE materials and invest in a few good study guides (you may want to try Googling for the current top ten).

You can also use ETS's Powerprep Software for practice. In case you’re interested, you will find this on the official GRE website. It is free and has two practice tests; we suggest you take one during the beginning of your prep and one right at the end, before the test to see your progress.

Practice, practice, and OH, some more PRACTICE!

Take as many mock tests as you can for your GMAT prep — this is probably the most important step.

  • For the verbal part, if you need help with the vocabulary, try making flashcards, learning roots of these troublesome words, or associating them with pictures. (Experts advise students to learn from study guides that contain nearly 3,500 words.)
  • For the quantitative part, make sure you train yourself well to calculate quickly and familiarise yourself with graphs and charts.
  • For the writing part, do as many practice essays as you can and get some feedback from reliable sources to improve your style of writing where possible.

You will be evaluated on your grammar and your spelling — so turning the autocorrect features off will be of good use.

What’s Your Strategy?

You need to come up with strategies on how to deal with questions that you may be unsure of. For the verbal and quantitative sections, work out ways to eliminate wrong answers choices as fast as you possibly can. For the writing section, find ways to ensure you don’t get disorganised or flustered.

Time Is Of The Essence!

You DO have the option of skipping questions and getting back, but you should know how to manage this wisely. We would like to emphasize that this test comes with rigid time constraints.

It is of utmost importance that you focus well on your first 10 questions — make sure you check your answers really well. If you get these right, you will end up with higher scoring questions. Don’t panic (though it may be easy to) if you’re not sure if you answered right for the first few questions and spend the next few minutes trying to guess if the questions are getting harder or easier. What’s been done has been done — just keep up the right pace for the rest of the test.

Strengthen Your Weakness!

As you get closer to your GRE, it’s easy to drown in an ocean of mock tests and study guides, yet we urge you to take one step back and look at your progress so far. Review your performance and start to focus on your areas of weakness. You can begin with the questions that you got wrong and see where exactly it is that you have gone wrong. Is something pulling you back? Focus on these and don’t give up practising until you have mastered these.

Mix It Up!

Your GRE prep doesn’t have to be all drab, there’s room for some variety here. You can try out Sudoku, puzzles, and solving of problems that will improve your cognitive ability.

Mounting research seems to show that physical fitness can also make a difference in your scores and academics. Yes, we are serious! New evidence suggests that there could be as much as a 20% boost to brainpower due to regular cardio! Keep yourself fit and you will feel more balanced as you focus on your preparation.

All these mental and physical exercises will not just give you the stamina you need for this test but may also help you get amazing results. Along with this, make sure you get the right amount of sleep as well — don’t compromise on your health at any point.


Your official GRE scores will be up on your ‘My GRE’ account within ten to fifteen days or be sent to the institutions you have listed directly.

A Second Chance!

Are you not happy with your GRE scores? We’ve got news for you- you can retake the test every 21 days and up to five times within the period of a year from when you took it!


These are just a few of the many factors you should keep in mind as you study up for the GRE.

The GRE score-requirements that you are expected to meet will vary from institution to institution. Generally, you will require at least 152-158 on your verbal, 153-158 on your quantitative, and 4.0 in your AWA. Your GRE scores will be valid for a period of five years. Got a clear idea of how to nail the GRE and where to begin your prep now?  Have anything to add to this list or any comments? Why not let us know?

Plus, if you are looking for any other kinds of assistance to get into your dream Uni, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We, at Hotcourses India, would love to be of help!

Looking to crack the GRE?

Jyoti Sharma Jyoti Sharma,
Study abroad expert.
Our expert advisors can guide you with test prep advice so that you can ace the test. Request a call from our advisors to get FREE test prep guidance. Or call 1800 103 2581 / 1800 103 9634 (toll-free) today!