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THE USA: Applying to University

How to prepare for the GRE exam: Q&A with Guy

What’s it like to take the GRE exam from the perspective of a student? We speak to one candidate about his experience taking the GRE including how he prepared and the toughest bit...

prepare for the gre exam

With fast-approaching deadlines for graduate school applications in the United States, it’s time you get a head start preparing for the GRE exam. We speak to Guy Hudson, a graduate who recently took the revised version of the GRE exam to share with us his experience preparing for the test...


Guy, what was your first impression of the Revised GRE exam?

'Some of the highlights of the new computer-based exam are the built-in editor and answer tracker that allow you to go back and check your answers. That is, if you have spare time to do so.

However, I think the new version of the GRE presents some problems related to the possibility to compare your scores with other candidates, which is definitive when you are applying to graduate schools.

Many graduate schools do not have minimum scores as requirement for applications. They argue that it depends on the score average of the previous year’s intake. In that sense, whether you can be accepted or not seems less predictable, depending on an overall performance. The use of percentiles which my scores are classified in seems a partial solution, but the real impact of the new system in the admissions process is yet to be seen.'


How did you prepare for your GRE exam?

'Preparing for this exam required a lot of self-discipline and self-motivation. Here are a few tips I used for my study plan:

You need to know your current skill level and how much you can score with the practice test. Once you finish your first attempt, establish how much you can score given the time you have to revise.

Recognise your strengths and weaknesses from the start and keep track of your performance (scores you get) in a separate sheet.

Determine your learning style. As it is a completely autonomous decision, you will need to establish how frequently you want to study and if you need a friend’s support to do so.

Identify the GRE materials that are available for you. Check some textbooks in your local library and visit the GRE exam website to check more practice tests.

Make note of your mistakes and analyse why you got the answer wrong, maybe you didn’t read the instructions correctly or you accidentally missed an important piece of information.'


What was the trickiest bit of the exam?

'I thought that the maths section was going to be the hardest bit. My area of study has always been social sciences and I assumed that the verbal section of the exam was going to be a piece of cake.  However, once I started practicing, I realised that there was a lot of obscure vocabulary I needed to learn and that my reading comprehension was not good enough to answer the questions.'


Do you have any advice for other students planning to take the exam?

'Start preparing well in advanced. I started preparing only 2 months before the exam and I kind of regret it because there was a lot to cover and I feel I didn’t give myself enough time to revise.'


What's your opinion of courses to help you prepare for the GRE exam?

'Well, I think it really depends on your learning style. You can spend money in classes but ultimately preparing for this exam requires your own discipline and drive. You can teach yourself as the exam is really about getting used to specific types of questions. You can check the ETS website to find some GRE practice exams or you can buy some books. I personally used the GRE practice book published by Kaplan.

Also, the GRE website publishes all the list of topics that might come up in the analytic writing part of the exam.'


After taking the exam, did you find anything that you feel you could have prepared better for?

'It is important you make sure you leave some spare time to check your answers as the built-in editor of the computer-based exam allows you to do so. I completely forgot that and found myself in a race against the clock checking my answers at the end!

Also, make sure you do the best you can in each of the sections you get in the exam, you might be feeling tired at the end but make sure you have enough stored energy to last for the whole test. Commonly, the last section of the exam gets lower scores because we are just too tired by the end of it. Make sure you keep track of your time and force yourself to work right up to the end during your practice sessions.'


Learn more about studying at graduate level in America:



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If you are planning to apply for graduate school in the United States it’s important that you start preparing and submitting your applications a year in advance. Read our guide to applying to study in America.

You can also brush up on the higher education system in America.


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