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The basics
THE USA: Applying to University

The GRE: One student's experience w/ Ashley

American student Ashley looks back on her GRE Test experience to offer some advice to future test-takers...

GRE student exam

Taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not like taking the SAT. The exam takes longer, the questions are harder and it’s expensive. However, one of the good things about the GRE is that the exam results last for up to three years. This can allow for potential students to have the opportunity to shop around for universities, and if they miss a deadline they’re able to apply the next time around.


Ashley has taken the GRE before. She provides a few tips based on her experience below...



'I originally signed up to take the GRE with a friend of mine. She was set on a child psychology programme at a couple of good universities in Washington State, whilst I didn’t want to earn my MA in the USA at all. I had planned to apply to graduate programmes in the UK where the GRE wasn’t required, but my friend suggested I should take the GRE with her just in case my UK plans didn’t work out. It was good advice although there were many things I wish I taken more seriously or fully understood before I actually took the exam.'


A smart exam

'I started studying for the exam three months before the test date, and even though I only worked part-time it still wasn’t enough preparation. I bought the current version of Education Testing Services’ (ETS) 'Practicing To Take The GRE' and tried the practice exam first. The exam is changed slightly with question content year to year, so test prep books are updated annually to reflect appropriate study material. The GRE is taken on a computer in an ‘adaptive’ format, meaning during the multiple choice sections the exam will begin with an easy question. If the test-taker gets the question right, the exam moves on to a slightly tougher question and so on.

However, if the test taker gets a question wrong the exam reverts to an easier question. Scoring is based on level of difficulty and number of correct answers. This changing level of difficulty through performance wasn’t encouraging and through my weakest section (maths) it was a bit disheartening. I don’t think knowing about this structure helped at all, but I don’t know if I would have performed better had I been unaware.'


Words of advice

'If I was to take the GRE over again I would have started studying six months in advance. I would have gotten more than just a book to study. I would also have gotten vocabulary cards, taken every practice test online or considered taking a GRE class. I did take the exam seriously but there was a lot of material to go over and cover. I’m glad I took it with a friend; it made the experience less daunting going to the exam with someone I knew. There’s nothing that helps a friendship than bonding over a four hour exam. In the end I’m glad I took the GRE. It provided me with options and since the results last for three years it gave me a framework to plan my higher education goals.'


Read more:

'Revised General Exam - GRE'

'How to prepare for the GRE exam'

'What is a GRE Subject Test'

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