GRE Test for Graduate School Admissions
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GRE General is required by most universities if you are applying to
graduate school (the exceptions are Business School which require
GMAT and Law Schools which require LSAT).
GRE Subject (Economics, Engineering, History, Mathematics, Physics,
etc) is usually required or highly recommended by schools. If you
are applying to Physics Department GRE Physics will be required. If
you are applying to Biology Department you will usually have a
choice which subject test to take Biology, Math, Physics (I took
Math when I was applying to Biology). Some universities would say
that GRE Subject is not required, still if you can get high score it
is worth to take and submit the test.
GRE scores (both General and Subject) are very important, admissions
committee pays close attention to them.
Check out Free Sample Tests and Preparation Materials from ETS
Try to take tests in advance. I remember at two universities my
application was considered incomplete and not given to the admission
committee for consideration until I provided percentile of my GRE
General score (when you take computer test you are given exact
numbers right away but not the percentile) -- I don't think this is
generally the case, but still don't wait until the last moment. Try
to take the tests in October-November.
GRE General consists of three sections Quantitative, Analytical and
Verbal. The maximum score in each section is 800. You will have
total of 4 sections during the test. One section will be presented
twice (I had two Analytical sections, for example). If you have two
say Verbal sections only one of them will be counted, the other one
is experimental. You won't know which one is experimental (don't
even try :-) thus you have to work hard on all 4 sections.
The test is computer adaptive, so the difficulty of each next
question will depend on whether or not you answered correctly the
previous question. Thus remember to be especially careful during the
first 1/2 of each section. Also, remember to answer all the
question, this is better for your final score than leaving
Quantitative (28 questions, 45 minutes)
This section tests you basic math skills, mostly middle to high
school level. Anyone from Phystech, MIFI, etc can easily get 800 (if
you get the score below 700 - shame on you!). See examples.
Analytical (35 questions, 60 minutes)
This section is not very difficult, but it is quite unusual and time
consuming. I think the best way to master it is to practice. In my
opinion each person has his own style of logic and its harder to
adopt somebody else's structure than to develop your own. Thus, my
advice is practice until you fill fluent in this type of problems
and can solve them in the allocated time. Strive for the score of
800 and be proud of yourself if you get the score above 750.
Verbal (30 questions, 30 minutes)
For non-native English speakers (that is us :-) this is the most
difficult section. To do well in it you need to know an incredible
number of rarely used English words. Thus, preparation for this test
mostly involves training your memory. Of course, you would also need
to learn general patterns and structures, get acquainted with tricks
to find solutions, etc. I would recommend .... for preparation.
Check out GRE Vocabulary Builder and Guru's GRE Wordlist Memorizer.
Strive for the score of 450, anything above 400 is good, scores
350-390 are acceptable, below 300 is really bad. "My personal
relationship with Verbal has always been really tense (in 1997 I got
380, in 2000 - 370). My scored did not prevent me from getting
admitted to Princeton and MIT, so don't panic if your score is not
perfect. I remember a funny story that happened to me during an
interview at Caltech (in Biology you have to pass an interview
before being admitted). I came to the professor's office and started
talking to him, we discussed my scientific interests and then he
looked at my test score and said "How come you have 370 in Verbal? I
was thinking you won't be able to make a few phrases, but your
English is excellent." :-) Still try to find patience in yourself
and prepare for Verbal, e.g. learn those words!"
The difficulty of this test depends on the subject you choose and on
your personal level of knowledge. For example, at MIPT some of my
group-mates could easily get 990 in Physics (which is maximum score)
while others could only get 750 which is non-acceptable for the top
schools (my score in 1997 was 770). When I was applying to Biology
my Math score of 890 was considered really good. As a general rule
score above 800 are good, above 900 are excellent. Most universities
will list average scores for admitted students and these numbers are
generally in the range 600-750. You should understand that these
numbers include American students which generally have lower scores
than foreigners. You have to win against other foreigners thus for
you scores below 750 are no good at all.
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