The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

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The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby KestrelLowing » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:46 pm UTC

So, it has come to my attention that I will be taking the GRE in nine days. (Yikes!) It's amazing how a date that you set 3 months ago suddenly creeps up on you like this. Anyway, I figured it might be nice to have a thread dedicated to the GRE (There was one a while back with a poll for scores, but I was thinking more of an advice/strategies/whining/whatever kind of thing).

Sadly, right now is a horrible time to figure out tips as I'll be taking the new GRE the third day it's offered. Still, once I take it, I'll make sure to post my reactions and things I think would be helpful for others to know.

One thing I do want to say: I've found that the Princeton Review's Revised GRE prep book to have a fair number of errors in it. My guess is this is due to the rush to put it out, but several places they have contradictory statements (First part of the answer key will say the answer's A, second part will say the answer is B) - so just keep your eyes open.

Sooo, any tips for an engineering student who hasn't written a paper in 4 years (except one 8 page technical one due today - joy) and hasn't done that level of math since freshman year in high school?
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby charolastra » Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

I'm not really familiar with the new GRE or the writing portion (though I should be.. I need to take that sucker soon), but my advice for any writing exam where you are uncomfortable is to practice practice practice.

My range of majors and minors, as well as my high school prep, involved quite a few timed essays so I breezed through the written portions of the SAT/ACT as well as the foreign service officer's exam with no prep because I had that background. You need to give yourself that training since you did not get that in college.

Did you take AP English? The 5 paragraph essay man - it may only be good as a basis for timed writing tests but damn is it good. Practice the pants off of that. More than 5 paragraphs is fine but the idea behind the 5 paragraph essay is solid.
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby Newt » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:16 pm UTC

Kestrel, I wouldn't worry about the writing portion. Your writing proficiency should easily suffice to pass whatever mark engineering schools expect for a respectable applicant. I'm not an engineer, but for economics, the writing portion is only noticed if you got a really low score, at which point the graduate committee might worry that you have serious communication issues. Even then, it's mostly a problem for non-native speakers whose english is considered suspect. I knew someone(native speaker) who just clicked through the verbal section, jotted down a half-assed essay, made mention of his decision to do so in his application, and didn't seem particularly adversely affected by the decision in his admission results.

Suck it up, and take solace in that you will never have to respond to such inane essay prompts again(Unless your quantitative score sucked, and you have to retake)

As for the quantitative, you can probably get away with working through some practice books(you can probably even use your old SAT books)) and memorizing whatever little tidbits you may have forgotten. The only thing you absolutely must do is take the sample tests the GRE folks provide for you. The math is obviously not very advanced, but it can be difficult to do in the allotted time, especially if you're nervous; practice will help with this.

As with any standardized test, the most important thing is to come in well rested and well-nourished. I failed this part my first time(ate way too much and couldn't sleep), and wasn't happy to have to trek to a test centre three weeks later. I didn't do any more studying between the attempts, but I did jump from 71% quant to 92%, and 89% to 98% verbal.

My writing score was identical both attempts, suggesting that my BSing proficiency is not a function of my sleep.
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:51 am UTC

Well, I took the revised GRE today and it honestly was really freaking easy. While the vocab used was mostly archaic (and I mostly guessed) the math was so easy that it was almost a joke. I'm not saying I didn't get things wrong (I always make mistakes - and I make the same ones when I recheck work) but there was only one question I actually had to think about, and that was mainly because it was worded very poorly (I think that's how they increase the difficulty - make the questions incoherent). While obviously this might not be the case if you haven't done math in the past 4 years, for anyone who has to do any math, you're going to be just fine.

I won't actually get my scores until November, but the computer did spit out a couple ranges for the verbal and quantitative portions in the old scoring system. They're right on par with the graduate schools I'm looking at, so that's comforting. Of course, one of my scores had a range of 100 and the other a range of 80, so it really depends what side of the range I'm in, but it looks like I might not have to take it again!
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby engr » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:42 pm UTC

They no longer give the final score right away? And the official scores are in November?! Holy crap...
Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions. Gilbert K. Chesterton
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:17 pm UTC

engr wrote:They no longer give the final score right away? And the official scores are in November?! Holy crap...


It's only temporary. My guess is so that they can normalize the scores and figure out just what a '150' should mean (the new range is 130-170 with 1 point increments). That's why they're offering half off in August and September - so they can get a lot of people to take it to get a good distribution. After they set that up, I believe the scores will be given right after you complete the test (except for the writing of course). I think that's sometime after mid-November when things get back to normal.

As I don't need the scores until sometime next year, I figured half-off but having to wait was worth it for me (especially if I had to take it again - then I'd only be out $80 instead of $160)
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby agelessdrifter » Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

I have just started my junior year studying mathematics, but my adviser recommended that I begin studying for the GREs now. Does anyone have any recommendations about particular sources for studying the GREs? Particular practice versions I should pick up, or general "GRE for dummies" advice-type books, etc?

Also, I am unsure right now whether I will pursue my grad degree in math or in physics -- will there be a different test depending on which of these I choose, or is there just one GRE? I get the impression that there are field-specific ones, but I know nothing about the GREs in general.
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:58 pm UTC

agelessdrifter wrote:I have just started my junior year studying mathematics, but my adviser recommended that I begin studying for the GREs now. Does anyone have any recommendations about particular sources for studying the GREs? Particular practice versions I should pick up, or general "GRE for dummies" advice-type books, etc?

Also, I am unsure right now whether I will pursue my grad degree in math or in physics -- will there be a different test depending on which of these I choose, or is there just one GRE? I get the impression that there are field-specific ones, but I know nothing about the GREs in general.


There is a general GRE which is what the majority of people take. That one is pretty straighforward and mainly tests vocab, reading comprehension (which has a lot of vocab) and basic math skills (you should have learned that stuff in high school). The subject tests are:
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
Biology
Chemistry
Computer Science
Literature in English
Mathematics
Physics
Psychology

It really depends on your major and the places you plan to apply to if you need the subject tests or not (I'm in engineering so I just have to worry about the general GRE). I think the best way to figure it out would be to ask some of your current professors as to whether you need to take subject specific tests.
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

Yeah, I would definitely echo the holy fuck balls on the math being easier. I know that I did not suddenly improve at math by a year and a half of English Graduate school, and a calculator shouldn't have made that much of a difference, especially when I didn't even bother to study for it, but a range of 720-800 is nearly 200-300 points higher than my last score. Hell, their were questions I just clicked and answer because I couldn't be arsed to work them through because I didn't remember exactly the process for doing it. Which, should point out that apparently 42 is the go to answer.

Also, in terms of study guides, go with Princeton over Kaplan. The Kaplan one is pretty much awful. Their verbal guide has shoddy definitions and a host of really bad formatting errors. Though, the Princeton has a word for something that isn't a word. It's not even in the unabridged OED.
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby KestrelLowing » Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:50 pm UTC

Well, I ended up taking the GRE twice - good thing I got half price the first time!

I ended up getting a 160 (approx. 610 in old scoring system - 86%) in the English portion, and 162 (~770, 87%) in the math portion.

The first time I took it, I got 159 (~590, 84%) in the English and 156 (~720, 74%) in the math. That was not going to cut it in the math so I took it again. What's crazy is that I didn't study one iota the second time I took it - I had to take it during Christmas break as the nearest testing center to my college is ~4 hours away. I didn't have time to prepare as my finals took up all of my time.

I just showed up and took the test, reminding myself to take my time and I did better in both sections.

I guess some days are just better than others, or maybe just taking the test again helps.

I think now, however, my math scores are high enough so that I'll pass the metric of most grad schools. I'm glad, as I still currently do not have any research experience, so my GPA and GRE will probably count a bit more than if I had research experience.
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Re: The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Postby Shivahn » Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:41 am UTC

The experience of having taken it before probably helped, since you knew what to expect. But it may have been something as simple as sleeping better - it's generally better to sleep than to cram, I've found :P

In either case, good job improving your score! That's always an awesome feeling.
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