Tips on preparation of GREMay 11, 2000 (Updated Jun 22, 2000) Write an essay on this topic.
GRE is required to get into graduate school. So when I took it many years ago when I decided to attend graduate school in United States, the question is not whether it is worth it, rather is how to get a high score.
As a foreign student at the time, the verb section seemed a challenge to non-native-English speakers. The logic section is somewhat a challenge, but not that much if you are a clear mind person and know some basic problem solving skills. The math section, on the other hand, is a breeze for me.
I spent 70% of my preparation time on verb section, which I was told an average native-English speaker could get around 500 points (out of 800). Well, I ended up way below average. I guess there is just no way to fill my head with thousands spelling of not common used words in a short time. But at least I tried.
I spent about 25% of my time on logic section, mainly working on getting familiar with the style of the question and recalling some problem solving skills I learned before. I got 740 out of 800, 92%, not bad for a non-native-English speaker.
Unfortunately, I found out later that some of the universities don't count this section officially. They just use it as a reference. They use the combination of verb and math scores to rate their applicants.
I still think this section is important for science or engineering major students. The logic section testes your basic problem solving skill, and in some questions, you have to sort out what are the useful information vs the cover-up information to get to the bottom of the question. These are important skills that are going to help you get through graduate school.
The math section, while I consider it very easy due to tough requirement on math in the pre-college education system in Asia, may be considered difficult for general american students. I only realized that until I became a tuitor for undergraduate student while attending graduate school.
The average score on math section I was told is around 500. To my knowledge, most of the Asian students get 800 or 790 out of 800. I personally think all the math knowledge tested in the GRE are very basic and useful no matter what you major is.
Actually when I tuitor undergraduate students (sometimes even high school students) on math, I found out most of the knowledge tested in GRE are actually already covered even in some high school textbook. In Asia, no matter what kind of major you want to persue in college, there is almost the same requirement on math at entrance exam. So most of the Asian students, when they decide to go to college, their average math level is already equal to the average level of a college student here in US. This might attribute to why most of Asian students scored high in math section.
On the other hand, I believe there is a need for average american college student to increase their math knowledge. Or maybe I should just say to really learn the math knowledge that high school and college text books teach. When I tuitored student on math, I felt most of the time they just learned it for the upcoming test, and forgot it completely afterwords. After all, you are dealing with numbers in everyday life. Simple math skill will help you a lot when you do shopping, driving, or even doing outdoor activities.
Sorry I have gone beyond talking about GRE. But if you are a good student and really learn the knowledge from textbook, GRE math section isn't that terrible at all. By the way, I got 800 on math, as you might expect.
To me, GRE test is a well balanced test of general knowledge needed for surviving in graduate school. Although I didn't get to improve my English skill until I was several years into the graduate school. But that is common for most of non-native-English speakers too.
Since math is usually the weakest section for american students, I highly recommend you spend most of your time on it. And if you are like me, weak on language, then reverse the proportion of time on verb section.
Also, for different majors, there is GRE subject test for each major. Sometimes several science majors may share one subject test or have options for the subject test you could take. I majored in biochemistry, so I had the options to take either chemistry or biochemistry. Since I came from chemistry background in undergraduate, I chose chemistry.
GRE subject test is an excellent way to test the knowledge on student's major. Although it might not have the perfect subject test for each major, all the subject testes for sciences major are certainly good and well designed (from my own experiences with it and my science major friends).
There is also one more advantage of taking GRE subject, as it is not required at all majors in graduate school. That is if your undergraduate GPA is a little bit on the lower end, a high GRE subject score would help you to convince the school that you are still very well knowledged about your major. This worked extremely well in my case, for I had probably the lowest college GPA at my graduate student class, but had one of the highest GRE subject score in the class.
There are many GRE preparation courses anywhere. I didn't attend any for I knew my problem was mostly on the verb section. There was really no other way to improve it other than memorizing it.
Take a sample test and find where your weakest spot is before you decide whether you want to register in a preparation class. If you are weak in math, a good tuitor or preparation class would really benefit you. You could get a good summary of all the knowledge needed for the math section, and get many chances to practice your weakest part. If you are weak in logic section, preparation class could help a little, but mostly is up to you to find the right problem solving skill. If you are weak in verb section like me, well close the door and get a book of most often tested vocabulary and start to test the limit of your memory.
I took GRE test more than 8 years ago. But as far as I know, the format and the content of the test didn't change very much these years. Maybe you can take the test on computer now these days, but I think my tips on preparation of the test should still give you some helpful thought.
Finally, GRE test is for entering graduate school. Take it when you seriously consider to enter graduate school. Be sure you know what you are doing, as taking the test does cost you some registration fee. And once you take it, the score will be valid for five years. If you take a second one because your first one is not so good, well,the first score will still be shown on your report!
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