Ultimate GRE Prep Guide 2018 – GRE Test Dates, How to get High GRE Scores, Best Books, Free Resources
Are you taking the GRE? Wondering about how the GRE test will affect your future? This GRE Prep guide will outline everything you need to know about the GRE, including GRE Scores, GRE Test Dates, GRE Vocab, a comparison of GRE vs. GMAT, Practicing GRE, your GRE account, and GRE Math. So… let’s start!
What is the GRE Test?
The GRE Examination is a standardized test given by Educational Testing Services (ETS) that acts as an admission requirement for many graduate schools. What does GRE stand for? ETS GRE stands for the Graduate Record Examination. GRE test questions are designed to evaluate test-takers abilities in Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing, according to ETS. Similar to how the SAT and ACT measure college readiness, the GRE examination measures business or graduate school readiness.
GRE Versus GMAT
Traditionally, the GMAT has been the test business schools use to qualify candidates. However, that is now changing as more business schools are accepting the GRE. What’s the difference in the GRE vs. GMAT?
|Why Take It||Most graduate schools accept it, but more and more business schools are accepting it||Most business schools require it|
|Test|| 60-minute Analytical Writing section – with two essays, 30 minutes apiece.
Two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections.
Two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections.
Finally, one 30-35 minute section, either math or verbal, that won’t be scored (but you don’t know which section that is.)
|A 30-minute Analytic section containing one essay
A 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section
A 75-minute Quantitative section
A 75- minute Verbal section.
|Test Format||GRE-Computer adaptive* by section exam in the United States, paper test elsewhere||GMAT- is a computer-adaptive* test.|
|How It’s Scored||Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments.||Score ranges from 200 to 800 in 10-point increments.|
|Cost||GRE cost- $205||GMAT cost- $250|
|Testing Time||3.5 hours on paper test, or 3.75 hours on computer||3.5 hours|
|Scores are valid for||5 years||5 years|
*: Computer-adaptive means that the difficulty of the test questions will increase if the test-taker answers them correctly and decrease if answering incorrectly. Computer-adaptive by section means that the score on the first section will determine the difficulty level of the second section.
Beyond the numbers:
The GRE math, which measures quantitative reasoning skills, is seen as easier than the GMAT math sections. The GMAT will not let you use a calculator while the GRE will. However, the GRE vocabulary is more difficult than the GMAT. Choose your test based on the requirements of the school you are applying to and your personal strengths and weaknesses.
GRE Test Dates
In most of the world, the GRE is offered via computer at a GRE testing center. A GRE test center will offer GRE exam dates year-round, but they will get busy in the late summer and fall when most students are taking the GRE. Alternatively, in areas of the world where computer-based GRE testing is not available, the GRE will be offered on paper.
Paper Test Dates (2017-2018)
|Location||Test Date||Registration Deadline||Late Reg Deadline||Scores Available Online||Scores Mailed|
|U.S. and Puerto Rico||02/03/2018||12/29/17||01/05/18||03/05/18||03/16/18|
|All Other Locations||02/03/2018||12/22/17||12/29/17||03/05/18||03/16/18|
Register for the GRE
GRE sign up can be done with My GRE, the GRE account offered by ETS. Just create an account, fill out the information and you’ll be on your way to take the GRE Exam. Be sure to register three to four months ahead of time for the GRE, so you get the GRE date you want. You can retake the GRE once every 21 days up to five times in a year-long period and send only the scores you choose to the schools you’re applying for. The main factor to keep in mind is the GRE cost, which cannot be reduced by a GRE promo code.
GRE Promo Codes
Promo codes usually cover GRE prep courses, GRE practice tests, and GRE books, but not the testing fee itself. You can find GRE promo codes at websites like Retail Me Not, Coupons.com, DontPayFull.com, Deals Cove, and Reddit. They won’t always have codes that actively work, but you can always try them out when you go to check out on your ETS My GRE account. Just shop for GRE materials and go to the Checkout page, where you can try the GRE promo codes you got and hit “Apply”. If the code doesn’t work, a red error message will appear. If It works, your order will be reduced in price.
Now, to bring down the price of the GRE test itself, you can try the GRE Fee Reduction Program. However, you must meet strict requirements: You have demonstrated financial need, you are unemployed, or you belong to a program that works with underrepresented minorities.
The best way to keep your costs low is to do lots of GRE prep, and use great GRE books and resources along the way, so that you only take the test once or twice and get the score you want.
Practicing GRE is well worth the investment of time and effort. These numbers represent how your study hours translate into point improvements:
40 hours= 5 points
80 hours= 10 points
160 hours= 20 points
240 hours= 30 points
Keep in mind also that having a study plan and/or a tutor can help immensely with your productivity while studying. We’ll cover these things later on in our guide.
How long should I study for?
- Determine what score you’ll be aiming for. Do some research on the average GRE scores for the schools and universities you are applying to. Here are some GRE scores for top universities. Find the highest Verbal and Quantitative scores out of the list you just made. Then, add two points to those scores to get the GRE scores you’re aiming for. This way, you will push yourself to make scores good enough for the most stringent university on your GRE score range, which means you have a good chance of getting in to every school on your list if you make those scores.
- Find out what your baseline scores are by taking a GRE practice test. ETS offers PowerPrep Online as a free GRE prep resource that offers two free GRE practice tests that simulate the actual GRE test. To use it, just go to the Shop for Test Preparation section in your ETS GRE account and click the link.
- Get the difference between your practice GRE test and your goal GRE test scores, and make a study plan. The most effective way to get better at a skill is to practice it frequently and for up to four hours per session, according to a study of virtuoso violinists mentioned in this great article. If you have four hours every day to devote to practicing GRE skills, great! If not, at least try to make some time for yourself regularly over several weeks, rather than burning yourself out just one or two days a week for less than a month. Also keep in mind that the most improvement happens with the initial investment of hours. Expect to experience diminishing returns as you put more hours in- not that this should discourage you from studying.
GRE Books Criteria
There are some great books out there for GRE practice. Here is what defines a quality GRE prep book:
- Effectively teaches GRE strategy and content. It shows the reader tips for solving specific problem types, explains the logic that underlies correct answers, and teaches new information well enough that the reader can be confident in their understanding of it.
- Includes top-notch GRE practice questions. A good GRE prep book will have hundreds of practice questions that are so well-written, they could be mistaken for actual GRE questions. They should be categorized by skill level so that you can master each level of difficulty.
- Has GRE practice tests. Practice questions are good for daily study, but every so often you will want to take a practice test to a. gauge how well you’ve mastered the content and b. see how well you perform with a time limit of 3 hours 45 minutes.
- Guides the reader on creating a study plan. The GRE prep book ought to dispense advice on improving weak areas and deciding what subjects need the most studying as well as comprehensive study plans and guides.
Best GRE Books
With those qualifications in mind, here are some of the best GRE Prep books.
- The Official Guide to the GRE General Test. Written by the test-maker ETS itself, this guide is the best source of information and GRE practice to begin with. It has practice questions and reviews for Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning and two full-length practice tests at the end. It also has a fantastic analytical writing section that explains exactly how the writing will be scored and what makes a good or a bad essay.
- Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions and also Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions with Analytical Writing Practice. These books do exactly what their titles describe, which is to give you a larger selection of practice questions to train yourself with.
- If that’s still not enough practice questions for you, get Manhattan Prep’s 5-Lb Book of Practice Problems. It not only offers just the questions, but also sorts them by different skills, difficulty level, and section. This enables you to improve your biggest weaknesses specifically. It also offers detailed answer explanations that will teach you not only what the correct answer is, but why and how to get there.
- Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides. The eight books in this set break down and teach all the content in the GRE, then quiz you with practice questions and offer access to six online adaptive practice GRE tests. You only have to buy one of the books in the set to get this access.However, know that these books include more Quant than Verbal questions.
- Princeton Review: Cracking the GRE. Princeton Review does a great job of covering Verbal and Analytical writing sections. The math questions here aren’t great, however. You’ll also get four online GRE practice tests with the book.
GRE Prep Courses and Resources
GRE books are great, but sometimes you may want more than that, like a learning platform that adapts to you to provide tailored GRE practice. With that in mind, here are some top GRE prep courses.
What you get: The $199 Self-Paced option gives you 24 hours of video lessons, 120 days of access to online tools, 8 computer adaptive tests similar to the actual GRE tests, 470+ drills, 3500+ practice questions, and interactive score reports. The Ultimate LiveOnline option for $999 gives you all the features of the Self-Paced, plus 24 hours of live instruction. The Ultimate In Person option for $1299 puts you in the same physical classroom as the instructors, plus gives you all the previously mentioned online tools.
What you get: The self-paced version for $699 includes 7 full-length computer based practice tests, 180+ hours of online instruction and practice, 5000+ practice questions plus the ability to create your own practice tests, 4 GRE prep books, online access for 6 months, and 18 hours of recorded video instruction. For $899, the Self-Paced PLUS option gives you an additional 35 hours of live instruction, and focuses on basic and advanced math skills, as well as everything in the $699 tier. With Live Online for $1299, you get 35 hours of elective live instruction on the GRE channel (live-streaming and archived videos), plus 21 hours of live online instruction. With Live Online Plus starting at $1699, you also get 3 hours of 1-on-1 coaching, and specialized GRE Math instruction. Finally, you can choose to select the In Person option for $1299 or In Person PLUS for $1699, which offer the same benefits as the online version but with in-person instruction. All Kaplan GRE test prep deals come with a proctored practice GRE in a physical location near you, which may help prepare you psychologically for the actual GRE.
What you get: Access to 200+ instructional hours of content, full length practice exams, fully adaptive Diagnostic GRE Test, In-depth explanations for each problem, Personalized lessons and hour-by-hour study plans, created by instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on the GRE. Also, if you don’t increase your GRE score by at least 7 points, you get the cost of the course refunded. However, it lacks online videos and live instruction.
What you get: Over 1000 practice questions, 3 practice tests, study schedules, and a +5 total score guarantee, as well as email assistance. You can buy 1 month premium for $129 or 6 month premium for $149.
Your GRE score can, in many ways, determine your academic future, so it’s important to know how it works. GRE scoring is done by taking the Verbal Reasoning score on a scale of 130-170 points, Quantitative Reasoning score on a 130-170 point scale, and the Analytical Writing score reported on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments. The average GRE score varies between programs, so it’s important to do research as mentioned before to know the GRE score range you’re aiming for.
Q: What is a good GRE score? A good GRE score matches or exceeds the average score for the program(s) you’re applying to.At Yale’s MBA program, the average GRE score was 164 Verbal, 162 Quant and 4.7 in Analytical writing. On the other hand, many schools require a minimum GRE score of 300, like the Georgetown microbiology and immunology program . Click here to view GRE Scores percentiles. For the middle 50% of the Verbal section test takers, GRE scores range from 145 to 157. For the middle 50% of the Quant section test takers, GRE scores range from 146 to 160.
Q: How long does it take to get GRE scores? According to ETS, scores for the computer-based test will be available in your my GRE account 10-15 days after taking the GRE test.
The GRE Verbal section will test your knowledge of GRE vocab, with a GRE vocab list that spans thousands of entries. There are several methods of tackling this problem.
One is to learn GRE words with an online GRE vocab list. This list arranges words by difficulty, a handy organizational style. This list draws from Barron’s GRE 17th Edition High Frequency words. There are other lists too, like Crunchprep’s and PrepScholar’s.
A more interactive, perhaps more stimulating and challenging approach is to use Magoosh’s Vocabulary Builder. It also stratifies words by difficulty level, but quizzes you and lets you unlock new sets of words when you get enough of the previous section correct.
Similarly, you can study Kaplan’s 900 high-frequency GRE words.
The advantage of studying on Quizlet is that you can quiz yourself in a variety of ways to reinforce learning. So use it!
The GRE Verbal section will test reading comprehension, text comprehension, and sentence equivalence.
In terms of reading comprehension, you will be asked questions about 10 different passages. You will be tested on a range of abilities including: understanding the meaning of individual words and sentences, summarizing a passage, identifying the author’s assumptions and perspective, and more.
Another part of the GRE Verbal is filling in the blanks, or text completion. You decide among answer choices that may fit into a passage and logically complete the thought or idea expressed within.
Sentence equivalence questions will consist of a single sentence with one blank, asking the reader to select two answer choices that lead to two sentences that make sense and mean the same thing.
The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section tests math skills. You will need to know Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis. The ETS GRE Math review is a good first step to prepare you for this section. Another way to prepare is to use Khan Academy Instructional videos for each GRE Math review topic. Or, you could use Magoosh’s 90 Day GRE Study Plan (Math Focused).
The first step to GRE Math mastery is knowing the formulas. What’s important to remember, however, is that knowing the formulas is only going to get you so far. GRE Math questions are written in such a way that they disguise the way to get to the answer behind layers of a word problem and try to confuse you. So the best way to train is to do as many well-written (similar to the GRE) practice problems as you can so you get used to working out the puzzles in the GRE math section.
You have everything you need to master the GRE. Now be careful of these three mistakes.
1. Cramming at the expense of sleep
If you signed up for the GRE too late, or you feel very unprepared, you may feel tempted to cram for it over a night or a few nights before . But beware- a UCLA study found that the lack of sleep that comes with cramming for a test completely obliterated the potential benefit of being better prepared on the material. This is even more the case for the GRE, which is several hours long and is especially mentally taxing and more high-stakes compared to normal exams. So be sure to get a lot of sleep and spread out your studying over several weeks to months.
2. Caffeine overload
Caffeine has been used by humans for thousands of years to increase alertness and mental quickness at repetitive tasks. However, too much caffeine comes with its costs- jitters, anxiety, and increased likelihood of manic symptoms in bipolar individuals.
Health professionals say four cups of coffee or about 400 mg is safe for daily consumption, but even that much everyday can cause dependence over time. Try to limit your caffeine intelligently.
3. Unhealthy eating patterns
Sugar may provide immediate gratification and a quick-fix feeling of satisfaction, but consuming it undermines learning and memory. It also contributes to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Try replacing sugar with healthy unsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease, and protein. Protein improves the functioning of dopamine and serotonin, which leads to improved learning and better mental health overall.
Your Day Leading up to the GRE
Get 7-9 hours of sleep the night before the exam and eat a nutritious, healthy breakfast.
Example of a good breakfast:
Greek yogurt with sprinkle of pistachios
A glass of milk and a cup of green tea
Example of a bad breakfast:
Donuts and a sugar-filled latte
Most people know there are many benefits to exercise. But did you know that even just walking for 20 minutes before a test can markedly increase your score? Heavy cardio or weightlifting is even better as those activities release more feel-good, focusing brain chemicals.
Also, meditate. Research shows that people who meditate have less stress and have an enlarged hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with learning and memory. By meditating, you’ll be at an advantage in life.
Good luck studying!