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GRE is for Graduate Record Examinations, which refers to the GRE General Test given by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS). The exam, which is necessary for entrance to many graduate programs, evaluates students’ verbal and quantitative aptitudes. Instead of the “question-adaptive” style used before 2011, the test is computer-based and “section-level adaptive” in the United States.
The test is calibrated so that test-takers should earn roughly the same score using this computer-based format as they would if they took the paper-and-pencil test, even though adaptive tests include several aspects that set them apart from traditional paper-and-pencil
The GRE consists of three scaled scores that are derived from five scored components. The AW score is based on two essays from the Analytical Writing (AW) exam, while the Verbal and Quantitative scores are based on two each of the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections. The Verbal and Quantitative sections might come after the AW portion in either direction. A ten-minute break is then followed by the second Verbal and Quantitative parts of the exam. An unnamed or identifiable unscored research part is also possible. As a result, each test will contain two verbal portions, two quantitative sections, and maybe another verbal or quantitative section.
Analytical Writing Section
The Analytical section, which tested analytical ability using logic games and other question types, was replaced by the AW section some years ago. For those who are determining your scores, the AW component has the benefit of testing writing, an actual talent you will utilize in your graduate courses. Although they must request them, the real essays you produce can be seen by the colleges who get your scores. Depending on the quality of your written English and the depth of your argument, each essay will be graded from 0 to 6, in half-point increments. Your ultimate score will be calculated by averaging the scores.
The essays are first scored by a human grader and an “e-rater.” The “e-rater” is a personal computer owned by ETS. A second human grader is brought in to assess the essay if the e-rater and human grades disagree by more than one point. Their score will be added to your total AW average score.
The AW portion’s two pieces may be read in any order. For example, you have 30 minutes to complete the “Analyze an Issue” job. You are required to answer a prompt and address its subject. The questions are declarative statements you may agree with, such as “Happiness should be the essential consideration in choosing a job.”
The other essay is called “Analyze an Argument.” You have 30 minutes to do it, which is very different from the first one. You don’t have to make an argument. Instead, you have to take apart and analyze an argument given as a prompt. The prompt will be a short paragraph that comes to some conclusions based on what is said in the first sentence. Your job is to figure out where the logic and reasoning in the paragraph go wrong. There are always many things that could be improved in every prompt. Also, talk about how the argument could be improved or the assumptions it is based on that lead to its logical flaws. Your essay will be graded based on how well you analyze the argument in the prompt and how well you write about it.
The Verbal Section There are two Verbal sections on the GRE; each is 30 minutes long and consists of 20 questions.
There are three question types: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence.
Although you have an average of one and a half minutes to answer each question, each question type requires a different approach. You will likely spend more time on Reading Comprehension questions than on the other question types (remember, you will also be using test time to read the passages on which the Reading Comprehension passages are based).
Here is a closer look at the three Verbal Reasoning question types:
Reading Comprehension questions give you a passage with anywhere from one to several paragraphs. The passage could be from the sciences, the social sciences, or the humanities. Then you’ll be asked questions about the passage. Some questions will be about the whole passage, so you’ll need to understand what it all means. For other questions, you’ll have to go back to the passage and look for specific details in it to give the right answer. It’s important to read the passage at a comfortable pace and not just skim over it. To answer the questions, you will have to go back to the passage. You won’t be able to remember it. In a Verbal section, there are about 10 Reading Comprehension questions, and about seven of them come from short passages with only one paragraph. These tend to test the same analytical skills that are needed for the AW Argument Essay.
Text Completion questions give you a sentence or paragraph with one, two, or three blanks that you have to fill in. The words in your answer choices are “fill in the blanks.” You need to look at the structure and tone of the sentence(s) to choose the answer choice(s) that make the most sense and fit the style of the passage. Sentence Completion questions give you some context to work with, but it’s clear that vocabulary is the most important thing. It’s also essential that you understand what punctuation means. In a typical Verbal section, about six questions ask you to fill in the blanks in a text.
Sentence Equivalence questions give you a sentence with a blank spot in it and six possible answers. You have to choose the two answers that make sentences that mean the same thing. As with Text Completion questions, Sentence Equivalence questions give you some context, but as before, you need to have a strong vocabulary. In a typical Verbal section, there are about four Sentence Equivalence questions.
The Quantitative Section
There are two Quantitative Sections; each has 20 questions and takes 35 minutes. All questions are meant to be answered in about a minute and a half, but many should be answered more quickly, and you may find that you need more than a minute and a half for some questions. But don’t spend too much time on any one question, because you don’t want to run out of time at the end. Problem Solving and Quantitative Comparison are the two main types of Quantitative questions. There are two main types of math problems. Within these two types, a wide range of math topics, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and word problems, can be covered. Some questions also test your ability to “interpret” data and ask you to look at information in a graph. None of the problems require more algebra and geometry than what you learned in high school, but that doesn’t mean the test will be easy, even if you studied math in college. The GRE cares more about how well you think and solve problems than what kind of math you know. Because of this, it’s important to review the material that might be tested on the Quantitative Section and do enough practice problems to get used to the way the problems are put together. You should also be familiar with the best ways to look at the questions and find the right answer.
Problem-solving questions give you a problem and ask you to do one of three things:
- Choose the right answer from a list of five options.
- Choose one or more answers from a list of answers.
- Develop your own answer based on your calculations (these problems are known as Numeric Entry problems).
The problem could be as simple as an equation where you must figure out what x is. It could also be a word problem or a geometry problem with a diagram that you might need to copy on your scratch paper. Simple math might be needed to solve the problem (an on-screen calculator is available). You should be good at exponents, square roots, fractions, decimals, etc., as well as linear and quadratic equations in algebra and geometry (for speed purposes you must memorize basic formulas which will be crucial to solving problems). You won’t be graded on how well you “show your work,” so getting to the answer quickly is much more important than using a certain method. You can often get help from the possible answers. Problem-Solving questions will make up about two-thirds of the 20 questions on a Quantitative section.
Quantitative Comparison questions are quite different from Problem Solving questions. In a QC question, you’ll see two columns, Column A and Column B, and there may be more information in the middle of the two columns. Each Column has either a number (such as 35 or the square root of 11) or a variable (such as x + 6 or ab/2). The number in a column could also refer to a diagram next to it or the information in the middle of the two columns (for example, the length of segment BC or the number of miles John travels). Your job is to find out how column A compares to column B. You are not being asked to “solve a problem.” Instead, you are being asked to decide whether:
- The number in Column A is larger than the number in Column B.
- The number in Column B is larger than the number in Column A.
- The two numbers are the same.
- The relationship between the two columns varies or can’t be figured out from the information given.
You’ll notice that there are only four choices for answers instead of five, like in Problem Solving questions. In a Quantitative section, about a third of the questions will be like this.
The test is adaptive at the section level for both the Verbal and Quantitative parts. Section-level adaptability means that the first section you see is about in the middle of the scale of how hard it is. Depending on how well you did on that part, the next part of that subje
ct will be easier or harder. For instance, let’s say a student finishes the first Verbal section and does well on it, with around a 160 score. Then, the next part of Verbal will be more complex because the computer is trying to figure out exactly where the student should score in that range. Because of this, every test will be different, and how well you do on one section will determine how challenging the next section on that topic will be. Three different second sections could come up for both Quantitative and Verbal.
Don’t try to figure out what’s happening while taking the test. There’s no way to know “how you are doing.” Just answer each question as it comes, do the best you can, and move on when the section is done. Some questions may require you to guess, which is fine. No question in a section is worth more than any other question in that section, and guessing doesn’t hurt. Your PowerScore GRE Course will give you the tools you need to solve problems as quickly and effectively as possible. This way, even if you have to guess, you will imagine smartly.
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