Your score on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) can unlock the door to many graduate programs. If you are interested in pursuing an advanced degree, the GRE will be an important component of your graduate school applications. To get your best score on the GRE it is important to spend time preparing for the exam.

Preparing for the Overall Exam

Learn about the layout of the exam. The GRE is divided into 3 sections: a 30-question verbal section, a 28-question quantitative section and a 2-part analytical writing section. There may also be additional nongraded sections that are used for research. These additional sections will not affect your score. You may not be able to tell them apart from the graded sections, so do your best work on every section.

Memorize the directions for each section of the exam. The GRE is a timed test and any extra time spent reading directions for individual exam sections will take up your time. Memorizing the directions beforehand will give you an advantage over the clock.

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Become familiar with the different question formats for each section of the GRE. Again this can help you take advantage of your time. Knowing at a glance the type of question you are being asked will help you quickly make sense of the question.

Get in some practice. Take online practice exams to help you get a feel for taking the computer-based exam. Use GRE study guides to get used to question styles.

Preparing for the Verbal Section

Learn about the layout of the verbal section. The GRE verbal section consists of 30 questions divided between antonym, analogy, sentence completion and reading comprehension questions.

Study a list of GRE vocabulary words. Lists of high-frequency words can be found in GRE study books and online. Go through the list and add words you cannot easily define to your personal study list. Memorizing high-frequency GRE words will help with the antonym and analogy questions.

Learn to recognize the logic and style of the sentence completion questions. You do not need to fully understand the sentence meaning or vocabulary to do well on these questions.

Familiarize yourself with the style of writing for the reading comprehension questions. You do not need to fully understand the subject covered. You need only be able to read and interpret.

Preparing for the Quantitative Section

Learn about the layout of the quantitative section. The GRE quantitative section consists of 28 questions divided between quantitative comparison, discrete quantitative and data interpretation questions.

Review your basic arithmetic, algebra and geometry skills. None of these GRE questions require advanced math. You simply need an understanding of basic math skills and the ability to reason.

Review your chart and graph interpretation skills for the data interpretation questions. Most of these questions will provide a chart or graph with percentages.

Preparing for the Analytical Writing Section

Learn about the layout of the analytical writing section. The GRE analytical writing section requires writing a point-of-view essay and writing an analytical argument essay.

Review the GRE's list of topics for the point-of-view essay. These can be found at the GRE Web site.

Plan to take your time on test day choosing between the two given issues for the point-of-view essay. You only have 45 minutes for this task and spending time up front to choose the best topic will save you from struggling to write on a poorly chosen topic.

Practice looking for questionable underlying assumptions, and evaluating provided evidence as it relates to the argument provided. Don't bring personal views to the analytical argument essay.


  • GRE study guides offer practice questions, tests and study tips. There are many to choose from.
  • The computer-based GRE will ask questions based on your skill level. Harder questions are worth more than easy ones. Your accuracy answering the first few questions of each section will set the level of difficulty for the remainder of that section.
  • The GRE does not deduct points for incorrect answers. So, if you have no clue about a particular question, guess away!

Things Needed

  • Practice tests
  • GRE study guide
  • Dictionary

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