You’ve been through your rigorous undergraduate application process to apply abroad but you don’t know if the GRE test you require for your postgraduate applications follows the same format or has the same difficulty level as the tests you have been through. The admission requirements of the university of your choice and the field of your study will determine the score that you need to aim for. Looking at the format, you must be wondering how difficult the test actually is so that you can spend an appropriate amount of time and energy in the preparation.
This article will give you an honest picture of what the test is going to be like and what you need to focus on in order to get your desired results.
GRE vs. other exams
It is helpful to know how the GRE difficulty level compares to the other well-known exams that are required for university applications. This way you can gauge what is expected from you to perform well in the exam.
GRE vs. SAT: The SAT is a pretty straightforward exam that does not ask logic based questions. They are mostly calculation based and have very clear answers. On the other hand, the GRE is a test of your critical thinking skills because that is what matters during your postgraduate research studies.
GRE vs. IELTS: If you have a good vocabulary and you feel confident about the GRE, you should know that it does not only test your vocabulary but also your reasoning skills. So you must know how to make an argument and not just use flowery language. The IELTS is definitely easier than the GRE test.
GRE vs. GMAT: GMAT is more difficult because it has a tougher quantitative reasoning test and tests your mathematical skills so students who do well in logical reasoning do better in GMAT.
The vocabulary that will be tested in this section is not just layman English but it requires knowledge of some lesser known and sophisticated words. If your English language skills are weak, you will definitely need to work harder for that.
For each verbal section question, you will get 1 minute and 30 seconds and for each quantitative section, you will get 1 minute 45 seconds. The writing section test gives you 30 minutes. Given this time limit, you have to keep practising the previous years papers and sample papers to improve your score.
Level of maths
If you have been out of touch with algebra, geometry, data tables and graphs, and basic statistics, you will need to brush up on your knowledge again because the GRE needs you to have a solid foundation in these areas.
The writing section
As mentioned above, you have to complete one writing task in 30 minutes and these essays are not descriptive. They test your argument and persuasion skills by asking you to critically examine an issue and explain your point of view clearly. Practice with some writing prompts can help you overcome this fear.
Paper based or computer based?
The computer based GRE test actually follows an adaptive format. The level of difficulty of the questions keeps getting harder as you answer well. This can throw off some test takers as they start unconsciously gauging their performance level by the kind of questions appearing on the screen. You must remember to only focus on the question in front of you and if you are used to solving questions on paper in the margins provided, you might have to figure out how you will do that during the computer based test.
The ease of MCQs
All the MCQs in the test provide you a chance to make a guess if you are not sure about the answer. This means that even if you are clueless, you can try and make an informed guess, unlike with ‘fill in the blank’ or ‘short answers’ types of questions.
The comprehension section in the GRE provides you with a chance to be sure about your answers. Every question asked in the comprehension section has the answer contained within the passage and this answer is objectively right. There is no need to overthink or be critical about the answer you choose.
Focus on one section
Different fields of study require different scores in the GRE sections- a humanities student will need to work harder for the verbal section but actuarial sciences student will need to do better in the quantitative section of the GRE test. This does not imply that you neglect the other section but at least there is one chosen focus for you to study and practise for.
The GRE test has some tough sections but there are also some easy parts that you can hack. When you do better in the easy sections, you can ensure your score in those parts. Before the test, there are plenty of resources that you can use to excel and get your desired score. Check out our GRE preparation help page and see if you can start mapping out a preparation plan.