The Essential Guide to GRE Exam Success & Visa Readiness by Fly High Visas

The Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, is a standardized test widely accepted by graduate programs in the United States and increasingly around the world. It serves as a crucial piece of your graduate school application, providing admissions committees with a snapshot of your verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing abilities. By performing well on the GRE, you can demonstrate your academic preparedness for the rigors of graduate studies and potentially enhance your chances of admission, especially for competitive programs.

Many universities, including those offering Master's degrees, doctoral programs, and even some business schools (MBA), consider the GRE as part of their application process. The weight given to the GRE score can vary depending on the program and institution. However, a strong GRE score can bolster your application, particularly if your GPA or academic background falls slightly below the program's average.

It's important to distinguish the GRE Exam from GRE Subject Tests. The GRE assesses general skills applicable across various disciplines, while Subject Tests delve deeper into specific fields like Mathematics, Physics, or Literature. Some programs might require both the GRE Exam and a relevant Subject Test to gauge your knowledge in that particular area.

Understanding the GRE exam Format and Structure:

The GRE Exam is a computer-based test delivered in three sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. Each section has a specific time limit and question format.

  • Analytical Writing: This section assesses your critical thinking and writing skills through two writing tasks: analyzing an issue and evaluating an argument.
  • Verbal Reasoning:  This section tests your vocabulary, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning abilities through various question types, including sentence equivalence, reading comprehension, and analogy.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section evaluates your problem-solving skills and understanding of basic mathematical concepts through multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions.

The GRE Exam may also include an unscored section used by the test maker to pilot new questions. You won't be informed whether you answered these questions correctly, but they don't affect your final score.

GRE Exam Scoring System:

Each section of the GRE Exam is scored on a scale of 130-170, with a total score ranging from 260-340. A balanced score across all sections demonstrates well-rounded abilities. However, some programs might emphasize specific sections more than others.

Benefits of Taking the GRE Exam:

A strong GRE score can significantly benefit your graduate school application in two key ways:

  1. Demonstrating Academic Preparedness:  A high GRE Exam score indicates your ability to handle the demanding coursework and critical thinking required in graduate programs. It assures admissions committees that you possess the fundamental skills necessary for success.
  2. Standing Out from Other Applicants:  In competitive programs with a large applicant pool, a strong GRE score can differentiate you from other candidates with similar GPAs or academic backgrounds. It showcases your dedication and preparedness for graduate studies, potentially tipping the scales in your favor.

By understanding the GRE's purpose, format, and significance, you can make an informed decision about whether taking the test aligns with your graduate school aspirations.  In the following sections, we'll delve deeper into each section of the GRE, exploring specific question types, strategies, and resources to help you prepare effectively for this important exam.

Analytical Writing 

The Analytical Writing section of your test is designed to assess your critical thinking, analytical writing, and argument construction skills. It consists of two writing tasks you must complete within a specific time allotment.

Assessed Skills:

  • Critical Thinking:  This involves examining information from multiple perspectives, identifying assumptions and biases, and forming a well-reasoned judgment.
  • Analytical Writing: This requires breaking down complex issues, presenting arguments logically, and supporting them with relevant evidence.
  • Argument Construction:  This involves formulating a clear thesis statement, building a strong case, and anticipating counter-arguments.

Task 1: Analyze an Issue

This task presents a complex issue or statement. Your job is to:

  • Identify the issue:  Clearly define the core topic and any relevant subcategories.
  • Develop a strong argument:  Take a clear stance on the issue, whether it's for, against, or somewhere in between.
  • Support arguments with evidence and reasoning: Back up your claims with facts, statistics, examples, or expert opinions. Explain how your evidence connects to your main points.
  • Avoid fallacies: Be aware of common logical fallacies like hasty generalizations, appeals to emotion, or slippery slope arguments.

Task 2: Analyze an Argument

This task presents a pre-written argument on a specific topic. You'll need to:

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses:  Identify the argument's main points, evidence, and reasoning. Analyze how well the author supports their claims and identify potential weaknesses in logic or evidence.
  • Identify assumptions and biases: Underlying beliefs or perspectives that may influence the author's argument.
  • Suggest improvements:  How could the argument be strengthened? Are there missing pieces of evidence or counter-arguments that should be addressed?
  • Maintain a neutral tone:  Even though you're analyzing the argument, your response should be objective and avoid personal opinions.

Tips for Effective Writing in the Analytical Section:

  • Time management strategies: Budget your time wisely, allocating enough for planning, writing, and proofreading.
  • Organizing your essay:  Use a clear structure with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each paragraph should focus on a single point and use transitions to connect ideas.
  • Using strong vocabulary and clear language: Employ precise language that accurately conveys your ideas. Avoid using overly complex words or jargon that the reader might not understand.
  • Proofreading and editing:  Double-check your writing for grammar mistakes, typos, and sentence clarity. Ensure your essay flows smoothly and fulfills all the task requirements.

By following these tips and practicing analytical writing, you'll be well-equipped to showcase your critical thinking and communication skills in the Analytical Writing section.

Verbal Reasoning 

The Verbal Reasoning section of your exam is designed to assess your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret written language. It typically consists of two sections with 20 questions each and focuses on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning skills.

Question Types:

1. Reading Comprehension:

These questions present you with short passages followed by multiple-choice questions. You'll be evaluated on your ability to:

  • Identify the main idea: Grasp the central point or argument the author is making.
  • Understand supporting details: Recognize evidence and information that backs up the main idea.
  • Analyze the author's purpose: Determine whether the author is informing, persuading, entertaining, or analyzing a topic.
  • Draw inferences: Go beyond the text to understand what is implied but not explicitly stated.
  • Analyze arguments: Evaluate the strength and validity of the author's reasoning.

2. Text Completion:

This section tests your understanding of word relationships and context. You'll be presented with incomplete sentences with several answer choices. Your task is to select the word that best completes the sentence logically and fits the overall meaning.

3. Sentence Equivalence:

Here, you'll see pairs of sentences and need to identify the pair that conveys the same meaning. This requires a keen understanding of synonyms, shades of meaning, and sentence structure.

4. Vocabulary in Context:

These questions evaluate your ability to deduce the meaning of unfamiliar words based on the surrounding context clues. You'll need to pay close attention to surrounding words, the overall tone, and the sentence structure.

5. Analogies:

These questions test your ability to recognize relationships between words. They present a pair of words followed by several answer choices. The answer choice should represent the same relationship as the original pair. (e.g., HAT is to HEAD as SHOE is to: a) foot, b) sock, c) leather)

Strategies for Success:

1. Build your Vocabulary:

A strong vocabulary is essential for tackling Verbal Reasoning. Dedicate time to learning new words daily through flashcards, vocabulary apps, or reading challenging material.

2. Active Reading:

Don't passively read the passages. Actively engage with the text by highlighting key points, underlining unfamiliar words, and summarizing main ideas as you go.

3. Identify Key Information:

Read the passage with the questions in mind. Identify the thesis statement, supporting arguments, and any counter-arguments the author presents.

4. Practice with Different Question Types:

There are numerous resources available online and in test prep books that provide practice questions for each question type. Hone your skills by practicing different styles and difficulty levels.

5. Time Management and Pacing:

Manage your time effectively. Allocate a specific amount of time to each passage and question. If you get stuck, move on and come back later. Remember, you can always flag questions for review if time allows.

Additional Tips:

  • Don't be afraid to eliminate answer choices: Even if you're unsure of the correct answer, you can often eliminate options that are wrong based on the passage content.
  • Pay attention to transition words: Words like "however," "therefore," and "furthermore" can signal a shift in the author's argument or the introduction of supporting evidence.
  • Read critically: Don't take everything at face value. Look for the author's biases, potential flaws in reasoning, and any assumptions they might be making.

By implementing these strategies and dedicating time to practice, you can significantly improve your performance in the Verbal Reasoning section. Consistency is key, so create a study schedule and stick to it in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Quantitative Reasoning 

The Quantitative Reasoning section is a common component of many standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE Exam. It assesses your ability to understand and apply basic mathematical concepts to solve problems. This section typically consists of two parts, with around 20 questions each, and a strict time limit. Don't be intimidated though; with a solid foundation and strategic approach, you can conquer the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Focus and Content Areas

The core focus of Quantitative Reasoning is on measuring your proficiency in fundamental mathematical concepts and your problem-solving skills. Here's a breakdown of the content areas you can expect to encounter:

  • Arithmetic: This includes operations with fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios, and proportions. You'll need to be comfortable with calculations involving all these forms of numbers.
  • Algebra: Brush up on your skills in solving linear equations and inequalities, understanding exponents and radicals, and working with algebraic functions.
  • Data Analysis: This section presents information in the form of graphs, tables, and charts. Your task is to interpret the data, draw conclusions, and answer questions based on the information provided.
  • Geometry: Be prepared for questions related to basic geometric shapes, including their area, perimeter, and volume. You might also encounter problems with geometric relationships like angles and congruence.

Question Types

The Quantitative Reasoning section throws various question types at you to test your diverse skillset. Here are the common ones:

  • Problem-solving (Multiple Choice): These are the most frequent type of questions. You'll be presented with a word problem that requires applying mathematical concepts to reach a solution. Several answer choices will be provided, and you need to identify the correct answer.
  • Quantitative Comparison (Comparing Two Quantities):  In this format, you are given two quantities and asked to compare them. You'll need to determine whether one quantity is greater, less than, or equal to the other, or if there's not enough information to decide.
  • Data Analysis (Interpreting and Analyzing Data):  Here, you'll be faced with data presented in graphs, tables, or charts. The questions will test your ability to read, interpret, and analyze the data to draw conclusions or answer questions based on the information provided.
Strategies for GRE Exam Success 

Conquering the Quantitative Reasoning section requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are some effective strategies to help you excel:

  • Refresh Your Basic Math Skills: Dedicate some time to reviewing fundamental math concepts you might have encountered in middle or high school. This includes working with fractions, decimals, and percentages, and understanding basic algebra.
  • Grasp Core Mathematical Concepts: Don't just memorize formulas; strive to understand the underlying logic behind each concept. This will help you approach problems from different angles and solve them more efficiently.
  • Practice Different Question Types: Familiarize yourself with the various question formats you might encounter in the test. There are numerous practice tests and question banks available online and in prep books. Regularly practicing different question types will hone your problem-solving skills and boost your confidence.
  • Identify Efficient Problem-Solving Approaches: There might be multiple ways to solve a problem. Experiment with different approaches and identify methods that work best for you. This will save you valuable time during the actual test.
  • Utilize Estimation and Approximation Techniques: Don't get bogged down in complex calculations when an estimate will suffice. In some cases, approximating values can help you narrow down answer choices or determine if an answer is completely unreasonable.
  • Manage Your Time Effectively:  Since there's a strict time limit for the section, effective time management is crucial. Develop a pacing strategy that allows you to attempt all the questions while allocating sufficient time to the more challenging ones. Don't get stuck on a single question; move on and come back to it if time permits.

By following these strategies and dedicating consistent effort to practice, you can develop the strong foundation and problem-solving skills required to excel in the Quantitative Reasoning section. Remember, the key is not just memorizing formulas but truly understanding the underlying mathematical concepts. With dedication and practice, you'll be well on your way to conquering this section and achieving your target score.

Additional Considerations 

GRE Exam

The GRE contains a mix of scored and unscored sections. Unscored sections are used by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE's official provider, to gather data for future test development. Unfortunately, for test-takers, identifying unscored sections is impossible during the exam.  This can lead to some anxiety, as you won't know which sections truly count towards your score. The best approach is to treat every section with equal seriousness and effort.  By putting your best foot forward throughout the entire test, you'll ensure you're performing at your peak regardless of whether the section is scored or not.

The Issue of Fatigue

The GRE is a marathon, not a sprint. Maintaining focus and concentration over a long period can be challenging. A common enemy during the test is fatigue.  To combat this, it's crucial to develop strategies for staying sharp throughout the exam.  First, prioritize a good night's sleep before the test. Second, utilize the break time strategically. Get up, move around, stretch, and take some deep breaths to re-energize your mind and body. Finally, maintain a positive attitude.  Remind yourself that fatigue affects everyone, and focus on controlling what you can – your approach and mental state.

Preparing for the GRE

ETS offers a wealth of resources to help you prepare for the GRE. These include practice tests, study guides, and access to retired GRE questions.  These resources provide invaluable insights into the format, content, and difficulty level of the actual exam.  Developing a personalized study plan is key. This plan should be tailored to your strengths and weaknesses, allocating more time to areas requiring additional focus. The time commitment for effective preparation varies depending on your current skill level and target score. Generally, several months of dedicated study are recommended. Consider supplementing your self-study with online or commercial prep courses, though these are optional.

Test Day Strategies

Test day requires careful planning and execution. Ensure you get a good night's sleep before the exam. Plan to arrive at the test center early to avoid any last-minute stress. Once the test begins, stay calm and focused. Listen carefully to instructions and follow all test center rules and procedures. Effective time management is crucial. Familiarize yourself with time allotment recommendations for each section and practice sticking to those during practice tests.  This will help you avoid spending too much time on any single question and ensure you complete all sections within the allocated time.

By understanding these additional considerations and implementing effective strategies, you can approach the GRE with confidence and maximize your chances of achieving a strong score.


In conclusion, the GRE Exam serves as a valuable component of your graduate school application. It offers admissions committees a standardized assessment of your critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning abilities – all essential skills for success in rigorous academic programs. By performing well on the GRE, you can demonstrate your preparedness for the challenges of graduate-level coursework and research.

Remember, the GRE assesses more than just content knowledge. It delves into your problem-solving approach, your ability to analyze complex information, and your written communication skills. These are precisely the strengths that graduate programs seek in their students.

To maximize your score and showcase your full potential, effective preparation is key. Utilize a variety of resources, including practice tests, study guides, and official materials from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) [ETS GRE website]. By dedicating time and effort to targeted preparation, you can approach the GRE with confidence and achieve a score that reflects your academic capabilities.

For further information on the GRE, including registration details, test content, and available resources, visit the official ETS GRE website.

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