What is GRE?

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test is a standardized test for undergrads and a prerequisite for admission into a variety of Masters degree programs. It is conducted by the Educational Testing Service(ETS) and can be given on any working day throughout the year. ETS has affiliated testing centres all over the world to conduct the exam. You can visit the ETS website at this link for more information.

GRE scores are accepted by a large number of colleges in the United States and Canada, but some universities do not require you to give the GRE. For example, Purdue University Computer Science Program does not include the GRE as a prerequisite for the application process. But if you are considering applying to many colleges for masters or doctoral degrees, giving the GRE is a must for you. GRE General Test scores are valid for 3 to 5 years depending upon the Universities you are applying to, so it is advisable that you decide which field you want to pursue your Masters in and select some of the colleges you want to study at.

Important Dates (GRE 2020):

GRE is conducted throughout the year. Hence, you can give the exam anytime you feel comfortable. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that you should give GRE at least 2 months before your application process in universities. So once you think you are ready, just check the dates on the official GRE website and book the most convenient slot.

SUBJECT AND SYLLABUS:

The GRE General Test assesses the basic skills needed for a student to join a business school or a graduate school i.e. Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. These are tested through the following 3 sections: Quants Section, Verbal Section and Analytical Writing Assessment(AWA) Section. The syllabus for each of the following is given below:

Quants Section: Geometry, Arithmetic Operations, Algebra, Data Interpretation.
Verbal Section: Reading Comprehension, Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion, Critical Reasoning.
AWA Section: Analysing an issue, analysing an argument.

GRE Exam Pattern:

The GRE General Test begins with the AWA Section where you have to write 2 essays based on the given issue and argument. 30 minutes are given to read the issue/argument and write an essay based on it. These essays are graded on a scale from 1-6 and the average score is rounded off to give the AWA Score.

The AWA section is followed by 2 Quant Sections, 2 Verbal Sections and 1 Experimental Section which can be either Quant or Verbal. The Experimental Section is not scored and not revealed during the test as it used to improve the pool questions used by ETS for students appearing for the exam all over the world. Since you end up solving either 3 Quants sections or 3 Verbal sections, you know that one of those was experimental. These 5 sections have a section-wise adaptive difficulty i.e. if you perform well in a Quants section, the next Quants section will be slightly more difficult. Also, a Quants section is followed by a Verbal section and vice-versa.

Each Quants section has 20 questions and 35 minutes are given to solve them. Whereas each verbal section has 20 questions but only 30 minutes are given to solve them. You cannot go back to a previous section while answering the questions but you can browse through all the questions of your current section. Once the time limit for a section is over, all the questions are submitted automatically.

The GRE score is a relative grading score on a scale from 260 to 340. Yes, you cannot get less than 260 on the GRE. ETS uses a complex algorithm to compute the Quants and Verbal scores wherein each question is graded based on its difficulty. Which means getting a very simple question wrong affects your score a lot but getting a complex question wrong will not have much of an impact on your score.

GRE EXAM ELIGIBILITY:

The candidates appearing for the GRE have no eligibility criteria but they are advised to check if the programmes they wish to apply to, accept GRE scores. You cannot give the GRE if you have already given the exam in the last 21 days. There are no limits on the number of attempts and you have the option of sending your best scores to the Universities for their consideration. Although you cannot send separate section-wise scores as per your preference.

How to register (deadlines, costs, procedure)
Identity proof

In India, it is necessary to show your passport as proof of identity in order to appear for the GRE. Many people have been denied entry at the test centre for not having their original passport as ID proof. So make sure you have your passport ready before booking a date for GRE. For other countries, do check the ETS ID requirements before booking a date.

Create your ETS account

Visit the link to register for the GRE. You can book test slots near you based on their availability. Choose a test centre near you after checking its reviews on Google Maps and other similar websites. For example, the preferred testing centre in Mumbai is the Prometric test centre and it has good reviews. A poor test centre environment can affect your performance during the test so choosing a good test centre is important. The booking cost for the test is USD 205 which is approximately Rs 14500/- . You have to use a credit card or an international debit card for the transaction.

Exam Analysis

The GRE being an easy exam is a myth. There are many brilliant people who do not do well on the test due to any number of reasons and there are some people who ace the test without even trying hard. It is a standardized test which is improved over time by gathering data from previous test-takers.

A good GRE score is also a relative term based on the courses you intend to apply for. For students looking to get into the best Computer Science courses, even a 330 GRE score is not sufficient based on the factors the admission team decides to assign importance to while selecting students. Have a look at the average profiles on the college websites to get an idea in this regard. You can get into a top college with a low GRE score if you excel in other aspects important for the course you apply to.

Statistics of students that have given the exam + Facts
Test Number of Test Takers Mean Standard Deviation
Verbal Reasoning Measure 1,727,225 150.5 8.43
Quantitative Reasoning Measure 1,730,288 152.80 9.13
Analytical Writing Measure 1,722,231 3.50 0.87

From the above table, it is clear that the Quants section of the GRE is slightly easier than the Verbal section. But at the same time, a higher deviation rate shows that the scoring scale is the broadest of all sections, hence showing more bipolarity in scores in this section. Which means you’re more likely to score either much better or much worse than you would in a different section. For students from Science background, the Quants section is even easier.

From the table 1B in the article it is clear that more people get a 165+ score in the Quants section than in the Verbal section.

How to Prepare for GRE:

When should i give the GRE? Second-year student

The ideal time to give the exam is when you have a free 2-month period with a light workload. It is not recommended to leave everything aside in order to prepare for the GRE since the exam is not that difficult, a healthy 3-4 hours of preparation every day for about 2 months is enough to prepare one for the test. This estimate of a 2-month period is for someone who can get 300+ without any preparation in a practice test. So I strongly recommend giving a practice test similar to the one offered by Galvanize Test Prep.

You can prepare for the GRE during a semester at college as long as you can invest 2-3 hours a day which you spend on social media or binge-watching TV shows.

However in most cases a majority of Engineering students start their GRE preparation after their 2nd Year is over (4th semester) & take enough time in 5th & 6th semester to prepare and appear for the exam in their 6th semester.

The most popular study material are:
The ETS GRE PowerPrep Tool
Magoosh GRE Prep
Kaplan GRE Test PrepKaplan GRE Test Prep
Manhattan GRE Prep
How to make a Study plan, followed by a sample.

A study plan for the GRE completely depends on the areas you need to improve. This can be assessed by giving a practice test and understanding the areas that need improvement. You can give Studysid’s Profiling Test to be able to determine your strengths & weaknesses.

Based on your assessment you can make a simple study plan which suits your needs and adjust things according to your leisure. You can refer to some of the Magoosh Study Plans for reference and alter it based on the study material you choose to refer. You can also join coaching classes for GRE in your city and leave everything else up to them.

Make sure you incorporate weekly practice tests in your schedule once you are through with the GRE syllabus. These practice tests would help to get an estimate score and build the habit of solving a paper very similar to the GRE in terms of difficulty and time duration.

Top coaching classes in Mumbai

The most popular GRE Coaching classes in Mumbai are:

These classes have a GRE coaching fee ranging from 15000/- to 30000/- INR. These classes generally also include preparation for TOEFL and counselling for college applications in their packages which can cost up to 50000/- INR.

Online Preparation

GRE Preparation can also be done online through popular test preparation websites like:

GRE Edge
Magoosh Prep
Galvanize Test Prep
Barron’s GRE Prep
Union Test Prep

Or any of the above sites from Magoosh to Manhattan. These have a slightly lower fee of less than 10k INR for the GRE Prep.

Self Study Options

It is possible to prepare for the GRE without any coaching and one can refer free study material available on many platforms to prepare for the GRE and ace it. It can all be done free of cost if one has enough will to study on their own, meticulously plan their studies and arrange the resources online.

Giving practice tests is something that shouldn't be missed at any cost whether one opts for classroom learning or online preparation. Regular practice tests help one understand their weaknesses and areas that need improvement and guide the progress of the student.

Counselling

For the GRE the counselling part comes in for the college applications which pretty much begin right after you give the GRE. Shortlisting a set of colleges you wish to apply to is a mammoth task and has a huge significance for a student’s career. So counselling from a senior or a family member or a friend or even a paid professional is necessary to understand the complexity of the decisions involved and their long-term dividends.

Counselling services are offered by most GRE coaching classes in Mumbai. Many online platforms like Galvanize also provide counselling at cheaper rates. But some counselors tend to be biassed towards certain colleges or might unintentionally push a person towards a college which he/she does not wish to attend. So it is important to understand your reasons for applying for Masters abroad and doing your own background research before approaching counsellors.

GRE Exam day tips

Based on my experience of the GRE I advise everyone to:

Wear layered clothing for the exam - so you can write the test peacefully irrespective of whether the room is hot or cold.
Do not forget to bring your passport and the test booking confirmation email from ETS.
Select the 4 universities of your choice based on your scores in the practice tests. If possible memorize their codes from this list. Every additional university you have to send your scores to will cost you $25.
There will be a long break after the AWA sections and 1 Verbal and 1 Quants section. Eat something light during this break.
Do not stress yourself after a section, take deep breaths and try to meditate if possible between sections in order to calm yourself.
How to build my profile before MS Abroad
This is a very subjective question and the answer differs from course to course and college to college. In general, there are 5 aspects to the profile of a person applying for Masters:

The importance assigned to these parameters is different for every course at every college. So it is important to understand the courses you choose to apply to.

  1. GRE Score

  2. TOEFL/IELTS Score

  3. GRE ScoreUndergraduate GPA

  4. Statement of Purpose and Resume

  5. Letters of Recommendations

You can prepare for the GRE during a semester at college as long as you can invest 2-3 hours a day which you spend on social media or binge-watching TV shows.

Apart from these, another aspect that is commonly ignored or undermined is work experience. There are many courses which only give admits to students with job experience and most of these courses are management-oriented. The MS program for Management Science and Engineering at Stanford or the SUNY Buffalo MIS program are some courses which give preference to students with job experience.

Best Colleges

For the list of best colleges for any course, there are many rankings available online with the most popular one being the US News and World Rankings. Here are some other websites for college rankings:

csrankings.org - Best for Computer Science with research-oriented rankings.

These websites provide insights into the reputation of the college and its infrastructure. They do serve a purpose for getting a list of colleges to aspire for, but the choice of best college is different for every student based on factors like:

Course structure
Tuition fees and living expenses
Job opportunities
Climate(yes it can be a factor if you cannot tolerate very hot or cold weather)
Course Duration

Of these factors, the most important one is the course structure because no one wants to be stuck in an undesired course after going through so much trouble of giving the GRE and applying to colleges. Look up the course curriculum thoroughly before applying to a college as it is a life-altering decision to attend a college for a particular course.

Things to do to get into the best colleges

Apart from the GRE score, a good score in the English language tests i.e. TOEFL or IELTS helps to affirm the validity of a candidate for any Masters program. But it is important to understand that other aspects from the above mentioned five are crucial for any admission committee to grant admission to a candidate. For more details regarding the American graduate admission process check out this article by Karthik Raghunathan. Some of the tips mentioned are also applicable to other countries.

Placements, jobs after respective degree

Every course website has detailed statistics regarding the careers and starting salaries of the previous batches. For example, this is Texas A&M University’s MIS course statistics for starting salaries. Check this out for the course and college of your choice.

This information might be unavailable on the website if the course is highly research-oriented and the college does not want to encourage future students to be inclined towards getting a job after the degree. In such a case, try contact the alumni or current students through social media to find out the necessary information.

Countries to consider for Masters Abroad
United States of America

Easily the top choice for students looking to study abroad. Most of the top-ranked universities, by any metric, are in the United States. It is also a huge economy with a higher pay scale compared to any other nation for similar jobs. The US Education System is also a notch above the others as it has a much more diverse set of courses with many hybrid programs which are not present in any other country. California, New York and Texas are the most preferred states for international students.

The biggest issue when it comes to studying in America is the high tuition fees. Many universities have exorbitantly high fees for the Master's programs. Another issue that has surfaced in recent years is the visa policy which is restricting students from working in the country after the Master’s degree. This has reduced the growth in the number of students applying each year, but the number continues to increase nonetheless.

Canada

Canada has emerged as the best alternative to the USA in recent years for students who prefer a less discriminating environment with better chances of getting work permits or permanent residence. Watch this video or refer this document for statistics in this regard.

Apart from this, the universities in Canada have a good number of graduate assistantships for Master’s students as many of the courses are highly research-oriented. The fees also generally tend to be lower than the average fees in American universities. Due to these factors, the number of international students in Canada has increased tremendously.

Also, the GRE is optional for many of the universities in Canada. Most of them also prefer the IELTS over TOEFL as the English language test.

Germany

Germany is a very popular country for students looking to pursue a Master’s in Engineering disciplines. There are a few universities which offer free tuition to research-oriented Master’s programs. Germany has also been more welcoming to international students in the past few years.

The application process is also simpler with all universities being listed under DAAD, the German Academic Exchange service. As a result, there has been a consistent rise in the number of Indian students looking for graduate courses in Germany.

Australia

Graduates from Australian schools are highly sought after due to the impressive international reputation of the Australian education system. This system is carefully regulated by the government in order to maintain the high standards of education associated with the country.

Australia’s standard of living is amongst the highest in the world. Living expenses and tuition costs are considerably lower in Australia than they are in the United States and the United Kingdom. International students are able to work part time while they study, allowing them to offset their living costs. There is also the possibility of scholarships, which helps to lower the cost of studying for international students

Institutions in Australia offer a wide variety of courses and degrees, so international students can easily find the school and field that are right for them. The first decision international students have to make when choosing a degree program is which school caters most to their needs and interests. Students can choose between universities, vocational education, and English language training. If necessary, it is easy for students to move between one qualification level and from one institution to another.

International students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while studying in Australia. This is a great opportunity for those who want to earn money to offset living expenses during their stay, and for students who want to gain work experience in their field of interest while they study.

Communities

Here are some of the most popular communities for students going for Master’s Abroad and giving the GRE:

Yocket
Reddit GRE
Reddit Master’s in USA
Facebook Groups
YouTube Channels - Parth Vijayvergiya, Yudi J,etc

Just Google your doubts you will find that many many people have been in your shoes and there is no shortage of online communities.

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