Before we start, let us see how much do you actually know about Graduate Record Examination (GRE)? Which of these facts do you think are true?
GRE is to be taken only by Engineers.
Anyone who wants to take the GRE must have a four year degree (12 + 4).
GRE is only for graduate study programs in US.
GRE is only for Masters/PhD in technical field.
GRE is all about good vocabulary i.e. your mastery over word list while the Quantitative Reasoning section is very easy, at least for an engineer.
If you score badly on GRE, you can always improve your score through a retake “ as simple as that !
Well, if you marked any of the above as true, you are wrong. All the statements above are wrong. And not your fault probably, because you have relied on your reliable hearsay sources. A lot has changed on the GRE since it changed its structure in 2011,
both in terms of what is tested and in terms of the applicability of the test score. For example, GRE “ the name itself suggests “ is for any Graduate program outside India, at least the top 100 programs outside India and all programs in US, and contrary to general perception, it is not merely an aptitude test.
GRE is also the only indicator of academic equivalence. And so, when you apply to a program like ETH Zurich which does not mandate a GRE score, you would still want to mention your GRE score in your application and SOP (Statement of Purpose) simply because a very good GRE score is an evidence of superiority over your peers. And how does that superiority help? Sometimes, by pushing your application over the finish line and getting you an admit in a tough competition. The other times, helping you get some tuition waiver or Teaching Assistantship (TA). In sum, if a program does not need GRE, you might still want to use your GRE score to improve your chances of admission. Like MIT EECS (Electrical, Electronics and Computer Sciences) website says GRE scores not mandatory. So should I apply to MIT EECS without a GRE score, when I know that despite this, every one in the last year's class had a GRE score?
So, what is the change in structure? Well, you can refer your hearsay sources again. Those who assume GRE Quantitative Reasoning is easy, have typically underperformed on the test. Why? Is the GRE tough? Or do you think GRE has negative marking? If the latter is the case, you must be talking about some other test, because no standardized test “ be it GRE or GMAT “ has any scope of negative marking. Yes, there is a penalty for unattempted questions. Same about the dummy (unscored, undisclosed extra section) “ which one is the dummy? Fact is, it will not help your score even if you identify which section on your test is a dummy. You might want to focus on improving your overall aptitude than understanding how to identify a dummy section on the GRE. And about the wordlists which now belong to the previous generation. The earlier GRE format had 18-21 Vocab based questions (Antonyms, Analogies and Sentence Completion) which mandated you learn the wordlist.
The current GRE format consists only 4 “ 7 questions per section (4 questions of Sentence Equivalence and 2-3 questions of Single Blank Text Completion) which require you have a very good hold of vocabulary. In short, the emphasis has decreased from 70% of total questions to 30% of total questions. You really still want to mug up that wordlist just because your senior or your friend or your coaching person says it helps? And when you know that against these 14 Vocab-heavy questions, GRE also puts you through 16-20 questions of Reading Comprehension over 2 sections? It is simple “ GRE has balanced itself out over various abilities in Verbal Reasoning “ an imperative change considering more than 65% B-schools across the world now accept GRE scores in place of GMAT scores for all their management programs. And why would they not? Stanford GSB took the initiative in 2009 to accept GRE scores as equivalent to GMAT scores for its MBA program. And when Stanford has no problems, why would the others?
To summarise the entire problem, there is a lot you can do to improve your performance on GRE because there are a lot of concepts being tested. Somehow, if your target score is around 310, you might find no big deal in organizing, planning, getting hold of the right material, going through a rigorous test series, cutting the crap of rumours and myths around you, and holding your nerve in the right place when you take the test. The big deal starts above 315 “ that is when you start thinking about the top 30 or top 50 programs in the US.
Or if I can put it bluntly, there are two types of students who will target graduate studies abroad. The first type is The Mass “ they rely on their consultants and their friends and their relatives to take what is apparently the biggest career decision of their life. The second type is The Class “ a small percentage who will use all the information at their disposal, right from the rankings of programs on official websites, to the minimum GRE requirements mentioned on the university program websites and reviewing the class profile, and targeting not less than a 320. Why a 320 or more? Because they know that GRE score is THE difference maker. And how can I say that? I can say that because I have seen my students breaching the glass ceiling repeatedly, breaking the myth repeatedly and proving wrong the ones who bombastically predicted Oh, your score is too low, your GPA is too low, you are not an IITian or NITian so you won't make it.
It's your life, your career. Either you drive it, or you get ready to be taken for a ride.
Dr. Ajit Singh finished his graduation from Government Medical College, Surat and worked with Family Health Plan Limited as Manager - Operations. He followed his managerial work ex with an MBA from SDA Bocconi, the 5th best European B-school and worked as a consultant in Stockholm before returning to India to his first passion - training students preparing for education abroad with Endeavor Careers. Endeavor Careers is Western India's best coaching institute for CAT, MHCET, GRE & GMAT exams.