GRE For Dummies, Premier 7th Edition, with CD
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Learning Curve: Ten Need-To-Know Facts about the GRE
Though the job market is improving little by little, it’s not happening fast enough for those still looking for a new job after being laid off or for those recent college graduates who are entering the job market for the first time. The less-than-desirable job market has led many job seekers—young and old—to give up on it altogether. Instead, they’re choosing to head back to school, and increase their employment curb appeal with a graduate degree. If you’re on the path to grad school, Ron Woldoff has advice that will help you boost your applications by making an impressive grade on the dreaded GRE.
"Knowledge, skills, preparation, and practice are the four components for scoring well on any test, and the GRE is no different,” says Woldoff, author along with John Kraynak of GRE For Dummies®, Premier 7th Edition with CD (Wiley, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-470-88926-8, $29.99). “One of the easiest ways to reduce any test anxiety and optimize your performance on the GRE is to become familiar with it. Knowing what to expect gives you less to think about and fret over come test day, so you can focus on what really matters—the test itself."
GRE For Dummies guides readers through every area of the exam—verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. Using clear, straight forward advice, practice tests and other helpful study aids, the book helps readers learn what’s necessary and useful for scoring high on the GRE.
Read on for several key facts you need to know when prepping for the exam and heading into the testing center.
You may return to previous questions in the same section. The GRE allows you to return to previous questions in any given section as long as you haven’t moved on to the next section, which wasn’t true with earlier versions of the GRE. One effective strategy is to plow through a section from beginning to end answering all the easy questions first and then go back through and tackle the difficult questions at the end.
“You can flag questions for review by clicking the Mark for Review button at the top of the screen,” notes Woldoff. “You can also visit a review screen at any time during the section by clicking the Review button (also at the top of the screen). At a glance, the review screen shows you which questions are unanswered and which are marked for review. From there, you can jump directly to any question. Practice navigating through the questions and review screen with the Powerprep software provided by ETS at www.ets.org and with the practice tests included with the Premier edition of GRE For Dummies so that you’re familiar with this feature on test day.”
The GRE doesn’t penalize for guessing. To discourage examinees from making wild guesses, some standardized tests deduct points for wrong answers. The GRE doesn’t do this. Questions answered incorrectly count exactly the same as questions left unanswered, so you’re better off guessing than skipping.
The GRE uses a percentile-based scoring system. The GRE is a competitive test. Immediately after you complete the test, you receive an estimated percentile ranking based on the test-takers’ scores from the previous year.
“The number of GRE test-takers worldwide increases each year,” notes Woldoff. “More test-takers mean more graduate-school applicants, which make admissions more competitive. This means that scoring as well as you can on the GRE is more important than ever. Find out what the acceptable GRE score range is for admissions and scholarships at the schools you’re applying to and ask whether that range is expected to change.”
Practice makes all the difference. Although you may not be able to dress-rehearse the entire test-taking experience, practicing the test makes the actual test-taking experience feel more familiar and reduces the element of surprise. Take advantage of practice tests. Familiarize yourself with the practice software ETS provides. It has the exact feel of the actual GRE, so make it something you know well. Write the practice essays, too, make the entire experience as familiar as a day at the office.
You must study for the GRE. Though stories of unprepared folks scoring dramatically high are out there, incidents of unprepared folks bombing and having to retake the GRE are far more common. “I’d put my money on the average Joe or Josephine who’s well prepared over a budding Einstein going in cold—every time,” says Woldoff. “So be prepared!”
The GRE is different from the SAT. You’re not the same person you were in high school. You’ve matured, acquired better study habits, and suddenly come to the shocking realization that you’re in charge of your own destiny. Maybe you didn’t study much for the SAT, figuring that you could always get into some college, somewhere, regardless of your score. You were probably right. But getting into graduate school isn’t as easy, and the GRE is much more difficult than the SAT.
The GRE also measures your stamina and performance under pressure. The GRE measures a number of things besides your math and verbal aptitude. It measures your ability to prepare, your stamina, and your performance under pressure. “Many people are quite capable of solving math problems with all the time in the world, but only those who have honed their skills through practice can come up with the right answers when the timer is ticking,” notes Woldoff. “The good news: You can build or strengthen all the skills that the GRE measures.”
Other than the math, the general GRE is subject-neutral. You’re a high-school and college graduate. Everything on the GRE is stuff you’ve seen before. “In other words, the material is subject-neutral (not requiring specialized knowledge),” says Woldoff. “The GRE is required for entrance into graduate programs ranging from Construction Management to Physician Assistant to Master of Social Work. Regardless of your background, current major, or area of study, you can ace the GRE.”
You can practice the GRE on your own computer. The only way to experience the real GRE is to take it. However, you can simulate the test-taking experience on your own computer and get as close to a real-life experience as possible. After you’ve studied and acquainted yourself with the different questions types, practice on your own computer. GRE For Dummies, Premier 7th Edition comes with an accompanying CD that includes two practice tests. Or you can download the practice software provided by ETS. Go to www.ets.org/gre, click the link that takes you to the Revised General Test, scroll down to find and download the Powerprep software, install it on your computer, and then take one of the sample tests.
“No matter what source you use, take sample tests to get comfortable with the format,” advises Woldoff. “Set aside a good chunk of time. Then take one of the tests to make the test-taking experience as familiar and comfortable as possible. If you live alone or have a room in your house or apartment insulated from the usual hustle and bustle, that’s perfect. Otherwise, consider taking the test in a library or other quiet place.”
You can’t bring anything into the testing center. Woldoff writes that he once saw a photo of a confiscated plastic water bottle with math formulas printed on the inside of the label. Though you may not go to such lengths, the testing center staff wants to ensure zero opportunities for cheating on the GRE. “Because of this, you can’t take anything in with you—not even a wristwatch,” says Woldoff. “You can store food and water in a locker, but be prepared to empty your pockets and be fingerprinted upon entering the actual testing area. Don’t store any GRE books in the locker. If the proctors suspect you of checking the books during your breaks, you may not be allowed to finish the test.”
“Whether you’ve been in the working world for a few years and are now heading back to school or whether you’ve just graduated from college, remember this: the GRE is difficult for everyone who takes it,” says Woldoff. “You’re not alone in thinking it presents a huge challenge. But you can reduce that challenge by being well-prepared.
“Remember too, that most test-takers do not get perfect scores, and you’re not expected to either,” he concludes. “Do the best you can, score in the high percentiles, and get accepted to graduate school! No one expects a perfect score, so you shouldn’t either. Start preparing, and good luck!”