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The Graduate Record Exam.

The final frontier towards admission for most post graduate programmes in the United States of America and Canada

You have worked hard at getting your grades right for three years or more in your graduation.

Don't let this formality of an exam hamper your chances to get into the best universities.

Here are some pointers towards getting that dream score you have aspired for and, most certainly, deserve.

1. The Requisites

First, reserve a convenient date to take the exam. Schedule a date around six months from the start of your GRE preparation. You will require a credit card to make the payment through the phone.

A single attempt costs around Rs 6,000. Get this done on time, as there have been instances when students haven't been offered favourable test dates as the slots get full. The tests are conducted five times a week in most metropolitan cities, in morning and evening slots.

An applicant can take the GRE any number of times. The minimum time gap to be maintained between two attempts is a month. Most universities take the higher score among your attempts, though some universities do consider the average score.

The purpose of the GRE is to test a student's basic verbal and quantitative aptitude, along with his/her writing skills.

The test requires a basic knowledge base of Class 10 Math and basic fluency in written English.

2. The Format

You will appear for a two-and-a-half hour long computerised test .

There are three sections: Quantitative, Verbal, Essay. Except for the essay section, all questions are objective, with five options as the answer choices.

Your test scores will be evaluated out of 1,600, and your essay will be graded on a decimal grade of 6. Quantitative and Verbal sections are of 800 marks each.

Every post graduate discipline has its own section requirements of the score.

In most cases, a score of 1,400 or above is respectable. An essay grade of 5 or above is considered good.

The test is not an accurate and precise evaluation of your aptitude. This is because the format of the test has a slight quirk in it, which usually bolsters or hampers a student's score. So be informed and use it to your advantage.

3. Test Strategy: Edge Out The Others

The test is to be taken on a computer.

Before moving on to the next question, the previous question has to be attempted. An attempt would mean clicking on any option choice and confirming it. Once a question is attempted, you cannot revert to it. So be sure about the questions you attempt.

The test is adaptive in nature. The first question the computer throws at you in a section will be of average difficulty. Half the people taking the GRE get it right, which generally means it is fairly simple.

If you click on the correct option, the next question on your screen will be slightly more difficul. If you get the first question wrong, the next will be easier. This adaptive nature of the questions continues throughout the test.

The questions in the test have a descending marking scheme. After around seven to 10 questions, the computer fixes a difficulty level depending on your answers in the previous questions. The higher the difficulty level, the stronger your chances of achieving a high score.

The first question carries maximum marks, followed closely by the second, then the third, and so on.

In short, the final couple of questions are of little or no significance to your final score in the section.

The first seven to 10 questions are absolutely vital. Your section score range will be decided by your performance in these questions.

For example, if the first eight questions I attempt are correct, my score will vacillate between, say, 700 to 800, which is the maximum score.

If I get a couple of questions incorrect in the first eight, my score may range from 550 to 750, though I will need a super performance in the remaining questions to get a score of 750 or above.

The questions after the first 10 are basically to decide where your exact score lies in the score range decided by your previous 10 attempts.

So take ample time cracking the first 7-10 questions, even if you miss out on five questions at the end. A stellar performance in the questions you managed to attempt could even get you a score of 800.

4. The Quantitative Section

This section carries 28 questions and has a time limit of 45 minutes. If handled well, this section is extremely high scoring with a score of 750+ well within reach.

Make sure that the first seven to 10 questions are correct. Spend more time over these questions, as they can really boost your score.

You will be provided with blank pages for rough work. Use them for calculations rather than doing so mentally.

For questions on statistics and geometry, note that the figures drawn may not be to scale, so do not use them as a reference. Read the numbers and their units carefully -- at times, they mislead you on purpose.

In algebra questions, verify all answer choices. Do not just mark the answer choice you work out. This is because, at times, you may neglect certain conditions that may prove important.

5. The Verbal Section

This section is a 30-minute section with 30 questions.

Concentrate on the reading comprehension passages. They are tedious and vague at times. Also scrolling up and down and reading a 1,500-word art passage isn't easy. So practise well.

The easier questions to handle are the antonyms, sentence completions and the analogies. You will need to be well versed with the GRE word list of 3,500 words. Refer to a book called Baron's to get familiar with the wordlist.

Try to develop your reading speed. Most students taking the GRE find the verbal section a tad lengthy. So take enough practice tests to develop speed.

6. The Essay Section

First, don't be under the false impression that a good GRE essay should flaunt your vocabulary. Neither should it turn out a masterpiece. They don't expect you to write like a Ralph Waldo Emerson in half an hour!

Be grammatically correct and sound in your sentence construction. Be clear and logical in your thought flow. Don't look at the clock while writing.

Creativity is not a faucet. If you are pressured, you will not think well.

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