Read an Excerpt
Busting the GRE General CBT
REA's Testbuster for the GRE General CBT is the result of a massive effort to provide you with the best possible preparation for the GRE CBT (Graduate Record Examination Computer-Based Test).
The techniques, strategies, tricks, and tips you'll learn from this book have been tested and proven to work on the GRE General CBT. They are the same techniques and strategies used by the leading national coaching and review courses. REA's Testbusting techniques are proven to be effective and will help you score the best you possibly can on the GRE General CBT!
If you follow the strategies we teach you, you will do better on the GRE CBT than you ever thought possible. "But," you may ask yourself, "won't that mean I have to spend every spare moment I have studying the same stuff that I did in college?" No! The techniques we show you have nothing to do with what you learned in your undergraduate courses. We will teach you to beat the GRE. That means you will discover the methods to beat the people who write the GRE at their own game.
We will teach you how to use the structure of the GRE to your advantage. Armed with this knowledge, you will go to the test center, sit at a computer, and take the GRE with the confidence that you will not be intimidated. In fact, the GRE should be intimidated by you because you will know its weaknesses!
What is the GRE?
The GRE, which stands for Graduate Record Examination, is considered an essential element for admission to a graduate school. Applicants for graduate schools submit their GRE test results together with undergraduate records, references, and work experience as part of the highly competitive admission process. Graduate schools use GRE scores to place prospective students on an equal footing. Your GRE score, along with the other information you must submit, aids graduate schools in predicting how well you will perform in their programs.
Who Makes the Test?
The GRE is developed and administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service). ETS is a very large "nonprofit" organization that not only develops and administers the GRE, but also does hundreds of other tests, such as the SAT and GMAT. You might have heard that ETS is a government agency or affiliated with Princeton University, neither of which is true. ETS is an organization that makes a lot of money developing and administering tests. The company uses a Princeton, New Jersey, mailing address (which is why some people assume that ETS is affiliated with Princeton University).
What is a Computer-Based Test (CBT)?
Two of the three sections of the GRE are computer-adaptive. This means that you will use a computer to complete the GRE's Verbal and Quantitative Ability sections, and its software will determine which questions to ask based on your performance on the previous questions. In this way, the test will constantly adapt itself to your level of ability. A correct response will be followed by a more difficult question, and an incorrect response will be followed by an easier question. Difficult questions increase your score in greater increments than moderate or easier questions.
The Analytical Writing section is not computer-adaptive. The computer will randomly select your essay topics out of a pool of computer prompts. Then, you will type your essays. For the "Present Your Perspective on an Issue" task you can choose one out of two questions. The "Analyze an Argument" task won't give you a choice. All of the more than 100 topics that have been developed for each writing task are readily available beforehand because they are published by ETS.
On a traditional paper-and-pencil test, every examinee sees the same or similar questions. Because of the adaptive nature of two parts of the CBT and the large pool of questions that are available, different test-takers are asked different questions. The test items have been designed to meet content and difficulty specifications that allow for an equitable comparison of scores.
Pros and Cons of Computer-Based Testing
There are several advantages to computer-based testing. First, you will receive your unofficial scores for the multiple-choice sections of the test on the day you take your test. Second, the GRE CBT is offered much more frequently, and you may register just a few days in advance.
Third, you may choose to take the test in the morning or afternoon--on a weekday or on a weekend. In addition, the testing venue is quieter and more orderly than traditional testing locations. In fact, you may be the only person in the room as you take the GRE CBT! Finally, there are fewer questions on the GRE CBT than there were on the traditional paper-and-pencil test.
Unfortunately, there are also some important disadvantages to the GRE CBT. People who are unfamiliar with computers may find the testing environment intimidating. While no computer skills are required, an unusual environment may have a psychological impact on your preparedness. In addition, you must answer the questions in the order in which they are presented. You cannot skip a question and return to it later--or return to an earlier question to change your answer. This is a significant disadvantage because it eliminates the important test-taking strategy of answering the easier questions first and returning to the more difficult questions if you have time. Also, don't be alarmed if the test seems very difficult to you. Because the GRE CBT software is continuously refining its estimate of your ability level, nearly all of the questions should seem difficult and challenging to you.
Beating the Multiple-Choice Questions of the GRE
The significance of a multiple-choice test is that the correct answer is always given, in contrast to "fill-in-the-blank questions" or essays where you have to come up with the answer yourself. Of course, finding the correct answer among the multiple choices is what the test is all about. Testbusting will teach you that sometimes it's easier to find the incorrect choices than the correct answer. By eliminating the incorrect choices you can home in on the correct answer.
The Sections of the GRE
The GRE is divided into four sections: analytical writing, verbal ability, quantitative ability, and a trial section. You will be given three hours to complete the four sections. The first three sections are broken down as follows:
The Questions of the GRE
Let's take a quick glance at the types of questions you'll encounter on the GRE. Don't worry too much right now, this is just an overall summary. We'll go into further detail about each type of question you'll encounter on the GRE later in this book.
Analytical Writing Section
There are two types of essay questions on the GRE:
- Present Your Perspective on an Issue:
(One 45-minute essay)
This essay requires you to analyze the stated issue and support your analysis with reasons and examples
- Analyze an Argument:
(One 30-minute essay)
This essay requires you to critique a given argument by analyzing its logical structure and soundness.
Quantitative Ability Section
There are three types of quantitative ability questions on the GRE:
- Quantitative Comparison Questions:
(13 - 15 questions)
These questions are designed to test your ability to determine the relationship between two quantities by asking you to select which quantity is larger than the other.
- Problem Solving Questions:
(8 - 10 questions)
These questions test your mathematical knowledge and skill through the basic multiple-choice format.
- Chart Questions: (4 - 6 questions)
These questions are actually considered part of the Problem Solving questions. You will be required to read graphs and their data, and solve math problems based on those graphs.
Verbal Ability Section
In this section, you will encounter four question types:
- Analogies: (6 - 8 questions)
These questions test your ability to identify the relationship between two words and choose a pair which shows a similar connection.
- Sentence Completion: (5 - 7 questions)
A sentence will be given with either one or two words omitted. You will be required to choose the word or words that best fit the meaning of the sentence.
- Antonyms: (8 - 10 questions)
These questions test your ability to identify the meaning of a word and choose the best OPPOSITE meaning from the words or phrases listed as answer choices.
- Reading Comprehension:
(2 - 4 passages; 6 - 10 questions total)
These questions are designed to test your critical reading skills, such as determining themes or arguments stated or implied in the passages.
How is the GRE Scored?
In traditional paper-and-pencil tests, every question is equal in value. The Verbal and Quantitative Ability sections of the GRE CBT are scored quite differently, since more difficult questions add more to your score than easier ones. As we've already pointed out, don't be alarmed if the test seems difficult to you. The GRE CBT software is continuously refining its estimate of your ability level, so nearly all of the questions should seem at least somewhat difficult to you.
The GRE provides three separate scores: a Verbal Ability score (Analogies, Sentence Completion, Antonyms, and Reading Comprehension); a separate Quantitative Ability score (Quantitative Comparison and Problem Solving); and a separate Analytical Writing score (two analytical writing tasks). The Verbal and Quantitative Ability scores are reported on a scale of 200 to 800. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 (illegible, off-topic) to 6 (outstanding).
The Verbal and Quantitative Ability measures are scored by the computer. You will receive an unofficial score for these two sections right after taking the test at the test center. The Analytical Writing score is based on the average of four scores (given by four different readers). Since there are two essays on the GRE, each essay is read twice for two separate scores. These two scores are averaged together to get one score for each essay. Then, the scores for each essay are averaged together to give you your Analytical Writing score for the GRE CBT.
It is possible to receive half-point scores on the Analytical Writing Test: for example, if one reader gives a score of 4 and the other awards a score of 5, the grade would be 4.5.
If the two scores for one essay are different by more than one point, a third reader is given the essay to score. If the third reader scores the essay with the higher number, the lower number is discarded. If this third reader scores the essay with the lower number, the average of the three scores is used.
Once your scores are scaled, they will be placed in a percentile group. The percentile assigned to your scaled score is the percentage of the last three years' test scores that were lower than the score you received.
Your GRE scores are a very important factor when you apply to a graduate school. But we want to make it very clear that your GRE scores are not the only factor in getting into a graduate school. Graduate schools will also give strong consideration to your undergraduate performance, work experience, recommendations from former professors, or your essay response on your application.
The best way to look at your GRE scores is to think of them as the first impression you give a school. And as you know, first impressions can be very important. But once a school gets to know you through the application process, the GRE will be one factor among many in deciding your admission.