|How does the GRE fit into my overall application to graduate school?|
|What is ETS?|
|When should I take the GRE?|
|What's a good score?|
|I'm applying to grad school for humanities. Does the Math section really count?|
|Do graduate science and math programs really care how I do on the Verbal section?|
|I've already taken the GRE and did poorly. If I do well the second time I take it, how will this be reported to the grad schools, and how will they use the information?
|How does the computer adaptive test (CAT) work?|
|Are early questions actually worth more points than late questions?|
|If I get all the beginning questions right, can I just coast through the rest of the section?|
|If all the questions seem hard I'm doing horribly, right?|
|If a question seems easy, does that mean I'm doing horribly?|
|How many questions are there in each section?|
|How many experimental sections will I see?|
|How can I tell if a section is experimental?|
|What happens if I run out of time on a GRE section?|
|When is it OK to guess on the GRE?|
|Do I get to bring my own scratch paper?|
|Where are answer choices A, B, C, D, and E?|
|What administrative procedures should I expect at the test-site?
|There are three weeks left until my test. What should I be doing?|
|There is one week left until my test. What should I be doing?|
|What should I do the night before the test?|
|What should I do on the day of the test?
|How many Sentence Completions will I get on the GRE?|
|What if I read through the sentence and don't find any road signs?|
|What if I can't predict an answer?|
|If I've eliminated four of the answer choices, but I don't know what the word means in the remaining choice, should I still pick it?
|How many Analogies will I get on the GRE?|
|What can I do on an Analogy if I don't know what one of the words means?|
|Can I reverse the order of the words in the stem to make my bridge?|
|Why do I have to plug my bridge into all of the answer choices?|
|What if my bridge doesn't work for any of the answer choices?|
|How do I know whether or not my bridge is strong?|
|Do I need to memorize the five classic bridges?
|How many Antonyms will I get on the GRE?|
|If I don't know what the stem word means, should I just immediately guess on the question?|
|How can I do well on Antonyms if I don't have a good vocabulary?|
|What if I know I defined a word correctly, but I don't see its antonym?|
|If I don't know the definition of one of the answer choices does that mean it's right and I should just pick it?|
|If I don't know what the stem word means, how can I feel safe eliminating any answer choice?
|How many Reading Comprehension passages will I get on the GRE?|
|If I can get the passage's scope, do I need to find the topic?|
|Doesn't creating a road map of the passage waste too much time?|
|Why do I need to paraphrase?|
|What can I do if I'm running out of time on the Verbal section and a Reading Comprehension passage comes up?|
|I read too slowly and don't have enough time for the questions. How can I become a faster reader?|
|The passages are so boring that I really can't concentrate on them. Is there anything I can do to improve my concentration?|
|What if I can't pre-phrase an answer to a Reading Comprehension question?|
|What subject areas will the passages be about?|
|If I don't know anything about science, should I just guess on all the questions about science passages?
|How many QCs will I get on the GRE?|
|Why should I compare, not calculate?|
|How important is the information that's put in between the two columns?|
|When should I pick numbers on QCs?|
|Which numbers should I pick on QCs?|
|Are there any quick elimination strategies for QCs?
|How many Problem Solving questions will there be on the GRE?|
|If I can solve a question using math, do I need to pick numbers or backsolve?|
|How do I know when to pick numbers?|
|When I decide to pick numbers, which numbers should I pick?|
|Are 0 and 1 good numbers to pick?|
|Once I decide which numbers I'm going to pick, what do I do with them?|
|Do I really need to try all of the answer choices?|
|Doesn't backsolving take too long?
|How many Data Interpretation questions will I get on the test?|
|Why do I have to spend so much time studying the graph before I answer the questions?|
|How exact do I have to be when I read the values on the graph?|
|What if my answer choice is close to one of the answer choices, but is off by a little bit?|
|At what point should I just guess on a Data Interpretation question?
|What does the Analytical Writing section consist of?|
|Do I have to use all of the time that is allocated for each essay? Should I be writing the entire time?|
|How is the Analytical Writing section administered?|
|I'm not comfortable with word processing systems. May I handwrite my essays?|
|Should I skip the Analytical Writing section if I want to "save my energy" for the math and verbal sections on the practice tests?|
|Who (or what) grades my essays?|
|How important are writing style, grammar and spelling for the Analytical Writing essays?|
|Will my essay responses be sent to my schools?
How does the GRE fit into my overall application to graduate school?
In general, the two most important factors in an application to graduate school are your GPA and GRE General Test score. Certain programs may also strongly consider GRE Subject Tests, extracurricular work, research, any work you've had published, letters of recommendation, your personal statement, etc., but all schools will look strongly at your GPA and GRE scores. The GRE General Test is a standard that graduate programs use to compare you to applicants from undergraduate schools from around the world, which is why they take it so seriously. Think of the GRE as your chance to set yourself apart from your rival applicants. If you're near the end of your undergraduate career there isn't much you can do to affect your GPA anymore. But there is a lot you can do to affect your GRE score!
What is ETS?
ETS stands for Educational Testing Service. It is the company that creates and administers the GRE, as well as other tests, like the SAT and GMAT. Although often mythologized (and sometimes demonized), the people who work for ETS are not certified geniuses or cruel sadists; they're regular people who just happen to have jobs creating standardized tests.
When should I take the GRE?
The GRE is offered year round at all ETS-authorized computer testing sites around the world. When deciding the right time to take the test, you must consider how long you'll need to prepare for it. You have access to a lot of resources with your Kaplan course, and you want to take full advantage of all of them. Before taking the test, make sure you've mastered the strategies you're learning and you feel confident in all areas of the test. It's a good idea to take the test soon after you complete your course, when it's still fresh in your mind. But you must also keep two things in mind: First of all, you need to find out the deadlines for the programs you will apply to, and make sure you take the test before they come up. Second, November and December will be very busy months at the test sites, so you may have trouble making an appointment to take the test during those months.
What's a good score?
This is a question that depends on the programs to which you will be applying, so do some research on the schools you're thinking about. For most schools, at the very least, you should be able to find out the average or median GRE scores of the previous incoming class. A "good" score would be one that beats those. But, keep in mind that beating the average score of the students a school accepted last year is not a guarantee that you will get in this year--it's a great start, though!
I'm applying to grad school for humanities. Does the Math section really count?
While most programs in the humanities and liberal arts will look at your Verbal and Analytical sections more seriously than they will look at the Math, you should still prepare thoroughly for the quantitative section. Here's why:
If you're applying to go to grad school for something like English or philosophy, it's natural for the schools to expect that you'll do well on the Verbal and Analytical sections. That's what you've been doing in college. You should assume that everyone who applies will have good Verbal and Analytical scores. (If they don't, they will be weeded out quickly.) How can you make yourself stand out from this crowd? By excelling on the Math section as well! Remember that you are competing to get into grad school and anything positive that you can do to distinguish yourself benefits you greatly.
Do graduate science and math programs really care how I do on the Verbal section?
Yes, they care. All serious candidates for math and science programs will do well on the Math section. To stand out from this group and really impress admissions committees, work hard and ace the Verbal and Analytical sections, too!
I've already taken the GRE and did poorly. If I do well the second time I take it, how will this be reported to the grad schools, and how will they use the information?
First of all, the scores from each exam you've taken in the last five years will be reported separately (broken down by section), alongside the dates on which you took them, in the report that ETS sends to you and to the schools. How they look at a score report with vastly different scores depends on the individual school. Some schools will just average the scores. Others will look at the most recent score only. Some may have their own system for weighing the different results. You can't control what your school will do with your score. One thing's for sure, though, no matter what method the school uses, when you take the test again and improve your score, you will increase your chances of getting in. Taking the Kaplan course is a great step towards doing just that! Practice the strategies, learn the content and your score will go up. Also, if there was a specific reason you did poorly the first time (for example, you were sick or you mis-gridded on an old paper-and-pencil exam) you should explain this at some point in your application.
General Test Information
How does the computer adaptive test (CAT) work?
At the start of each section of the test, the computer assumes you are an average student with an average score (500), and gives you a question of average difficulty. It's a question that one-half of all test takers will get wrong. If you answer the question correctly, the computer raises your score and gives you a more difficult question. If you get a question wrong, the computer lowers your score and gives you an easier question. The computer "adapts" to your skill level, giving you questions that are appropriate for test takers at that level, and in so doing, zeroes in on your correct score. In theory, for the last few questions of a section you should get a question that's slightly below your level that you will answer correctly, followed by a question slightly above your level that you will get wrong.
Are early questions actually worth more points than late questions?
Yes. Answering an early question correctly will increase your score much more than answering a late question correctly will. At each point of the test the computer has an estimate of what it thinks your final score will be. This estimate is based on how you've done on all of the questions up to that point. So at the start of the test your score can change rapidly. For example, question three will account for one-third of your score estimate--getting it right will raise your score dramatically, getting it wrong will lower your score just as dramatically. But when you get up to question 20, it will only count for one-twentieth of your score estimate, so this one question won't affect you nearly as much. In addition, the computer rewards you more for answering a late "hard" question correctly than it does for getting a late "easy" one right; it will also lower your score estimate less for getting a late "hard" question wrong than a late "easy" one. In other words, you need to make it to the hard questions in order to get a great score. To get into the hard questions, you need to have a high score estimate. The first few questions change your score estimate the most. Doing well at the beginning of each section will give you a high score estimate that is very difficult to erode. Doing poorly at the beginning will dig you a hole that you'll have trouble getting out of. This is why it's so important to take your time on the first few questions.
So, if I get all the beginning questions right I can just coast through the rest of the section?
Not exactly. While you do want to move quickly through the later stages of a section, getting a whole string of questions wrong at any point of the test will lower your score significantly. So late in the test you should focus on finding quick ways to do questions, eliminating choices and guessing when necessary, but don't lose your concentration at the end just because you feel you did well at the beginning.
If all the questions seem hard I'm doing horribly, right?
No. You should find the questions challenging throughout the section. The computer is giving you questions that it thinks are appropriate for someone at your score level. If you're scoring a 700, you will get a question that should challenge someone who's scoring a 700. So, if you feel that the questions you're getting are hard, that means you're doing as well as you should be doing.
If a question seems easy, does that mean I'm doing horribly?
No, it doesn't. There are a couple of reasons why a question could seem easy. There may be a trap in the question that makes it seem easier than it really is. Take a careful look at the question to see if this is true. Another possibility is that the question just happens to be easy for you. The computer is presenting you with a question that is challenging for general test takers of your score level. But the question may be on a particular topic that you know extremely well. Regardless of what you perceive the difficulty level of a question to be, stay confident and use what you've learned in your Kaplan course to tackle it.
How many questions will I get on each section?
The Verbal section has 30 questions and is 30 minutes long; the Math section has 28 questions and is 45 minutes long; the Analytical section has 35 questions and is 60 minutes long. There is no guaranteed order that the sections will come in.
How many experimental sections will I see?
There will be one experimental section, in addition to the three scored sections, which ETS uses to test out questions for future tests. The section could be Math, Verbal, or Analytical, and your performance on it will not affect your score in any way.
How can I tell if a section is experimental?
You won't be able to tell which of the four sections you take is the experimental one. Take each of them very seriously. If, for example, you got a second Verbal section on your GRE, you'll know that the experimental section was Verbal, but you will have no way of knowing which of the two Verbal sections you took will actually be scored. So, you must treat them both as if they will be scored.
What happens if I run out of time on a GRE section?
You will be penalized severely. If you run out of time before completing all of the questions in a section, the computer will mark all the questions you didn't get to as wrong--and it will assess you an extra penalty for letting time run out. If you see that your time in a section is running out, you must start to quickly eliminate answer choices and guess. Make sure you don't run out of time!
When is it OK to guess on the GRE?
This depends on where you are in the section. In the first third of the section each question is very important and you should guess only as a last resort if you really can't figure out a way to do a question. As you get further along in the section, the questions decrease in importance and time becomes a more important factor. If the only way you can do a question will take a long time, it will be better to make an educated guess. Look for obvious wrong answers to eliminate and guess from what's left.
Do I get to bring my own scratch paper?
No. Any papers that you bring into the test center will be taken away from you. However, you will be given as much scrap paper as you need at the actual test site.
Where are answer choices A, B, C, D, and E?
Unlike paper-and-pencil tests, the answer choices are not labeled on a CAT. Instead of working out questions in a test booklet and then transferring your answer to a grid, you will just click on your answer on the screen (which has replaced the test booklet). This has eliminated the need for the choices to be labeled. For convenience, throughout your Kaplan course the answer choices are referred to as choices 1 through 5.
What administrative procedures should I expect at the test site?
Expect security at the test center to be very tight. Before sitting down at a computer, you will be photographed and fingerprinted, taken aside to be read several rules and regulations, and made to copy a paragraph promising that you won't disclose any ETS secrets. After getting to a computer, but before the actual test begins you will have to answer several questions about yourself. This will last about 20 minutes. Also, you should keep in mind that the test center might be very crowded and noisy.
There are three weeks left until my test. What should I be doing?
Have you registered to take the actual test? If not, do so as soon as possible. As far as studying goes, by this point you should have a good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Sort out what you haven't yet done and set up a study schedule. Be as specific as you can about what you will do. There is still time to work on improving your weaknesses, so you should be focusing on those areas in which you need the most improvement. (As you get closer to test day you will shift your focus to your strengths.) Know which Kaplan strategies have worked best for you and make sure you master them. Practice them on lots of questions and full-length tests. Don't forget to include Kaplan's online resources in your study plan. Even though you'll have done workshops during your course, they will still serve as a good review, and Kaplan Online Quiz Banks will provide you with lots of practice questions. Remember, you won't see these specific questions on your real GRE, but you will see these question types. This means that your approach to the questions and your process in going through them are much more important than whether you got them right or wrong.
There is one week left until my test. What should I be doing?
At this point, you should be concentrating on your strengths. Anything you don't know by now you won't be able to learn in a week. Along these same lines, don't worry about content review now--there isn't much you can do in such a short period of time that will help. What you need to make sure of is that you have complete mastery over those areas that are your strengths. Continue mastering the Kaplan strategies that have worked for you. If you haven't done so, take a practice test and focus on your timing.
It is also a good idea to check out your test site before the day of your test. See if parking will be a problem or if the site is accessible by public transportation. The last thing you need on the morning of your GRE is to have trouble getting to the test itself.
What should I do the night before the test?
You should do anything that will get your mind off the exam. Do not, under any circumstances, study! Remember that Kaplan has prepared you well for the test, so be confident! Do whatever helps you to relax--go to a movie, work out, go shopping. Make sure you have a nice dinner and get a good night's sleep. Before going to bed though, you should lay out what you'll need in the morning: layered clothing, a photo ID, and score-recipient info.
What should I do on the day of the test?
It is very important that you treat Test Day as if it were an ordinary day. This means if you normally have two cups of coffee in the morning, have your two cups on the morning of the test. But if you never drink coffee, don't drink it on test morning just because you think you need to be more alert than usual. Don't do anything that disrupts your normal daily routine. It is a good idea to read something in the morning to get your mind warmed up--the morning newspaper is fine. It's also a good idea to bring some things with you that you might need, like aspirin, tissues, and a chewable stomach reliever. It's better to be safe than sorry!
How many Sentence Completions will I get on the GRE?
There will be approximately seven Sentence Completion questions on the Verbal section of the GRE.
What if I read through the sentence and don't find any road signs?
Some sentences may not have any of the most common road signs that you would look for, but there are still ways to figure out what goes in the blank. The testmakers cannot give you a Sentence Completion where there are no clues to the blank. Pay attention to the structure of the sentence-is there a "cause and effect" situation at work here? For sentences like this the road signs are often difficult to see. Try to put the sentence in your own words. This will help you to understand the sentence better, and may make the clue more obvious to you. If you're still struggling, and this is an early question, put each of the choices into the sentence and read it to yourself. Trust your ear when you do this. If something sounds wrong to you, it probably is. If it's late in the section and you can't find any clues, you should eliminate any choices you can and guess.
What if I can't predict an answer?
You don't have to be able to predict a specific word for a blank. As long as you have a good idea about what kind of word should go in the blank, you should be able to find an answer that sounds good when you read it into the sentence. Even if you can only come up with a word's charge (positive, negative, neutral) you will be able to eliminate most of the wrong answer choices.
If I've eliminated four of the answer choices, but I don't know what the word means in the remaining choice, should I still pick it?
Yes. One of the answers on the screen has to be right. If you are able to get rid of four choices, then the one that's left has got to be the correct answer! This is why practicing the Kaplan elimination strategies is so important. Sometimes you can answer questions correctly without even knowing what the right answer means!
What can I do on an Analogy if I don't know what one of the words means?
If it is an early question, you will have to spend some time in order to figure it out. Go through each of the answer choices, and try to make bridges for them. If the words in a choice have a weak relationship, rule that choice out. Or if you find two choices with the same bridge, you can eliminate both of them. By going through the choices like this, you should be able to find an answer choice that works.
If it is later in the section, scan the answer choices for the same subject traps, weak bridges, and any other wrong answer type you can find. Rule out what you can and guess.
Can I reverse the order of the words in the stem to make my bridge?
This is a perfectly legitimate way to make a bridge. But, when you do this you have to be careful. If you've reversed the order of the stem words to make your bridge, you must reverse the order of the words in the answer choices when you plug them in to the bridge.
Why do I have to plug my bridge into all of the answer choices?
Sometimes you will come up with a bridge that is strong, but not specific enough to lead you to only one answer choice. If you don't try all of the answer choices, you will likely end up picking the first answer choice that fits your non-specific bridge, which may very well be the wrong answer. You need to try all of the choices so that you can see if your bridge is specific enough. If it is, there will be only answer choice that works. If not, you know you have to adjust the bridge.
What if my bridge doesn't work for any of the answer choices?
If this happens, you will need to rethink your bridge. You missed the key to the relationship between the two words. Try defining one of the words by using the other word. If you can do this, you have found the logical and necessary relationship between the two words. This is what a good bridge truly is. Now you should be able to find a single answer choice that works.
How do I know whether or not my bridge is strong?
A strong bridge sounds like a dictionary definition of one of the words, using the other word in the definition. A good way to test the strength of your bridge is to put the words "by definition" in it. For example: "A novel by definition is a type of book" is a very strong bridge. Another good test of a bridge is to see if you can put a word like "always," "must" or "never" in it. Strong bridges have these kinds of words in them. Weak bridges would have words like "might," "sometimes" or "usually" in them. If you have come up with a bridge using one of these words, you need to make it stronger.
Do I need to memorize the classic bridges?
You must know them and be able to spot them very quickly. Then, if you can't figure out the relationship between the stem words, you can try to fit them into one of the classic bridges. So knowing the classic bridges is a great test-taking that will help you to succeed on GRE Analogies.
If I don't know what the stem word means, should I just immediately guess on the question?
Although Antonym questions may seem like straight tests of definitions, there are ways to get points on them even when you don't know the stem word. Look for a familiar root in the word. This can give you a clue as to the words meaning. You can also determine the word's charge, and then rule out any word that has the same charge. Additionally, rule out any answer choice that doesn't have an opposite. If a tough question like this comes early on in the Verbal section, you should go through as many strategies as you can to eliminate choices. If it's later on in the section, you need to quickly eliminate whatever choices you can, then take a guess.
How can I do well on Antonyms if I don't have a good vocabulary?
Having a good vocabulary is very important for success on Antonyms, but that doesn't mean you're doomed if your vocabulary isn't strong. Study the common word roots--they will help you identify a word's charge, which will help you to eliminate choices. You should also study Kaplan's list of the top 200 GRE words, since these are the words most likely to appear on your test. On your test, you may come across a word that you don't know the definition of, but that you have heard in some context before--perhaps it is in a cliché, or another common saying. Think of what this saying means, then use that information to try to figure out what the word itself means. Anything you can think of to help you understand the word is to your benefit.
What if I know I defined the word correctly, but I don't see its antonym?
It is very possible that the word has a second, less common, definition and it is this definition that is being tested. A perfect example of this is the word "husband." You may initially want to look for the word "wife," until you realize that all of the answer choices are verbs. The standard meaning of "husband" is too easy to be tested on the GRE, so you would have to look for the antonym of its secondary meaning, which is "to encourage the growth of."
If I don't know the definition of one of the answer choices, does that mean it's probably right and I should just pick it?
Just because you don't know the meaning of an answer choice does not mean it has to be the right answer. In fact, difficult words can often be wrong answer choices. If you can find the correct answer using the Kaplan Method, ignore the choice you don't know. Be confident that you answered the question correctly. But, if you have ruled out the other four answer choices using Kaplan elimination strategies, then the remaining choice is the correct one and you should pick it, even if you don't know its definition.
If I don't know what the stem word means, how can I feel safe eliminating any answer choice?
The antonym of the stem word has to be a word that has an antonym itself. In other words, the correct answer to an Antonym question has to be a word that has its own clear opposite. Any answer choice that does not have an opposite cannot be the correct answer, so you can feel safe eliminating it.
How many Reading Comprehension passages will I get on the GRE?
2 or 3 passages with 2 to 4 questions per passage.
If I can get the passage's scope, do I need to find the topic?
If you are able to find the scope of a passage without first finding the topic, you don't need to go back and try to figure out what the topic is. Finding the topic allows you to get a foothold in the passage, which then makes finding the scope easier. It is the scope that will be tested in questions, and that you can use to eliminate wrong answer choices. The topic in and of itself is not important-it is just a very broad description of the passage, which you then must narrow down to the scope.
Doesn't creating a road map of the passage waste too much time?
Creating a road map does not waste any time at all. In fact, when you get to the questions it will save you a lot of time. Keep in mind what a road map is. It's a brief outline of the passage that will allow you to quickly find the information that you'll need to answer a question. There are many details in a whole passage, but the questions will only test a very few of them. Without a road map, you will have to search through most of the passage in order to find the detail that's being tested. But with a road map, you'll immediately be able to identify which paragraph it's in. A road map will also help you on questions that are not about details. By reviewing the map right before tackling the questions, you'll know which part of the passage to refer to check your answer.
One reason you may think that creating a road map wastes time is that you haven't practiced doing it enough. You must do a lot of practice passages-and read a lot of magazine and newspaper articles. Each time you read something, create a road map of it. Figure out the topic, scope and purpose of the passage (or article) and the purposes of each of the paragraphs. Having road maps will help you save a lot of time on the questions, and practice will help you create them efficiently and effectively.
Why do I need to paraphrase?
It is absolutely vital that you have a good grasp of the author's point of view and purpose before tackling the questions. That's why you need to paraphrase-put the author's ideas into your own words. By paraphrasing the author's key ideas, you can be sure that you've understood them.
What can I do if I'm running out of time on the Verbal section and a Reading Comprehension passage comes up?
Remember that when you get to the end of a section, the most important thing is to make sure you don't run out of time. So, if you get a Reading Comprehension passage when you're running out of time, you really can't afford to read the passage as thoroughly as you normally would. So put the test's format to work for you. The first question will be right there on the screen next to the passage. Read the question to determine whether it's a global, detail or inference. Then let that determine your reading of the passage. If it's a global question, try reading just the 1st third of the passage which almost always contains the topic and scope, and may give you enough information to answer the question. If it's a detail question, see if you can find words in the passage that are similar to the words used in the question. This way you can be pretty sure you're in the right area of the passage. Of course, if there are line references go to them immediately. Finally, if it's an inference question, you may want to guess and move on, because inference questions usually require a closer reading of the passage before they can be answered correctly.. If you can't come up with an answer, look to eliminate choices quickly. If you do decide to guess, don't forget to use the choices to eliminate wrong answers. Look out for ones that use exaggerated language or extreme words, for example. If you can eliminate a couple of choices this way (and you often can) you have given yourself a much better chance of guessing correctly. Again, make sure you finish the section!
I read too slowly and don't have enough time for the questions. How can I become a faster reader?
This is a problem that is very important for you to correct. You must read the passages quickly in order to be able to answer all of the questions. It is very doubtful that you are actually a "slow" reader. What you are is an inefficient GRE reader. You are used to reading things like college textbooks and newspapers in order to absorb information and you may read novels or magazines for pleasure, but GRE reading is very different. GRE passages require you to understand an author's purpose and think about the big ideas of the passage. The specific details are not at all important to think about when you read a GRE passage--and the details are what are most significant when reading textbooks, newspapers, magazines, etc. So you must practice reading actively and critically like you must read on the GRE. Remember to look for and understand FOCUS clues, paraphrase as you go, and identify the topic, scope and purpose of whatever you are reading. By doing so, you will gain greater speed and understanding of the passage, and you will be less likely to glaze over.
The passages are so boring that I really can't concentrate on them. Is there anything I can do to improve my concentration?
Be an active, critical reader. Look for and understand FOCUS clues, paraphrase as you go, and identify the topic, scope and purpose of a passage. By doing so, you will gain greater understanding of the passage and be less likely to glaze over. The subject of the passage is really a secondary issue. If you are reading actively you will become engaged in the process of reading and will be less likely to glaze over.
What if I can't pre-phrase an answer to a Reading Comprehension question?
Don't panic if this happens. There are some questions that you really can't pre-phrase an answer for. This is especially true with inference questions, which ask things like, "Based on the information in the passage, which of the following statements would the author be most likely to agree with?" or application questions like, "Which of the following situations is most similar to the one presented in the third paragraph?" There are many possible answers to questions like these, so pre-phrasing is pointless. But this doesn't mean you should just dive right into the answer choices. Instead of a formal pre-phrase, take a few seconds to review the topic, scope and purpose of the passage, or the specific part of the passage that the question is asking about. Then look for the answer choice that is consistent with the author (or that goes against the author, if the question asks for this).
What subject areas will the passages be about?
The passages fall into three general categories: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The specific subject areas of the passages can vary from Renaissance art to the Civil War to astronomy. But whatever the topic of the passage is, you are not expected to have any outside knowledge of the subject matter. In fact, if you do have some knowledge of the subject you absolutely should not bring that knowledge into your reading of the passage. Everything you need to know in order to answer the questions is in the passage itself.
If I don't know anything about science, should I just guess on all the questions about science passages?
No. You don't need any knowledge of science in order to answer these questions correctly. The GRE General Test is for students of all majors. Science majors have no advantage, even on Reading Comprehension passages about science. All of the critical reading skills that you're practicing on GRE passages will work on all passages-no matter what their topic. Everything you will need to answer all of the questions correctly is in the passage itself, so reading critically is, as always, the key. If you are feeling uncomfortable with science passage, practice reading them by reading Scientific American. This is a magazine with articles for the general public that are written by scientists, so they are similar to GRE science passages. Practice all of Kaplan's reading strategies on these articles and you will see that science passages are not as hard as you think.
How many QC's will I get on the GRE?
There will be approximately 14 Quantitative Comparisons on the GRE. Although this number is not assured, it is not likely to vary much, if at all. There are only 28 questions in the GRE Math section, so QC's will account for about half of the questions in Math
Why should I compare, not calculate?
Quantitative Comparisons are designed to be done more quickly than the other math question types, and it's necessary to do them quickly because you will need the extra time for the Problem Solving and Graph questions. Kaplan-trained test takers know that the information is there to help them to avoid calculation. All of the different Kaplan strategies for QC's are designed to help you to get answers. Be sure to master them.
How important is the information that's put in between the two columns?
This information is very important. Whenever you see information in between the columns of a QC, you need to pay close attention to it. This information will almost always be important for making the comparison, especially if there is algebra involved in the question. The information could limit the value of a variable (it will say something like x>0), or it could give you an equation that you will have to use to be able to compare the columns (like a+1=b). If you see a QC with something between the columns, start your attack on the question with this information.
When should I pick numbers on QC's?
Picking numbers is a very powerful strategy for QC's that have variables in both columns.
Which numbers should I pick on QC's?
Which numbers you pick and how many you pick depend on two things: The constraints of the question and the difficulty level of the question. Generally, the more constraints, the fewer numbers you can pick, and the greater the difficulty, the more open you should be to picking more numbers because they might show more variations in the relationship. The normal spectrum of numbers from which to pick is: a regular positive integer, 1, a positive fraction, 0, a negative fraction, -1, a regular negative integer.
Are there quick elimination strategies for QC's?
There is one that is very quick. For even the hardest QC's, as long as there are only numbers (no variables) in both of the columns, there has to be a way to determine which column is larger. This means that choice number 4 cannot be the correct answer, so it should immediately be eliminated. Even if you cannot figure out a way to compare the two columns, you have given yourself a better chance of guessing the right answer.
How many Problem Solving questions will there be on the GRE?
There will be approximately 9 Problem Solving questions on the Math section of the GRE.
If I can solve a question using math, do I need to pick numbers or backsolve?
Your goal for Problem Solving is to get your answer in the fastest and most efficient way you can. If you can answer a question quickly using regular math, then you should do so. The point of learning Kaplan's backsolving and picking numbers strategies is to get points on questions when you don't know the regular math that's being tested. So it is very important that you practice the strategies of backsolving and picking numbers, since you are likely to come across a question that you won't be able to solve using straight-ahead math. Whenever you approach a Problem Solving question, you need to decide what is the most efficient way that you can solve the problem. If it's by doing the math, then do the math. If it's by using an alternative strategy, you should definitely use the strategy. Kaplan is giving you several tools that you can use on your GRE. You need to practice all of them in order to give yourself the best chance of acing the GRE Math section.
How do I know when to pick numbers?
There are several different types of Problem Solving questions for which picking numbers is an effective strategy. The first are complex word problems that have variables in the question stem and the answer choices. These questions are very abstract and they're usually difficult to set up and solve using straight-ahead math. By picking numbers for the variables, you eliminate having to think about how to set the problem up. Many students also have success with picking numbers for complicated algebra problems with variables in the answer choices. This is especially true of students who are not extremely confident when it comes to algebra. By picking numbers for an algebra question, you turn algebra into arithmetic. Odd/even questions, positive/negative questions, and word problems with percents in them are question types for which picking numbers is the most effective strategy.
When I decide to pick numbers, which numbers should I pick?
Which numbers you pick and how many you pick depend on two things: The constraints of the question and the difficulty level of the question. Generally, the more constraints, the fewer numbers you can pick, and the greater the difficulty, the more open you should be to picking more numbers because they might show more variations in the relationship. The normal spectrum of numbers from which to pick is: a regular positive integer, 1, a positive fraction, 0, a negative fraction, -1, a regular negative integer.
Whenever you see a word problem involving percents, 100 is almost always the number to pick for the original value.
As with everything, it is very important that you practice picking numbers on a variety of questions. The more practice you get with picking numbers, the easier it will be for you to pick appropriate numbers quickly on the GRE.
Are 0 and 1 good numbers to pick?
Unless dictated by the constraints or difficulty level of the questions, 0 and 1 are often not good numbers to pick for variables. Since using these numbers in calculations can often cause unusual things to happen (for example, multiplying any number by 0 gives you 0 and multiplying any number by 1 gives you that number), they are more likely than any other numbers to make more than one answer choice appear to be correct, which means you're going to have to pick new numbers and try again.
However, 0 and 1 are still good numbers to pick for odd/even questions. It is important to realize that 1 has all the properties of an odd number, and 0 has all the properties of an even number, so it is perfectly legitimate to use them for these specific problems.
Once I decide which numbers I'm going to pick, what do I do with them?
You must now work through the question using the numbers you have picked. It is often helpful to first read the question to yourself and insert your numbers in the place of the unknowns. Then you have to do the arithmetic that you've just read. You will come up with a numerical answer for the question. You now have to plug the same numbers into each of the answer choices and see which of them gives you the same numerical answer as the question stem. The choice that does is the correct answer. Occasionally more than one answer choice will work (as mentioned above, this is more likely to happen if you pick 0 or 1, but it sometimes does happen with other numbers). If this happens, don't panic. You will have to pick a new set of numbers and go through the process again, but when you plug the numbers into the answer choices you only need to try the ones that worked the first time. Of course, if you're running out of time and can't afford to try new numbers you should just guess one of the choices that worked the first time.
Do I really need to try all of the answer choices?
Yes, you do. Occasionally the first set of numbers you pick will work with more than one answer choice. The only way to figure this out is to try all of the choices. If you do, and only one choice works, then this is your answer. If more than one works, you'll need to try with new numbers. But, if you just pick the first answer choice that works with your numbers, you risk getting the question wrong.
Doesn't backsolving take too long?
One of the most important things to remember about backsolving is that it is a backup strategy. If you can't figure out a way to solve a question the math way, then backsolving, like picking numbers, is another possible way for you to get your answer. Since answer choices are arranged in either ascending or descending order, you will need to try only two of them to reach an answer. Try choice (3) first. If you find that it is the correct answer, you only have to try one choice. If the third choice is not right, you'll at least be able to see if the correct answer is larger or smaller. If the answer needs to be smaller, then you can eliminate the two choices that are even larger than the third choice. If the next smallest choice is still too large, then you automatically pick the smallest choice, since you've eliminated the other four. So if you are able to solve a problem quickly using math, you should do so. If not, consider backsolving as an alternative. It really does not take too long, since you will only need to try one or two choices.
Why do I have to spend so much time studying the graph before I answer the questions?
Although it may seem that you're spending a lot of time "reading" the graph, it is vital that you do spend a few moments to familiarize yourself with what information is given, what the scales are, and what each of the bars, lines or wedges mean. There is often a lot of information presented in a graph, and much of it will not be tested by any question. Students who have not taken the time to familiarize themselves with the graph will get lost in all of the information, or misunderstand what information a question does ask for. The testmakers will put in answer choices hoping that you will misread the graph and fall into their trap. The way to avoid this is to take the time to understand the basics of the graph before tackling the questions. In this way Graphs are analogous to Reading Comprehension, You need to read the passage before you can answer its questions, and you need to read the Graph before you can answer its questions.
How exact do I have to be when I read the values on the graph?
It is perfectly fine for you to approximate the numbers on the graph. Answer choices will be spaced far apart enough for you to estimate the numbers and still be able to clearly see only one choice that fits. For this same reason, if a question requires you to make a calculation, round the numbers off to make your calculation easy.
What if my answer is close to one of the answer choices, but is off by a little bit?
This will happen if you estimated the numbers in your calculation, which you should do (see "How exact do I have to be when I read the values on the graph?"). The choices will be spaced far apart enough for you to be able to do this. So, the answer choice that is close to your calculated answer, even if it's not exact, is the correct answer.
At what point should I just guess on a graph question?
Graphs will not appear early on in the section, so you shouldn't spend a lot of time on any single graph question. If you are running out of time, and you see that a graph question is going to take a lot of time to solve, look to eliminate any choices you can and take a guess.
What is the Analytical Writing section?
The Analytical Writing section consists of two timed essay tasks. The first of these is the "Present Your Perspective on an Issue" task. For this task, you will be given two essay prompts, each of which presents a claim regarding an issue of general interest. Your job is to choose one of the prompts and to write an essay presenting and supporting your perspective on the issue. You will have 45 minutes to read both prompts, to choose the prompt you would like to address, and to plan and write your response. Please note that you may choose either prompt — one is not better than the other, although you may prefer one topic to the other. In addition, there is no 'correct' perspective for any issue. The key to a successful Issue essay is to present your view clearly and persuasively, using compelling reasons and examples as support.
The second is the "Analyze an Argument" task. For this task, you will be given a brief essay prompt that presents an argument. Your job is to evaluate the solidity of the argument by examining the support provided for it. You will have 30 minutes to analyze the prompt and to plan and write a response based on your analysis of the argument. Your essay should focus on the evidence and support presented within the prompt - you should not allow your views on the topic to enter into your response.
Do I have to use all of the time that is allocated for each essay? Should I be writing the entire time?
You don't have to use the entire 30 minutes (for the Argument essay) or 45 minutes (for the Essay) if you have constructed an essay you're comfortable with before then. You definitely should not use the entire time to write, but need to spend at least a few minutes planning your essay and constructing an outline. If you dive into the writing without constructing an outline first, your essay runs a serious risk of coming across as disorganized and digressive. Planning is more important in an essay you only have 30 or 45 minutes to write than it would be if you had a week because such a short time frame doesn't afford you the luxury to revise it as many times as necessary.
How is the Analytical Writing section administered?
The Analytical Writing section is administered via computer. On Test Day, it will be the first section you encounter. The essay prompts are delivered onscreen, and you must use the elementary word processing system provided to enter and submit your essay response. Word processing commands are limited to Insert Text, Delete Text, Cut, Paste, and Undo Last Action so that test-takers who are not familiar with word processing systems are not at a disadvantage. The word processor does not include a grammar check or a spell check.
I'm not comfortable with word processing systems. May I handwrite my essays?
No. This was an option before, but as of July 1, 2003, ETS no longer allows students to handwrite essays.
Should I skip the Analytical Writing section if I want to "save my energy" for the math and verbal sections on the practice tests?
Absolutely not. The practice software will allow you to skip sections, but you will not be able to return to them. You should do the essays for the endurance-training aspect of the software. Writing an hour's worth of essays will have an impact on your quantitative and verbal scaled score, so you need to do the essays to have a thorough trial run.
Who (or what) grades my essays?
Two human evaluators will grade each GRE essay on a 0 to 6 holistic scale, 6 being the highest. The four resulting scores are then averaged, and the average score is then rounded up to the nearest half-point interval. If the two graders' scores are more than a point apart, then your essays are given to another human to grade.
How important are writing style, grammar and spelling for the Analytical Writing essays?
They, of course, factor into your score, but the graders are looking more for clarity of construction and thought than for Shakespearean prose. The biggest mistake people make on the essays is relying on their strengths as a writer without paying attention to the particular tasks outlined for Argument and Issue essay questions. If you digress from either the topic or the tasks for the essay types, you will not score well no matter how well you write.
Will my essay responses be sent to my schools?
Beginning in July 2003, essay responses will be made available electronically to score recipients. If you test on or after July 1, 2003, essay responses from your current and previous GRE administrations will be sent as part of your cumulative score record.