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How Hard Is the GRE and How Can You Ace This Test?

how hard is the gre

GRE stands for “Graduate Record Exams.” Worldwide universities use the GRE to admit students into business and graduate schools. GRE tests your different skills, i.e., Math, analytical, time management, etc., and decides whether you’re credible enough to be admitted to the institution or not.

GRE is assumed as one of the toughest exams. Truth be told, it is actually hard! As it covers tough vocabulary words, pro-level analytical questions, and so many hard math MCQ questions.

However, if you start by devising a timetable and following the right preparation tips, you can easily ace GRE.

Read on to discover more about GRE...

Is GRE Harder than MCAT and Other Admission Tests?

Yes! The reason why GRE is considered difficult is that the tests, like, Math and English, cover challenging questions that are really difficult to solve without prior preparation and excellent analytical skills. However, the analytical reasoning questions, Math problems, and English MCQs are easier than the other graduate exams.

Related read: Improve Your Preparation with GRE

The best way to evaluate how hard is GRE is to compare the test with other admission exams, such as MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), ECAT (Engineering College Admission Test), SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), USAT (Undergraduate Studies Admission Test), etc.

With that said, GRE is easier than the SAT exam but tougher than MCAT, ECAT, and other tests that focus more on one field, like, medicine. In order to pass the MCAT, students need to have specialized knowledge of the medical field; the same is the case with ECAT.

All-in-one GRE is more challenging than the normal college entrance exams, i.e., ACT, ECAT, etc., but easier than certain graduate admission tests, such as USAT, MCAT, and GMAT.

Why is GRE Hard?

Now, let’s discussed certain elements in detail that make GRE a challenging test. The points are discussed below:

1. Difficult Vocabulary

Since GRE’s ultimate goal is to check whether you’re credible enough to be admitted to the institution, the vocabulary that comes along with the test is super-challenging and obscure. However, the good news is that you can learn different words online from a book. But still, chances are there that you’ll be greeted by new tough words that you might have never heard before.

In the vocabulary section, you’ll have to fill in the blanks with the most suitable words or phrases. The key to passing the GRE’s vocabulary section is to collect vocabulary words from newspapers, journals, etc. Create flashcards and spend more time learning vocabulary words.

If you’re new to GRE, you might be wondering what type of questions you’ll encounter on your exam day. To give you an idea, here are a few examples:

difficult vocabulary

Do you see? The level of the GRE’s vocabulary is too high and in order to pass the exam, you need to know the meanings of numerous difficult words. Apart from that, practicing is also mandatory.

2. Time Constraints

Unlike the traditional college tests, the time slots of the GRE are difficult to meet students' needs. You only get a few minutes or seconds to solve each question. Like, for 30 minutes to write each essay, around 90 seconds to solve each verbal question, and an average of 140 seconds to attempt each Math question.

No matter how much time you have spent practicing for the GRE, you won’t be able to pass it if you don’t answer the questions within the deadlines.

Hence, don’t forget to consider the time constraints while preparing for the exam. Use a timer and check how many seconds you take to solve one question.

Further, identify the portions where you spend a lot of time. Like, are you spending an hour writing an essay? Or are you using 5 whole minutes to solve a simple Math problem?

Focus more on your weak parts. Work harder and practice as much as you can. Because only then you’ll be able to ace the GRE exam.

Lastly, leave the time-taking questions while solving the GRE if you’ve already wasted a lot of your precious seconds on it. This way, you’ll be able to manage time effectively and solve the rest of the questions that can help you score good marks.

3. Computerized Test Type

The Education Testing Services (ETS) introduced the computerized GRE test in the 1990s. No doubt, using technology for conducting and checking tests has simplified the process of taking tests.

However, for students who are used to highlighting points, solving math problems, and marking important questions on paper, this new technological test is frightening them.

Managing time has remained one of the common problems of GRE test-takers. You’ve got to attempt questions within a limited time frame and if you fail to do so, you’re probably going to lose marks.

This is why it is highly recommended to practice on computers before appearing for the GRE.

4. The Unique Format

The format of the test itself is the biggest element that makes the GRE one of the most difficult exams out there. The test is divided into four sections, i.e., analytical writing assessments, quantitative reasoning (QR), Verbal Reasoning (VR), and the Experimental Section.

The details of each section are depicted in the image below:

The Unique Format

Surprisingly, each section’s level of difficulty depends on the performance you show in the previous sections. The better you’ll perform in the first section, the harder will become in the upcoming sections.

The test-takers usually keep on wondering about the difficulty of the next sections, instead of solving the exam with the concentration it deserves. Hence, rising tension in their hearts and making it more difficult for them to correctly answer the questions.

5. The Two Essays

The very first portion you’re going to face on the day of the exam is the essay-section. This section has 2 parts each devoted to two separate essays, that are; the issue essay and the argument essay. You’ll get 30 minutes to write each essay.

The most common misconception test-takers believe is that, if the students finish the first essay in 15 minutes they’ll get extra 15 minutes for completing the next one. Unfortunately, that’s not the case!

These essays are scored on a scale of 0 to 6.0 with an increment of 0.5. Students scoring less than 54% won’t pass the test.

The Two Essays

The above discussion was devoted to the overall formatting and scores of the essay-section. But what about the writing format of the essays? How should you start writing them? What kinds of thesis statements are going to add more power to your essays? What’s the best method of ending the GRE essays?

All these questions deserve your full concentration. The tips listed below are going to help you write a heavy-hitting essay that won’t stop you from being admitted into your dream university. Here you go:

  • Follow the standard format: (1. Introduction 2. Thesis Statement 3. Body 4. Conclusion)
  • Add famous quotes, surprising facts, and amazing stats to your essays.
  • Use obscure vocabulary words and avoid making grammatical errors.
  • Provide evidence to support your arguments.
  • Avoid first-person narrative style and make impressive declarative statements.

6. Challenging Math Questions

One of the most challenging sections of the GRE is the Math portion. In order to pass this level, students must have a good knowledge of math, statistics, data tables, and graphs. If you’ve studied math in college, then passing this portion with a good score won’t be an issue for you.

To help you get an idea of the GRE math portion, here is an image:

As now you know what type of math questions you’ve got to solve on the exam day, let’s shed some light on the tips for passing the GRE math portion. Here you go;

  • Practice with the help of math ebooks and paperbacks.
  • Take free GRE math practice tests online.
  • Observe your performance and increase the practice time.
  • Join an academy or hire an online math teacher for proper instructions.

How to Get a Good Score on GRE?

This isn’t rocket science. You just have to focus on creating a master plan and stop believing in the myth that “studying overnights will help you pass GRE”. With that being said, here are our top tips for acing the GRE:

1. Start Preparing EARLY!

If you think that starting the prep earlier is not going to help you out, then think again! The syllabus of the GRE is huge. And to cover the entire syllabus in just one month or one week sounds like an impossible task.

You might get the overview of the topics in a short period but won’t get enough time to practice the questions.

Remember, practicing questions is the only key to passing the GRE. The more you’ll practice, the closer you’ll get to success! So, start your preparation months before the final exam day.

2. Draft a TimeTable

Without a proper plan, you are more likely to get stuck in between your preparation. You won’t know where you should start. Or, you might keep studying Math all time and won’t focus on the analytical questions or essays. As a result, you might fail the GRE just because of a lack of practice.

This is why you need to draft a proper plan. While scheduling your timetable, make sure you devote an equal amount of time to each subject. However, you can add extra-practice sections to your schedule for the subjects that need more of your time. Your timetable should look like this:

Draft a TimeTable

Once you’re done planning your schedule it's time to take action!

3. Take Practice Tests

Practice tests will offer you a clear overview of the GRE. Such mock tests will allow you to solve questions in perfect real-test-like scenarios.

These tests will let you know which topics you haven’t prepared yet, plus, help you focus on preparing those key points.

It’s a well-known fact that spending more time learning a topic allows your brain to retain the knowledge for a longer period. Since mock practice tests stimulate learning and increase the time spent on topics, they foster faster learning and enhance the knowledge retention rate.

4. Revise the Syllabus A Day Before the Exam

There is a huge difference between revising and preparing. Revising means going through the highlights of the syllabus without digging deeper into the details. On the other hand, preparing involves everything from mesmerizing the lessons to practicing.

The point is that revising the syllabus a day before the exam will activate all the knowledge stored in the back of your brain. This is an amazing way of rebooting your nervous system so you can perform well in your exams.

Related Post: Guide to Register For GRE

Final Words!

Going blind without a plan and trying to ace the GRE could be daunting. There are so many things you need to consider while preparing for the GRE.

While some challenges might occur during the preparation, the key to success is continuous practice.

By attempting mock tests, preparing time table, and dedicating more than half of your day to studies, you can easily score good marks on GRE and get admission into a top university.

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With over 3 years of experience in teaching, Chloe is very deeply connected with the topics that talk about the educational and general aspects of a student's life. Her writing has been very helpful for students to gain a better understanding of their academics and personal well-being. I’m also open to any suggestions that you might have! Please reach out to me at chloedaniel402 [at]