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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Students look to future with GRE

Many Cougars continuing education after their bachelor’s degree will take the Graduate Record Examination as part of the admissions process to American post-baccalaureate programs.

The GRE, administered by the Educational Testing Service, tests vocabulary, math and rhetoric skills.

ETS spokesman Mark McNutt cited studies that show students under age 23 tend to perform better on the GRE.

"The thought is that you’re still in school on a daily basis, so you’re doing and working on some of the skills that are measured in the GRE," McNutt said.

To prepare for the GRE, ETS members advise students to familiarize themselves with the test’s format by utilizing official GRE Powerprep software, which students may download for free after registering for the exam.

Psychology and biology senior Stephanie Dewhard and English alumnus Matt McKinney took two divergent approaches to preparing for the GRE.

"It is so competitive, and I really feel like I need to make a good, strong score," said Dewhard, who planned on taking the GRE to enter a doctoral neuroscience program.

Dewhard poured over vocabulary lists and refreshed her memory of high school math three times a week for six months prior to the date she planned on taking the GRE.

McKinney took a more relaxed approach to the GRE, which was part of his admissions process into a literature graduate program.

"You’re there early in the morning. You’ve prepared however much you have and you just go through it," he said.

McKinney did not bother studying vocabulary, but took a couple of hours to study math two days before his exam date.

"I do better retaining it a few days before," he said.

McKinney did, however, wear his lucky boxers to the exam site on the day of his test.

The three-hour exam begins with an analytical writing section. In this section, students write an essay arguing a particular stance on a popular issue, and then critically evaluate the logic of a sample argument put forth by the exam.

After the writing section, students bubble in the multiple-choice verbal portion of the GRE. Students may receive 200 to 800 points for this portion of the exam.

The 45-minute quantitative section of the exam tests the student’s grasp of geometry, algebra and data analysis. Like the verbal section, it is graded in 10-point increments from 200 to 800 points.

No formula sheet is provided, but McKinney said he aced it.

"I remembered a lot of it from high school," McKinney said.

ETS also tries out prospective exam questions in an additional experimental section on the exam. The experimental portion of the exam is indistinguishable from the actual exam; one exam may have an experimental verbal section in addition to the actual verbal test, or an experimental math section.

Student answers to the experimental questions are used to gauge the validity of new questions and are not recorded in their GRE score.

Students may check their verbal and quantitative results on-site, but their official score will be available 10 to 15 days after the exam.

McKinney, who was recently accepted into a graduate literary program, said he was satisfied.

However, disappointed students may cancel their results on-site or retake the exam up to five times per year.

ETS offers more information at

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