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GRE® 2022 For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to www.dummies.com and search for “GRE 2022 For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

Introduction

Years ago, during an early gig as a consultant, I sat at a desk that had a For Dummies book on the shelf. The book was something office related, like SQL For Dummies. I took a sticky note and wrote the word Ron with a black marker, then placed the sticky note over the word Dummies on the side of the book, so now it read, SQL for Ron. It fit nicely.

Since starting my test-prep company, I’ve had students who would be my boss in the business world, and many have gone on to have amazingly successful careers. You, too, are in this group of future success stories. How do I know? Because you’re on your way to an advanced degree, which will open lots of doors, and you’re oh-so-close to getting started. You just need to get past this one hurdle called the GRE.

The GRE challenges your ability to conjure up everything you’ve forgotten since high school — stuff you haven’t touched in years. Really all you need is a refresher, some strategies, and practice. This book has all that and more: It goes beyond rehashing what you’ve learned (and forgotten) by providing exam-specific strategies and tips for answering questions quickly and getting through the exam. There are examples, practice questions, and practice exams to help you build your skills, identify areas you need to work on, and build your confidence for test day.

I know deep in my heart that with the right guidance and practice, anyone can do well on this exam. Right off the bat, I aim for 100 percent with each student. You’re a little rusty here, haven’t seen that there, could use a few tips, but you’ll pick it up and do just fine. Succeeding on the GRE is like handling any other task: If you know what to do, and you practice, you’ll be fine. I get you started with some review and guidance, and you take it from there.

About This Book

In GRE 2022 For Dummies, I pretend you forgot everything. I start you at the very beginning to cover all the basic math and verbal concepts, and because you have the capacity, I then challenge you with GRE-level questions. I also show you how to approach these questions, avoid common mistakes, and master the intuitive tricks that help you knock it out of the park.

To earn a top score on the GRE, you have three goals:

  1. Know what’s on the exam.

    Read through this whole book. No matter how well you know a topic, you can discover strategies and common traps, and the GRE has a way of asking a question that’s different from what you’re used to — or what you learned in the classroom. This book will prepare you for this.

  2. Strengthen your weak subject areas.

    Turn to specific sections for targeted information. This book is organized to make it easy to find strategies and practice for specific question types that you have trouble with.

  3. Prepare for the test-taking experience.

    You’ll need the online practice exams to get ready for the experience. ETS offers two excellent online practice exams, free, but you’ll need more than two. Packaged with this book, also free (after you buy the book), are six online practice exams: three in this book, and all six online. When your exam is around the corner, take one or two practice exams in real-life, dress-rehearsal settings. Flip to Part 6, The Part of Tens, for ten ways to get the most benefit from the online practice exams.

Basically, this book does it all: It prepares you for the exam by bringing your skills from the basic level to the GRE level. What else is there?

There’s vocab.

To help you with vocab, as you read through this book, you’ll notice that some words have a style all their own. Each GRE vocabulary word in this text appears in this font, followed directly by its meaning. A good way to learn GRE vocab is to encounter it in a question and see what it means along with how it’s used. When you get stuck on a vocab word, write it down. This is an effective complement to studying from a list or flash cards.

Icons Used in This Book

Although everything included in this book is valuable, some parts call for special attention. Look for these icons to quickly spot the most important information in each chapter.

Tip This icon shows a key strategy and point to remember for an individual question type or the GRE as a whole: These are essential to your success on the exam.

Remember This icon indicates overall knowledge about the exam that is useful when planning your attack on the exam, whether for managing your time or knowing what to expect.

Warning This icon marks a GRE trap or common student mistake so that you can spot it and dodge it on test day.

Play This icon indicates a practice question for you to try.

Beyond the Book

Besides all the ways this book can help you perform well on the GRE, there are even more online, including these:

  • Cheat Sheet: At www.dummies.com, type in “GRE 2022 For Dummies cheat sheet” in the search box and you’ll find the book’s cheat sheet, which gives you last-minute details that you’ll want to have at your fingertips, including a rundown of what to expect when you take the GRE, a list of what to bring versus what to leave at home on test day, tips for taking the computer-based exam, and more pointers for answering exam questions.
  • Over 400 GRE vocabulary flash cards: Stock your mental word bank and boost your verbal reasoning score by mastering the meanings of over 400 words that make frequent appearances on the GRE.
  • Six full-length practice exams: You’ll find the three from this book along with three more only online to help you build your competence and confidence. Focus on areas where you need practice and make sure you’re up to speed in other areas. You can select the level of difficulty and answer the questions through untimed and timed quizzes, so you can work at your own speed and then practice working under pressure.

To gain access to the online flash cards and practice questions, all you have to do is register. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Register your book or ebook at Dummies.com to get your PIN. Go towww.dummies.com/go/getaccess.
  2. Select your product from the dropdown list on that page.
  3. Follow the prompts to validate your product, and then check your email for a confirmation message that includes your PIN and instructions for logging in.

If you do not receive this email within two hours, please check your spam folder before contacting us through our Technical Support website at http://support.wiley.com or by phone at 877-762-2974.

Now you’re ready to go! You can come back to the practice material as often as you want — simply log on with the username and password you created during your initial login. No need to enter the access code a second time.

Your registration is good for one year from the day you activate your PIN.

Where to Go from Here

You can approach this book in three ways:

  • Read it from beginning to end. For most readers, I recommend this approach. Although prepping to take the GRE isn’t a linear process, I present topics from easy to challenging, so they build on each other as you progress through the chapters. I start by providing a feel for the test-taking experience so you know what to expect when that day rolls around. I continue by providing guidance for each section of the exam — verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and the writing of analytical essays. Practice exams follow, and I wrap things up with some Part of Tens chapters that will stick with you long after you’re done with this book.
  • Skip around. Each chapter is a stand-alone lesson on a specific GRE-related topic. If your study time is limited, skip around to focus on areas where you need the most guidance. For example, you can skip to Chapter 6 to hone your skills at answering Argument Analysis questions, or visit Chapter 11 to brush up on geometry. Another strategy is to take one of the sample tests to evaluate your skills and identify areas of weakness and then use that information to develop your plan of attack.
  • Use it as a reference book. Whenever you need information and advice on a specific GRE topic or skill, simply flip to the chapter or section that contains the information and guidance you need. GRE 2022 For Dummies offers a refresher course on the topics and skills you need to master the GRE.

As you work your way through the book, write up some flash cards to note key concepts and strategies to get the most out of your review. These cards will serve as a handy reference while you review your notes.

I’ve been helping GRE students beat the test for years, so not only do I know students’ common questions and mistakes, but I also know how to make the math and verbal questions easier for you to answer. This book distills my tricks and secrets, which I’m pleased to share with you. Your success, after all, is why we’re both here.

Part 1

Getting Started with the GRE

IN THIS PART …

Get the details about signing up for the GRE, what’s on the exam, and how your score is calculated.

Figure out how to plan and manage your study time ahead of test day, and get some pointers if you’re retaking the exam.

Know what you need to do to prepare for the exam (beyond studying) along with what to expect on test day.

Chapter 1

Knowing What to Expect with the GRE

IN THIS CHAPTER

check Fitting the GRE into your schedule

check Deconstructing the GRE to better understand what’s on it

check Grasping the scoring system

check Looking forward to intermissions

The best way to reduce your anxiety and bring up your performance on the GRE is to become familiar with it. Knowing what to expect gives you less to think about and fret over on test day so you can focus on what really matters — the test itself.

In this chapter, I share reasons to schedule your exam early, and I discuss the GRE’s structure and scoring system so you can build your strategies around them. With this guidance, you’re better equipped to avoid surprises that may throw you off your game.

Signing Up for the GRE

In most parts of the world, the GRE is a computer-based test, which makes it easier to administer to individual test-takers. Sign up early so you can choose the day, time, and place that work best for you. If you’re a morning person who’s sharpest at sunrise, you can schedule the test for early morning; if you’re a night owl who tends to sleep in, you can opt for late morning or early afternoon. Actual time-slot availability varies according to the testing center, but you have more days and times to choose from than you do with paper-and-pencil tests, such as the LSAT and SAT.

At the time of this writing, the world is slowly getting back on its feet after COVID-19, and everything is up in the air. The GRE became available to take at home, so this option may still be available when it’s your turn. If you do take it at home, you’ll be taking the computer version. If you take it at a testing center, you will also most likely be taking the computer version.

The paper and computer versions of the GRE are slightly different. For one thing, the paper version has 25 questions per section, with four sections, while the computer version has 20 questions with five sections. Don’t worry too much about the differences; your only option will most likely be to take the computer version, and either way your preparation is the same.

To sign up for the GRE, see the current GRE Information and Registration Bulletin (available through most college admissions offices), register online at www.ets.org, or register via phone by calling 800-473-2255. You can also check the GRE testing center locations and available time slots at www.ets.org.

Remember To help you get in the right mindset, take at least one practice test at the same time of day that you plan to take the real thing. (Check out the practice tests in Part 5 of this book and in the online access.) I’ve had students use this strategy to become accustomed to the effects that their circadian rhythms (hunger and nap patterns) have on their test-taking abilities. If you’re used to eating or relaxing at a certain time each day, make sure these tendencies don’t sneak up on you during the exam. As I discuss in greater detail throughout this book, one of your goals is to make the exam and testing experience as familiar as possible, so that you’re used to it and it’s almost no big deal. (See Chapter 3 for more on how to prepare for the GRE.)

Remember Because the computerized GRE is administered to individual test-takers, testing centers tend to have few seats, and those seats fill up quickly during peak admission deadline months (April and November). If you’re planning to take the GRE in a testing center (as opposed to at home, if that’s still available) around these months to get your test scores in on time, schedule your test early and secure your ideal time slot. You can always reschedule, but the last thing you need is an inconvenient time or location. Before at-home testing was available, I had a student wait until the last minute to schedule his exam, and he had to drive from Phoenix to Tucson (some 120 miles) to take his GRE and get his scores in on time. He called me during his drive, and we reviewed math formulas, but this wasn’t an ideal way to ramp up for the test. If at-home testing is still available, this may not be an issue, but at this time, I’m not sure where those chips will land.

Breaking Down the GRE into Bite-Sized Pieces

Standardized tests tend to bring on the chills. Telling someone you have to take the SAT, ACT, or GRE usually elicits the same facial expression as saying that you need to have your wisdom teeth pulled. However, breaking the GRE down into its component parts makes it more manageable and less threatening.

Table 1-1 provides a quick overview of what’s on the exam. The essays are always first, but the multiple-choice sections may be in any order.

TABLE 1-1 GRE Breakdown by Section (Computer-Based)

Section

Number of Questions

Time Allotted

Analyze an Issue

1 essay

30 minutes

Analyze an Argument

1 essay

30 minutes

Verbal Section

20 questions

30 minutes

Math (Quantitative) Section

20 questions

35 minutes

Verbal Section

20 questions

30 minutes

Math (Quantitative) Section

20 questions

35 minutes

Discreetly Unscored Math or Verbal Section (may be earlier in the exam)

20 questions

30 or 35 minutes

Remember At close to four hours, the GRE challenges your stamina as much as your ability to answer the questions. No matter how solid your math and verbal skills are, you must maintain the focus needed to do well for the whole time, which isn’t easy on a challenging task such as this. You can build your test-taking stamina by practicing in four-hour stretches and taking multiple timed practice tests.

The GRE includes one unscored Math or Verbal section in addition to the scored sections. So you actually have three Math or three Verbal sections, with one of those sections unscored. This unscored section neither helps nor hurts your score. The GRE may indicate that the section is unscored, but usually it doesn’t, so be sure to work all the sections to the best of your ability.

Tip The GRE allows you to skip questions and return to them later, as long as you’re still in the section. When you reach the end of a section, the GRE displays a review screen that indicates any unanswered questions. If you have time remaining in the section, return to these questions and answer them as well as you can. This feature is nice because you can knock out all the easy questions before spending time on the hard ones. (See Chapter 2 for tips on managing your time during the exam.)

So what types of questions are there and how many of these can you expect on the GRE? Check out Table 1-2 for the answers.

TABLE 1-2 GRE Breakdown by Question Type

Type of Question

Approximate Number of Questions

Per Math Section (20 questions each)

Multiple-choice with exactly one correct answer

6

Multiple-choice with one or more correct answers

2

Fill-in-the-blank with the correct answer

2

Data Interpretation (based on graphs)

3

Quantitative Comparisons

7

Per Verbal Section (20 questions each)

Text Completion

6

Sentence Equivalence

4

Argument Analysis

2

Reading Comprehension

8

Note that these question types are mixed throughout their sections, so you may encounter them in any order. Sometimes the software groups similar questions at the beginning or the end. For example, if you’re halfway through a Verbal section and haven’t seen a Text Completion question, you will.

Scoring Max: 340 Then 6

With the GRE, you receive three separate scores: Verbal, Math, and Analytical Writing. Although you drive home knowing your unofficial Verbal and Math scores (as explained in the following section), you must wait 10 to 15 days to get your Analytical Writing score. The following sections explain in depth some important scoring details you may want to know.

Understanding how the scoring breaks down

On the GRE, you can score a maximum of 340 points on the multiple-choice and 6 points on the essays. Here’s the scoring range for each of the three sections:

  • Verbal: The Verbal score ranges from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. You get 130 points if you answer just one question, which accounts for about 80 percent of a job well done. It doesn’t help much, though: You need to score as well as or better than most of the other people who took the test to improve your chances of being admitted to the school of your choice. Refer to the chapters in Part 2 for the lowdown on the Verbal sections.
  • Math: The Math score also ranges from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. Flip to Part 3 for more on the Math sections.
  • Analytical Writing: The Analytical Writing score ranges from 1 to 6, in half-point increments, with 6 being the highest. Each essay is graded separately, and your final score is the average of the two. Essays that are blank or off-topic receive a score of 0. You can discover more information about the essays in Part 4.

Remember On the multiple-choice questions, you earn points only for completely correct answers. If the question requires two or more answers, you have to get all the answers correct: no partial credit for a partially correct answer. However, you don’t lose points for wrong answers, so you may as well guess and return to the question later. See “Throwing a mental dart” later in this chapter for more on this.

Calculating your score

Within each section, each question counts exactly the same toward your score. An easy question is worth exactly the same as a hard question. Because you can move back and forth within each section, a good strategy is to skip around and answer all the easy questions first; then go back and work the hard questions. Quite simply, in each section, the more questions you get right, the higher your score for that section.

On the computer version of the exam, the second Math or Verbal section (not counting the unscored section) becomes easier or harder based on your performance. For example, if you do extremely well on the first Math section, the GRE makes the second Math section harder. Even if you don’t get as many right in the second Math section, your score will be higher than the score of someone who bombs the first Math section but answers more easier questions correctly in the second one, because GRE scoring accommodates for the difficulty level of the questions.

Warning The strategy of bombing the first Math and Verbal sections in order to answer more questions correctly on the respective second sections is not a good one. The exam doesn’t score you based solely on the number of correct answers: It scores you based on how smart it thinks you are. So if you do great on the first Math section, the exam thinks you’re smart and gives you harder questions to see just how smart you are. If you don’t answer all the questions correctly on the second Math section, that’s okay: It’s done its job of evaluating your skills, and it knows you’re smart from the first Math section.

When you complete a practice test from Part 5, you can easily estimate your Math and Verbal scores. For the Math score, count the math questions you answered correctly and then add 130 to that number. Because the GRE has 40 math questions (two sections with 20 questions each), this method gives you an approximate score from 130 to 170. You can find your Verbal score the exact same way, because the GRE also has 40 Verbal questions. Note this method doesn’t account for the changing difficulty of the second Math and Verbal sections, but it’s still an excellent way for you to practice and track your progress.

Confirming that your score is actually good

If you score close to 340, you know you did well. If you score near 260, you know you bombed. But wait — your score is right in between! Did you pass? Did you fail? What does it mean? Well, you can’t really tell much about your score out of context. What does 320 mean? It all goes by a percentile ranking. To download the complete percentile table, visit www.ets.org, click GRE Tests, and search for “percentile ranking.” As of this writing, here are some highlights:

  • A raw score of 165 is typically a 96th percentile ranking in the Verbal and an 85th percentile ranking in the Math.
  • A raw score of 160 is typically an 85th percentile ranking in the Verbal and a 72nd percentile ranking in the Math.

Basically, with a range of only 40 points per section among almost 600,000 GRE-takers per year, each point counts for a lot. How well you do is based on how well the other test-takers did. What you need to ask is the score needed for acceptance into your program, or even better, the score needed for a scholarship! Once you’re in your program (or you’ve landed your scholarship), your GRE score doesn’t matter.

Also, your exam score is only one part of the total application package. If you have a good GPA, a strong résumé, and relevant work experience, you may not need as high of a GRE score. On the other hand, a stellar GRE score can compensate for your weak areas.

Throwing a mental dart

The GRE doesn’t penalize for guessing, meaning you don’t lose points for wrong answers. If you’re not sure how to answer a question, throw a mental dart and take a guess:

  • Rule out as many obviously incorrect choices as possible, and guess from the remaining choices.
  • Write down the question number or mark it for review, so you can return to it before time runs out on that section.
  • Finish the section, even if you must throw lots of mental darts (in other words, take lots of guesses) near the end. Wrong answers count the same as not answering a question, so guessing on questions that you would otherwise have left blank can only help your score, not hurt it.

Seeing or canceling your scores

Immediately after finishing the GRE, you have the option of either seeing or canceling your Verbal and Math scores. Unfortunately, you don’t get to see your scores first. If you think you had a bad day, you can cancel, and your scores are neither reported to the schools nor shown to you. However, the schools are notified that you canceled your test. If you choose to see your score, you see it — minus the essay scores — right away.

Remember How much do the schools care about canceled scores? Probably not much, especially if a top GRE score (from when you retake the test 21 days later) follows the notice of cancellation. If you really want to know the impact of a canceled score, check with the admissions office of your target school. Each school weighs canceled scores differently. See Chapter 2 for more about what to do after canceling your GRE score.

Taking advantage of the ScoreSelect option

At the end of the test, you have the option of choosing which test scores to send to your target schools, assuming that you’ve taken the GRE more than once. You can send the most recent scores, scores from the past (within five years), or all your test scores. However, you can’t pick and choose sections from different testing dates. For example, if today’s Verbal score rocked but last fall’s Math score was outstanding, you can’t select only those sections — you have to select the scores from one entire test. Choose to send the scores from today’s test, last fall’s test, or all your tests.

Your GRE score is good for five years after your testing date, so if you use ScoreSelect, you’re limited to exams within the past five years.

Catching Your Mental Breath: The GRE Intermissions

The GRE provides an optional ten-minute break after the third section of the exam. However, don’t expect to have this entire time to yourself: Part of that time is for checking in and out while the proctors go through their security procedures to ensure that you’re not bringing in any materials to cheat with. The ten-minute intermission is timed by the computer, which resumes the test whether you’re seated or not. You probably have five minutes to do your business, which leaves little time to grab a bite if you’re hungry. Plan accordingly by bringing snacks and water to leave in your locker, so that during your actual five minutes, you can refresh yourself without having to scramble.

Remember Make sure your packed snacks are light and nutritious. Sugar brings you up for a few minutes and then takes you way down. Something heavy, like beef jerky, makes you drowsy. You don’t want to crash in the middle of a quadratic equation. Take a handful of peanuts, some trail mix, or something light that isn’t going to send all the blood from your brain down to your stomach for digestion.

Between other sections of the test, you get a one-minute break — just enough time to stand up and stretch a bit. You don’t have time to leave your seat and come back before the test resumes. If you absolutely, positively must use the restroom and leave the computer during the test, just remember that the clock keeps ticking.