EVERYTHING THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GRE/TOEFL/IELTS- A precise guide for the beginners

Have dreams to make it big one day by getting the best education in the world but don’t know where to start from? Here is a precise guide for you to take the very first step i.e educating yourself with the right information about the two most crucial tests to study abroad GRE/TOEFL.

What is GRE?

GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. GRE is a standardized test that is one of the admission requirements for most graduate schools (Master and Ph.D.) in the United States and other developed countries are known for their quality education. GRE is conducted by ETS, which is a non-profit US-based organization. It is conducted in two modes: online and paper-based depending on the country. Online mode is the common mode in India, US, Canada and most of the countries.

What does GRE evaluate?

GRE tests are categorized as GRE General Test and GRE subject test.

GRE General Test: The GRE revised General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school.

  • Verbal Reasoning: Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Measures problem- solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
  • Analytical Writing: Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.

GRE Subject Test: Prospective graduate school applicants take the Subject Tests. Applicants come from varying educational and cultural backgrounds and the GRE Subject Tests provide a common measure for comparing candidates’ qualifications. Each Subject Test is intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in one of these seven disciplines:

·        Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology

·        Biology

·        Chemistry

·        Literature in English

·        Mathematics

·        Physics

·        Psychology

NOTE -The GRE Computer Science Test was discontinued following the April 2013 administration. Scores will continue to be reportable for five years.

Is GRE mandatory to apply for Grad Schools abroad?

Most of the Grad Schools in the US consider GRE as an important criterion to extrapolate the analytical, research and management skills of a student. In almost all US based institutes, GRE General test is a pre-requisite for graduate admission. There are few institutes in the US which allow graduate admission even without GRE but in my advice, they are not the good ones. One more disadvantage of studying in such schools is that changing your University (in the case of lack of funding in the middle of your studies, clashes with Professor/University or for reason unknown) can be almost impossible. This in some cases can cost going back to your home country.

It should be noted that GRE test is not mandatory if you are considering applying to Europe, and Australia obviously with few exceptions. However, many European Universities do give preference to candidates with Subject GRE, GATE or CSIR (the last two particularly for Indian candidates).

When can I take the GRE test?

You can take the computer-delivered GRE revised General Test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days). This applies even if you canceled your scores on a test that you took previously. You may take the paper-delivered GRE revised General Test as often as it is offered. When selecting a test date, make sure your scores will be reported in time for your application deadlines. For computer-delivered tests, scores reports are sent to your designated score recipients approximately 10–15 days after your test date. Please allow time for delivery of scores and processing by the institution.

Is GRE the major deciding factor in the evaluation/admission process?

In one word, NO!! There are other important criteria such as CGPA/GPA, publications, work experience(s), projects, the reputation of your past university, recommendation letters (LOR) and Statement of purpose (SOP)/motivation letter/letter of intent etc. However, good GRE score (318-340) does play an important role in the evaluation process and it can also help you compensate for a lower CGPA or lack of work experience. Similarly a good GPA (3.5+/4 or 8+/10) and work experience, publications and projects can compensate for a low or average GRE score (295- 310).

What is considered a good GRE score?

This varies depending on the University, Department, and Institute and destination country. This should be understood that GRE is just one of the several proofs of your candidacy as a potential graduate student and depending on your field, grad level (Master vs Ph.D.) and University; its weight in the evaluation process will vary. In most cases, a score above 310 (on a scale of 340) is considered decent for good Universities. Ivy league institutes mostly have higher GRE demands (with few exceptions) it can be as high as 330-340.

Sometimes, many good Universities like Iowa State University, Ohio State University, University of Georgia, John Hopkins, Cold Spring Harbor Lab, University of Texas, University of North Carolina (Greensboro) do not have a very high GRE score (varies from 300-320) demands and look for overall profile.

From my experience, I have also noticed that GRE score requirements are little higher (by 3-10 points) for M.S as compared to Ph.D. This is mainly because Ph.D. admission relies more on research skills, publications and personal qualities of a prospective student. It should also be noted that few Universities also accept GRE for MBA admission.

Most of the Universities often conduct online skype interviews (mainly for research-based Master and Ph.D. students. Sometimes, this can be followed by an interview by a Professor who would want to hire you.

Do you recommend some good books for GRE?

The books that helped me the most are: Official GRE guide by ETS, Kaplan, Princeton, Magoosh.

What else can I do to boost my GRE preparation?

Download the free app on verbal and quantitative analysis on your smartphone and go through it over and over again. Devote a great deal of time to it as much as you do surfing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I personally used Magoosh app and it was a great help. Eat, drink, think and sleep GRE. If you are not crazy about your passion than you don’t deserve to achieve success. Period!!

Can I choose not to give IELTS/TOEFL exams if I have a GRE score?

Well, this depends on the country you are applying to. IELTS/TOEFL are exams taken by non-native English speakers to prove their proficiency in English. While GRE does evaluate vocabulary and writing skills, it does not compensate for IELTS/TOEFL as the later also evaluate listening, speaking and reading skills. All US based Universities demand GRE + IELTS or GRE+TOEFL scores from international students. For the UK, Australia and Canada based Universities IELTS or TOEFL alone (without GRE) does the job. For most of the European Universities (except the UK), an Indian candidate need not provide an IELTS/TOEFL score given that he/she can prove that he did his schooling and higher education in English medium. This means that you can apply to European Universities (well most of them) without GRE or IELTS/TOEFL.

NOTE/DISCLAIMER: These are the personal views of the writer (Jitendra Pant) on GRE based admission process.

About the author

Jitendra Pant is a Research Assistant and Ph.D. Scholar in the Department of Engineering at the University of Georgia, US (Connect here on LinkedIn). He has published 8 papers in highly reputed international peer reviewed journals (Click to see his research on Google Scholars).  He is a motivator and believes in the power of words+ actions (join FB group here Career Counselling and Higher Education). He is a BITS alumnus and Ex-Scientist in Research and Development (R&D) Department at Biocon Research Ltd, Bangalore. His motivational novel “A fool who ate his hunger” is getting released soon worldwide.  He is also an amateur singer  and have been a second runner up in Idea rocks India (click here to watch and subscribe Youtube Channel

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