GRE For Dummies guides readers through every area of the Graduate Record Exam—verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

Using clear, straightforward advice, practice tests, and other helpful study aids, the book helps readers learn what’s necessary and useful for scoring high on the Graduate Record Exam

The less-than-desirable job market has led many job seekers—young and old—to head back to school and increase their employment curb appeal with a graduate degree.

If you’re on the path to grad school, here is some advice that will help you boost your applications by making an impressive grade on the dreaded Graduate Record Exam.

Graduate Record Exam“Knowledge, skills, and preparation are the three components for scoring well on any test, and the Graduate Record Exam is no different,” says Woldoff, author along with Joe Kraynak of GRE For Dummies®, Premier 7th Edition with CD.  

“One of the easiest ways to reduce any test anxiety and optimize your performance on the Graduate Record Exam is to become familiar with it. Knowing what to expect gives you less to think about and fret over come test day, so you can focus on what really matters—the test itself.”

Key facts about the Graduate Record Exam:

  • You may return to previous questions in the same section. 

The Graduate Record Exam allows you to return to previous questions in any given section as long as you haven’t moved on to the next section, which wasn’t true with earlier versions of the Graduate Record Exam.

One effective strategy is to plow through a section from beginning to end, answering all the easy questions first, and then go back through and tackle the difficult questions at the end.

“You can flag questions for review by clicking the Mark for Review button at the top of the screen,” notes Woldoff. “You can also visit a review screen at any time during the section by clicking the Review button (also at the top of the screen).

At a glance, the review screen shows you which questions are unanswered and which are marked for review. From there, you can jump directly to any question.

Practice navigating through the questions and review screen with the Powerprep software provided by ETS at and with the practice tests included with the Premier edition of GRE For Dummies so that you’re familiar with this feature on test day.”

  • The Graduate Record Exam doesn’t penalize for guessing. 

To discourage examinees from making wild guesses, some standardized tests deduct points for wrong answers. The Graduate Record Exam doesn’t do this.

Questions answered incorrectly count exactly the same as questions left unanswered, so you’re better off guessing than skipping.

  • The Graduate Record Exam uses a percentile-based scoring system. 

The Graduate Record Exam is a competitive test. Immediately after you complete the test, you receive an estimated percentile ranking based on the test takers’ scores from the previous year.

“The number of Graduate Record Exam test takers worldwide increases each year,” notes Woldoff. “More test takers mean more graduate-school applicants, which make admissions more competitive.

This means that scoring as well as you can on the Graduate Record Exam is more important than ever.

Find out what the acceptable Graduate Record Exam score range is for admissions and scholarships at the schools you’re applying to and ask whether that range is expected to change.”

  • Practice makes all the difference. 

Although you may not be able to dress-rehearse the entire test-taking experience, practicing the test makes the actual test-taking experience feel more familiar and reduces the element of surprise.

Take advantage of practice tests. Familiarize yourself with the practice software ETS provides. It has the exact feel of the actual Graduate Record Exam, so make it something you know well. Write the practice essays as well to make the entire experience as familiar as a day at the office.

  • You must study for the Graduate Record Exam. 

Though stories of unprepared folks scoring dramatically high are out there, incidents of unprepared folks bombing and having to retake the Graduate Record Exam are far more common.

“I’d put my money on the average Joe or Josephine who’s well prepared over a budding Einstein going in cold—every time,” says Woldoff. “So be prepared!”

  • The Graduate Record Exam is different from the SAT. 

You’re not the same person you were in high school. You’ve matured, acquired better study habits, and suddenly come to the shocking realization that you’re in charge of your own destiny.

Maybe you didn’t study much for the SAT, figuring that you could always get into some college, somewhere, regardless of your score. You were probably right.

But getting into graduate school isn’t as easy, and the Graduate Record Exam is much more difficult than the SAT.

  • The Graduate Record Exam also measures your stamina and performance under pressure. 

The Graduate Record Exam measures a number of things besides your math and verbal aptitude. It measures your ability to prepare, your stamina, and your performance under pressure.

“Many people are quite capable of solving math problems with all the time in the world, but only those who have honed their skills through practice can come up with the right answers when the timer is ticking,” notes Woldoff.

“The good news: You can build or strengthen all the skills that the Graduate Record Exam measures.”

  • Other than the math, the general Graduate Record Exam is subject neutral. 

You’re a high school and college graduate. Everything on the Graduate Record Exam is stuff you’ve seen before. “In other words, the material is subject neutral (not requiring specialized knowledge),” says Woldoff.

“The Graduate Record Exam is required for entrance into graduate programs ranging from construction management to physician assistant to master of social work. Regardless of your background, current major, or area of study, you can ace the Graduate Record Exam.”

  • You can practice the Graduate Record Exam on your own computer. 

The only way to experience the real Graduate Record Exam is to take it. However, you can simulate the test-taking experience on your own computer and get as close to a real-life experience as possible.

After you’ve studied and acquainted yourself with the different question types, practice on your own computer. GRE For Dummies, Premier 7th Edition comes with an accompanying CD that includes two practice tests.

Or you can download the practice software provided by ETS. Go to, click the link that takes you to the Revised General Test, scroll down to find and download the Powerprep software, install it on your computer, and then take one of the sample tests.

“No matter what source you use, take sample tests to get comfortable with the format,” advises Woldoff. “Set aside a good chunk of time. Then take one of the tests to make the test-taking experience as familiar and comfortable as possible.

If you live alone or have a room in your house or apartment insulated from the usual hustle and bustle, that’s perfect. Otherwise, consider taking the test in a library or other quiet place.”

  • You can’t bring anything into the testing center. 

Woldoff writes that he once saw a photo of a confiscated plastic water bottle with math formulas printed on the inside of the label. Though you may not go to such lengths, the testing center staff wants to ensure zero opportunities for cheating on the Graduate Record Exam.

“Because of this, you can’t take anything in with you—not even a wristwatch,” says Woldoff. “You can store food and water in a locker, but be prepared to empty your pockets and be fingerprinted upon entering the actual testing area.

Don’t store any Graduate Record Exam books in the locker. If the proctors suspect you of checking the books during your breaks, you may not be allowed to finish the test.”

“Whether you’ve been in the working world for a few years and are now heading back to school or whether you’ve just graduated from college, remember this: The Graduate Record Exam is difficult for everyone who takes it,” says Woldoff.

“You’re not alone in thinking it presents a huge challenge. But you can reduce that challenge by being well prepared.

 “Remember, too, that most test takers do not get perfect scores, and you’re not expected to either,” he concludes. “Do the best you can, score in the high percentiles, and get accepted to graduate school! No one expects a perfect score, so you shouldn’t either. Start preparing and good luck!”

Ron Woldoff is the founder of National Test Prep, where he helps students prepare for the GMAT, GRE, and SAT. He also teaches at Northern Arizona University and the American Graduate School of International Management.

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