The GRE, or graduate record examination, tests your verbal, mathematical and critical abilities as part of the graduate school admissions process. Most schools will require you to admit your GRE score as part of your application, similar to what you had to do when you took the SAT for college. Before you have any test-taking nightmares, read these questions and answers to discover what you need to do to prepare.

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Which GRE tests do I have to take?

Read the school’s requirements carefully. Do not assume that you have to take the GRE at all. Then again, other programs may require the GRE and a subject exam in your specific field. Subject exam fields include Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. Even if you are applying to a program that corresponds with a subject exam, the program may not require it check site.

What does the GRE involve?

The GRE is similar to the SAT, with a verbal portion and a math portion. You will also need to write two essays that show your analytical abilities. The writing section always comes first, followed by the other section. You will also have to take an “unscored” section that includes questions being tested for later exams. The subject tests will test what you have learned so far in a subject to see how well prepared you are for a graduate program in that field.

How can I prepare?

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, provides sample questions, strategies and one full-length test at its Web site, along with sample subject tests. If you do take these sample tests, try to take them in conditions as close to the actual test conditions as possible, and time yourself exactly how you would be timed during the real test. This way, you are less likely to panic if you find yourself running low on time on the actual test day.

Several companies offer GRE prep courses, but, before you invest in those, you may want to see how you do on the ETS sample test or pick up a test prep book from a bookstore. These books include several practice tests. An alternative to GRE prep courses is GRE tutoring, which can help you if you prefer one-on-one guidance or would like to focus on a specific area of the test.

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