Everything You Need to Know About the GRE
The building looked like any other corporate office building in America. As I pulled into the parking lot, my eyes scanned the area and I prayed I was at the right place. The innocuous sign on the door said “Prometric Learning Center, Suite 100,” as though it were any other suite in any building in corporate America. I parked my car, took a deep breath to prepare myself, and walked inside. A sign informed me that everything on the premises was video monitored and that by stepping inside I was giving my consent to appear on the footage.
Stepping inside, I couldn’t tell whether I was in a doctor’s waiting room or the locker area of a gym. To the right were chairs arranged in a tight circle, magazines scattered about the area; on the opposing wall there stood a row of rusted lockers.
A sign directed me to the front desk where a young man asked for my ID, and upon being certain that I was who I claimed to be, offered me a clipboard. I signed the honor code, promising that I would not use any forbidden study materials or divulge the contents of any question on the test. The specific rules for the GRE and testing in the center were stated on a piece of paper behind the one I’d signed, reminding me that nothing was allowed into the testing room with me, that study materials could not be used at any time after the test began, and that during my 10 minute break (if I wished to take said break) I could not leave the facility.
I returned my clipboard to the desk and was handed my driver’s license, which I was ordered to keep with me at all times. My bag was stowed away in one of the beaten-down lockers and I was led to the back where another man took my photograph, as evidently there needed to be further visual proof that I was the person taking the test, and then was told to sign in. With a stack of scratch paper in hand and a few number two pencils, I was led to a cubicle in one of the many testing rooms. There were audiophones available for anyone who found the sounds of keys clacking and computer fans blowing far too distracting.
With a whispered “good luck,” my new found friend returned to his cubicle to photograph the next unsuspecting test taker and to keep track of the various monitors that made his station look more like security than a place for people to sign-in and sign-out. The screen asked me to verify whether I was in fact the person who I claimed to be, then showed me a blurry photograph – the one that had been taken moments before – which looked more like a mugshot than one suitable for a testing agency.
Following this screen, I was given several tutorials, the first of which I took mainly to allow more time to calm down before the actual testing began. It also provided me with a moment of hilarity as the first tutorial was on how to use a computer mouse. I personally believe it provided me with more confidence, as after demonstrating that I could in fact left-click on a particular portion of the screen the computer offered me lavish praise.
The next tutorial taught me how to cut and paste, which again left me feeling above the bar. The only tutorial that taught me anything I hadn’t already known was the last one, which explained the different buttons that were used on the exam such as the “time” button, which would either hide or unhide the allotted time left; the “next” button that you clicked once you’d answered a question; and the “confirm answer” button if you were confident in your answer.
Finally, I was into the exam. Four hours later, I completed the last question and received my scores.
I share this story because, for anyone going into their senior year of college, graduate school is becoming a consideration. Personally I went through a lot of choices during the past year, debating between law school or another graduate program, before finally settling on psychology as my field of study.
There are many different exams required for graduate school, although the GRE is the most common. There is the online exam, which is the common GRE format, but then there are also subject tests for Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and, my personal favorite subject, Psychology. Unlike the basic GRE exam, which is made up of Verbal, Quantitative and Analytic Writing sections, subject test are three hour examinations only on the one particular subject.
In order to prepare for the GRE, there are many classes available to students who might struggle in recalling exactly what they were taught in high school math classes or need other assistance. I know I didn’t recall how to calculate the area of a circle the first time I took a GRE practice test (it’s our friend pi times the radius squared, for those who might be curious), so these prep courses were especially helpful.
The two major test preparation organizations for GRE and other examinations are The Princeton Review and Kaplan. Other such wonderful materials can be found with The GRE For Dummies and other study materials available from Kaplan and the Princeton Review which you can purchase without actually enrolling in any of their classes.
And, of course, when you officially register for the GRE, ETS is always happy to send you preparation materials!
With graduate school application deadlines approaching over the next several months, there is still plenty of time to take the GRE. The online exam is offered nearly every day at times that are convenient for anyone and everyone. If you are looking for a graduate program that requires a subject test, now is the time to find out and register as the latest most institutions allow you to take the test is November.
Now that I have my computer exam out of the way, it is time to start preparing for my subject test. Grad school, here I come.