GRE Exam Pattern & Syllabus – How To Prepare For GRE 2020

Do you know the GRE 2020 exam patten, syllabus and marking scheme? Along with all this, we tell you how to prepare for GRE and when to start preparing for it.

By Arun Sharma

GRE Exam Pattern & Syllabus – How To Prepare For GRE 2020

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is written by more than 1 lakh graduate Indian students every year. The score obtained in the GRE determines if a student would get admission in the university of his choice to pursue postgraduate education in the USA and if his education would be funded by the institution. So, this exam plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s future.  

What is GRE and why take the GRE?

The GRE is conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is a gateway to study in foreign universities and business schools. In fact, passing the exam is mandatory to get admission in Masters or PhD courses in the USA.

GRE scores are also given weightage in several other countries like Canada, UK and Australia, and countries in Latin America and in the Middle East.

While there is no age limit or minimum qualifying marks for writing the GRE, the candidate should meet the qualifying criteria of the college or university he is seeking admission into. This information is available on the website of the institution.

Some of the top US universities where a good GRE score helps in getting admission are:

  • Harvard University
  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Yale
  • Princeton

If you wish to study in a top foreign university, then read on to know everything about how to prepare for GRE. If you are a parent whose child dreams of studying in a foreign university, then you should also read this article.

When should I start preparing for GRE?

For the answer to the question, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • When do I intend to enrol in a foreign university?
  • How well prepared am I?

In the USA, the academic calendar usually begins in the fall (August/September) and ends in May.

So, you should take the GRE at least 9 to 12 months before the beginning of the session. This will give you ample time to select the college you want to take admission in and apply early.

You can appear in the GRE five times in a year. However, there should be a gap of 21 days between two attempts.

The least it takes is 2 to 3 hours of study every day for 3 to 4 months to prepare for GRE.

However, you should take mock tests on the Internet to find out how much of the GRE syllabus you really know. Your mock test scores will give you a fair idea of when to start preparing for GRE.

What is the syllabus of GRE?

There are two GRE formats:

  1. GRE General Test
  2. GRE Subject Test

The syllabus for both the formats are different. So, the test format you choose will dictate how you should prepare for GRE.

1. GRE General Test syllabus 2020

If you opt to appear in the GRE General Test, your ability will be tested in the following three areas:

  • Analytical writing
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Quantitative reasoning

GRE analytical writing syllabus

The objective of this test is to analyse your writing skills, critical thinking ability and the ability to clearly present ideas. The GRE analytical writing section includes two tasks:

  • Analyse an issue: Here, you are given a topic/issue and asked to analyse it and express your opinion.
  • Analyse an argument: In this task, you would be asked to analyse an argument, write about its flaws and strengths. The objective is to test your analytical ability.

GRE verbal reasoning syllabus

The GRE verbal reasoning syllabus consists of the following three sections:

  • Reading comprehension: In this section, questions are asked based on passages given from different branches of Science, Humanities, Business and Current affairs. You must understand the essence of the passages, the meaning of words, the important points, the stand taken by the author, for only then you can come up with the correct answers to the questions.
  • Text completion: Here, the questions are designed to evaluate your reasoning skills. A sentence of a short passage of five sentences is given with 1 to 3 blanks. A choice of words is given from which you will have to choose the appropriate word to fill in the blank(s) and make a meaningful and complete sentence.
  • Sentence equivalence: This section consists of a sentence with one blank. From a set of six words, you will have to choose two words. When any of the two words are used to fill the blank, the sentence should be complete, coherent and produce the same meaning.

GRE quant syllabus

This section is designed to test your knowledge of elementary level arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data interpretation. The GRE quant syllabus includes:

  • Arithmetic: The topics include the number system, time and work, ratio and proportion, profit and loss, percentage, average, simple and compound interest, factorisation, divisibility, prime numbers, and speed, distance and time.
  • Algebra: This section includes questions that test your knowledge of basic equations, quadratic equations, factorisation and simplification of algebraic expressions, expanding expressions, coordinate geometry, functions, equations and inequalities.
  • Geometry: In this section, you will have to solve problems related to solid geometry, triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, circles, lines and angles, three-dimensional figures, proofs and Pythagorean theorem.
  • Data analysis: This contains a mix of questions on interpretation of data, permutation and combination, Venn diagram, probability, statistics, distribution of data, random variables, standard deviation, interquartile range, mean, median and mode.

2. GRE Subject Test syllabus

The GRE Subject Test is designed to measure your knowledge of the subject in which you have earned a major. You can take this test if you have majored in any of these six subjects:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics

GRE Biology syllabus

1. Cellular and molecular biology

  • Cellular structure and function
  • Genetics and molecular biology

2. Organismal biology

  • Animal structure, function and organization
  • Animal reproduction and development
  • Plant structure, function, and organization, with emphasis on flowering plants
  • Plant reproduction, growth, and development, with emphasis on flowering plants
  • Diversity of life

3. Ecology and evolution

  • Ecology
  • Evolution

GRE Chemistry syllabus

  • Organic chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Analytical chemistry

GRE Physics syllabus

  • Electromagnetism
  • Classical mechanics
  • Quantum mechanics
  • Atomic physics
  • Special relativity
  • Laboratory methods
  • Specialised topics
  • Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics
  • Optics and wave phenomena

GRE Psychology syllabus

Questions asked in the GRE psychology test fall under the following three broad categories:

  • General psychology
  • Experimental and natural science
  • Social science

GRE English syllabus

  • Literary analysis
  • Identification
  • Cultural and historical contexts
  • History and theory of literary criticism

GRE Maths syllabus

  • Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Additional topics — Set theory, graph theory, algorithms, continuity, sequence and series of numbers and functions, geometry, complex variables, statistics and probability.

GRE 2020 paper pattern and marking scheme

GRE is available in both computer-based (online) and paper-based formats. The paper-based test is administered in places where it is not possible to take GRE on a computer.

GRE General Test pattern

Computer-based format — test duration 3 hours 45 minutes

  • Analytical writing: Consists of 1 section with 2 tasks to be completed in 60 minutes (30 minutes for each task). The score range is 0 to 6, in half point increments. The mean score is 4.
  • Verbal reasoning: Consists of 2 sections with 20 questions per section. All the questions must be answered in 60 minutes (30 minutes for each section). The score range is 130 to 170, with an increment of 1 point. There is no negative marking for wrong answers.
  • Quantitative reasoning: Consists of 2 sections with 20 questions per section. All the questions must be answered in 70 minutes (35 minutes for each section). The score range is 130 to 170, with increment of 1 point. There is no negative marking for wrong answers.

Paper-based format — test duration 3 hours 30 minutes

  • Analytical writing: Consists of 2 sections with 1 task in each. Both tasks should be completed in 60 minutes (30 minutes for each section/task). The score range is 0 to 6, in half point increments. The mean score is 4.
  • Verbal reasoning: Consists of 2 sections with 25 questions per section. All the 50 questions must be answered in 70 minutes (35 minutes for each section). The score range is 130 to 170, with an increment of 1 point. There is no negative marking for wrong answers.
  • Quantitative reasoning: Consists of 2 sections with 25 questions per section. All the questions must be answered in 80 minutes (40 minutes for each section). The score range is 130 to 170, with an increment of 1 point. There is no negative marking for wrong answers.

GRE Subject Test pattern

  • This test is held three times a year in the months of April, September and October.
  • The GRE Subject Test is a paper-based exam.
  • The exam duration is 2 hours and 50 minutes.
  • All the questions are of multiple-choice type.
  • The number of questions differ for each subject — 190 for Biology, 130 for Chemistry, 230 for Literature in English, 66 for Mathematics, 100 for Physics, and 205 for Psychology.
  • Your raw score depends on the number of correct answers. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers or questions left unanswered. The raw score is changed to a scaled score through a process called equating. This score ranges between 200 and 990, in 10 point increments.  

How to prepare for GRE exam 2020

How to prepare for GRE Analytical writing

In the analytical writing test, there is no right or wrong answer. What matters is your knowledge of the English language and your ability to construct a logical and coherent argument. So, to do well in this paper:

  • Practise writing at least 500 to 600-word long essays on sample topics.
  • Try to complete the task within the prescribed time limit of 30 minutes.
  • Before beginning to write, find out the assumptions being made in the issue/argument and the logical inadequacies.
  • Ensure that your essay reflects (1) Correct grammar (2) Subject-verb agreement (3) Clarity of thought (4) Structure and (5) Logically sound reasoning.
  • Avoid writing in first person, for example, “It is my opinion”, “I think” and so on.
  • Write using declarative sentences.
  • Bring in a concession point towards the end of your essay to make it look balanced.
  • Read articles/books on Education, Science and technology, Arts, Government and politics, and Philosophy.

How to prepare for GRE Verbal reasoning

To prepare well for Reading comprehension, Text completion and Sentence equivalence:

  • Read op-eds from reputed national and international newspapers — at least a couple of articles daily.
  • There are several apps available to help you practise Reading comprehension. Get a good one for yourself.
  • While reading, think critically about the author’s opinion. This will help with verbal reasoning also.
  • If you come across new words, check their meaning and usage in the dictionary. Try to memorise such words. This will help with both Text completion and Sentence equivalence.
  • When practising text completion, read the sentence carefully to understand its meaning. This will help you choose the appropriate word to fill the blank.
  • When practising for Sentence equivalence, try to identify two words which are synonyms or have a similar meaning. However, before using them, eliminate the possibility of any other word being the best fit.
  • In both Text completion and Sentence equivalence, try to simplify your choice. One method is to read the sentence and understand if a word with a negative or a positive meaning would be the best choice.
  • Take as many mock tests as possible. This will help with preparation and teach you how to wrap up the test within time.
  • Get a good book to practise like GRE Reading Comprehension & Essays (Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides) or Kaplan’s GRE Premier.

How to prepare for GRE Quantitative reasoning

  • Analyse the syllabus and find out your strong and weak areas.
  • Practise elementary maths books to refresh your knowledge of basic concepts.
  • Go through as many mock tests as possible.
  • Try to solve the problems by applying logic instead of guessing the answer.
  • Practise with the help of good books like Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions & Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions or Manhattan GRE Math and Verbal Strategies Set.
  • Watch videos on how to approach quantitative reasoning.
  • Try to simplify the problem to get a better understanding of the problem.
  • In multiple-choice questions, eliminate all those numbers.

How to prepare for GRE Subject Test

  • Go over undergraduate books to refresh your knowledge of elementary concepts.
  • Learn the formulas and equations in maths, physics and chemistry and how to apply them to solve problems.
  • Use flash cards to learn terminology, formulas and concepts.
  • Take official practice tests to find out how much you know,to  learn to manage your time, and to get an idea of the test paper pattern.
  • If you opt for:
    • GRE Math: Pay attention to Calc 1-3, Differential equations and Linear algebra.
    • GRE Biology: Revise well molecular biology, plant and animal biology, lab techniques, ecology and immunobiology.
    • GRE Physics: In addition to topics mentioned in GRE Physics syllabus, also study nuclear and particle physics, astrophysics and condensed matter physics and mathematical methods.
    • GRE Chemistry: Along with preparing for the regular topics, also read about resonance, polymers, aromaticity, molecular orbital theory, organometallic and bioinorganic chemistry, calibration of instruments, spectroscopic and chromatographic methods.
    • GRE Psychology: Prepare topics such as physiological/behavioural neuroscience, learning and language, perception and cognition, intelligence, memory, personality and behaviour, psychometrics, ethics and legal issues, and general psychology.
    • GRE Literature in English: Questions are based on drama and poetry, literary theory and history of the language. So, reading the literature from the USA and UK, including the Bible, characteristics of literary or critical movements helps.

How long is GRE score valid?

The GRE testing year begins on July 1 of every year and your GRE score validity would extend for a period of 5 years from the date of taking the test.

So, if you have taken the test on 5 July 2020, it will remain valid until 4 July 2025. Once the GRE score validity expires, ETS deletes it from the system and it can no longer be accessed.

What should I do the week before GRE?

The week before GRE is the time to give the final touch to your preparation. And, how will you do that?

You should:

  • Revise what you have learnt.
  • Re-work on your weak areas.
  • Indulge in power reading.
  • Work on your exam-writing strategy.
  • Take mock tests and fill the gaps in your knowledge.

What should I do after the GRE exam?

Once you have appeared in the GRE, here is what you should do for getting admission in the college or university of your choice:

  • Write an English proficiency test like IELTS or TOEFL.
  • Shortlist the college or university based on factors like your budget, course and so on.
  • Get your academic records/certificates from the institution you have studied.
  • Get a bank statement to prove that you are financially sound.
  • Get letter of recommendations, if required, from your professors or colleagues (if you are a professional).
  • Write a statement of purpose, describing your goals, interests and the reasons behind seeking admission in the college/university. This is a very important document.

Cracking the GRE takes you a step closer to realising your dream of studying in the foreign university of your choice. So, follow our tips, prepare well and give your best.

Also readHow To Prepare For GMAT Exam

About the author:

Written by Arun Sharma on 29 March 2020.

The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.

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