forth-year-high-school-student-checks-his-graduation-exam-results-online-625x544If you are a college student in your third or final year, you are probably considering, quite seriously, a post-graduation abroad. An admission prerequisite for all U.S. universities and most of the higher ranked universities in Canada and Europe is the GRE. Generally, scoring higher on the GRE equates to better chances of getting an admit into the universities you applied to.

The GRE, though, is unlike any test you’ve taken before. The test structure of the GRE makes taking the test a challenging and exhausting experience. For instance, the GRE is about 4 hours long (including breaks) and you always have to start with the essays, which take up an hour of your initial time. This sort of makes you lose your steam as you entire the more important aspects of the test: the Quant and Verbal sections.

Yet, it’s not all bad news: the GRE test structure is such that a test taker who knows how to utilize the “features” built into the test, will always be rewarded (with higher scores). Let’s, therefore look at what these features are and how these can help us score higher.

The GRE is a Multi-Stage Testing System

What this means is that Verbal and Quant sections adapt sectionally. Considering your Verbal Section I is of a MEDIUM difficulty level, if you respond to 80% of those questions right, you’ll see a HIGH difficulty Verbal Section II. If you answer only about 60% correct you’ll probably get a MEDIUM difficulty Verbal Section II. Doing badly on Verbal Section I will result in an EASY Verbal Section II.


How does any of this matter to you? Well, as a rule of thumb, the harder the difficulty of Section II assigned to you the higher your score is bound to be. In other words, messing up Section I of Quant or Verbal but doing really well on Section II will still result in a very mediocre score.

MEDIUM sections don’t have MEDIUM difficulty questions alone:

Though the first section is of a medium difficulty, it will contain questions that range from EASY to HARD. The averaged out difficulty of the section as a whole will be of MEDIUM difficulty. Each question within a particular section, irrespective of it’s difficulty level, will be valued the same by the testing system!

Take a look at this diagnosis report by ETS – notice the range of difficulty levels


Skip, Mark, Review, Change responses, and No Negative marking:

is it Christmas already?

Yep, you got that right, there is no negative marking for wrong responses.

Also, within a section, you can respond to the questions in whatever order you choose.
There are also ‘Mark’ and ‘Review’ buttons available on-screen throughout the test.

These features let you manage your time better. Considering how difficulty levels vary (but value of each question doesn’t) within a section – it’s a good idea to make sure you clear all the easy kills first. Don’t obsess about those hard, time consuming questions initially! Instead use the Mark button for those and come back to them once you’ve answered all the EASY and MEDIUM questions that you are bound to get right quickly.

This let’s you maximise your score by not getting sucked into time-wasters.

Putting it all together

On the GRE – Triage the test. Get the EASY and MEDIUM questions right as soon as possible and with the time left, answer the remaining difficult ones using strategic guesses. For the questions you have no clue about just guess!

Below is the test taking process of two similar ability students A and B. A is a perfectionist and wants to get EVERY question correct. B is more strategic in his approach and uses his time wisely. On a mock-MST like situation, B scores much better than A. While A might get a MEDIUM section II, B goes on to get a HARD section II. This makes a world of difference to the final score! B’s score was probably 30 – 40 percentile higher than A’s even though A and B were of similar ability!

Qno. Difficulty Student A Student B
1 E 1 minute 1 minute
2 M 2 minutes 2 minutes
3 H 5 minutes 1 Min Guess
4 E 1 minute 1 minute
5 M 2 minutes 2 minutes
6 H Guess 1 Min Guess
7 E 1 minute
8 M 2 minutes
9 H 1 Min Guess
Score 5 7

Green – Correct response

Red – Wrong response

Hope that gave you some insights into how the GRE works. We recommend that you get an authentic test day like experience by taking a full-length mock GRE before you start you preparation full-fledged. Come over to one of our learning centres located near you and avail a free full length diagnostic test, followed by a test analysis discussion with one of our experts.