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Introduction to GRE sections

Patterns and Introduction to GRE sections

What is GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test that is a prerequisite for gaining admission at majority of graduate schools in the United States.  It is created as well as administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). GRE aims to assess verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills of students. Students who wish to pursue a master’s degree or want to study a specialized master’s course; MBA, MEM, MS or a doctoral degree can give the GRE Test.

Eligibility Criteria:

There is no specific eligibility criterion for taking the GRE Test. Students can apply for the test irrespective of age and qualification. However, the candidate has to fulfil the admission criteria for individual institutes where he/she is applying.

GRE Structure and Pattern:

The computer-based GRE revised General Test consists of five sections. The first section is the analytical writing section which consists of Issue and Argument tasks. The other five sections have two verbal reasoning sections, two quantitative reasoning sections, and either an experimental or research section.  However, these five sections can occur in any order.

The GRE revised General Test is a multistage test. This format allows the student to move back and forth between questions that are a part of the same section, and the testing software allows the student to “mark” questions within each section so that they can be reviewed later, if time permits. It takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the test but one-minute breaks are offered after each section, and a 10-minute break is also given after the third section. The paper-based GRE General Test consists of six sections, but it is only available in areas where computer-based testing is unavailable.

Analytical writing section:

This section consists of two different essays- “Issue” and “Argument”. Grades are given on a scale of 0–6, in half-point increments. Students are required to write the essays on a computer using a word processing program which is specifically designed by ETS. Using this program, students can perform only certain basic computer functions. It does not contain a spell-checker or any other advanced features. Both the essays are graded by at least two readers on a six-point scale.

  • Issue Essay

The students are given 30 minutes to write an essay based on a debatable topic. In an issue essay, a student is required to pick a side and give their point of view. It tests the student’s ability of convincing the examiner to agree to his/her point of view.  Issue topics are usually selected from a pool of questions, which the GRE Program has published in its entirety.

  • Argument Essay

The students are given an argument (i.e. a series of facts and considerations leading to a conclusion), and they are asked to write an essay that criticizes the given argument. Students are required to carefully understand the argument’s logic and then make suggestions about how the logic of the argument can be improved.  Basically, students are required to focus on the logical flaws of the argument and not give any their viewpoints on the subject. The students must complete this essay in 30 minutes.

Quantitative section:

It assesses a student’s basic high school level mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills. It is scored on a scale of 130–170, in 1-point increments. Each section consists of 20 questions which need to be completed in 35 minutes. Every section has around nine problem-solving items, eight quantitative comparisons, and three data interpretation questions. It also includes numeric entry items which require the students to fill in the blanks and answer multiple-choice questions.

Verbal Section: 

The verbal sections assess a student’s reading comprehension, critical reasoning and vocabulary usage. The verbal test is scored on a scale of 130-170, in 1-point increments. Each section consists of 20 questions which need to be completed in 30 minutes. Every section consists of around six text completion, four sentence equivalence, and ten critical reading questions. However, text completion has replaced sentence completion and new reading question types with multiple answer choices have been added.

Experimental section:

The experimental section (verbal or quantitative), consists of new questions that ETS is considering for future use, however, the experimental section does not form a part of the main score. Since students have no definite way of knowing which section is experimental, it is advisable for students to give their best in every section. Sometimes an identified research section at the end of the test is also provided instead of the experimental section.

Test Dates:

The GRE Test (computer-based) is offered year-round at Prometric test centres. Students can take the GRE Test once every 21 days, up to five times within a 12-month period. This applies even if a student has cancelled his scores of a previously taken test. However, to register and take the test on a specific date, students are required to first create a ‘My GRE Account.’


To register for GRE, students have to create a ‘My GRE Account’. There are four ways to register for the GRE general test- Online, Phone, Mail and Fax registration.


In the GRE test, three scores are reported:

  1. Verbal Reasoning wherein the scores are given on a scale of 130–170, in 1-point increments
  2. Quantitative Reasoning also on a 130–170 score scale with 1-point increments and
  3. Analytical Writing which is given on a 0–6 score level, in half-point increments.

The official scores are mailed in 10–15 days after the student’s actual test date.

Validity of GRE scores:

The scores are valid for five years.  However, students can request for a re-score up to 3 months after the actual test date.

Introduction to GRE sections
How to register for the TOEFL iBT exam
How to Register for the GRE exam
Day before GRE exam

Day before GRE exam

You have done your utmost to prepare yourself for the big day. The race has been long and you have come very close to the finishing line. You have poured all your energies in meticulously planning for your exam, studied exhaustively and done countless revisions.  The last thing that you want now is to ruin your exam performance by any careless slip-up. Now that you are fully equipped to take the much awaited GRE/SAT/GMAT exam, make sure to follow the right strategy.  Read More


TOEFL Vs IELTS – Which one is better for me?

Effective communication in English involves much more than understanding grammatical conventions. The education system in most western countries is highly collaborative and research oriented.  Therefore, students are required to understand the contextual and colloquial usage of English. This is why most acclaimed universities expect students to have a strong command over the communicative aspects of English.  Being able to express your ideas cogently in succinct language is a sought-after skill.  Moreover, the ability to read, comprehend and respond to huge volumes of library reference material ensures a student’s success in academic and research undertakings.  Hence higher education aspirants from countries where English is not the first language need to exhibit the required proficiency in English in order to become a part of an international classroom setting.

On this account, the two standardized English language testing systems, which are widely accepted in most of the foreign universities i.e. IELTS (International English Language Testing Service) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) are sought out by students and professionals alike. The IELTS and TOEFL are similar in many ways. Both IELTS and TOEFL gauge the student’s skills in the four linguistic competencies — Reading, Speaking, Listening and Writing.  Both are widely accepted all over the world. So the on-going debate of which test to take has become a moot point amongst aspirants.

Simplifying the matter, the choice between TOEFL and IELTS depends on the following criteria:

  1. a) Your destination
  2. b) Your purpose
  3. c) Your specific strengths and weaknesses

Firstly, if you are going to the US or Canada for higher education, then TOEFL should emerge as your first choice.  The reason for this is pretty simple. TOEFL is administered by ETS (English testing service) and lays special emphasis on testing a student’s understanding of US English, specifically in an academic context. For instance, the audio recordings in the TOEFL listening section are mostly in the North American accent. The TOEFL integrated writing and integrated speaking sections test how well a student can grasp and work within the usage of English in an academic setting. So performing well in TOEFL would not only clear your pathway to a top school in US or Canada, it would also boost your confidence in your ability to communicate well in US English and to be able to flourish specifically in the US or Canadian Academic environment.

However, if you are headed for UK or Australia for higher education, you might want to consider taking IELTS instead of TOEFL. Again, the reason is closely related to the test content. IELTS is jointly conducted by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, British Council, and IDP Education Australia.  It predominantly focuses on testing a student’s understanding of UK English. The listening section consists of audio clips that are in Australian, UK or other European accents.

Furthermore, The IELTS proves to be the correct choice for those who wish to immigrate permanently to Canada, Australia, and any European country via the direct work permit route. The IELTS- General Training is designed especially for such candidates. The questions in the IELTS General training test are more relevant to everyday social interactions. They focus on ‘Social Survival’, ‘Workplace Survival’ and ‘General Reading’. Thus, such students, whose prime focus is immigration may find IELTS more suitable for developing ‘social’ linguistic skills as opposed to TOEFL which might be more useful for developing skills required to adapt to an ‘academic’ setting.

Apart from these major factors, the following minor considerations in terms of format may also help you make the right choice.

  • The primary difference between IELTS and TOEFL lies in the way speaking capabilities are tested. IELTS requires you to speak to a human voice, and there is a real-time communication happening between the examiner and the examinee. TOEFL necessitates your answer into a microphone and the conversation is recorded and subsequently reviewed by a panel of examiners. So if you prefer actual conversation instead of speaking to a computer then you should choose IELTS. Moreover, students who face speaking challenges such as stammering or stuttering may choose IELTS.  Since the IELTS speaking test is a face to face conversation, the speaking disability would most probably be noticed and accounted for. In the TOEFL test, however, the student’s speaking challenge may go unnoticed and be considered as a skill related problem.
  • TOEFL questions are all multiple choice questions, whereas IELTS has various types of questions like sentence completion, true or false, match the following etc. While some may find the TOEFL monotonous, others may like it specifically because they don’t have to worry about different question types.
  • Time taken for the TOEFL exam is close to four hours, and IELTS takes two hours 45 minutes. While the duration of the test is in no way indicative of its level of toughness, students with weaknesses in a particular skill- sets may benefit from choosing a particular test over the other.  For example, if a student has problems reading huge passages in quick succession and cannot sustain interest for a long time, the IELTS test might be a good choice for him/her.  The TOEFL reading section may require him to read the 4th passage while the IELTS academic reading test contains only 3 passages.

To conclude, whether you should take TOEFL or IELTS is mostly a matter of opinion and individual preference. While TOEFL is more popular in North American countries, IELTS has wider acceptance globally especially in Europe, New Zealand and Australia.  You must do a thorough research on the testing requirements of the universities you intend to attend. While some may accept both, others may give preference to one over the other. It is always a good idea to get a clear picture before you seal your decision.

GRE Classes

Your aspiration to attend a top graduate school is greatly dependent on one vital factor, your GRE score. A good GRE score is an ace up your sleeve and an authorized educational permit to reputed universities and much sought after graduate programs. GRE scores play a crucial role not only in helping one get admission in prestigious programs but also facilitates lucrative scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Moreover with a better GRE score, one has an upper hand in getting your education funded from reliable financial institutions.

Before you decide whether to take preparatory classes or not you must take a diagnostic test to ascertain where you stand. If you score 315 or above, you are already on the road to success and you do not need to take preparatory classes. If your score is less than this threshold number, then it is advisable to consider preparatory classes.

An effective GRE regimen can be worked out by getting enrolled with a good test prep program which offers the following advantages:

1. While one is self-motivated to excel in GRE, an external stimulus goes a long way in inspiring him/her towards accomplishing their GRE goals. It is similar to running a marathon, where the other people running with you inspire you to continue.

2. You get a conducive, inspiring and a tailor-made environment that helps you in making an organized strategy for study.

3. You are able to beat the test anxiety powerfully while training yourself with effective time management methodologies.

4. While you learn from your mistakes, you do so with the mistakes of others as well.

5. Your facilitators help you not only in identifying and working on your weak areas which you might not even be aware of but also help you hone your strengths to its optimum level.

6. Your facilitators will familiarize you with strategies that will help you save time and increase your efficiency.

7. You will invariably start falling into a routine without even realizing it.

8. Your study becomes more structured and disciplined and you start getting comfortable with the idea of GRE exams by repeatedly solving test papers.

9. You get speedy support and guidance while reviewing your answers and a fresh perspective also helps you brush up your own perspective.

10. Doubt clearing sessions, as well as personalized one-on-one sessions, is an essential part of such programs.

11. Practice sessions, Mock tests, study material, online library offer a rich resource.

12. You get to know about recently asked GRE questions and latest updates by ETS.  For example, You might not know whether 0 is an odd or an even number but from GRE perspective it is an even number.

13. Once you join a Test Prep class, periodic exams will help you in mapping your progress.  On the basis of your current capabilities and areas of improvement, a Roadmap is chalked out for you.

Joining a test prep class is like joining a gym. Though you might know the benefits of a healthy fitness regimen, you may not always follow it but when you enroll yourself with a fitness program, it becomes a part of your routine to attend. In the same way, joining Test Prep class invariably enhances your skillsets, improves your approach, and makes you more disciplined and competent to take the GRE.

What is a good score in TOEFL

This article is about understanding the TOEFL requirements of the Universities and thereby answering “What is a Good Score in TOEFL?” 

TOEFL or Test of English as a Foreign Language is a standardised test to measure the applicant’s proficiency in English. TOEFL is recognized by more than 9,000 colleges, universities and organizations and other TOEFL participating institutes across 130 countries, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the United States.

Each section has a score of 30, for a total overall score of 120. You don’t pass or fail the TOEFL. Sometimes universities require a specific score for each section of the test, for example, 24 out of 30 in the speaking section. The score levels for the various sections are as mentioned below:

Sections Score Range Level
Listening Section 0–30 High (22–30)
Intermediate (15–21)
Low (0–14)
Speaking Section 0–30 Good (26–30)
Fair (18–25)
Limited (10–17)
Weak (0–9)
Reading Section 0–30 High (22–30)
Intermediate (15–21)
Low (0–14)
Writing Section 0–30 Good (24–30)
Fair (17–23)
Limited (1–16)
Total TOEFL Scores 0–120

The best definition of a good TOEFL score is that it should get you into your school of choice. Most colleges have a cut off TOEFL score, or a minimum score that you must meet in order for your application to be considered. Sometimes meeting this cut off score is enough for the school to feel confident about your English skills, but there are cases where it is recommended that you score higher than the cut-off score to improve your chances of being admitted. Some schools are more accommodating and flexible and ask for alternative requirements if you fail to meet their TOEFL cut-off score. Hence, before you begin studying for the TOEFL, it’s a good idea to know the score that you need to achieve. Here is a list of the minimum score required by some colleges in the USA.

College Name Minimum Score
Arizona State University 61
Boston University 95
Carnegie Mellon University 100
Case Western Reserve University 80
Clemson University 79 – 80
Columbia University 100
Cornell University 100
Florida Institute of Technology 71
George Mason University 88-100
George Washington University 80
Georgia Institute of Technology 79
Harvard University 100
Illinois Institute of Technology 80
Purdue University–Indianapolis Undergraduate: 61

Graduate: 79

Johns Hopkins University 100
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 100+
Michigan State University 79 (No section below 17)
Michigan Technological University 79
New Jersey Institute of Technology 79
North Carolina State University–Raleigh 80
Northwestern University 111
Ohio State University–Columbus 71
Pace University Undergraduate: 88/89

Graduate: 90

Purdue University–West Lafayette
77* (*Writing 18 Speaking 18 Listening 14 Reading 19
Note that in addition to required minimum scores for writing, speaking, listening, and reading, the Graduate School also requires a minimum overall score that is higher than the minimums for the four area tests combined.)
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey–New Brunswick 83 (*Writing 22 Speaking 23 Reading 21 Listening 17)
Stanford University 100
Stevens Institute of Technology 61
SUNY–Stony Brook 80
Syracuse University 80
Texas A&M University–College Station 100
University at Buffalo–SUNY 79
University of California–Berkeley 78
University of California–Irvine 80
University of California–Los Angeles 87 (Writing: 25 Speaking: 24 Reading: 21 Listening: 17) 

 Now that you have figured out what your minimum score should be here are some tips that will help you in your prep –

  • TOEFL is a physically taxing exam. Since it involves constant listening through headphones, some students who are not used to this, may find it exhausting.  Hence, students must take at least 5 mock tests in order to accustom themselves to the fatigue that might set in.
  • When you are preparing for the TOEFL, it is not good enough to just listen to and read things that you enjoy and are interested in. You need to read extensively to build your vocabulary. Three excellent resources on the Internet are BBC News, NPR, and VOA News.
  • Learn how to take good notes.

As you can hear the clip only once – take down the essential points. Try symbols and shorthand

  • Practice pronunciation. There are lots of videos freely available over the internet that will help you improve on your pronunciation.
  • Practice writing essays in the English format
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Take the test at least twice, if not more.

The above information would help you understand, plan and systematically work towards meeting your desired TOEFL scores. This would increase your eligibility for the desired program and help you get admission in your dream university.

References: What is a good score in TOEFL

The Wikipedia Article What is a good score in TOEFL

The Test Magic TOEFL FAQ

Score Use: Setting Score Requirements for the TOEFL iBT


About the GRE Exam