The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is a test taken by students who wish to pursue graduate studies in the United States. It's also necessary for teaching at most U.S. universities.
The examination measures verbal and quantitative reasoning skills and also requires the test-taker to perform two analytical writing tasks.
Most successful examinees invest some substantial time in studying for the test because of its importance for their future. However, some students just don't have the time to study.
If this is you, let me use my 12 years of academic counseling experience to show you what you can do.
Summary of the Key Findings
- GRE compares and calculates your scores to other students, so you should study for the test.
- If you don’t have time to study, you should get familiar with the GRE question types and the three parts of the GRE.
- If you’re short on time, take one or two practice tests to get ready. Simulate real GRE test conditions.
Why You Should Study for the GRE
Before we get into ways to pass the GRE without studying, let's talk about the reasons you should have a good study plan.
The GRE is designed to test whether you have the aptitude required for graduate studies at a given school. The exam is supposed to predict your future success.
In order to do so, your results are compared to those of other test-takers, past and present. Since many of them studied hard before the test, the best way to compare well to them is to study hard too.
Since there are many different studying approaches, there's a study plan for everyone to help them succeed on the GRE.
3 Things You Could Do if You Can't Study
Let's get realistic. Not everyone has enough time to study for the GRE.
First, you may need to devote your limited study time to finishing your undergraduate classes. After all, passing and graduating have to be your top priorities.
Also, some students have jobs and other obligations, and it may be hard for them to study in their free time.
“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” ― Marilyn vos Savant, genius
You may have decided a bit late in the game that grad school is right for you. You may be up against application deadlines, so there's no time to prepare.
Whatever your reason is for not having enough study time, you may be stuck with having to take the GRE sooner than you want. But don't worry, there are still ways to maximize your score on this exam without studying for weeks.
1. Review The Question Types
If you cannot study for the GRE, the highest-yield thing you can do is learn what question types are on the test and how they are formatted.
That way, you won't have to waste time trying to understand the question formats - you can move straight into solving the problems.
This exam section consists of three general areas:
- Reading Comprehension
- Text Completion
- Sentence Equivalence
The reading comprehension questions come in three types.
The first two are standard multiple-choice questions where you pick either a single answer or multiple answers. The third is a problem type where you must choose the appropriate section from a written passage that fits a particular description.
Text completion questions ask you to fill in the blanks in a text piece by choosing an entry from the column of choices. You have to complete all blank spaces in the passage to enhance the text in the most effective way.
In the sentence equivalence section, you have to select the two answer choices that, when combined, create sentences that are similar in meaning and logically complete.
This section of the GRE is made up of the following question types:
- Quantitative Comparison Questions
- Multiple-Choice Questions — One Answer
- Multiple-Choice Questions — One or More Answers
- Numeric Entry Questions
In the qualitative comparison questions, you need to choose between four statements that describe a comparison between two quantities - Quantity A and Quantity B. You will be asked if A or B is larger, if they are the same, or if you do not have enough data to tell.
The multiple-choice questions are pretty self-explanatory. However, in questions with one or more answers, the answer might be just one choice, or it might be all of them, depending on the question.
The numeric entry questions have an answer box for each question. You will enter a decimal or an integer if there is a single box or a fraction if there are two boxes.
The analytical writing section consists of prompts for two types of questions, one where you analyze an issue and one where you analyze an argument.
2. Take a Practice Test
Although taking a practice test is not really studying, it does provide some great benefits for the students short on time.
Firstly, it will help you determine what areas you excel in and where your weak points are. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will let you focus whatever study time you have on the highest yield subjects.
“Wisdom is nothing more than confirmed imagination: just because one did not study for his exam does not mean that he should leave it blank.” ― Criss Jami, philosopher
That way, you won't waste precious time studying for parts of the exam that aren't a problem for you.
Secondly, it gives you an idea of how long it takes to answer each question and a sense of the pacing that you need to use while taking the exam. That way, you can plan your time accordingly, and it will accustom you to taking the exam in a realistic environment.
Finally, a practice test will help you determine how to approach each type of question. For example, if you did not do well at verbal reasoning, you can go through questions that you answered incorrectly and see if there are any patterns.
3. Practice The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA
If you have the opportunity, you should practice a few of the AWA essay questions under test-like conditions so you get a feel for the time management required to answer the prompts.
You should use these prompts to perfect your approach to writing essays.
A tried and true technique is to:
- Read the prompt.
- Describe the issue in your own words so that you understand what it means to agree and disagree with the issue.
- Write two arguments that agree with the prompt.
- Write two arguments that disagree with the prompt.
- Pick the best three arguments and write a paragraph for each. For the argument that is not aligned with the others, write a reason that it is not as important as the others as your last line.
- Write an introduction and conclusion that incorporate the three argument paragraphs.
By doing this, you can practice your analytical writing and know by the time you get to the actual test how you will address any prompt.
Passing The GRE
There is no shame in not being able to study for the GRE. But instead of giving up on getting into a good graduate program because you can't find prep time, consider those alternatives.
At a minimum, learn what sorts of questions will be on the exam.
If you have a little more time, take a practice test or two to get a sense of the format and the time pressure of the test.
And if you can, work on an AWA prompt to get comfortable with that section of the examination.
You will discover whether you are ready to take the GRE, or you need to put it off until you have time to execute a study plan.
And there you have it - ways to increase your chances of passing the GRE without studying.
About the author