January 20, 2018

Tips for Taking the GRE While You Are Still in College

Tips for Taking the GRE While You Are Still in College - photo copyright Rick Sherrell

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the aptitude test students take before graduate school. Almost all graduate school programs require students to take this exam.

You will probably need to take the exam while you are still working on your undergraduate degree if you plan to enroll in graduate school the following fall. Taking the GRE can be stressful, but you should be able to excel if you prepare properly. Almost 700,000 students take it every year. The majority of them are still in college and are able to get into decent graduate school programs. Here are some general tips that you should know.

Figure Out When You Need to Take the GRE

You will need to figure out when you need to take the exam. Here are a couple of guidelines that you will need to keep in mind. You will need to take these tips seriously, because you may not get into decent mph programs or other graduate programs if you don’t score well on the GRE.


See when the deadlines are for admission to the various schools that you want to apply to. You will ideally want to take the exam a couple of months before the deadline to ensure you will be able to turn everything in within that timeframe. If the schools use rolling admissions then you will want to take the exam by October so you can have your application in by December.

Plan Your Schedule

You may be able to get away with taking your GREs in the late spring if schools have deadlines in June or July. However, it is probably a bad idea to take your exams near the end of the year as a senior. You are going to be very busy studying for final exams, finishing papers and completing projects. You may also be tempted to participate in senior spree and other end of the year socials. You should plan on taking the GRE when you know that you won’t be busy with anything else. A couple weeks after Christmas during winter break may be a good time to schedule the exam.

Preparing for the Exam

The GRE is a pretty straightforward exam. However, you will still want to spend time preparing for it before you enroll. Here are some general tips.

Learn What Material Will Be Covered

There are several different parts to the GRE. You will need to be proficient with basic math (algebra and geometry), writing, vocabulary and analytical reasoning. You will want to spend time reacquainting yourself with this material. You may even need to go back to some old high school books, because most college books no longer cover some of the concepts that you need to be familiar with.

Learn How the Test is Structured

The GRE is taken electronically. You will want to learn how to organize your answers and submit them. These instructions will be given to you during the test, but you will probably be able to focus better if you know what to expect. You didn’t used to be able to edit your answers, but that has been changed with the revised version of the test.

Finding Resources to Prepare

You may want to consider paying for a GRE prep course. Kaplan offers some courses to help people prepare. These courses are cost over $1,000, but they do come with a highest score guarantee. If you aren’t happy with your score then you can retake the course again for free. You may be able to hire a tutor, but they probably will cost almost as much.

If you don’t have that much money to invest then you can always buy a book and prepare on your own. This isn’t a bad approach if you are pretty confident that you have the material down pretty well. Many books have practice tests that you may want to try.

Identify Your Weak Areas

You will want to know what areas you need the most work on while studying. If you are strong in math but feel that your vocabulary could be better then you may want to read through a list of commonly used words on the exam. Your time will be best spend improving your weaknesses.

Take the GRE Seriously

Most graduate schools place a lot of emphasis on your GRE scores. You will need to make it a priority while you are applying to graduate programs. Fortunately, the exam isn’t very difficult if you take the right steps. Make sure that you study carefully and take the test in time to get your scores to the schools that you are applying to.

Kalen Smith completed graduate school in 2010. He shares tips for students who want to get into the graduate programs of their choice and be successful in their studies.  

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