to planning for graduate study list
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), like the SAT used for college admission, is a standardized test required by some graduate programs and recommended by others for admission. It consists of a General Test and for some disciplines, Subject Tests. Fewer programs require the Subject Test than the General Test.
The General Test has three parts: verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing. The verbal (30 questions, 30 minutes) and mathematical (28 questions, 45 minutes) sections are the familiar five-choice multiple choice questions. The analytical writing, new to the General Test as of October, 2002, asks the student to write two analytical essays, one presenting your perspective on one of two issues (45 minutes), the other preparing an analysis of an argument presented to you (30 minutes). Free test preparation materials are provided by CD-ROM to all registrants, or you can download them off the web: www.gre.org/pracmats.html. An unusual feature of the General Test is that it is computer administered. You make an appointment at one of many testing centers on any day in the first three weeks of each month. There is a test center in Worcester. When you arrive, you are shown to a computer and the test is administered. The verbal and mathematical sections are adaptive; in other words as you answer questions, right answers lead to a harder question for the next one, and wrong answers lead to an easier question. Since each question is scored as it is answered, you may not go back to change an answer. The analytical writing section may be completed either directly on the computer or with paper and pencil. Scores for the verbal and mathematical sections are reported to you unofficially when you have completed the test; complete official scores are sent to you within 10-15 days (but up to 6 weeks if you have handwritten your essays).
Subject Tests are offered in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. All are administered by pencil and paper as multiple-choice tests on particular dates. Free practice books are available from the GRE Web site (see above). The test center nearest here is at Worcester State College, and the tests are given in November, December and April each year.
Timing of the tests can be difficult. Application deadlines vary at different graduate schools, with the most competitive schools usually setting January 1 as the deadline for completed applications. For these schools you should take the Subject Test at the November administration, because that is the only date that reports the scores before the end of December. You can take the General Test any time in the fall, usually on a different date than the subject test, since these tests are very demanding and tiring. Almost all schools have deadlines by March 1, although some less competitive programs accept applications until later in the spring. Students who do not have to worry about January 1 deadlines often take the General Test in the fall, and the Subject Test in December, to take advantage of their major courses in the fall semesters. When you take the test, please check the box that allows the scores to be sent back to the Graduate Studies Advisor at Holy Cross. Your scores will be treated as confidential; it is important for us to have an impression of the scores required for admission to various schools.
Applications for the Graduate Record Exams can be obtained at the Office of Distinguished Fellowships and Graduate Studies in Smith 333, and at the Career Planning Center in Hogan 203. There are no "walk in" arrangement for the Graduate Records Exam; you must apply by a specific date in order to take them.
In addition to the materials provided by the GRE itself, you can buy various practice books for the General Test in most bookstores, and in large bookstores you may find practice books for the Subject Tests. You usually can raise your scores in the Subject Test if you study both by reading in your field and drilling with the practice test. Consult with faculty in the field to get some idea of the areas you should study and the way to study for the Subject Test. You should set up a regular study program the summer before the tests--cramming in the fall of your senior year when you have the pressure of regular course work may not raise your score. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the kinds of questions on the tests. Don't go in cold! If you really want to attend graduate school, you must be serious. The GRE scores are usually the first thing that an Admissions Board sees in an application. Like it or not, considerable weight is placed on both the General and Subject test (though this varies at different schools).
On the Subject Test, don't panic if there seem to be a lot of questions you don't know- --that is a common impression, even of students who do well. In fact subject tests are designed with questions of different degrees of difficulty, and the most specific and hardest are not really expected to have been covered by many undergraduate programs. Where there is a choice, opt for the Subject Test most closely allied with your training. For example, most Biology majors find the Biology Test, to be preferable to the Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Test even when they want to study the latter in graduate school.
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