Does Your Undergraduate Major Determine Your Success on the GRE?


In August of 2011, the GRE was dramatically changed by Educational Testing Services (ETS), the test creator. Naturally, they wanted to record as much data about "The New GRE" on effectiveness, scoring, and how each student performed in their intended graduate major. The 2011-2013 results could infer many different conclusions on which students performed the best depending on their intended focus of study and if that matched their undergraduate degree. One initial shock is the low scores of journalism/communication majors in the Verbal Reasoning (section on critical thinking ability, reading comprehension and vocabulary) as well as in the Analytical Writing (section with two essay questions on fallacies and open-ended question on positional argument) where we would have expected higher results. While Philosophy ranked highest in these categories, and above average on the third Quantitative (section on algebra, geometry, and data analysis).


Just recently, posted interesting conclusions about the possible undergraduate-graduate major correlation of a students' rate of success on the GRE. This blog suggested two possible answers to the high scoring majors compared to those majors that are not scoring as expected. First, it states that philosophy courses concentrate on critical thinking, logical reasoning, and writing; making them skilled test takers. This could also contribute to the thought that Philosophy drawls the elite of high school students who could respond well to the GRE, despite their chosen major. Secondly, not all students attending graduate school go for the same major concentration. These students are not as familiar with material that may be included on the GRE causing them to not score as high but, this does not categorize them as less intelligent than those who are familiar with GRE concepts. 


Through these assumptions we cannot clearly define why one major ranks high than others or which kind of students test the best. More in-depth research may conclude detailed information regarding these theories. Students who are interested in attending graduate school should study the new format to the GRE, which has slightly mimicked the GMAT in some aspects. ETC Test Prep can show you the latest studying techniques from expert instructors who provide material from previous GRE tests, to best prepare you for testing. Sign up for a GRE test prep course here


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Eight Part Series: How to Deal with Test Anxiety


Part Eight: Pulling the Pieces Together


Remember, a little bit of anxiety is a good thing and will help you perform at your best on exam day. Taking steps to control anxiety is an essential part of a successful test preparation plan. Effective management of anxiety requires practice, and the techniques described here should set you on the path to a less anxious, and more successful, testing experience.

This is the end of the series; we hope it helps you overcome those pre-test jitters! Don’t forget, sign up for a ETC Test Prep course. We would love to help you reduce stress and be confident come test day!

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Read Part Seven: Performing

Eight Part Series: How to Deal With Test Anxiety


Part Seven: Performing


Of course, reducing your anxiety is not enough to guarantee success on test day; you must also be well-prepared. For those who suffer from test anxiety, the goal should be to become so familiar with the questions on the test and the common tasks required of you that test taking becomes a matter of routine, like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes. In other words, solving test questions should become as much a matter of reacting to familiar situations as it is a matter of thinking about how to solve problems. This is why students with test anxiety probably benefit more than the average student from taking many practice tests, and under circumstances as much like the actual test as possible. The familiarity that results from repeated exposure to the testing situation not only serves to reduce anxiety itself, but it also helps to routinize your test taking so that anxiety is less likely to interfere with your test taking if it does occur.

Moreover, after several weeks of preparation you will notice improvements in your test taking performance. They may be small improvements, and there may still be much that you have to work on. But thinking about those parts of the test that you have improved on will serve to reinforce a positive attitude toward your preparation and provide a foundation for further improvement.


Read Part Six: Focus on the Positive

Read Part Eight: Pulling the Pieces Together

Eight Part Series: How to Deal With Test Anxiety


Part Six: Focus on the Positive


Relaxation is an important part of any anxiety reduction plan, but it only goes so far. The next step is to avoid (or at least reduce) those emotionally charged negative thoughts about the test that directly impact your ability to perform well on it. This, of course, is much easier said than done. And like the relaxation techniques discussed above, it requires concerted effort in the weeks before the test to be able to successfully replace the self-destructive, negative thoughts about the test with other (true!) thoughts that instead provide encouragement and build confidence.

One helpful technique is the “half empty/half full” game. For one entire week, write down all of the negative thoughts you have about the test in a long list. Then at the end of the week, next to each negative thought write a true, positive thought that concerns the same point. So for example, next to the negative thought “I never have time to finish a test section” write the positive thought “I only have to answer about two-thirds of the questions to get a good score.” From then on, whenever one of the destructive negative thoughts from your list creeps into your head focus on the helpful positive thought you have associated with it. With enough practice you will learn to automatically chase away your negative thoughts and replace them with the positive, constructive thoughts that you have associated with them instead.

A closely related technique involves imagining that you are taking the test, and that anxiety strikes. The goal is to practice your techniques for dealing with anxiety in this imaginative setting so that on test day you know how to effectively respond. For example, one would imagine taking a few deep breaths, recalling some relevant, true thought (“this problem is not that important; I can skip it if I want”), and resuming the test with minimal disruption.


Read Part Five: Remember to Relax

Read Part Seven: Performing

Eight Part Series: How to Deal with Test Anxiety


Part Five: Remember to Relax


Reducing anxiety requires breaking the web of feedback responses, and the first place to start is the body. Relaxation techniques should be a priority for anyone who experiences severe anxiety. There are a number of well-known relaxation techniques that you might try, but most involve one or the other of two components: controlled breathing, and quiet attentiveness.

Generally, your first response to anxiety will be to focus on your breathing, attempting to take long, deep breaths while attending to the sounds and sensations of the air slowly moving in and out. With practice this will reduce the unpleasant sensations associated with anxiety and result in a calmer state that puts you back in control.

In addition to practicing controlled breathing, some time during the weeks before the test should be spent practicing quiet attentiveness. The first step in developing this ability is to try to focus on your breathing to the exclusion of everything else – especially that unending, meandering internal monologue that is the constant companion of each of us. Unwanted thoughts will persist; just try to focus on your breathing. Once you have slowed your thoughts, next attend to your bodily sensations. A commonly recommended method is to “scan” the body, beginning with the top of your head, for instance, and slowly moving down the body, trying to notice each sensation occurring there.

Developing these relaxation techniques will not only help to reduce your pre-test anxiety, but also will provide you with valuable tools when anxiety strikes during the test itself.


Read Part Four: Practice Facing Anxiety

Read Part Six: Focus on the Positive

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