The hows and whys of entrance exams
Most Rose-Hulman students moving on to graduate school take one of three entrance exams: Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or Law School Admission Test (LSAT). These exams are meant to help determine your future success in graduate school. Unless you are planning to enter medical or law school, you will most likely take the GRE, so that is what we will cover on this page. For information on the MCAT, LSAT or even the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), visit us in the Career Services Office.
What is the GRE?
The GRE is a standardized mechanism for comparing individuals, all having highly varied backgrounds. It includes a general test and, in some cases, a subject test. Subject tests are for BCMB, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature in English, Math, Physics and Psychology. While your GRE score comes with no guarantee of admission, the results indicate the following about you:
- a predictor of success in future schooling
- a method of demonstrating general cognitive preparation for advanced study
- a national ranking system
- a quantitative value of interest population wide for universities
When should you take the GRE?
General tests can be taken at any time, and you can take it as early as spring of your junior year. Subject tests are administered in April, October and November. A generally accepted rule regarding performance on standardized tests is that the more familiar you are with the test itself, the better you will be able to demonstrate knowledge.
How should you prepare?
Practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute for practice. There is an almost infinite supply of practice materials. If you ever come across the same question twice, then you probably have practiced enough. A very small proportion of test takers will be successful on the GRE without practice; it isn't a safe bet to assume you are one of these individuals.
What if you're not happy with your score?
A less-than-stellar score isn't the end of the world, but the context should be considered. If you know you didn't invest adequate time, consider retaking. If you felt really prepared, maybe your best performance is reflected. In general, retaking the exam has little influence on the scores, except in significant circumstances such as illness, death in the family or a total lack of preparation. If you retake, all scores are reported to the institution. It is by far preferable to perform your best in the first shot. This outcome only really occurs through practice (see above).