Crash Course for the New GRE, 4th Edition (2011)

Part I. Introduction



Crash Course for the New GRE is just what it sounds like—a quick, but thorough, guide to the essential fundamentals of the new GRE. It includes helpful techniques for nailing as many question as possible, even if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare. Crash Course for the New GRE will give you an overview of the new test, exposure to all question types, and loads of helpful advice, but it is not a comprehensive study guide for the GRE. Go to and take a full-length online practice test to find out your starting score. If you need significant score improvements or more intensive review of any of the subject matter you encounter, try Cracking the New GRE (which has been revised for the GRE test changes) or 1,014 Practice Questions for the New GRE.


The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a multiple-choice aptitude test intended for applicants to graduate schools. It definitely does not measure your intelligence, nor, ironically, does it measure your quality as a candidate. All it really measures is how well you handle standardized tests. Luckily, this is a skill you can improve with practice.

You will receive a math score, a verbal score, and an analytic writing score. These correspond to the three types of sections you will see on the test. Section by section, here’s how the test breaks down:

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Your essay sections will always come first. These are two back-to-back essays, with 30 minutes each to write. After the essays, you will have two of your five multiple-choice sections, and then you get your one and only proper break after section three. Most students will see five multi-question sections, either two verbal and three math or three verbal and two math. Two verbal sections and two math sections will always count. The extra section is an experimental one. It may be math or verbal. It will look just like the other sections, but it will not count. These five sections, including the experimental, could occur in any order. There is no way to know which section is experimental. You will have a one-minute break between each of these sections.

Occasionally, you will get a research section in place of the experimental section. If so, the research section will come last, and it will be identified as a research section. The test will specifically say that the section does not count toward your score. If you see one of these, your test is over, and your first four multi-question sections counted.


Quantitative Comparison—Quant comps, for short, give you information in two columns. Your job is to decide if the values in the two quantities are the same, if one is larger, or if it is impossible to say. Tip: If there are no variables in either quantity, eliminate answer choice (D).

Problem Solving—These are the typical five-answer multiple-choice questions you probably remember from the SAT. You must correctly select one of the five answer choices to get credit. Tip: They’ve given you the answers. One of them is correct. Use the answer choices to help solve the problem.

Select All That Apply—This is a new twist on the old multiple-choice question. In this case you may have three or up to eight answer choices, and one or more will be correct. You must select all of the correct answer choices to get credit. Tip: The answer choices are generally in chronological order, so start in the middle and look to eliminate as many wrong answer choices as possible.

Numeric Entry—Alas, these are not multiple choice. It is your job to come up with your own number and type it into the box provided. For fractions, you will be given two boxes, and you must fill in the top and the bottom separately. Tip: You don’t have to reduce your fractions. The computer reads  the same as , so save yourself a step.

The Calculator

The new GRE now provides an onscreen calculator. Like the calculator you might find on your computer, this one will add, subtract, multiply, divide, and find a square root. It also has a transfer number button that allows you to transfer the number on the calculator screen directly to the box on a Numeric Entry question. This button will be grayed out on a multiple-choice question.

Since we all use calculators in our daily life, it’s about time they provided one on the GRE. Certainly this should cut down on basic calculation errors and save a bit of time on questions that involve things like averages or percentages. The GRE, however, is not generally a test of your ability to do large calculations, nor is the calculator a replacement for your brain. The test makers will look for ways to test your analytic skills, often making the calculator an unnecessary temptation, or, at times, even a liability. Be particularly careful of questions that ask you to provide answers in a specific format. A question may ask you to provide an answer rounded to the nearest tenth, for example. If your calculator gives you an answer of 3.48, and you transfer that number, you will get the question wrong. Or a question may ask you for a percent and will have the percent symbol next to the answer box. In this case they are looking for a whole number. Depending upon how you solve the problem on your calculator, you may end up with an answer of .25 for 25%. If you enter the decimal, you will get the question wrong.

Here are a few tips for when to use and when not to use your calculator on the GRE:

Good Calculator

·        Multiplying two- and three- digit numbers

·        Finding percentages or averages

·        Working questions involving Order of Operations (The calculator will understand Order of Operations. If you type in 3 + 5 × 6, it will know to prioritize multiplication over addition, for example.)

·        Working with decimals

Bad Calculator

·        Converting fractions to decimals in order to avoid working with fractions (better that you know the rules and are comfortable with fractions)

·        Attempting to solve large exponents, square roots, or other calculation-heavy operations. There is almost always a faster way to do the problem.

·        Adding or subtracting negative numbers if you’re not sure of the rules

·        Solving charts problems with multiple questions. Write all information down on your scratch paper and label everything. Information you find on one problem might help on another. If you do everything on your calculator, you will have to recalculate.


Text Completion—These used to be Sentence Completion, but now they’ve gotten longer, and you must work with each blank independently. Questions may have between one and five sentences and one to three blanks. A one-blank question will have five answer choices. A two- or three-blank question will have three choices per blank. You must select the correct word for each blank to get credit for the question.

Sentence Equivalence—These look like Sentence Completion questions but there is one blank and six answer choices. You must select two answer choices from the six provided. The correct answers will each complete the sentence and keep the meaning the same.

Reading Comprehension—Reading Comp supplies you with a passage and then asks you questions about the information in the passage, the author’s intent, or the structure.

There are three distinct question types that could occur here:

·        Multiple Choice—You must select one correct answer from five choices.

·        Select All That Apply—These questions used to number three choices with roman numerals and you had to pick I, I and II only, and so on. Now you simply select the correct answer or answers from a group of three choices.

·        Select in Passage—You will be asked to click on an actual sentence in the passage. You may click on any one word to select the whole sentence. Only one sentence is correct. These questions will occur primarily on short passages. If they occur in a long passage, the question will specify a particular paragraph.


You will receive separate Verbal and Quantitative scores, each on a scale that runs from 130 to 170 in one-point increments. Your Analytical Writing score is on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments. For example:





Where Does the GRE Come From?

Like most standardized tests in this country, the GRE is published by ETS, a big, tax-exempt private company in New Jersey. ETS publishes the GRE under the sponsorship of the Graduate Record Examinations Board, an organization affiliated with the Association of Graduate Schools and the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States.

The GRE isn’t written by distinguished professors, renowned scholars, or graduate-school admissions officers. For the most part, it’s written by ordinary ETS employees, sometimes with freelance help from local graduate students. There’s no reason to be intimidated by these people.

Why Should I Listen to The Princeton Review?

We monitor the GRE. Our teaching methods for cracking it were developed through exhaustive analysis of all available GREs and careful research into the methods by which standardized tests are constructed. Our focus is on the basic concepts that will enable you to attack any problem, strip it down to its essential components, and solve it in as little time as possible.

GRE Facts

You can schedule a test session ($140 at the time of publication) online, by phone, or by mail. In general, web registration is the quickest and the easiest since you can see a calendar and test center locations. Log on to www.GRE.organd click on “Register for the Test” under “General Test.” If registering by phone, call (800) 473-2255. ETS accepts all major credit cards.

The GRE website will answer most questions, including guidelines for disability accommodations, international testing, as well as test center locations and dates. For additional questions, call ETS directly at (609) 771-7670.


The problem you’re working on will be in the middle of the screen. If there is additional information, such as a chart or graph or passage, it will be on a split screen either above the question or to the left of it. If the entire chart[s] or passage or additional information does not fit on the split screen, there will be a scroll bar.

Questions with only a single answer will have an oval selection field. To select an answer, just click on the oval. A question with the potential for multiple correct answers will have square answer fields. An x appears in the square when you select the answer choice. At the bottom of the screen, under the question, there may be some basic directions, such as “Click on your choice.”

A read-out of the time remaining in the section will be displayed in the upper-right corner. Next to it is a button that allows you to hide the time. No matter what, the time will return and will begin to blink on and off when you have five minutes remaining on a particular section. At the top center the display will tell you which question number you are working on, out of the total number of questions. The top of the screen will also contain the following five buttons:

Exit Section—This button indicates that you are done with a particular section. Should you finish a section early, you can use this button to get to the next section. Once you’ve exited a section, however, you cannot return to it. Note that the two essays are considered a single section. If you use this button after your first essay, you will have skipped the second essay.

Review—This button brings up a review screen. The review screen will indicate which questions you’ve seen, which ones you’ve answered, and which ones you’ve marked. From the review screen you can return to the question you’ve just left, or you can return to an earlier question.

Mark—The mark button is just what it looks like. You may mark a question for whatever reason you choose. This does not answer the question. You may mark a question whether you’ve answered it or not. Marked questions will appear as marked on the review screen.

Help—The help button will drop you into the help tab for the particular question type you are working on. From there, there are three additional tabs. One gives you “Section Directions.” This is an overview of the section, including the number of questions, the amount of time allotted, and a brief description of the function of ovals versus boxes. The second is “General Directions” on timing and breaks, test information, and the repeater policy. The last additional tab is “Testing Tools.” This is an overview of each of the buttons available to you during a section. Note that the help button will not stop the clock. The clock continues to run even if you are clicking around and reading directions.

Back/Next—These two buttons get you on to the next question or back to the prior question. You can continue to click these as many times as you like until you get to the beginning or end of the section. If you return to a question you have answered, the question will display your answer.

We will talk more about strategies for pacing on the test and ways to use the mark and review buttons. You should never need the help button. Ideally you will be familiar enough with the functions of the test that you don’t have to spend valuable test time reading directions.

You should never need the help button. Be familiar with the testing tools before you go into the text.

How the New GRE Works

The new test is adaptive by section. Your score is determined by the number of questions you get right and their difficulty level. On the first verbal section, the test will give you a mix of medium questions. Based upon the percentage of questions you get right on that first section, the computer will select questions for the second section. The more you get right on the first section, the harder the questions you will see on the second section, but more potential points you could get.

Everything is determined by the number of questions you get right, not by the number of questions you answer. Accuracy, therefore, will always trump speed. It makes no sense to worry about the clock and rush through a section if your accuracy suffers as a result.

Real Tests

You bought Crash Course for the New GRE because you don’t have a lot of time to prepare, and you want the basics. But you still need real GRE questions on which to practice. The only source of real GREs is the publisher of the test, ETS. Therefore, if you have the time, we recommend that you download GRE POWERPREP® Software—Test Preparation for the General Test, which includes GRE questions presented in the CAT mode from You will also receive a copy on CD-ROM when you register for the GRE.

Stay Current

The information in this book is accurate right now, and will be updated yearly. However, the publishing business is such that if the test changed tomorrow, the book might be a little behind. For the most current information possible, visit ETS’s website at, or our website at