Should I study for the GRE

GRE, I really don't love you! But if you - like me - are drawn to the USA for a master’s degree or doctorate, you need an admission test, usually the "Graduate Record Examinations", or GRE for short. More than 350,000 candidates complete it every year. So I'm studying for the GRE and I'm already in the final sprint. My six-week intensive course, a $ 1,000 fun seminar, homework, and online help is coming to an end. The tutor preaches: With learning cards we should scramble up vocabulary, learn geometry, cram math formulas. Root of 3? Is 1.73. How to notice The 17th of March is Saint Patrick's Day.

The GRE offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) test administrators takes almost four hours. You have to master two essays, a math and a language part. Everything runs on a computer in a test center, whether in Boston, Berlin or Munich. The software incites: If you answer one question correctly, the next question becomes more difficult.

Communications engineer Stephan Hengstler, a German doctoral student at Stanford University, was familiar with exams under time pressure from his home university in Karlsruhe, but the GRE test center was more like a prison, he says. "Everything is taken from you, your wallet and everything else go into a locker."

The test does not cause any problems for some. Hasan, an engineering scientist at Humboldt University in Berlin, will be a doctoral candidate at Carnegie Mellon University from autumn on. In the math GRE he scored 800 out of 800 possible points. Hasan likes standardized tests. "You are objective," he says. The lucky guy! The tasks are also about speed, the formulations are often confusing: “The arithmetic mean of 6, 21, x, z is 13. X, y have 100 as the product. What could the value of x be? ''

Learn for months

Eylem is just finishing her German diploma in economics. She received an acceptance from the University of Texas for her doctorate. The GRE math did not cause her any problems, the essays went quite well, but the result of the linguistic part was “really bad”. “In my entire life I have never seen most of the terms asked,” she says.

For example, what in the world does stentorian (resounding, overly loud), calumny (character assassination) or halcyon (quiet) mean? Even some of their Stanford professors did not know a lot of the vocabulary, outraged Bharat Venkat and Vinni Intersimone in a comment in the university newspaper Stanford Daily. "We should encourage Stanford and other universities not to waste our money and time on these tests," they write.

The testing company ETS recommends universities and grant administrators not to use the GRE as the only criterion for admission. Some departments do not use the GRE at all, while others state the number of points that their students typically (must) achieve on their websites. "A high GRE score does not mean automatic admission, but low scores are a problem," writes Phil Koopman, Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor.