For students who intend to take up higher studies at a good university or college in a foreign land, especially in the USA, getting a good score in GRE and TOEFL is essential. Both the examinations are mandatory and are treated as qualifying examination.

Across the world, the examinations are conducted by US-based Educational Testing Services (ETS) and two of its officials - Director of Communications and Services for the GRE Dawn Piacentino, Programme and Teresa Sanchez-Lazer, the Executive Director of the TOEFL Programme were in touch with The Hindu Education Plus through e-mail, giving out the finer points on how to crack the examinations.

Graduate Record Examination or GRE is basically divided into three sections: Analytical writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning. Ms. Dawn says, that the Analytical Writing section was designed to measure one's ability to articulate complex ideas and effectively support the ideas with relevant examples. “In the new format it has two 30-minute timed tasks: Analyse an issue and analyse an argument. And it is reported on a 0-6 scale,” she says. Dawn further adds, “while taking the test it is important to budget your time. Within the 30-minute time limit for each task, you'll need to allow sufficient time to think about the topic, plan a response and compose your essay. Save a few minutes at the end of each timed task to check for obvious errors. Although an occasional typographical, spelling or grammatical error will not affect your score, severe or persistent errors will detract from the overall effectiveness of your writing and lower your score.”

The Verbal Reasoning section is designed to measure a student's ability to analyse and draw conclusions from discourse, understand multiple levels of meaning, select important points, and understand the meanings of sentences and entire texts. There are two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections in the test, each containing about 20 questions. The Verbal Reasoning score is reported on a 130–170 score scale, in 1-point increments. “For Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning, raw scores are determined by the number of questions a student answers correctly. Nothing is subtracted from a score if you answer a question incorrectly. Therefore, to maximise your scores on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures, it is best to answer every question. Work as rapidly as you can without being careless. Since no question carries greater weight than any other, do not waste time pondering individual questions that you find extremely difficult or unfamiliar,” says Dawn.

The programme director of GRE says that preparation for the test will depend on the amount of time one has on hand and his or her personal preferences for how to prepare. “At a minimum, before you take the computer-based GRE revised General Test, you should know what to expect from the test, including the administrative procedures, types of questions and directions, approximate number of questions and amount of time for each section. The administrative procedures include registration and appointment scheduling, date, time, test centre location, cost, score-reporting procedures and availability of special testing arrangements. You can find out about more about what to expect by visiting http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/tips/,” says she.

Dawn also advises the students to make best use of the practice tests. “Free materials are available at www.takethegre.com/prep. Download the POWERPREP II Software to experience a simulated test-taking experience. Connect with other test takers by visiting the GRE page on Facebook and interacting with other GRE test takers to exchange ideas. Sign up to get official test-taker updates at www.takethegre.com/signup.”

Executive Director of the TOEFL Programme Teresa Sanchez-Lazer says that the secret of cracking TOEFL is practice. Doling out a few tips she says, “learn more about your favourite topic and share what you have learned with a friend. Listen to podcasts, recorded lecturers and read good articles. Find a speaking partner, preferably with an original English speaker or try an online video chat.”

Create your own vocabulary cards and carry them wherever you go. It's a great way to practice and pass the time! Pull them out while travelling and use the time well.

For reading skills, summarize and paraphrase reading passages. Use outlines to assist in organising your ideas. Practice reading to improve your comprehension. Become familiar with reading and answering questions on a computer screen as this is the format used for the TOEFL iBT test.

For speaking skills, read a short article from a newspaper or magazine aloud. Give a one-minute oral summary of the article. Express your opinion regarding the article.

For writing skills, watch your favourite television show. Write a summary of the episode.

Important websites:

www.youtube.com/user/TOEFLtv/featured

www.toeflgoanywhere.org/user/toefl-journey

www.facebook.com/toeflgoanywhereindia

Helpline

The TOEFL Helpline Centre at India works from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 000-800-100-3780. In addition, student inquiries can be sent via email to TOEFLsupport4India@ets.org.