A Bittersweet Journey of Taking GRE

Test illustration. Photo from PIxabay.

If you’re applying to American universities for a graduate or post-graduate degree, chances are you have to provide either GRE or GMAT score — something more dreadful for many than just taking an IELTS of TOEFL test. Our columnist, Hanryano, shares his journey in preparing for the big test.

Practice makes perfect. I do agree with that. However, what if you need to shell out a couple hundreds of dollars for that practice? US-bound prospective students are mostly required to take standardized tests, GRE or GMAT within their graduate school application. Last year I took GRE for several reasons: cost, test structure, and personal comfort. Business schools across the globe who used to exclusively accept GMAT now provide options for prospective students to choose between GMAT or GRE with no preference among the two. This makes it both easier and harder. It is easier because we are entitled to choose. Nevertheless, it is also harder for the exact same reason. Should I take GMAT or GRE? Many people ended up taking both tests just to test the water.

Some of GRE exercise books. Photo from ets.org
Some of GRE exercise books. Photo from ets.org

Why I chose GRE as my poison

Personally, the thought of taking MBA did not cross my mind until earlier this year and I have prepared myself taking GRE instead. This helped me narrow down the choice. On top of that, knowingly both GMAT and GRE are accepted, the easiest and more objective way to compare the two is by looking at the cost. GRE is around USD45 more affordable than its competitor. For some, this is merely a number, but it can be a deal-breaker for others. When you are applying to many schools at once or carrying the risk of retake, the numbers add up. GRE also feels comfortable for me in a way that the quantitative section revolves around basic calculations and does not require interpretations and assumptions as much as GMAT. However, the verbal section is what makes it challenging. Going back to the first sentence of this article, you got to practice and practice diligently.

Taking GRE or GMAT requires rigorous preparation and you are not to blame to ask for professional help. Again, this is something new and the test structure makes you wonder whether you are well-prepared or not. The question may not always about the difficulty of the questions presented, but rather on time management, familiarity with the system, and your ability to go back for questions you have not answered yet or feel doubtful. This is where professional preparation courses take their rightful place. I am not opposed to self-study and online training, but discussing questions and methods in person is arguably different than a one-way interaction, or being with a faceless consultant. Choose the preparation wisely, private or public classes, by-section or general preparation, the choices are there to suit all your needs.

Some tips for you, fellow GRE fighters

As an Indonesian who underwent national education until college, I speak from my experience that you are well-trained in quantitative section. It can get a little confusing in the beginning, but you will get the hang of it within weeks. Writing section of GRE is fairly straightforward. Always answer the question clearly. Do not answer questions with some innuendo expressions. Americans like to see your work the way it is. Never count on the examiner to interpret something considered trivial. It is understandable for Indonesians, but the ETS examiner will not. Be very blunt in answering the question. You may paraphrase, but leave no room for other interpretation. On top of that, for verbal section your extra work may go unnoticed. Keep in mind that the test is designed for people with English as their mother tongue. If they are finding it difficult, this is not something to be taken lightly. Put extra work and never underestimate even if you are familiar with the system.

If you are time-pressed, it is wise to consider test locations. As far as I know, GRE in Indonesia is conducted in Jakarta only. If perhaps you are somewhere closer to other test centers such as in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, it is worth taking the test there. For other people based in other cities who require travel to Jakarta, your first GRE may not be the last. Just keep that in mind. The only way to see how well you perform is on the D-Day. Make sure you are in perfectly good condition and ready to tackle the test.

After a thorough preparation, sometimes you are faced with unprecedented predicament. For instance, I made a huge mistake by realizing that I can only report my scores to maximum 4 (four) schools for free during the test. You can add some more along the way for a fee, but it is good to know where you are applying in the first place in order to get those schools listed on your score recipients for free. This also release some additional work you need to do. Another risk looms when you do not perform well on the test. For GRE, it is more likely that you are dissatisfied with your verbal section due to its complications. Looking for retake, remember that it will all go to vain if you choose not to report the score. Several friends of mine did not report their score which they consider not their best-effort ones. However, some schools are also looking on your attempts taking the test as it shows perseverance from their point of view.

You can find tips on the test like this online!


In conclusion, GRE or GMAT tests are not something to be considered last-minute. People are taking 2-4 times before they are sure the scores are qualified enough for the desired schools. Do not let this deter you, just make sure you allow enough resources both financially and non-financially in order to tackle the test smoothly. Always remember, hard work never betrays.

Previous articleBeing a Minority in a Japanese Campus: Experience and Lesson Learned
Next articleKeseharian Kuliah di Jepang
Hanryano works at Indonesia Financial Services Authority covering Non-Bank Financial Institutions sector. He used to work in an e-commerce company where he was familiar with warehouse management system and the growing start-up community in Indonesia. Hanryano earned his bachelor degree from Institut Teknologi Bandung majoring in Business Management with specialization in Finance and Operations. During college, he was an exchange student at ESC Rennes, France and secured funding from the Ministry of Education. His time outside work is filled with learning new subjects, traveling, and volunteering.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here