Useful GRE Tips for Non-Native English Speakers | Top Universities

Useful GRE Tips for Non-Native English Speakers

By Manhattan Review

Updated August 9, 2018 Updated August 9, 2018

The GRE is a challenging exam for anyone preparing for it, and it’s easy to forget that this is even more prevalent for non-native English speakers.  The test is known for having more challenging English, vocabulary, and reading comprehension sections than its counterpart, the GMAT, an exam known more for its taxing quantitative reasoning.

Read on to find out some of the main GRE difficulties international students face, and how to overcome them.

Immerse yourself in the English Language

If English isn’t your mother tongue, the only real way to become more comfortable is to completely immerse yourself in it. This doesn’t have to be painstakingly boring, either. Sure, reading daily articles from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal can be of great benefit as it pertains to new vocabulary and dense reading material, but there are also other ways to enhance your linguistic capabilities that might be more creative.

For instance, the abundance of English-speaking podcasts available for download can drastically improve listening, speaking, and comprehension skills. Additionally, watching English-speaking television shows, particularly with subtitles, can also be of great use—and also a great way to pick up slang!

Regardless of the method you use to submerge yourself in the English language, it’s clear the only way to gain comfort is to gain exposure.

Learn 15-25 words a day

Yes, this might seem like a lot, but for GRE purposes, it’s wise to increase your English vocabulary by about 2,000 words overall. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your impressive new vocabulary won’t be adapted by your brain in a month. Building new vocab takes time, patience and practice, practice, practice.

Logistically speaking, there are a variety of ways to do this. Sure, there are new apps available that can enhance your vocabulary through exposure and practice exercises, but good old flash cards are a great resource, as well. Enhancing your vocabulary with graduate school-level verbiage will assist you in navigating dense reading passages in the GRE. This strategy will help you beyond your GRE prep, as in university circles (and cocktail parties!), it’s never a bad idea to have a bigger grasp of the English Language.

Think in English

Oftentimes when we aren’t native English speakers, we observe, assimilate or process a phrase in our native tongue, then translate it into English. Challenge yourself and your GRE verbal preparation by thinking thoughts in English—including new and challenging vocabulary, idioms, and summaries. Try to make English your default language as you process the world around you, as this tactic will accelerate your English use and understanding.

You know you’re really getting somewhere when you’re able to dream at night in English and not your native tongue. For many, this signals a huge leap in real English immersion, and you should lead to an optimal GRE verbal performance.

Text and email in English

Okay, this may seem a little silly—you’re probably thinking: How the heck does this enhance a new vocabulary? Well, when you’re able to text and email in English, you’re incorporating this language into your day-to-day communication. It might help to also find a friend who is studying for the GRE and to make it a goal to text or communicate only in English between the two of you. Yes, gym buddies are a thing, but so are GRE English-speaking buddies!

Analyze verbal mistakes

While most of the English reading, listening and writing you encounter in GRE preparation will be ‘correct,’ it’s very valuable to expose yourself to spelling and grammatical errors. This is where having access to GRE verbal practice exercises as well as diagnostic exams would be invaluable, as studying, breaking down, and evaluating incorrect answers can help inform your own process. Deconstructing why a particular grammatical example is erroneous will assist you in spotting them when it comes to test day.

Map out reading passages

You want to employ ‘active reading’ in the GRE, not passive; after all, reading on this exam isn’t Stephen King leisure reading. Just like when you take notes whilst solving a mathematical equation, you want to take notes when reading dense passages. This is called ‘mapping passages,’ which is basically taking note of all main ideas, important details, and the tone/opinion expressed by the author. This will aid you in navigating the academic topics more seamlessly and answering comprehension questions faster.

Become familiar with the root of words

English basically comes from Latin and Greek, so familiarizing yourself with the roots of words will help you in guessing when you encounter words you’re not sure on. This primarily entails the memorization of prefixes and suffixes, which comes in handy for longer, more complex and unfamiliar words.

In the end, exposure to English will help you master English, so you have to continue to read, listen, write, and immerse yourself in the language to expect a better GRE verbal score. Make sure to allot ample preparation time, as much of this work requires revisiting words and grammar rules time and time again. English is like a muscle, the more you flex it, the stronger it gets.

If you have not looked at it yet, please check out the updated Manhattan Review India website including locations in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Warangal.

About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review GRE Prep is brought to you by Manhattan Review, an international test prep firm. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, our company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review operates in many cities in the United States and in selected major cities around the world, including Hong Kong.

This article was originally published in August 2018 .

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