The GRE – It’s Like the SAT, all Grown up

For many, the GRE isn’t completely new territory. At some point, you yourself may have sat down one Saturday to take a long and grueling test: the SAT. You probably remember the little fill in the blank sentence questions as well as the reading passages that followed (although probably not very fondly). You might also recall math questions don’t weren’t necessarily hard, but were very tricky.

The same – but different?

Well, those SAT question types mostly sum up the GRE. Of course, the GRE is a much more difficult version of the SAT. Fill-in-the-blank sentences have morphed into triple blank Text Completions that can sometimes be an entire paragraph long. And the reading passages on the GRE make the ones SAT seem downright enjoyable to read.

Nonetheless, you shouldn’t feel as though the GRE is a totally unknown quantity. Indeed, many of the most common SAT words are also common GRE words.That said, the similarity between the two tests may not be welcome news if your score was somewhere in the middle of average SAT scores in your school. For many, though, SAT prep was limited to those Sentence Completion exercises your sophomore English teacher whipped out when the class was getting unruly. With the GRE, you can take your own score destiny into your hands. And with the wealth of prep material out there, you can prep for months.

How to use those old SAT books you’ve got lying around

Speaking of prep material, you might be wondering if you can use SAT questions as practice material. For those just starting off with vocabulary, the SAT College Board book offers great practice. The Sentence Completions are nowhere as tough as most of those on the GRE, but they are somewhat similar to some of the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions you’d see in the easiest GRE section. And since many of the SAT words are also high frequency GRE words, you get to reinforce those GRE words you’ve already learned.

The Reading Comprehension, however, is sufficiently different that I wouldn’t recommend it for GRE prep. It tends to be a little easier and not nearly as academic. The question types also differ somewhat.

The SAT math questions, at least the more difficult ones, offer good practice for the GRE math, if you are scoring below 155. If you are already scoring above 155, and want to score more, then I would suggest GRE or GMAT material.


In many ways, the GRE is a more difficult version of the SAT. If you are just starting to prep for the GRE, and are scoring 150 or below, doing certain SAT questions types can help you. Otherwise, it is better to prep with GRE materials.

This post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE and SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GRE prep. For more advice on taking the GRE, check out Magoosh’s GRE blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>