GRE- Graduate Record Examination

TOEFL- Test of English as a Foreign Language

The process of getting admission at Universities of your choice in USA or other countries for higher Education is not a monumental task provided we follow the correct protocol. You need not go to any agency offering courses and assured admissions abroad, they just make money on what you can do yourself. They will do less than what you can do and it will save you lot of money, Trust me!

Order your passport before you decide to go on with things, if you are genuinely interested. It will take few months and is necessary for all paper work.

I would divide the whole process into three important components in which all bear equal weight. Some of my experiences that I would like to share with you all in this reference are:

  1. Faith in God, Self-determination and patience- Trust in Lord Almighty for all. Have patience and be determined its a long process and sometimes may become frustrating. Keep your cool and leave everything on GOD. Dont become desperate it would help you when you go for visa at end.

    It would be good to start searching in advance for the universities offering degree in your area of interest. You can use Internet to search and one of the useful website is:

    It gives you a brief outline about the courses offered in various universities around the world in different areas of specialization. You can ask your professors and some of your alumni if outside the country working in that area about the universities to make an intelligent choice.

    Making a good choice of university is very important factor. After you decide which universities might be a good prospect you can request the pre-application from the graduate school directly through the website or by visiting the particular universities website.

    You can get GRE & TOEFL score reported to four institutions of your choice at no charge on day of examination so try to get forms from at least twelve (12) universities to sort them out further and apply at the best prospects you see. They send the forms FREE of cost. Get as much information as you can before making selection. Send scores to at least all four Institutions even if you have not applied but intend to do so.

  2. Personal Correspondence with faculty working in your area of interest at universities of your choice and filling up the forms- When you receive the forms, visit the websites and find out faculties working in your area and send them Emails telling your background and showing your interest in that particular area. Prepare a good Resume; send it as an electronic attachment. They will respond you if not, write again, and be persistent.

    Once you receive their replies they will be indicating you if they have an opening for financial assistance or not. And, if they have which semester will they be able to provide and what are their requirements for GRE scores. Keep in touch with those who reply positively they will be good prospects. Pick up the universities and start applying there with all requirements. If you have enough funds to support yourself and your studies while in USA then there is no problem of seeking funding and can easily get into most schools.

    It is a good idea to apply well in advance about 7-8 months before intended date of enrollment it takes longer than expected due to lot of requirements by admissions office. If you do not have confidence on GRE & TOEFL wait till you get your scores so that you can pick up ones according to your profile, which fits best. Except USA, most of the countries do not require GRE. Plan, as you feel comfortable. Some universities and programs even in the USA just need TOEFL as a requirement.

    One of the most important components of your application will be the Statement of Purpose you send with your application. You can visit the web site for obtaining guidelines at:


  3. Taking the GRE &TOEFL- First thing is to have your passport ready, it is the only form of Identification available at test centers in India. There are about eight centers of ETS in India, main in Delhi (Sylvan testing Center) who provide information on tests and various test centers in all parts of India. You can also visit their websites online for more information on centers and their contact addresses and phone nos from:

GRE and TOEFL are offered only as Computer Based Tests (CBT) in India. Nothing to worry about computer testing, you just need to know how to click the mouse on a computer and thats all; no expertise required. Try to buy books well in advance for test preparation. Take test at least three-four months before intended date of enrollment if you have already submitted your application at University. It might take sometime for scores to reach the University from ETS.

For an average student with English background the preparation time should be about Two months for GRE and Couple of weeks or one month for TOEFL. The time I estimated is fully devoted time, assess yourself and your time required accordingly. Try to buy some GRE & TOEFL CDs, which you can get in Delhi (Nehru Place, Palika Bazaar), test them at shop before buying. Now, even ETS sends a CD to practice once you are registered for the test, but that comes late since it is directly mailed from New Jersey. Its good to have own CDS beforehand and start practicing as you go through the book. Try arranging a computer for practice in peaceful setting, lot of people rent computers on monthly basis. Even if you can hire it for one month before test it should give you enough practice.

TOEFL is easy as compared to GRE and does not require much effort, as you just need to get a minimum of 213 to fulfill requirement of English proficiency in most of US universities. The suggested book would be Barrons and CDs can be of ETS, Barrons, Kaplans or Princeton. Focus on listening portion as I found it to be one undermining my score. If you are in habit of listening English songs and seeing English channels you should be in better position.

Read English Newspapers and Articles to give you an idea of writing and some vocabulary development, which may come handy in writing portion of TOEFL. The topics for written test in TOEFL are fairly simple though. Try to score good in TSE (written portion) above 5.0/6.0 or some universities require you to take a test of English again before you begin classes at their campus.

If you cannot type fast on computer you have the option of writing the essay on paper. The evaluations on Paper essays have higher scores since on computer you may miss out on punctuation or spelling unknowingly. Have a good nights sleep before day of exam. A good score always helps positively and gives edge over other applicants.

Verbal portion of GRE is most challenging for all usually. For students with Science background the quantitative portion does not require much effort it usually involves simple mathematics. You need to find out from the professor you are corresponding or the concerned department about GRE requirement if they consider the sum of all three sections combined or two of three sections. It will give you a better idea of what threshold score to reach. . The suggested book would be Barrons and CD can be of ETS, Barrons, Kaplans or Princeton. More is practice better it is especially for the verbal section. Have a good nights sleep before day of exam. A good score always helps positively and gives edge over other applicants.

Tip: In GRE the strategy should be to get all your initial questions in different sections correct as they shoot up the score and time is less so even if you cant do well on last portions your score will be fine. First 15-20 questions will make all he difference in good and average and bad scores. Attempt all the questions do not leave any unanswered.

In midst of everything going on keep in touch with your professor apprising him of all test dates and scores. It shows your keen interest in working with him and does make a difference.

If everything went well you can expect to get your I -20 within two months of your test date or so if all other application materials are with the Admissions office. Go on and apply for the Visa. I hope this information is helpful.


-Sujit Anurag Ekka

                                                            200, Seitz Hall (0303)

                                                           Biological Systems Engineering

                                                           Virginia Tech

                                                           Blacksburg, VA 24061 USA.

Currently—Enrolled as PhD student in Biological Systems Engineering