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The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

NMU offers free Graduate Record Exam prep course

Sam Rush/NW

It isn’t too early to start thinking about the future. Students looking to continue their education in graduate school may need to take the Graduate Records Examinations. 

NMU students and the public can receive assistance preparing for the test by enrolling in the university’s GRE Prep class free of charge. It is offered by the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in conjunction with the McNair Scholars Program. Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Andy Poe teaches the class.

The Graduate Record Examination was developed by the Educational Testing Service and comprises a General Test and a variety of specific Subject Tests. According to Poe, many, but not all, graduate institutions require General Test scores as a part of their admissions process. Certain programs also require Subject Test scores, so students should research their potential school’s requirements beforehand. 

The General Test is offered on-demand. The Subject Tests are only offered a set number of times each year, but the September and October administration of Subject Tests have been canceled due to COVID-19, according to ETS.  Students should consider all of their options when preparing to take the GRE.

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“There are plenty of professional test preparation organizations that will help you prepare for these tests, but most of them are quite expensive,” Poe said. “But at NMU the GRE Prep course is free and it always has been free. So if you’re looking to take the GRE a good place to start is with the GRE Prep class.”

Poe said NMU’s prep course focuses on the General Test, but can also help with the Mathematics Subject Test. 

“On Mondays, we just systematically go through the entire GRE,” Poe said. “On Tuesdays, we talk about anything the students want to talk about. ‘Hey, I’m really rough on these kinds of math problems. Can we look at those?’ Or, ‘I sure could use practice on the essay.’”

The class is meeting via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. In the past, there were typically about 12 students in the class. However, Poe said enrollment has increased since the course went entirely online.

“I’m sure the option of attending GRE Prep without wearing a mask, dressed extremely casually does have its appeal,” Poe said. “And I have no problem with that. I can teach it just fine virtually.”

Poe, who has taught the GRE Prep class for more than 20 years, recommends starting preparations for the test a year in advance. Some students enroll in the class as early as freshman year. The sooner students begin studying for the GRE, the more time they will have to learn the material and avoid any unpleasant surprises on testing day, he said.

“You think you understand the problems, then you want to make sure you can answer the questions in the time allotted,” Poe said. “Even if you get all the answers right can you do all the questions in half an hour, for example?”

The questions on the GRE have remained relatively the same throughout the 21 years Poe has been teaching GRE Prep at NMU. He has only needed to shift the focus of the class twice in that time. Information on what to expect on the test is available on ETS’s website ( According to ETS, the General Test includes three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. The GRE Prep class covers these topics, but students should seek out additional resources for studying. Poe recommends Magoosh (,  which offers a variety of study materials, such as a free vocabulary builder.

“Not all of it is free,” Poe said. “Some of it you have to pay for and some of it you don’t, so you’ve got to kind of click around and Google around until you find some good stuff there.” 

According to ETS, the General Test costs $205. Poe encourages students to take the prep class and study to avoid having to retake the exam. The course has received positive feedback from students.

“It helps give me a better focus where to spend the limited amount of time I do have and provides me with a meeting time to help me dedicate and commit the necessary time to study,” second-year graduate student Erik Flinn said. 

Flinn, who is pursuing an M.S. in mathematics, is studying to take the General Test and the Mathematics Subject Test. He says Poe’s instruction has been helpful.

“There is no way I would be able to know where to look and what to begin to study without him,” Flinn said. “If anyone is on the fence about taking advantage of NMU’s GRE Prep course they should absolutely take part in it.”

GRE prep is also offered by NMU Continuing Education and Workforce Development, but these classes cost $799, according to the online registration form (

For more information on the free GRE Prep course, visit To learn more about the GRE, go to

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