Comprehensive Information on GRE and TOEFEL Examinations

Home

About Us

BA Chapters

BA Forum

BA Projects

BANEE Scholarship

Matrimonials

Job-Hunt

Articles

Feedback

FAQ

Lend a Hand

Search

Quran Resources

Pictures Gallery

Islamic Videos

Anti Dowry

Education

Institutions

Useful Links

Your Intro

About Bihar

Jharkhand

Calendar-2008

Patrons

Personalities

Guide to Islam

News 

Quran Tafseer

Satellite View of Your City

Gregorian Dates to Hijri

Prayer Times

NRI Commissions

Foreign Missions in India

 

 GRE® - Graduate Record Examinations®

TOEFL® - Test of English as a Foreign Language

Get all information regarding GRE or TOEFL, by clicking on the image  or go to www.gre.org or www.toefl.org 

 

We advise all those who aspire to study abroad to go through www.i20fever.com as well.

 

Useful Links

   

General information on studies in the United States:

      

"If you want to study in the United States" - U.S. Department of State

"Graduate School Admissions" - Gretchen VanEsselstyn

  

Comprehensive information on pre- and post-applying:

   

Appinfo - prepared by CSE students of CEG, Anna University, '99 batch

http://www.geocities.com/prashthy/

http://www.myacharya.com/

http://www.ee.iitb.ac.in/~teesa/apping/apping.html

http://members.rediff.com/duewest/apliproc.htm

      

Tips on writing a statement of purpose:

     

http://career.berkeley.edu/Grad/GradStatement.stm

http://www.useic.ru/apply/appstate.htm

http://www.fulbright.co.uk/eas/postgrad/statement2.html

http://www.cps.ci.cambridge.ma.us/crls/Research%20Web%20Site/9_writing__state_of_purp.htm

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/gcallaghan/graduate/winningstatement.htm

   

University rankings:

     

NRC Rankings

http://www.gradschools.com/

 

Scholarships:

  

http://www.tata.com/tata_sons/releases/20021210.htm

http://www.studentsguild.com/servlet/NFrmFinancialAidMain

http://www.gynonline.com/learning/JNTATA.htm

http://www.studentsguild.com/servlet/NFrmFinancialAidMain

http://www.educationobserver.com/scholarship/Index_Engineering_Technology.htm

http://www.orau.org/nsf/nsfglanc.htm

http://www.educationobserver.com/scholarship/THE_LOTUS_TRUST_SCHOLARSHIP.htm

http://www.fulbright-india.org/fellowships/indians/indgen.htm

http://www.tn.gov.in/department/adtw.htm

http://www.studyhigh.net/studyabroad/ramakrishna.html

http://www.educationobserver.com/scholarship/Index_India.htm

 

Visa booking and information:

    

http://www.ttsvisas.com/

http://travel.state.gov/what_consuls_look_for.html

http://www.geocities.com/visabysuj/Visa_Xp.htm

http://www.geocities.com/visabysuj/Visa_Questions.htm

 

So you wanna take the big leap? - Sabeshan Srinivasan (iamsabeshan@gmail.com)

 

A successful entry into a U.S. based M.S. needs a lot of meticulous planning in advance. This information is primarily meant for engineering graduates. If you have decided to do an M.S. after your B.E., you should start preparing right from the second year. A typical schedule would look like this:

       

Second year of B.E.

- Have a passport ready or apply for one

- Gather enough study material and information on GRE, TOEFL etc.

- Start preparing from the fourth semester itself.

      

Third year of B.E.

- Book your GRE, TOEFL dates sometime during July with the TOEFL date lagging GRE by a week.

- Decide on the program (area of interest) and the universities based on various factors.

- Take your GRE and TOEFL between your sixth and seventh semester.

     

Final year of B.E.

- Based on your GRE and TOEFL scores, start applying to your chosen universities by December (after your seventh semester).

- After you receive admits, decide which university you are going to join.

- After you receive your I-20, get all other documents ready. Also block your airline ticket through a travel agent.

- This is also the time for applying for an educational loan or scholarship.

      

Post B.E.

- Book for a visa date sometime during June (before the last week).

- Keep your fingers crossed!

- After getting the visa, get other materials ready.

       

Depending on which stage you are currently in, you may choose to go to the pre-apping, post-apping or post-visa sections or if you are just starting out to explore the world of apping, just read through the entire stuff! You are in for a big lecture!

  

Pre-apping stage

The basics of it all

      

The way to continuing your higher studies in the U.S. can be a long-drawn and exasperating affair. It takes a lot of patience and meticulous planning to establish yourself where you wish to be. Before you jump headlong into this document, let me introduce you to some of the unfamiliar terms you will often come across in peer circles, official correspondence, websites etc.

 

Term

Meaning

Apping

Short form for 'applying'. Refers to applying to universities

School

May variably refer to department, office or college

Standardised tests

Refers to tests like GRE, TOEFL etc.

CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) - up to the current semester

A grading system analogous to the percentage system adopted in Indian universities. The maximum is 4.00 in most U.S. universities (similar to 100% in our universities)

Major

Denotes the area of specialisation you intend to pursue

Admit

An offer of admission from a university

Undergraduate degree Bachelor's degree
Graduate degree Master's degree or PhD

 

U.S. universities work different from their Indian counterparts. When you make an application to an university, you must send the original application to the Graduate School (the American equivalent of the university administrative office) along with requisite application material and a copy of the same to your department along with the application material that have been asked of you by the department. A few weeks after you receive an admit (usually you will first be intimated by e-mail and then by an official letter; you may or may not be intimated of grant of aid in this letter),  you will receive a form called I-20 (this is the document which signifies the official statement of your admission to the visa authorities) which you must fill in during the time of visa application. Keep this document safely and produce it when you appear for the visa interview.

Top

 

GRE and TOEFL

Preparing for the GRE/TOEFL

      

It takes quite some time for preparing well for the GRE. Usually, six months' time is enough for most people (in case you wish to prepare systematically and gradually) but you should allocate at least 45 days as a minimum for the GRE. The GRE has three sections:

        

Verbal (this includes multiple choice questions (MCQ) on antonyms, relationships, logic and reading comprehension)

Quantitative (the easiest of 'em all, this should be a real pushover for any engineering student. Has MCQs on various topics like algebra, arithmetic etc.)

Analytical (starting Oct. 2002, this section has two questions which must be answered. The answers must be in essay form)

       

Each section takes at least 15 days preparation which is why 45 days in the minimum  for GRE as a whole. Of course, all this is assuming you have the requisite skills - vocabulary, logic, essay-writing, mathematical etc. The duration mentioned is only for practice and not for learning these skills!

         

Quite a lot of books are available for the GRE. Not all books are up to the mark, so you should choose the right book for preparation. Further, you should also practice mock GRE computer tests which would give you a fair idea of where you stand. You may follow these books for preparing for the GRE:

      

Barron's guide to the GRE (the bible for GRE aspirants)

Peterson's guide to the GRE

Kaplan's testprep for the GRE

Arco's study guide (though not a very good book, contains a lot of practice tests)

Word Power by Norman Lewis (useful for etymological guesswork)

Rosenberg's book on vocabulary (I don't exactly remember what the title was)

The GRE Big book (there is actually no such book but its the informal name given to a compilation of GRE question papers over a period of some 20 years. Very good for practice. In Chennai, it is available in the xerox shop near Mandakini (?) hostel)

     

There are many more books but these books would by themselves take quite some time to finish. So, I guess this would be enough. However, if you have an appetite for more such testprep books, visit the nearest bookshop!

     

As far as the TOEFL is concerned, a week's preparation would be enough for most people. At most two weeks would be enough for just about anybody. The TOEFL is composed of the following sections:

         

Listening (dialogues spoken by voices in an American accent will be heard and questions will be asked after the end of the speech)

Reading (passages will be displayed based on which questions will be asked; easier than the corresponding questions in the GRE)

Structure/Writing (the structure part contains questions on identifying grammatical mistakes in sentences; the writing part consists of writing a 250-word essay on a given topic)

        

You need not worry much for the TOEFL. A week's gap after the GRE would be enough. No books are needed for preparing for TOEFL but it would certainly help preparing using the PowerPrep for TOEFL (unlike the GRE, this software is NOT given free by the ETS).

 

Top

 

Taking the GRE/TOEFL

   

Most universities in the U.S. require that prospective students take GRE and/or TOEFL for admission. Most universities have a certain cutoff for TOEFL. Often it is pegged at 213 or so. As far as GRE is concerned, your department decides what the minimum allowable score is.

      

Booking dates for GRE/TOEFL is fairly simple. You can book online at http://www.gre.org/ and http://www.toefl.org/ or by phone. However, you must call Prometric services (the authorised agents of ETS - the agency that conducts GRE and TOEFL exams) at New Delhi for booking your dates. For both of these methods you must possess a credit card (Visa/MasterCard). There is also an alternative method, you may book your GRE/TOEFL by snail mail (i.e. by normal post). Information regarding this can be found at the nearest USEFI centre. For the uninitiated, USEFI stands for the United States Educational Foundation in India. These centres are usually located in the nearest U.S. Consulate or embassy (if in N.Delhi). You can choose the centre for testing (closest to where you live).

         

The GRE (as also the TOEFL) is a computerised test which must be delivered at an ETS authorised centre. Usually this goes by the name Thomson Prometric/Sylvan. In Chennai, this is located in Jagannathan Road (opp. Hotel Ganpat) in the STAR Vijay building complex. The TOEFL test shows the results (except for the essay section) immediately after completion of the test. The same applies for the GRE too. With effect from October 1, 2002, the GRE includes a compulsory essay (analytical) section and hence (unlike the earlier edition of GRE) the complete results are not displayed. The official scores (for both GRE and TOEFL) are sent to you around two-three weeks after the test. During the test (both GRE and TOEFL) you have the option of reporting the test scores to a maximum of four universities. Therefore, you should have decided the universities you wish joining as this can save quite a sum. Remember, it takes $25 to report both GRE and TOEFL scores to a single university (not including the $6 if you are reporting by phone). For four universities, this comes to $100!

           

After taking your GRE and TOEFL, you should decide to which universities you send the test scores (other than the four you might have sent scores to during the test). You may report the scores by post or by phone. In case you wish to report by post, you can download the ASR (Additional Score Report) form from the GRE/TOEFL website. Alternatively you can make use of the form provided with the official score report packet. Each university costs you $25 for a GRE and TOEFL report. In case you wish to report using phone, you must pay an additional $6 per phone session (during each session, you may report scores for a maximum of four universities).

 

Top

 

Deciding on the program and universities

 

Before you finish the third year of your B.E., you should have decided the area(s) of interest and the universities you intend applying to. Choosing the area of interest is not much difficult as by the end of the second year you should have a fair idea of where your interest lies. For example, if you are a geoinformatics engineering student, you might be interested in remote sensing. In such a case, you might consider applying to universities which excel in this particular field. After deciding your field of interest, you should pin down the universities you wish applying to. I have formulated a scheme for choosing universities:

       

2/7 th of the universities should be highly-ranked (dream schools or those belonging to the so called Ivy League) and should fall within the 1-20 ranking range.

2/7 th of the universities should fall in the 21-50 range (these are called the safe schools because you know you stand a fair chance of getting into such schools)

3/7 th of the universities can be low-ranked schools (i.e. beyond rank 50)

           

While this is the general scheme for choosing universities, the rank ranges may change depending on each individual's capabilities. Rankings for U.S. universities can be found at http://www.usnews.com/ (nowadays it is a paid site; you won't get rankings for more than 10 schools. However, if you can find a way to get to the full rankings, it would help you decide better). Another source is the annual NRC (National Research Council) rankings. You can do a search in http://www.google.com/ for the current NRC rankings. Using both ranklists, you can get a clear idea of which university you should choose.

        

One word of caution: do not choose universities primarily based on the costs involved. Remember that even the cheapest U.S. universities charge fees in excess of $15,000 (more than Rs. 7,50,000) PER year and so there is no logic in omitting universities on the basis of fees. Another fact that you should understand is that the cheapest is no necessarily the best!

 

Top

 

Applying to the universities of your choice

      

Once you have finalised the universities you wish to join, you must start applying. Most universities have stopped issuing application packages after the advent of the Internet. However, you may try asking the university to send you a package. Almost all universities have downloadable application files (as pdf files) which can be printed and filled in. This is certainly preferable as it cuts down the time needed to receive the application package.

          

Applying involves sending documents (in addition to your filled-up application) which you need to prepare. These documents need some time for preparation and therefore, you should not sit down at the time of application for these documents. They are as follows:

        

Statement of Purpose (SoP)

This is a brief statement of your degree goals, why you have chosen such and such university and why you wish to take up such and such field of study. Many universities may require more information to be provided. Usually this is a one or two-page essay which is to be provided with the application. SoP is a very important factor in deciding your admission to the university and grant of financial aid. So, make sure you prepare your SoP well ahead of time so that you have enough time to get it revised, corrected and edited many times. Writing an SoP is not like writing just another essay. It requires lot of patience, time, and focus to write a successful SoP. You can download my SoPs from here (I have only included my successful SoPs ;-)). At the end of the page you can find links to some guides on writing SoPs.

 

Top

 

Financial statement

    

This arguably is one of the biggest worries of applicants to U.S. universities. "How do I show enough funds for the fees indicated?" is a question that would dog every prospective apper. Most U.S. universities charge at least Rs.7,50,000 per year as fees. For a two-year course, it would be necessary to document a minimum of Rs.15 lakhs. That is certainly an astronomical sum for most Indian families. So how do you exactly go about documenting such a huge sum. Usually, this is done by providing a bank statement to the university indicating the ability of the sponsor (this could be your father, mother, uncle etc.). If you belong to a well-to-do family or if you have such a relative, it should not be a problem for you. You only need to get a bank statement and an affidavit of support from your sponsor. Formats for both can be downloaded from here. For those who don't have the financial wherewithal or don't have any affluent relatives might consider approaching 'agents' for this purpose. Though the name 'agent' might sound scary, they are actually professional bankers who indulge in providing financial statements for a fee. Their modus operandi involves depositing a certain amount (which is decided by your university fees) in a bank account opened in your name. They retain the passbook and cheque book thus rendering any chances of pilfering from your side! They usually charge fees on a per-lakh basis. A certain agent in Chennai charges Rs.350 per lakh documented. After preparing the financial statement, the amount is withdrawn and the account closed. I definitely feel this might be unethical or maybe even illegal (I am not aware of laws that may apply here) but there are times when you should take the plunge when there is no way out. But be careful of touts and be sure you have verified the antecedents of the agent before involving yourself in any transaction.

      

Recommendation letters

       

These are letters issued by your professors indicating your competence for pursuing such and such program at such and such university. The letters are usually drafted by the professor himself and returns it to the student in a sealed envelope. However, nowadays most professors ask students to write the letter themselves and correct it before approving it. But, you should not assume this to be the norm and embarrass your professor. It is wise to be circumspect in such matters! Reco letters (as they are informally called) are 100 to 150-word letters stating in brief the professor's opinion of the student, his capabilities, and any other information that might be useful to the university in gauging the student. I have included some general templates for reco letters here. You may download them and use them for your recos. But be careful not copy it word-for-word. University officials are very careful in detecting such malpractices and so make sure you use these templates only for reference.

       

Transcripts

       

A transcript is an official statement of your marks (till the semester for which marks are available) issued by your university (please note that most U.S. universities do not accept mark statements issued by the college for applicants from India and Pakistan. The transcript must necessarily have been issued by the university only. A notable example is the Ohio State University which explicitly states in its brochure "Applicants from Pakistani or Indian universities: Submit mark sheets from your university certified as true copies of the originals. Mark sheets prepared by the college are not acceptable."). Usually, there is no strict format for a transcript - most unversities only need an attested (copy of your) marksheet; the only requirement being that the transcript should be provided in a sealed envelope.

        

Résumé

      

This is rarely needed but some universities like the University of Florida, Gainesville insist on a résumé. Hence it is better to prepared on such grounds. A sample résumé can be downloaded from here. Résumés find their true use when contacting your department professors for financial assistantships.

         

Sending the application

     

After you have finished filling your application, you can pack it in along with all other application materials (like SoP, recos etc.) in a large thick envelope. Usually, you may need to send two envelopes - one to the Graduate School and another to your department - though some universities may need you send in only one envelope. Prepare address slips (print out addresses from a PC onto slips; the font face may be chosen as Garamond and a large size may be chosen) to be pasted on the envelopes. Even if you apply online, you must send envelopes for documents like your transcripts, reco letters etc. If you have a month's time before the application deadline, you may send your envelopes by normal registered post itself. Sending them through courier or Speed Post may sound attractive but it seves no purpose as normal mail to the U.S. reaches reliably in fifteen days or so. You can save a lot of money by sending your envelopes through normal post; don't worry, the Indian postal system isn't really what it used to be. What I mean here is it is at par with most international services.

 

Top

 

Scholarships and loans

   

Banks offer educational loans up to Rs.4 lakhs without the need for a security. If you meet their criteria (this will definitely vary from bank to bank), you are eligible to apply for an educational loan. If you wish to apply for a loan amount greater than Rs.4 lakhs you would be required to show 100% security. In both cases, simple interest for the same has to be paid on a monthly basis. Most banks offer loans at 1% per month (or 12% per annum) and this interest has to be paid regularly either by your sponsor. Examples of banks offering loans are SBI, Canara, Syndicate etc. Before applying for a loan, I would recommend you see the websites of the banks you would like to apply to. That would give you a fair idea of the terms and condition of each loan. I would suggest loan applicants to try applying to different banks simultaneously for the no-security loan as you would not only get the amount you need (more than the 4 lakhs given in a single loan) but also would not need to struggle to provide security for the amount. As far as my knowledge goes, there is no legal hurdle preventing from obtaining simultaneous loans nor do the banks mention it as a disqualification for obtaining loan from them.

        

Obtaining an education scholarship from a charitable organisation is a bit more difficult as they subject you to a lot of questions and take a lot of time in processing your application. Therefore, give yourself a month or two for applying for a scholarship. There are many organisations which provide loan/scholarships to needy students. You need to watch out newspapers and other media for advertisements. At the bottom of the page you can find some links to a few such organisations. Given below is an address-list of a few organisations in India.

     

   

J.N.Tata Endowment

The Director, 
J.N. Tata Endowment, 
Bombay House, 
24 Homi Modi Street, 
Mumbai - 400001

K.C.Mahindra Educational Trust 

The Managing Trustee, 
K.C.Mahindra Education Trust, 
Cecil Court, 
Mahakavi Bushan Marg, 
Mumbai - 400039

Mariwala Trust 

The Managing Tustee, 
Mariwala Charity Trust, 
409 Shah and Nahar Industrial Estate, 
Dr. E. Moses Rd, 
Worli Naka, 
Mumbai - 400018

R.D.Sethna Scholarship Fund 

The Chief Executive, 
R.D.Sethna Scholarship Fund, 
Esplanade House, 
29 Hazarimal Somani Marg, 
Fort, Mumbai - 400001

Lotus Trust Scholarships 

Lotus Trust, 
Lotus House, 
6 New Marine Lines, 
Mumbai - 400020

Sir Ratan Tata Trust 

Sir Ratan Tata Trust, 
c/o J.N.Tata Endowment, 
Bombay House, 
24, Homi Modi Street, 
Mumbai - 400020

Seth Pirojshah Godrej Foundation 

Seth Pirojshah Godrej Foundation 
Godrej Bhavan, 
Waudby Road, 
Fort, 
Mumbai - 400001

(Go here personally)

AMM Lakshmi Achi scholarship

The Secretary
AMM Foundation
“Tiam House”
4th Floor
28 Rajaji Salai
Chennai 600 001

Naina Parikh Education Trust 

Vithaldas Chambers, 
Opp. State Bank, 
Bruce Street, 
Mumbai - 400001

TataChem Golden Jubilee Foundation 

Bombay House, 
24, Homi Modi Street, 
Mumbai - 400020

       

Top

 

Post-apping stage

Getting your visa

   

An F-1 visa to the U.S. is fairly simple to obtain if your credentials are perfect. You stand a better chance if you have received some form of funding from the university. As of May, 2003, the U.S. Department of State requires all first-time F-1 applicants to go through a mandatory interview irrespective of whether funding has been provided by the university or not. However, don't panic. A visa interview is usually quite a simple procedure if you approach it in the way it should be. Getting a visa involves three steps:

       

Booking a date for the visa interview

     

If you live in Chennai, Kolkata or New Delhi, you can book your visa date online at http://www.ttsvisas.com/. You should book your visa date sometime during the first week of May for a date in June and beyond. Remember that during the third week of May, there would be a mad rush to book dates. So, be cautioned! Choose a date that would not only be convenient for you but when you would confident of knowing your final semester grades as also of receiving your course completion certificate. Ideally, the second or third week of June would be good for anybody. You should also keep in mind your reporting date as mentioned in the I-20. The visa interview should not be too close to the reporting date or you will not have enough time for preparing for your stay in the U.S. Likewise, it can't be too further (according to the U.S. Department of State regulations, you may not apply 90 days before your reporting date) to the reporting date.

      

Preparing for the interview

  

This involves two aspects - the monetary and the intellectual. As far as the monetary aspect is concerned, you need to show enough proof of funds for your entire stay at the U.S. (except the amount received as aid). For this, you may show a bank statement (as stated above for the application process) and/or a C.A. certificate. Additionally, you may need to show a property/jewellery certificate in case you are mortgaging your land/jewellery etc. to fund your higher studies. Refer to the above section on applying on how to obtain a bank statement etc. For the intellectual aspect, you need to prepare for the possible questions that will be asked by the visa officer. Information for both is provided in this digest. Also join some egroup which caters to the students leaving for U.S. for the Fall (or Spring) session. Do a search in http://groups.yahoo.com/ and you should be fine. Such groups have a lot of info. During my time, I was a member  of the fall-2003, fall_2003, chennaifall2003 and fall2003chennai egroups which helped me a lot to prepare for my visa interview.

    

Attending the interview

  

If you have prepared well in the above steps, you should find the visa interview a breeze. However, do not be over confident. Just be yourself and answer the questions calmly and confidently. Confidence is the key here - you may sneak in a lie by answering confidently but a truthful answer will be deemed a lie if you take time to answer it. One thought for those who might find it hard suppressing the nerves: Remember that going to the U.S. and doing your M.S. in neither the only thing to do in life nor the end of the world if you don't get to do it. Just think of it as just another day in your life and the visa officer as just another stranger. Maybe the fact that he is an American might intimidate you but think like this: would you feel scared talking to an American tourist? Just think that he/she is not the deciding authority behind your future. Such thoughts would definitely boost your self-confidence, morale and pep you up!

   

Top

 

Post-visa stage

   

Once you get your visa, the first thing to do is to get your flight ticket. Take a route that is the shortest, cheapest and the most continuous. A flight to Frankfurt/London from your city in India and then onto your final destination would be the best option. This is because it is better not to get into the hands of our depraved customs officers! British Airways or Lufthansa would be a good choice but for heaven's sake please do not try flying with Air India. The money saved thus is definitely not worth the anxiety of a late/cancelled flight. Besides, these airlines are the most professionally managed in the world and would provide you a comfortable transit to the U.S. British Airways is more preferable to its German counterpart because of its alliance with American Airlines (a domestic airlines company in the U.S.) which make it unnecessary to buy two tickets in case you final destination is not directly accessible from London.

 

The next best thing to do is to go on a purchasing spree. Purchase goods which you might find necessary for your survival in the U.S. A detailed information booklet on what you need to do in the post-visa stage can be found here. You may also finish all such mundane stuff like getting an international licence (it's prohibitively costly to get a licence in the U.S.), getting yourself immunised (as per university requirements) etc. Do read the information in the zip file carefully.