What Is a Good GRE Score? – 2017 Ultimate Guide

what is a good gre score?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is a series of 3 standardized tests that are used as a significant factor in a graduate school’s decision to admit or reject an applicant. The three tests include the verbal, quantitative reasoning, and writing tests–each of which provides your desired school with a generalized picture of your academic ability. Because the GRE is a factor in a university’s admission decision, many prospective students find themselves in the position of asking: “What is a good GRE score?”

How Is the GRE Scored?

Before we dive into answering that question, it’s important for you to know that the GRE was revised in 2011 and the scoring was changed. For GRE exams taken prior to August 1, 2011, the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the exam were scored from 200-800 in 10-point increments, and from 0-6 in half-point increments for the Analytical Writing portion of the exam.

The GRE revised General Test (this includes all tests taken on or after August 1, 2011) is the most current form of the exam. The GRE Verbal and Quantitative sections are now scored between 130-170 in 1-point increments, with 170 being the highest GRE score possible for the overall Verbal and overall Quantitative scores. The Analytical Writing score range has remained the same: it is still scored from 0-6 in half-point increments.

In order to get a solid GRE Score, you should remember that this computerized test is section-adaptive. That means that how well you perform on the first type of a specific section will determine how hard the second section of that type will be. It is a good idea to go back and check your answers carefully in the first section of each type (i.e. Verbal or Quant) to maximize your opportunity for doing well in that section so you will be offered an even harder section next in order to get the highest possible score.

GRE cutoff scores for top 20 schools

How Important are GRE Cutoff Scores?

Before we look at the range of possible GRE scores, it is important to have a clear understanding of the relative importance of GRE cutoff scores in determining your potential admission to graduate school. When a graduate school looks at your application, they are looking at a wide variety of factors that tell them whether or not you may be a successful student in their program; the GRE scores that you submit are merely one of these factors. If your score is below their “cutoff” point, your application will be thrown out before you’re even considered.

Universities use GRE cutoff scores as a convenient way to weed out low-level candidates that they would likely not consider for admission anyway.

Finding those cutoff scores is as easy as going to the web page of your chosen program in your college or university and looking at their admissions requirements. These cutoff scores do not answer the question, “What is a good GRE score?”, but they will let you know the lowest possible score that the program will accept, which is a good first step in preparing for the GRE. To the right you’ll see the Top Ranked MBA Programs and their Cutoff Scores for the GRE.

What is a Good GRE Score FOR YOU?

 

The GRE score you will need to be admitted to a specific graduate program will depend on the requirements of that program and how competitive it is. Most graduate schools have information posted on their sites about the average GRE scores of their most recent incoming class. You can also consult the annual graduate school rankings by U.S. News & World Report for GRE score ranges, or browse graduate student forums to get an idea of the GRE requirements for specific schools and programs.

ETS does not publish median GRE scores, however, based on the scores of a majority of test takers in recent years, the median hovers around 150-151 for the Verbal and Quant sections of the exam, and is about 3.7 for the AWA. To be competitive, you will need scores that are well above the median totals of around 303-306.

Some graduate programs have total cut-off scores (as mentioned above); other departments are only interested in the Verbal or the Quant sections of the exam. Most programs look at GRE scores as only one element of your application package, which includes letters of recommendation, your undergraduate transcripts and GPA, and your statement of purpose. Beyond the simple measure however, knowing what score you should aim for becomes a little more tricky.

Your target GRE score is dependent on a number of factors, including both the school as well as the specific program to which you are applying.  

Other factors considered in graduate school applications include:

  • Undergraduate GPA
  • Professional resume
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Letters of Recommendation

Ultimately, the answer to the question, “What is a good GRE score?” can only be answered once you know the school and the program to which you are hoping to apply. We break that down for you further, below.

GRE Score Percentiles Breakdown

GRE score percentiles are printed on your score report so that you (and graduate schools) can tell how well you did in comparison to all other test takers since August 1, 2011. Specifically, the score percentile shows the percentage of test takers who scored lower than a specific scaled score. For example, if you got a scaled score of 163 for the Verbal section, that is equivalent to a score percentile of 92, which means that 92% of all test takers scored lower than you for the Verbal portion of the exam.

GRE Percentile Scores for Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing

GRE SECTION 90th Percentile Score 80th Percentile Score
Verbal Score 162-170 158-161
Quantitative Score 166-170 162-165
Analytical Writing Score 5.0-6.0 4.5-5.0

As a rule, the following scores are considered very competitive:

  • Verbal Score between 158-162 (equivalent 0f 78th-89th percentile in 2014)
  • Quantitative Score between 159-164 (equivalent of 74th-88th percentile in 2014)
  • Analytical Writing Score above 4.5

Likewise, the following scores are considered decent (better than 50th percentile), and may be good enough to get you into some of the programs that interest you:

  • Verbal Score between 152-158 (equivalent of 54th-78th percentile in 2014)
  • Quantitative Score between 153-158 (equivalent of 52th-71st percentile in 2014)
  • Analytical Writing Score of 4.0

Accepted GRE Scores by School 

Your GRE score will likely be an important factor in your application package. The GRE is accepted by very many different schools and programs in a large variety of disciplines (the Arts, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Business, Foreign Languages etc.), so it is difficult to give an overall answer about what kind of GRE score will get you into a particular program.

Many programs in the humanities are less concerned with your performance on the Quant section of the exam, whereas Engineering departments are likely to care more about your scores in that section. That said, the better your score on the GRE, the more options you will have when it comes to graduate school admissions. In general, top schools (for example, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Duke, Columbia, UCLA, and Cornell) will prefer candidates who score in the 80th percentile or above on either the Verbal or the Quant section of the exam, depending on the type of graduate program.

Your best bet is to research those programs that interest you most to find out the typical score range of admitted students. For example, Princeton University publishes detailed statistics on the GRE scores of applicants, admitted students, and those who enrolled each year. For 2014, average GRE Verbal scores for admitted students across all departments ranged from 159-164. The average GRE Quant scores for admitted students ranged from 156-165. You can reference the cutoff scores for top schools in the infographic above.

Just like different schools have different GRE score requirements, so too do different academic programs within a school. The question however, is less about the requirements of a given school or program, and more about what score will actually make you a competitive candidate for your chosen program. For this, it is useful to look at average GRE scores, rather than low-end cutoff scores.

Luckily, ETS maintains statistics on average GRE scores of students entering a wide variety of academic programs.

Average GRE Score by Program

Average GRE Score by Major

In general, if you plan on attending a minimally or moderately competitive school, and your scores are above the average for the program to which you are applying, your application is likely in good shape, given that all of the other application components are high quality. At a highly competitive school, your scores will likely need to be higher in order to make your application stand out from the rest of the pack.

The best place to start, is to see if you can get the information from your school on the average GRE scores for the current academic year. This will give you a benchmark to shoot for so that you have a more concrete idea of the minimum score you are trying to achieve.

*Data Sourced from ETS

You should also remember that having an excellent (or even perfect) GRE score is no guarantee that you will be admitted to a particular program. Graduate school admissions committees in the U.S. tend to look at a student’s entire application, and may place as much emphasis on your GPA, your letters of recommendation, and your personal statement as on your GRE scores.

What GRE Study Materials and Resources Should I Use?

All of this emphasis, real or perceived, on standardized tests in the graduate admissions process, has many prospective students wondering how to get a good GRE score that will get them into their ideal program at the school of their dreams. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer or quick fix for this available. Preparing for the GRE in a way that is meaningful and will actually improve your score can take up to six months, dependent on the amount of time you have to work and your individual aptitude for the material. 

Fortunately, there are a number of products on the market that take the guesswork out of studying for the GRE so that you are using your time in the most efficient way possible, but they are not cheap, and do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to improve your GRE score.

GRE Prep Courses

Different GRE review programs will work for different people, depending on your learning styles. I recommend comparing the top GRE review courses to find the right one for you. Most GRE prep courses have a free trial available if you’re unsure about a specific program. If you know what program you want to go with, make sure you check out these exclusive GRE discounts so you’re not spending more than you have to.Featured GRE Course Reviews

Once you have found a program that works for you, it is important to really stick with it. You will learn more and improve your GRE score by a wider margin if you set aside a little bit of time each day so that you can practice in short spurts, rather than trying to cram it all in at once. Like anything in life, you will only get out of the test prep program what you put into it in terms of time and effort.

 GRE Score Calculatorgre calculator

Different programs and schools use different formulas, but you can use a GRE calculator or a GRE/GMAT admissions calculator (readily available online) to determine the minimum GPA and GRE (or GMAT) scores you will likely need to get into a particular program. In addition, many GRE prep courses include practice tests as well as score predictors that give you a projected GRE score based on the scores you get on the practice exams.

GRE to GMAT Conversion

If you are applying to business school, you may be interested in a GRE to GMAT Conversion tool. Business schools that are more familiar with the GMAT than the GRE may want to look at the score range you would likely have gotten on the GMAT if you had taken it instead of the GRE.

ETS provides a relatively reliable tool to help institutions interpret GRE scores in comparison to GMAT scores. The GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools helps predict GMAT scores for applicants based on their GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Scores and is available on the ETS website. (ETS provides a predicted score range instead of specific scores because GRE scores may not be exactly equivalent to scores individuals would get on the GMAT. This is because of the measurement of error in both tests.)

There is no GMAT to GRE Conversion tool, but you could check the numbers for various GRE to GMAT conversions using the tool on the ETS site and work your way backwards to approximate the scores you might receive on the GRE based on your GMAT scores.

7 Steps to Getting a Good GRE Score

determine the top 3 GRE schools to apply to

1. Determine the top 3 schools/ programs that you’d like to get into.

Any conversation about what a “GOOD” GRE score looks like has got to begin with the school and program you are applying to. Each institution and each program have different standardized test requirements. So it would only make sense to have your top three choices in mind before you start trying to figure out what kind of GRE score you need.

2. Find the average scores of applicants to those programs.

Many schools and programs will provide you with not only the low-end GRE cutoff scores for their programs, but they will also give you information on the average GRE score of applicants who have actually been admitted into the program. This will give you a better idea of what your ideal institution sees as a “good” GRE score, and may prove to be invaluable information when you begin preparing for the GRE.

3Register for the GRE test.

Once you know what kind of scores you are aiming for, it is time to register for the test. Make sure you choose a day for your GRE test that will not have any interference from other obligations, and register for the test far enough in advance so that you have time to prepare. If you have just graduated from your undergrad program, 1-3 months is likely enough prep time, but if you have been out of school for a while, keep in mind that you may need a little more time to prepare and refresh your memory on important concepts. I oftentimes recommend 6 months to these individuals. You can learn more about how to register for the GRE on ETS’s registration page.

study hard for the GRE exam

4. Prepare for the GRE test.

While it is possible to prepare for the GRE test yourself with the sample questions ETS provides and other online resources, investing in a GRE test prep program can save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. GRE test prep programs and software are professionally created by GRE experts to help you study in the most effective and efficient way possible, allowing you to focus on what is the most important–learning what you need to know to master the GRE test. We have reviews of a wide variety of test prep programs to help you choose one that will best fit your learning style.

5. Take the GRE test.

It should go without saying, but on the day of the GRE test make sure that you are well-rested and have eaten. Arrive at the testing center a little early so that you can make yourself feel comfortable in the space before your test begins. It is important to eliminate as much distraction as possible so that you can do your very best on the test.

6. Complete the Application Process.

After you take the GRE test, it takes about 2 weeks to get your scores. However, this does not mean that you have to pause the rest of your application process while you’re waiting on them. In fact, preparing the rest of your graduate school applications while your wait for your test scores can help you to see yourself from a more positive perspective. After all, there is a lot more to you than just a test score. The process of writing your Statement of purpose, gathering letters of recommendation and polishing your resume can help you to realize this–so that when those scores do become available, you can see them for just what they are–a small part of the overall picture.

7. Revise/ Replan/ Retake if needed.

Once you have your scores in hand, you can make your final decisions. If you are pleased with your performance, then your application process is complete. If not, then you can choose to revise your plans or retake the test. Whatever the outcome, it’s important that you do whatever works best for you and your own circumstances.

When do I find out my gre score?

When Do I Find Out My GRE Score?

On the test date, you will see your unofficial score report for the Verbal and Quant sections immediately after the exam if you took the computerized version of the test. (The Analytical Writing score must be graded by hand, so it is not available the same day.)

About 10-15 days after your test date, ETS will submit official Graduate Institution Score Reports to all authorized score recipients you previously selected. You will also receive an email from ETS to notify you that your official scores have been posted in your My GRE account, and that official score reports were sent to the programs you designated. If you take a paper-and-pencil exam, your scores will be available approximately 6 weeks after you sit for the test.

What if I don’t get the GRE score I need?

Whatever you do, don’t let anxiety about a possible negative performance on the GRE stop you from taking it altogether. You should not let test anxiety stop you from furthering both your education and your career. If you take the GRE and don’t get the score you would like on the first time around, you actually have at least a couple of options (other than giving up!):

  1.  You can always take the test again after completing a test prep program. Many test prep programs offer a guaranteed score increase to those who have already taken the GRE and been unhappy with their scores. Kaplan, The Economist and Target Test Prep have different score guarantees worth looking into. If, after you complete the program, you do not improve your score, these programs refund your money for the test prep program, thereby reducing your financial risk.
  2. You can focus on making the rest of your graduate school application really shine. Improve your resume, revise and improve your Statement of Purpose; seek out excellent recommendation letters. Look for those things that will make you stand out so that your test scores are really a non-issue. Graduate schools lend more gravity to these other parts of your application than your undergrad program likely did, so use it as an opportunity to showcase your positive attributes and show what you will add to the university.

Do not let yourself give up. That may seem like the easy way to handle it, but honestly, it’s really lame to give up on your plans because a test gave you a bit of a challenge. So get over it, and try again.

Hopefully this helped you understand how to best set and achieve your GRE goals! What questions do you have? How did you determine your “good” GRE score? Let me know in the comments section below!

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GRE vs. GMAT

Most graduate schools require students to take an entrance exam as part of the application. The GRE and GMAT are considered good predictors of an individual’s performance in graduate school, and many admissions committees weigh these scores heavily when making their decisions.

In the past, the GMAT was required for business school, much like the MCAT is required for medical school and the LSAT is required for law school admissions. The GRE was required for most other graduate programs in the arts and sciences.

Recently, many business schools have begun to accept the GRE or GMAT, giving students the freedom to choose which test to take. If you are planning to apply to business school in addition to other graduate programs (such as economics or political science, for example), or if you are interested in a joint-degree program, it might make more sense to take the GRE (especially if you would only have to study for and take one exam).

On the other hand, if you are really only interested in attending business school, it might be better to take the GMAT, because that sends a clear signal to admissions committees that you are committed to getting an MBA. Many schools claim that they have no preference – if that is the case for your desired school, you should take the test on which you think you will score the highest.

GRE Versus GMAT – Which Test Should You Take?

You should always contact the admissions department of any graduate school to which you are applying to get the latest information about their admissions process. If you are not applying to business school, your answer is simple: take the GRE. If you are considering an MBA, the answer is more complicated and you may have a choice.

According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that develops, administers and scores the GRE, more than 900 MBA programs in the USA and several hundred programs all over the world now accept both the GRE and the GMAT. If you are planning to apply to business school, you should find out directly from the schools you hope to attend which exam they accept.

In addition to asking whether or not they accept the GRE and the GMAT, you should ask if they prefer one exam over the other, and which scores they consider to be equivalent when comparing the two tests. You should also find out if either exam qualifies students for scholarships or other benefits before you make your decision.

The Case for Taking the GMAT

Signing up for the GMAT indicates that you are serious about attending business school. This is because only business schools accept the GMAT, whereas students who take the GRE can also apply to graduate programs in other fields. If you take a practice GMAT and a practice GRE and discover that you are better at the GMAT, you should definitely stick with that test (unless you are applying to dual degree programs and the GRE is accepted by both programs). Taking only one exam is a more efficient use of your time and more cost effective than studying for and taking both exams.

The Case for Taking the GRE

If you haven’t decided whether to go to business school or a different type of graduate program (or if you want to keep your options open until you find out where you’ve been accepted), it is probably better to take the GRE, as long as it is accepted by the business schools to which you are applying. This is particularly true if you have taken a practice exam for each test and scored higher on the GRE.

Which is Harder, GRE or GMAT?

When you apply to graduate school, your test scores should be as competitive as possible to give you the best chance of getting into your first choice school. Most experts agree that neither test is harder than the other, but that does not mean that you won’t perform better on one of them, given your particular skill set.

If your math skills are strong and you have little trouble with word problems, the GMAT may be slightly easier for you. Likewise, if you struggle with the finer points of vocabulary and language usage, the GMAT may be the better choice, given that the GRE contains reading comprehension passages, text completion, and sentence equivalence questions that can be trickier and more nuanced than the more straightforward Verbal questions on the GMAT.

On the other hand, if your math skills are weak in comparison to your verbal skills, you should consider taking the GRE because many students find the GRE Quantitative sections to be somewhat easier than the Quant sections on the GMAT.

A good way to determine which test you should take is to attempt a free practice exam of each. Two full-length GRE practice tests are available on the ETS website, and there are two full-length GMAT practice tests at www.mba.com, the official website of the GMAT.

How is the GRE different from the GMAT?

Although both tests share a number of similarities, there are a few important differences in their format, content, and scoring. The GRE and GMAT are both computer-adaptive tests, however, on the GMAT, the level of difficulty for each question you receive is based on whether or not you answered the previous question correctly. As a result, you cannot skip a question or come back to a question and change your answer later on.

By contrast, the GRE revised General Test is adaptive at the section level (as opposed to adapting to each individual question you answer). So, the difficulty of the second Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section on your GRE will depend on how well you performed on the first section of that type. This also means that you can skip or go back to questions and change your answers within the same section.

GRE Format

The GRE revised General Test is designed to measure your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to determine your suitability for graduate study.

There are three parts to the GRE: A Verbal Reasoning section, a Quantitative Reasoning section, and an Analytical Writing section. (There is also an unidentifiable unscored section to test questions that may be used on future exams).

GRE Sections

Analytical Writing Section: You are given two essay topics, including an “Analyze an Issue” task, and an “Analyze an Argument” task.

  • The Analyze an Issue task evaluates your ability to think critically about claims made about a general topic and requires that you write a clear response according to specific instructions. You are typically asked to agree or disagree with the claim or statements and explain why.
  • The Analyze an Argument essay task measures your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate an argument or line of reasoning and express your evaluation in writing. You must analyze and discuss the logical soundness of the argument that is given and determine if there is enough evidence in the text to support that argument.

Verbal Section: This section measures your ability to interpret and evaluate written material and understand the information contained within it, demands that you analyze relationships among the various parts of sentences, and requires you to identify relationships among words and concepts. There are three types of questions in this section:

  • Reading Comprehension: You must read the passage and answer the questions that follow or click on a sentence in the passage that meets a certain description.
  • Text Completion: You must fill in the blanks in sentences (you are given various options for each blank).
  • Sentence Equivalence:  You are asked to select two answers that complete a sentence that simultaneously fit the meaning as a whole and produce a sentence that is similar in meaning.

Quantitative Section: This section measures your ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems by using mathematical models, and apply basic mathematical concepts and skills based on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The revised GRE now includes an on-screen calculator for test-takers.

  • Quantitative Comparison Questions:  You must compare two quantities and determine the relationship between them.
  • Problem Solving Questions: These involve basic math skills and concepts.
  • Some PS questions are based on information provided a set of charts or graphs. These are called Data Interpretation Questions.

GRE Length

On the day of the exam, you will have slightly less than 4 hours  (plus a 10 minute break) to complete the exam. The sections are timed as follows:

  • Analytic Writing: 2 essay questions, 30 minutes for each section
  • Verbal Reasoning: 2 sections of approximately 20 questions each, 30 minutes for each section
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 2 sections of  approximately 20 questions each, 35 minutes for each section
  • Unscored Experimental section: either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative.

GMAT Format

The GMAT aims to measure various analytical and problem solving skills along with other abilities that are considered critical in business and management.

There are four parts to the GMAT: the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay, an Integrated Reasoning (IR) section, a Quantitative section, and a Verbal section.

GMAT Sections

Each section of the GMAT contains specific types of questions.

AWA Section: Requires an analysis and critique of the reasoning behind a specific argument that is provided. This section measures critical thinking skills and your ability to communicate those in writing.

IR Section: Questions include graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, table analysis, and multi-source reasoning. This section measures your ability to integrate data to solve complex problems.

Quant Section: There are two types of questions, Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving. Data Sufficiency questions typically consist of a question and 2 statements of data, and you must decide if those statements provide enough data to answer the question. Problem solving questions require knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The Quant section attempts to test your content knowledge of essential math skills and measures how well you analyze data and use reasoning to draw conclusions.

Verbal Section: Consists of Reading Comprehension (RC) questions, Critical Reasoning (CR) questions, and Sentence Correction (SC) questions. RC questions evaluate how well you understand, analyze, and apply information and concepts based on reading a text. CR questions involve using reasoning skills to formulate and evaluate arguments and plans of action. For SC questions, you must determine which version of 5 possible sentences is the most grammatically correct.

GMAT Length

On the day of the exam, you are given 3 1/2 hours to complete four sections of the exam:

  • AWA: 30 minutes to write an essay on one topic.
  • IR section: 30 minutes to answer 12 questions.
  • Quant Section: 75 minutes to complete 37 questions.
  • Verbal Section: 75 minutes to answer 41 questions.

How Long Should You Study?

As with any type of test, the amount of time students must study to achieve a good score varies widely among individuals. Those with a natural proclivity for taking standardized tests probably won’t have to study as much as those who are less adept at taking tests or not as confident in their mathematical or grammatical abilities. In addition, non-native speakers of English may need to study much longer than native speakers of English to perform well on the Verbal sections.

GMAT Study Hours

According to GMAC, just over half of all GMAT test takers in a 2013 prospective student survey studied at least 51 hours before they took the exam. The survey found that, on average, those who spent more time studying for the GMAT tended to perform better on the exam. The best gmat review courses offer hundreds of hours of study material for students to choose from, so prioritizing study schedules is a must!

GRE Study Hours

Most prep course companies recommend that you begin to study several weeks to a few months before taking the GRE to familiarize yourself with the different sections of the exam, take practice tests, and study those areas that need improvement. If you are still in school or a recent graduate and your math skills are decent, you may only need a few weeks of practice. If you struggle with the Verbal or Math sections in a free GRE practice test, you will want to study up to a few months to achieve your best score.

The quality of your study hours matters as much, if not more, than the number of hours you study. Targeted and consistent study for a specific amount of time each day over several weeks or months with quality materials will probably lead to greater success than studying too much in too little time right before you take the GRE.

How are the Exams Scored?

GRE Scoring

The GRE reports three different scores, one for each of the sections described above.

Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. Quantitative Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing score is reported on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments (for example, it is possible to get a 4.5 on the essay).

For more information about GRE scoring and reporting, click here.

GMAT Scoring

The GMAT has a more complex scoring system than many other standardized tests.

The Quantitative and Verbal Sections are scored on a scale of 0-60. The Verbal and Quantitative scores are then combined into a total score on a scale of 200-800. These two sections are part of the computer adaptive test.

As you answer questions in one of these sections, computer software evaluates each answer, updates your score, and chooses the next question from a question bank by adapting to your apparent skill level. You may not skip or return to questions.

The AWA and IR Sections are not computer adaptive and are scored on a scale of 0-6 and 1-8, respectively. These two sections are scored separately, and are not included as a part of the 200-800 score for the combined Quant and Verbal sections.

GRE to GMAT Conversion

ETS provides a tool to help institutions (such as business schools) interpret GRE scores in comparison to GMAT scores more or less reliably. The GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools helps predict GMAT scores for applicants based on their GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Scores and is available on the ETS website. (ETS provides a predicted score range rather than specific scores because GRE scores may not be precisely equivalent to scores test-takers would achieve on the GMAT due to the measurement of error in both tests.)

There is no GMAT to GRE Conversion tool, but you can work your way backwards when you use the tool on the ETS website to approximate the scores you might receive on the GRE based on your specific GMAT scores.

Cost and Location

The GRE is less expensive than the GMAT, and it may be easier to find a testing center that administers the GRE. The computerized GRE is offered at Prometric test centers.

GRE Cost: The standard fee for an on-time registration for the GRE is $195.

GMAT Cost: The standard fee for scheduling the GMAT is $250.

The GRE is more widely available in cities and countries around the world than the GMAT, so, depending on your location, it may be more convenient to take the GRE.

Conclusion

Taking the GRE or GMAT is a key element of the graduate school application process. Admissions committees carefully consider test scores when they decide which candidates to accept to their programs.

Our advice is to do your homework and find out if the programs that interest you most prefer one test over the other. If they will accept either test, you should choose the test that most closely matches your plans for graduate school and your skill set. Once you decide on the test, consider enrolling in one of the many excellent online prep courses for the GRE or GMAT to maximize your score on either exam. We have done the research for you, all you have to do is pick the course that best suits your needs.

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What are the differences between the GMAT and GRE?

Criteria
GMAT  GRE
Best For Applying To Business Schools Applying To Graduate Schools
Exam Focus Math Language
Length 3.5 hours 4 hours
Cost $250 $195

 

How to Prepare for the GRE

The GRE revised General Test is a computer-adaptive standardized test that is designed to measure your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to determine your suitability for graduate level study. Traditionally, the GRE has been required for admission to graduate programs in the humanities and sciences, but it is increasingly accepted by business schools as an alternative to the GMAT.

The GRE revised General Test is adaptive at the section level (as opposed to adapting to each individual question you answer). So, the difficulty of the second Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section on your GRE will depend on how well you performed on the first section of that type. This means that you can skip or go back to questions and change your answers within the same section.

GRE Sections

There are three parts to the GRE: A Verbal Reasoning section, a Quantitative Reasoning section, and an Analytical Writing section. (There is also an unscored section to test questions that may be used on future exams that is indistinguishable from the other sections).

GRE Verbal

Each Verbal Section of the GRE measures your ability to interpret and evaluate written material and understand the information contained within it, demands that you analyze relationships among the various parts of sentences, and requires you to identify relationships among words and concepts.

Preparing for the Verbal Sections requires strong vocabulary skills. Many commercial test preparation companies have specific tips and strategies to improve GRE Vocabulary. GRE Word Lists can be memorized and practiced with games and flash cards.

Three types of questions are found in each Verbal Section: Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion, and Reading Comprehension. In Sentence Equivalence questions, you must select two answers that complete a sentence that simultaneously fit the meaning as a whole and produce a sentence that is similar in meaning. Text Completion questions involve filling in the blanks in sentences (you are given various options for each blank.) For the GRE Reading Comprehension questions, you must read the passage and answer the questions that follow, or click on a sentence in the passage that meets a certain description.

GRE Reading Comprehension practice involves a lot of reading. A great strategy to increase both your reading comprehension and vocabulary skills is to read a wide range of reputable newspapers and journals, such as The New York Times, The Economist, Business Week, The Atlantic, and National Geographic. You will also want to practice as many reading comprehension practice questions as you can. These are available on the ETS website (don’t forget to take the free practice tests!), in GRE test prep books, and as part of GRE review programs.

GRE Quantitative

The Quantitative Section of the GRE measures your ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems by using mathematical models, and apply basic mathematical concepts and skills based on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The revised GRE now includes an on-screen calculator for test-takers.

Your GRE math prep should include practice with the three different types of questions that appear on the exam. Quantitative Comparisons (QC) ask you to compare two quantities and determine the relationship between them. You will also see Problem Solving (PS) questions, which involve basic math skills and concepts. Some PS questions are based on information provided in a set of charts or graphs. These are called Data Interpretation Questions.

Not all Quant questions will be straightforward multiple choice. Each GRE Quant section contains a combination of problems that require you to select one answer from a list of multiple-choice options, select one or more answers from a list of options, and numeric entry problems (i.e. you must type in the answer).

You should plan to solve as many GRE math practice questions as you can until you are familiar with the range of different types of questions. Many quantitative practice questions are available on the ETS website, on free practice exams, in commercially available GRE preparation books, and in GRE prep courses. Business schools, Engineering schools, and many graduate level programs in the sciences will carefully consider your performance on the Quantitative section of the GRE, so you should try to do well on this part of the exam.

GRE Analytical Writing

In the Analytical Writing section, you are provided with two essay topics, including an “Analyze an Issue” task, and an “Analyze an Argument” task. The GRE Issue essay task evaluates your ability to think critically about claims made about a general topic and requires that you write a clear response according to specific instructions. You are typically asked to agree or disagree with the claim and explain why.

The GRE Argument essay task measures your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate an argument or line of reasoning and express your evaluation in writing. You must analyze and discuss the logical soundness of the argument that is given and determine if there is enough evidence in the text to support that argument.

GRE Length

On the day of the exam, you will have slightly less than 4 hours  (plus a 10 minute break) to complete the exam. The sections are timed as follows:

  • 2 Analytic Writing essay questions, 30 minutes for each essay
  • 2 Verbal Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each, 30 minutes for each section
  • 2 Quantitative Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each, 35 minutes for each section
  • 1 Unscored Experimental section: either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative

The GRE is a long exam that will require concentration for several hours, so we recommend that you take several full-length practice exams under test-like conditions to prepare yourself.

How Long Should I Study for the GRE?

The number of hours you need to study to get a great score on the GRE will depend in part on how well you take tests and whether you have already honed some of the skills that appear on the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the exam. Non-native speakers of English may need to study much longer than native speakers of English to perform well on the Verbal sections.

Most prep course companies recommend that you set aside a minimum of several weeks to a few months to familiarize yourself with the different sections of the exam and prepare yourself adequately. If you haven’t been out of school for a long time and you are pretty good at math, you may only need a few weeks of practice. If you struggle with the Verbal or Math sections in a free GRE practice test, you will want to dedicate up to a few months of studying to achieve your best score.

In addition to quantity, the quality of your study hours will matter. Studying consistently for a set time each day over several weeks or months with a careful plan and quality materials will likely yield better results than trying to cram for the GRE at the last minute.

GRE Tips

The best advice for getting a great GRE score is to solve as many GRE practice problems and take as many GRE online practice tests as you can. GRE Sample Questions can be found on the ETS website, in GRE practice books available from booksellers and online, and in the course material of many commercial GRE prep courses. You should set up a regular GRE study schedule at least several weeks before you take the exam, but preferably a few months in advance.

Many websites and courses provide a “GRE question of the day” for you to get in the habit of daily practice. You can often sign up to receive the question of the day by email, or simply check the site each day.

Taking at least one GRE Mock Test under conditions that are similar to those of the actual test is an excellent idea. Learning how to pace yourself and remain focused in surroundings that contain some distractions and noise will serve you well on the day of the exam. Many prep courses offer a GRE diagnostic exam (often, this is included in a free trial) to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can focus your study on those areas that need it most.

GRE Forums are a great place to ask questions related to the GRE exam, the best GRE prep course, and advice on applying to graduate schools. Of course, determining the best GRE prep course for you will depend on the kind of learner you are. There are many options: in-person classes, live online courses, and self-paced online courses will appeal to different students for different reasons.

Check out our comparison of the best GRE prep courses to determine which one will work best for you.

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How Long Does The GRE Exam Take?

 

 

Section
Time 
2 Analytic Writing essay questions 30 minutes for each essay
2 Verbal Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each 30 minutes for each section
2 Quantitative Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each 35 minutes for each section
1 Unscored Experimental section Either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative

GRE Syllabus

Studying for and taking the GRE is an essential part of your graduate school application. The score you receive on the GRE may play a large part in determining which schools will accept you, since this exam is designed to gauge your level of competence for graduate level study.

We’ve compiled a list of useful information about the process to help you in your mission to achieve an excellent GRE score and get into the graduate or business school of your choice.

What is the GRE Test?

If you are new to the graduate school application process, you are probably wondering, what is the GRE Test? The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) revised General Test is a standardized test developed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The GRE is designed to measure your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to determine your aptitude for graduate work. In the past, the GRE was required for admission to graduate programs in the arts and sciences; but recently, may business schools have begun to accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT.

GRE Sections

The GRE is almost 4 hours long and is divided into three parts: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. There are two Verbal Sections and two Quantitative sections, and you must write two essays in the Analytical Writing Section.

The GRE is section-adaptive, meaning that the level of difficulty of the second section you receive for the Verbal and the Quantitative portions depends on how well you performed on the first section of that type. One additional Verbal or Quantitative section on the exam is indistinguishable from the other 2 sections of that type and is used by ETS to try out questions that may be used on future exams. Your performance on this section is not included in your score.

GRE Verbal

The Verbal sections of the GRE measure how well you interpret and evaluate written material and your understanding of that information. In each Verbal section, you will have to analyze relationships among the various parts of sentences and identify relationships among words and concepts.

GRE Verbal sections include three types of questions: Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion, and Reading Comprehension.

1. In Sentence Equivalence questions, you are asked to select two answers that complete a sentence that both fit the meaning as a whole and produce a sentence with a similar meaning.

2. For Text Completion questions, you must fill in the blanks, and you are presented with several options for each blank.

3. Reading Comprehension questions involve reading a passage and answering the questions immediately below it, or clicking on a sentence in the reading passage that matches a given description.

GRE Quantitative

The Quantitative Sections of the GRE test how well you understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems by means of mathematical models, and can use mathematical concepts and skills involving arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. Unlike the old version of the GRE, the revised GRE includes an on-screen calculator that can be used to solve problems.

Three different types of questions appear on the exam.

1. Quantitative Comparisons (QC) ask you to compare two quantities and determine the relationship between them.

2. Problem Solving (PS) questions involve basic math skills and concepts.

3. Data Interpretation Questions. These are a specific type of PS questions that are based on information provided in a set of charts or graphs.

Any GRE Quantitative practice you do in preparation for the exam should include examples of all three types.

Unlike the old GRE exam, not all Quant problems on the revised GRE are basic multiple choice. Each Quant section contains a combination of problems that either require you to a) select one answer from a list of multiple-choice options, b) select one or more answers from a list of options, or c) type an answer into a box (numeric entry problems).

For both the Verbal and the Quantitative sections of the GRE, the general rule of “practice makes perfect” applies. The more practice questions and practice exams you go over while you study, the better your chances of achieving a high score. Practice questions can be found on the ETS website, in GRE preparation textbooks, and in GRE Review courses.

GRE Analytical Writing

In the Analytical Writing section, you will have to write two essays. These include the “Analyze an Issue” task and the “Analyze an Argument” task.

The GRE Issue essay task tests your ability to think critically about a statement or pair of statements made about a given topic and asks you to write a reasoned response according to detailed instructions that follow the statement(s) and how you should address the topic.

The GRE Argument essay task measures how well you understand, can analyze and evaluate an argument, and how well you can express this evaluation in an essay. In this task, you are asked to analyze the logic of a given argument. Note that you are NOT supposed to provide your own opinion about the specific argument, but rather explain how logical the line of reasoning is and decide if the text provides enough evidence to support the argument that is being made.

GRE Material

You will have to cover a lot of GRE material while you are studying for the exam. One of the best ways to approach this complex project is to take a practice exam to determine your areas of strength and weakness. Once you have identified these, you can focus on the types of questions that will require the most study time.

Enrolling in an online GRE prep course is an excellent way to study those specific sections and types of practice questions you will need to improve the most. Many test prep companies offer diagnostic tools that zero in on those areas that need practice and offer you targeted practice questions. Course diagnostics track your progress over time and automatically give you new material that is appropriate to your level once you have mastered a certain type of question. Take a look at our GRE prep course recommendations here.

How is the GRE Scored?

Your GRE Score Report will include three different scores, one for each of the sections described above.

Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. Quantitative Reasoning is also scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing score is reported on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments (for example, it is possible to get a 4.5 in this section).

In order to get a good GRE Score, you need to remember that this computerized test is section-adaptive. Your performance on the first type of a specific section will determine how hard the second section of that type will be. You will want to go back and check your answers carefully in the first section of each type to maximize your opportunity for doing well in that section and being offered an even harder section next in order to get the highest possible score.

What is Considered a Good GRE Score?

The GRE score you will need to be admitted to a specific graduate program will depend on the requirements of that program and how competitive it is. Most graduate schools have information posted on their site about the average GRE scores of their most recent incoming class. You can also consult the annual graduate school rankings by U.S. News & World Report for GRE score ranges, or browse graduate student forums to get an idea of GRE requirements for specific schools and programs.

The median score of the GRE is about 150-151 for both the Verbal and the Quant sections of the exam, and 3.7 for the AWA, but you will need scores well above the median in order to be competitive.

Some graduate programs have minimum GRE requirements, but most schools look at GRE scores as only one part of your application, which includes letters of recommendation, your undergraduate transcripts and GPA, and your statement of purpose. Check out my GRE Score Guide to learn more.

GRE Dates & GRE Registration

The GRE revised General Test can be taken at more than 850 test centers in more than 160 countries around the world. The computerized version of the test is available throughout the year at most locations, and the paper-and-pencil test is available up to three times a year in areas that do not have access to computerized testing.

You can register for either the computer-delivered test or the paper-delivered test with a valid credit or debit card (American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard or VISA) online, by phone, or by mail. In international locations, you may also register by fax. To register online, you must create a My GRE Account to register for a GRE test or to view your scores. You should review the Registration Checklist on the ETS website before you create your account.

Remember to take the GRE well in advance of any admissions deadlines for graduate schools to make sure your scores arrive in time for your application to be considered. You should check with each individual school to make sure you meet their specific deadlines. Ideally, you should take the GRE far enough in advance to give yourself the option of studying the material again and retaking the exam if you are disappointed with your GRE score.

On the test date, you will be able to see your unofficial score report immediately after the exam (without the AWA score, since your essays must be graded by hand) if you took the computerized version. About 10-15 days after your test date, ETS will send official Graduate Institution Score Reports directly to all authorized score recipients you have designated. In addition, you will receive an email from ETS to notify you that your official scores are available in your My GRE account, and that official score reports were sent to the programs you selected. If you took a paper-and-pencil exam, your scores are available about 6 weeks after the date of your exam.

GRE Length

The GRE takes a little less than 4 hours to complete. The timed sections are broken down as follows:

  • Analytic Writing: 2 essay questions, 30 minutes for each question
  • Verbal Reasoning: 2 sections of approximately 20 questions each, 30 minutes for each section
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 2 sections of  approximately 20 questions each, 35 minutes for each section
  • Unscored Experimental section: either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative.

GRE Test Locations

The GRE is offered at Prometric test centers year-round. The GRE section of the ETS website features a tool that will help you determine where to take the GRE. If you click on the “Test Centers and Dates” tab, you can view test centers, test dates, and seat availability. Remember that you have to create or sign into your My GRE account before you can register. You should make your reservation sooner rather than later because GRE Test Centers can book up quickly, and you may not be able to get a seat at your first choice location if you wait until just before the test.

Please see the ETS website for additional information and the most up-to-date instructions on how to register for the exam.

GRE Cost

The GRE Registration Fee for an on-time registration is $195. The late registration fee (for paper-delivered test online registration only) is $25.

If you need to reschedule the test, the GRE Reschedule Fee is $50. If you need to change your test center, that fee is also $50.

Refund Policy

If you cancel your registration at least four days before your test date, you will receive a refund for half of the test fee. The rest of your payment is retained to cover the expenses of registration processing and reserving your space at the test center.

If You Want to Retake GRE

For a GRE retake, you can sign up for the computer-delivered GRE once every 21 days, for a maximum of 5 times within 12 months (365 days). These rules apply even if you canceled your scores on a previous test. You can take the paper-delivered GRE as often as it is offered.

Conclusion

We hope this article has answered some of your questions about what to expect when you sign up for the GRE. Making a plan to study for and take the GRE is an important step in the graduate school application process that will take effort and time on your part. By informing yourself and mapping out your steps to achieve a good GRE score, you will increase your chances of getting into the graduate school of your dreams.

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GRE Course Section Information

 

 

Sections
Description
1. Verbal Reasoning
2. Quantitative Reasoning
3. Analytical Writing
4. Additional Verbal or Quantitative (Not Included In Final Score)

 

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