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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
GRE Course Section Information
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