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Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Record Exam


Like it or not, if you're applying to grad school the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is on your to-do list. What is the GRE? The GRE is a standardized exam that permits admissions committees to compare applicants on the same scale.

Revised in August, 2011, the GRE measures a variety of skills that are thought to predict success in graduate school across a wide variety of disciplines. Actually, there are several GRE tests. Most often when an applicant, professor, or admissions director mentions the GRE, he or she is referring to the GRE General Test, which is thought to measure general aptitude. The GRE Subject Test, on the other hand, examines applicants' knowledge of a specific field, such as Psychology or Biology. You will most definitely be required to take the GRE General Test; however, not all graduate programs require you to take the corresponding GRE Subject Test.

What Does the GRE Measure?
The GRE General Test measures the skills that you've acquired over the high school and college years. It is an aptitude test because it is meant to measure your potential to succeed in graduate school. While the GRE is only one of several criteria that graduate schools use to evaluate your application, it is one of the most important. This is particularly true if your college GPA is not as high as you'd like. Exceptional GRE scores can open up new opportunities for grad school. The GRE General Test contains sections that measure verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills.

  • The Verbal section tests your ability to understand and analyze written material through the use of sentence completion and reading comprehension questions.
  • The Quantitative section tests basic math skills and emphasizes data interpretation as well as your ability to understand and apply quantitative skills to solve problems. Types of questions include quantitative comparisons, problem solving, and data interpretation.
  • The Analytical Writing section tests your ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively, examine claims and accompanying evidence, support ideas with relevant reasons and examples, sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion, and control the elements of standard written English. It consists of two written essays: "Analyze an Issue Task" and "Analyze an Argument Task.

    GRE Scoring:
    How is the GRE scored? The verbal and quantitative subtests yield scores ranging from 130-170, in 1 point increments. Most graduate schools consider the verbal and quantitative sections to be particularly important in making decisions about applicants. The analytical writing section yields a score ranging from 0-6, in half-point increments.

    How Long Does the GRE Take?
    The GRE General Test will take 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete, plus time for breaks and reading instructions. There are six sections to the GRE

    • One Analytical Writing section with two 30 minute tasks. This section is always the first a test-taker receives
    • Two Verbal Reasoning sections (30 minutes each)
    • Two Quantitative Reasoning sections (35 minutes each)
    • One unscored section, typically a Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section, that may appear at any point in the computer-based GRE revised General Test
    • An identified research section that is not scored may also be included in the computer-based GRE revised General Test

    Basic GRE Facts:

    • The GRE General is administered by computer year-round.
    • Register to take the GRE at a test center near you.
    • The fee for the GRE is $160 in the US and US Territories, $90 in all other locations.
    • On Test Day arrive 30 minutes early to complete any paperwork. If you arrive late, you may not be admitted and will not be refunded.
    • Bring identification to the test center.
    • Unofficial scores appear on the computer screen following your test. Official scores are mailed to you and the institutions you choose 10 days to two weeks afterward.
    Plan to take the GRE well in advance of application due dates. Try to take it the spring or summer before you apply to grad school. You can always retake the GRE, but remember that you're allowed to take it only once per calendar month. Because all prior scores are sent to the institutions to which you're applying, never take the GRE as practice.

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