An Overview of the Graduate Record Examination


The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is a standardized test that’s given to aspiring graduate students. Most US graduate schools request their applicants’ GRE scores.

How important is a GRE score?

GRE scores are very important to some graduate departments. However, others don’t consider them to be as important as work experience, letters of recommendation, college GPA, or admissions essays. Most universities will indicate the relative importance of GRE scores in their admissions decisions.

What’s on the GRE?

The GRE assesses verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning (math skills), critical thinking skills, and analytical writing skills. The test includes four main sections:

  • Analytical writing – 2 essay questions
  • Verbal ability – 30 multiple choice questions
  • Quantitative ability – 28 multiple choice questions
  • Experimental – This section will not affect your score. It includes verbal or quantitative questions that ETS is testing for future use. You will not know which section of your test is experimental.

When can I take the GRE?

The GRE is given year-round. Exams can be scheduled through local test centers, which can be found through

Why is the computerized test shorter than the paper-and-pencil GRE?

In the US, the GRE is computer-based. It takes 2.5 hours to complete. The computer-based GRE is able to assess a lot of learning with relatively few questions. That’s because it uses computer-adaptive testing. The computer shows questions based upon a test taker’s previous answers. In this way, the computer can quickly hone in on a person’s knowledge level.

What scores are given on the GRE?

Test takers receive three scores. The verbal and quantitative scores fall between 200 and 800 points in increments of 10. The analytical writing scores are between 0 and 6 in increments of 0.5. (Note: ETS will change its scoring in 2011.)

What changes will be made to the GRE in 2011?

The new GRE will include scoring changes, design changes, and slightly different types of questions. First, the scoring will be changed from the 200-800 point scale to a 130-170 point scale. Scores will be given in 1-point increments. Second, design changes will include user-friendly features such as a built-in calculator and the ability to skip questions. Third, the questions are designed to better assess how students apply their reasoning skills and interpret real-life math scenarios.

Who writes the GRE?

Since so many schools rely on GRE scores, many people mistakenly believe that the government is involved in the test writing. However, the GRE is created by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private company that’s been in the testing business since 1949.

The GRE can be intimidating, but as with most tasks, scoring well on the GRE becomes easier with practice. Start studying early, get tutoring if needed, and see the GRE as a ticket to success!

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