Scores from the Graduate Record Examination, commonly referred to as the GRE, are considered by fellowship panels or admissions representatives of graduate schools as part of your grad school application, which also include undergraduate records, personal statements, and recommendation letters.
About the GRE
Because graduate and business school applicants may come from a wide range of cultural and educational backgrounds, the GRE was designed to assess candidates’ qualifications for a fair and valid comparison. Test centers in more than 160 countries around the world offer the paper- or computer-based tests several times per year, and scores are internationally accepted at thousands of graduate and business schools. The GRE was revised in August of 2011 to incorporate new question types that are more relevant to skills needed to succeed in graduate and business school programs.
There are three sections within the GRE revised General Test: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The Verbal Reasoning section contains three question types (Reading Comprehension, Test Completion, and Sentence Equivalence) and assesses your ability to understand written text and to apply your reasoning skills. Scores for the Verbal Reasoning section range from 130–170 in one-point increments. The Quantitative Reasoning section emphasizes data interpretation for real-life scenarios and is designed to measure your quantitative reasoning ability. Your score for the Quantitative Reasoning section range from 130–170 in one-point increments. Finally, in the Analytical Writing section, you will be given prompts that contain tasks instructing you to write focused responses to analyze an issue and to analyze an argument. Your responses to these two, separately-timed tasks of each prompt will demonstrate your abilities in direct response to a specific task. This section is scored from 0–6 in half-point increments. The total time it takes to complete the GRE is around 3 hours and 45 minutes, which serves secondarily as a measure of brain stamina. One group of multiple-choice questions on the test is not scored and allows test-makers to assess the validity and reliability of new questions that could possibly be incorporated into future exams.
You can find many preparation materials for the GRE online or in bookstores; however, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) offers free official GRE prep materials on its official website. The GRE is administered through ETS, and ETS’s official GRE prep resources contain general advice, question types, and sample questions for every type of question in each of the three sections. Through ETS, you can even download free GRE prep software that includes two full-length, timed practice tests. Many other books and GRE practice tests are also available for purchase from other companies. For example, you can familiarize yourself with the format, organization, focus, and timing of the GRE with material from Kaplan and Princeton Review. However, you should keep in mind that the GRE was redesigned in 2011, so if you choose to purchase materials, make sure that they are for the revised General Test and not for an earlier version.
The GRE is offered year round by many undergraduate institutions. You can register for the GRE online or by mail, but you register early to ensure your preferred testing time and location. The GRE costs between $140 and $160. If you are not content with your scores after your first attempt at taking the GRE, you can retake the test multiple times; however, you can only take the test once per month, and some universities may average your scores if you take the test multiple times. Before you take the GRE, you should research the GRE policies of your preferred schools. It is best to take the GRE a year prior to your expected entrance into graduate school; however, deadlines for submitting GRE scores will vary depending on the universities to which you apply. Score reports are generally provided 6 weeks after the testing date, or you will have the option to cancel your scores at the end of the exam.