What is the GRE?
GRE (Graduate Record Exam) is the most common admission test, that is required for graduate school. The GRE, like the ACT and SAT, tests your skill in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing. You probably have a lot of questions about GRE, but don’t have the time to scour the internet for answers…This post is an exhaustive list, of the most commonly asked questions, with answers and useful links.
About the GRE
Who needs to take the GRE?
Students, who wish to pursue their graduate studies, should take the GRE. The GRE, is a standardized test, that makes a broad assessment of different skills, that you have acquired over a period of several years. A GRE score, is mandatory for pursuing a master’s degree (such as M.S.) in the U.S.A. All top universities in the U.K., Europe, Singapore, and Australia accept (and expect) GRE scores to be reported.
Who conducts the GRE?
The GRE is owned and conducted by ETS (Educational Testing Services) and was established by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1936. The GRE aim to test a student’s analytical writing, critical thinking, and abstract thinking skills that have been acquired over the years of education.
What is the eligibility for GRE? Is there an age limit?
The basic requirement, for a student to take the GRE, is an undergraduate degree (of high school diploma + 4 years) from a recognized university. There is no upper age limit, for attempting the GRE.
What is the GRE Subject Test? What are the subjects offered?
The GRE Subject Tests are also conducted by ETS. This test gauges, your advanced level of knowledge, in a subject. It shows your penchant for a subject, and your expertise in it. It is important to note that the GRE Subject Test, is taken in addition to the regular GRE and does not replace it.
The subject offered are –
- Molecular Biology.
- Literature (English).
Some schools, may specifically ask you, for the GRE Subject Test score, depending on the program you wish to enroll in. Other schools, may not explicitly ask for it, but will expect you to submit the score. When you’re in doubt, call the admission office and ask.
This will save you from last-minute surprises.
About the registration process
First of all, you have to register for the GRE test, from the website www.ets.org and create your own account. Since the seats get filled fast, you must plan, when you want to take the test, well in advance.
The second step, is to go to your home page, and start your registration process.
How should I register for GRE?
You can register for the GRE General Test, by email or online. The test, can be either paper-delivered, or computer-delivered depending on your location.
Paper-delivered Test, is available only in remote places, where computers are not available.
Once you pay for the test, you will receive a confirmation mail regarding your registration.
What is the fee for GRE?
The fee for the GRE Subject Test is $150 globally, and the fee for the GRE General Test is $205 (slightly higher for students from China). This fee includes, administration of the test, sending your score details to four graduate programs, and providing access to your score online. You can also have access to the GRE diagnostic service.
If you want, to send your GRE score, to more than four recipients, it will cost $27 extra per recipient.
- Should I pay an extra fee to change the venue or date of taking the GRE?
Yes, an additional fee of $50, is charged if you request a change of date or venue of the test. Though, such a change is possible, you must send in your request, at least 4 days before the scheduled date.
How many times can I take the GRE in a year?
The GRE General Test, does not have a specific day for testing. You can attempt, the computer-based GRE, at any Prometric test center all through the year.
- You can take, the computer-based GRE General test for up to 5 times in a year. (even if you cancel a previous score, the maximum limit is 5 times)
- The only condition is that it must be taken at a gap of at least 21 days.
- The paper-based GRE General Test can be attempted 3 times annually – in October, November, and February.
- What is the checklist of things I must bring to the GRE test center?
Here’s a list of things, to bring on the day of the exam –
- Your photo identification card, with the name you’ve registered under.
- Confirmation email.
- Pencils and erasers (also some non-mechanical pencils to avoid exam-time disasters)
- Water and snack.
- Dress comfortably.
You will not be allowed to bring a calculator, a watch, or a phone to the exam hall.
ERS aims to focus the attention, on reasoning and critical thinking rather than on computing. So, the computer-delivered GRE has an on-screen calculator, with the basic operators for addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. There is also a square root function. In the paper-delivered GRE, test-takers will be provided with a basic calculator at the test center.
About the GRE format, structure, and scoring
What is the total duration of the test? Are there any breaks?
The total duration of the GRE General Test is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. There are 3 parts – Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning – and two sections in each, totaling to 6 sections in all. The test allows an optional break of 10 minutes when the third section is done.
The Analytical Writing section will always come first, followed by one of these -Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and unscored/unidentified section – in no order.
(There could be an unidentified and unscored section(Experimental Section) included. It may appear, after the analytical writing section ,but will not be scored. Sometimes, there will be an identified research section, instead of the unscored section and this research section, will always appear at the end of the GRE General Test.)
What is the meaning of GRE being a ‘section-adaptive’?
The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning categories of GRE, are said to be section adaptive. They, each have two sections. Section-adaptive means that the computer will select the second section, based on your performance in the previous section. But the adaptiveness applies to each section separately. Your level, in Verbal ,will not impact your level in Quant and vice versa. So, if you found the first section, of Verbal easy and did well, questions in the second section, will get more challenging, gradually.
The increased level of difficulty in questions, will result in a slight increase in score.
- What is the word processing software, used for the analytical writing section of the GRE?
Those who take the computer-delivered GRE, will have to use a very basic word processor, that was developed by ETS. It has no features like grammar check or spell check.
- How are the different sections scored? Is there partial credi, if some multiple answers are correct?
There are three scores on the GRE General Test report:
- An Analytical Writing score that is on a 0-6 scale, in increments of half-points. This section has 2 analytical essays (30 minutes each)
- A Quantitative Reasoning score that is on a 130-170 scale, in increments of 1 point. This has 2 sections of 20 questions each.
- A Verbal Reasoning score reported on a 130-170 scale, in increments of 1 point. This section also has 2 sections of 20 questions each.
If you did not answer any questions at all in a section, it will be reported as No Score.
There will be no credit awarded, if a few of the answers are marked in questions that have multiple answers. All the answers must be marked.
About the GRE test prep
Some useful resources for GRE test prep
There is no substitute for diligent practice. Whether you are self-studying for the GRE, or taking the help of an expert mentor and tutor for GRE test prep, you must regularly take practice tests. Practice will help you recognize your weak sections.
- Manhattan GRE practice test with explanations
Tips for improving your GRE score
However hard you study, it is natural to feel that you have not done enough to ace the GRE. It always helps to seek the guidance of experienced tutors who can customize your learning according to your weaknesses. There are some well-tried and much-trusted techniques that are worth a hard look!
Study what is needed for the GRE: English and Math are subjects you’ve learned since Primary school. Trying to recollect all the concepts, is not only impossible, but is unnecessary. Get familiar with what is tested on GRE, and develop strategies to answer them.
Practice until you perfect: When you start practicing the verbal section and the Quantitative section, you will identify your weaknesses. Practice those weak topics repeatedly, until you master them.
Focus on what is important: Identify what is more important for your program at grad school, and focus your attention and energy on it. If you aim to major in Math’s, the Quant section matters more for your admission. So, focus on that section.
Scholarships for international students in the USA for high GRE scores
There are many grad schools in the USA, that offer a scholarship for deserving candidates with a high GRE score. In fact, they use the GRE General Test score to identify potential students. A high GRE score is not the only criterion (academic performance at UG level, other achievements, Statement of Purpose and letters of recommendation are the other criteria that matter), it helps. Check out the following:
- There are two categories of scholarships, School-based and Organization-based. Check out your eligibility for both the possibilities. Some of them may require you to belong to a race, religion, or ethnicity.
- Look at the GRE scores of past winners of these scholarships in your program of study. This will help you set your goal high. Follow forums such as The Grad Cafe and Reddit where past winners may share their GRE scores.
- Aim for the 80th – 85th percentile score in the more relevant section (Verbal section if you are applying to Law school) and. 70th – 75th percentile in the less-relevant section.
- You can also call the school directly and ask them about scholarships that are based on a GRE score.
- Follow this link on ‘Scholarships for international students in the USA’ and ‘International scholarships’