The Ultimate Guide to the GRE Test

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE Test) is a paper or computer-based standardized test used as one of the requirements for graduate school admission. First introduced in the 1930s by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it is now administered by the world’s largest private educational testing organization, the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Taking the GRE costs more than $200, but the test taker may apply for a lower fee by completing and submitting the GRE Fee Reduction request form. Since it’s not a free test, it’s important to prepare for it. 

Go over this GRE Test ultimate guide to know this standardized test better and be more ready to take it.

GRE Overview

The GRE evaluates the verbal reasoning, critical thinking, and writing skills of the test takers. It is composed of vocabulary, math, argument and reasoning, and data analysis and interpretation sections. The GRE is used not only as an admission screening method but also as a factor for selecting new hires.

Institutions that offer scholarships and fellowships may require the GRE scores as part of the application process. Some companies may also use the GRE scores as one of the criteria for candidate assessment, especially for positions that require advanced education.

GRE Format

The GRE test usually takes around 225 minutes or nearly four hours. This estimated duration already includes the one-minute breaks test takers take after every section. There is also a ten-minute recess after the third section.

The GRE test, which has been called the GRE General Test since 2011, consists of six sections: one for analytical writing, two verbal reasoning sections, two quantitative reasoning sections, and a research/experimental section.

The analytical writing section is composed of issue and argument tasks. The issue task lasts for 30 minutes, wherein the test taker writes an essay about a specific topic. The argument task also involves essay writing. However, it focuses on critiquing an argument, which is presented as a set of facts and scenarios that point to a conclusion.

The verbal reasoning section has two sets, each with twenty multiple-choice questions. Thirty minutes are allotted for the completion of each set. 

The questions under the verbal reasoning section evaluate a test taker’s ability to analyze details, synthesize information, and identify the connections between words and ideas.

The quantitative reasoning section also uses multiple-choice questions. It has two sets with 20 questions each. However, the sets have slightly longer durations, at 35 minutes each. This section evaluates a candidate’s arithmetic, data analysis, and numerical reasoning skills.

GRE Registration

To register for a GRE test, you need to go to the official ETS website to create an account. After you get an account, proceed to the My GRE page and click on the Register button. You will be asked to choose your test date and location. There are over a thousand GRE testing centers worldwide.

The computer-based test can be taken several times in a year as long as the chosen testing center is available. For the paper-based test, it may only be taken three times a year, in February, October, and November.

All the information you need to register and take the test is on the ETS website. There are also checklists, guides, practice tests, and other useful resources on the site. Be sure to take advantage of these free GRE resources.

GRE Preparation Tips

Preparing for a GRE test is not that different from readying for other exams. The key is to start with practice tests. Your performance with the practice tests will help you identify the areas you need to work on. Finish as many practice tests as you can until you achieve your desired scores. 

The practice tests provided by ETS and third-party sources can help you learn what you need and work on your analytical and memory skills on relevant topics.

When doing practice tests, it is advisable to simulate the actual test scenario. Learn to work with the time limits. Complete the different test sections according to their allotted durations. It is also very important to be a fast reader. Your reading pace will greatly affect your performance.

Additionally, get accustomed to the different types of questions in the test. 

GRE Scoring

You will only get a score after taking the GRE. But, there is no indication about whether you passed or failed. It is the academic institution or employer that determines their required minimum score. ETS says that the average score for all test takers is 150 for the verbal reasoning section and 152 for math. Aim for a score that is significantly higher than the average.

Most academic institutions require verbal and quantitative scores in the 158 to 164 range. For analytical writing, a good score would be in the 4.5 to 6.0 range.

For context, the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are scored on a 130-170 scale. You cannot go lower than 130 or higher than 170. For analytical writing, the lowest is 0, and the highest is 6.

Retaking the GRE

If you are not satisfied with the score you get, you may take the GRE again even before the five-year score validity expires. You will not be compelled to show your previous scores. It is always the latest score that matters.

However, you will only be allowed to take the test a maximum of five times in a 365-day rolling period. This means that if you took your first test in February, you may only take the test four more times from March of the current year to January of the next year. Also, you may only take a new test 21 days after the last test.

You Need Strategy for the GRE

The GRE is regarded as one of the toughest standardized tests. It is more difficult than college entrance and scholarship exams. The reading and vocabulary sections of the test are particularly tricky. To obtain good scores, it is important to get deeply acquainted with the GRE to understand how it works and how to get the best scores. Also, choose the best testing schedule.