Shannon L.
Written By - Shannon L.

Check MarkEdited By Arlene Ward

Check MarkReview & Contribution By Dr. Edmund Moyer

Many universities offer competitive graduate programs, reserving admission for the most promising candidates who demonstrate the potential for success. While admissions officers strive to make informed decisions, quantifying an applicant’s potential can be challenging. Various elements, such as undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statements, contribute to the evaluation process. Some institutions even conduct interviews to gauge applicants. 

Certain schools assess applicants’ future performance through Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. This guide delves into understanding the GRE, its importance, preparation strategies, valuable tips, and insights into why some schools may choose to forego this requirement altogether.

GRE Overview and Facts

Table Of Contents

What is GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized entrance exam administered by Educational Testing Services (ETS). When schools request GRE scores, they typically refer to one of two tests:

  1. The GRE General Test
    This test is Designed to reflect the skills needed for success in various graduate programs, including business and law. The General Test assesses fundamental abilities applicable across different fields of study.
  1. The GRE Subject Test
    Academic assessments are tailored to measure proficiency in specific areas of study and recommended for students with a substantial background in subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Psychology.

While the GRE General Test is more common, some schools may require both the General and Subject Tests, while others make the Subject Test optional. The GRE is an objective measure in admissions, providing insight into a prospective master’s student’s potential academic performance. Unlike subjective components such as essays or letters of recommendation, the GRE offers a standardized benchmark amid variations in grading practices among different schools and programs.

GRE Exam: Basic Information

 Understanding the basics of the GRE is crucial for individuals seeking admission to competitive graduate programs, providing an objective measure of academic potential alongside other subjective components of the application. This section covers the most essential information about the GRE students seek. 

How much does the GRE cost?

The GRE costs $205 in the U.S. to $255 globally. This fee covers the test cost, sending your scores to up to four graduate institutions or business schools, and additional services. This test fee does not include special handling requests such as rescheduling fees – $50 extra- and changing the test center – $50 extra. 

There are other additional services the individual might have to pay for after giving the test if they require them, such as:

  • Additional Score Reports – per Recipient: $35
  • Question and Answer Review Service for New York State Residents only – (Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections only) – $50
  • Score Review – Analytical Writing Measure: $60
  • Score Reinstatement Fee: $50

Please note: The cost of taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) can vary based on the test-taker’s location. The fees are subject to change, so verifying the most recent information on the official ETS (Educational Testing Service) website is essential or contacting ETS directly.

When to take the GRE?

The timing for taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) depends on several factors, including your application deadlines for graduate programs and the time you need to prepare for the exam adequately.

The GRE General Test is offered throughout the year, providing flexibility for aspiring candidates. While there is no restriction on the number of times one can take the test, there are certain limitations. Test-takers must wait at least 21 days between consecutive attempts, and they can only take the GRE up to five times within 12 months.

The availability of test dates is contingent on the chosen test center and the availability of seats. Fortunately, candidates can select from multiple days within a given week in many regions, offering convenience and options to align with individual schedules and preferences. It’s advisable to check the specific test dates at your preferred test center and plan accordingly for optimal scheduling and preparation.

General guidelines

  1. Application Deadlines
    Identify the application deadlines for the graduate programs you are interested in. Work backward from these deadlines to determine when you should take the GRE. A comfortable cushion for a few months is highly advisable when taking the GRE. Ideally, if your application deadline falls in December, consider scheduling your GRE for October or, even better, September. This strategic timing offers several advantages.
  2. Preparation Time
    Allowing yourself sufficient time to prepare for the GRE is very important. The amount of preparation needed varies from person to person, but many test-takers dedicate several weeks to months to review the material, take practice tests, and strengthen their skills.
  3. Retake Option
    Remember that you can retake the GRE if unsatisfied with your initial scores. However, this requires additional preparation time, so plan accordingly.
  4. Score Reporting Time
    Consider the time it takes to report GRE scores. You will receive unofficial Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores immediately after completing the test, but official scores, including the Analytical Writing score, may take around 10–15 days.
  5. Peak Application Periods
    Be aware of peak application periods for your desired graduate programs. Some applicants prefer to take the GRE well in advance to avoid potential delays during busy periods.
  6. Personal Readiness
    Assess your readiness. Ensure that you are adequately prepared and feel confident on test day.

GRE Sections

The GRE, a comprehensive examination, is structured into three primary sections:

  1. Analytical Writing
    This section assesses the test-taker’s ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively. It involves analyzing an issue and presenting a well-reasoned argument within a specified time frame.
  2. Verbal Reasoning
    Focused on evaluating verbal skills, this section measures a candidate’s ability to comprehend and analyze written material, synthesize information, and assess relationships among different components.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
    Testing mathematical proficiency, the Quantitative Reasoning section gauges the test-taker’s ability to understand, interpret, and analyze quantitative information. It assesses skills in problem-solving and quantitative reasoning.

In addition to these main sections, most test-takers will encounter a fourth component, which may consist of either an experimental or research set of questions. The practical and research sections do not contribute to the overall score and can include Quantitative or Verbal Reasoning questions. However, there’s a distinction between them: the research section consistently appears at the end of the exam, while the experimental section can appear at any point.

The research and experimental components serve a similar purpose in that they are not scored and allow the test creator to conduct research and explore new question formats for future GREs. Familiarizing oneself with the structure and components of the GRE ensures a more informed and strategic approach to test preparation.

GRE Registration

Individuals can register for the GRE General Test online or by phone. Aspirants can only register for the GRE General Test at least two business days before the test date. General Test Scores will be available to the candidate after 10-15 days of the test in their ETS account.

Steps to register for GRE

Registering for the GRE involves several steps to ensure a smooth and successful process. Here’s a comprehensive guide to GRE registration:

  1. Create an ETS Account
    Create an account on the official ETS (Educational Testing Service) website. Provide accurate and up-to-date information during the account creation process.
  2. Select Test Type
    Choose the type of GRE test you plan to take. Options include the GRE General Test and GRE Subject Tests.
  3. Choose a Test Center and Date
    Select a test center that is convenient for you and choose an available test date. Ensure you have enough time to prepare before your selected date.
  4. Review Test Fees
    Familiarize yourself with the associated fees for your chosen GRE test. Payment methods may include credit/debit cards, electronic checks, or PayPal.
  5. Provide Personal Information
    Fill in your personal information accurately, including your name, contact information, and identification details.
  6. Upload a Photo
    Upload a recent and acceptable photo of yourself. This photo will be used for identification purposes on the test day.
  7. Accommodation Requests (if applicable)
    If you require special accommodations due to a disability or health-related needs, make the necessary requests during registration.
  8. Review and Confirm
    Carefully review the information you’ve provided and confirm that it is accurate. Pay attention to the test date, center, and selected test type.
  9. Payment
    Complete the payment for the test fees. Ensure that your payment method is valid and accepted.
  10. Receive Confirmation
    You will receive a confirmation email after completing the registration process and payment. Keep this confirmation for your records.
  11. Prepare for the Test
    Use the time leading up to your test date to prepare thoroughly. Utilize official GRE study materials and resources to enhance your readiness.

Remember that the GRE registration process may be subject to updates, so checking the official ETS website for the most current and detailed information is advisable.

GRE Format

With its computer-delivered format, the GRE General Test offers a test-taker-friendly design that enables flexibility within each section. Beginning September 22, 2023, the test structure includes five sections with an overall testing time of approximately 1 hour and 58 minutes.

GRE Format

The three main sections of the GRE are listed below:

  1. Analytical Writing –Analytical Writing is the first section of the test, which consists of two writing tasks. Each task is allotted 30 minutes. It tests critical thinking and the ability to evaluate and articulate discussions and arguments.  One task is to “Analyze an Issue,” and the other is to “Analyze an Argument.” An opinion on an issue is presented in the task, along with instructions on how to respond to an issue, construct an argument with reason, and give examples to support one’s views. An argument is presented in the argument task, and the candidate must evaluate it according to the specific instructions.
  2. Verbal Reasoning – Verbal Reasoning tests the candidate’s ability to evaluate and analyze written material and incorporate its information. This part of the test consists of 2 sections with questions from 3 different categories.
    The Verbal Reasoning section is divided into three categories:
    • Reading Comprehension: Reading Comprehension questions assess the candidate’s reading ability. It presents a passage of 1 to 4 paragraphs. There are three types of questions: 1) Multiple Choice 2) Multiple Answers 3) Select the Correct Sentence in the Passage.
    • Text Completion:  Text Completion questions ask candidates to complete passages with one to five sentences and one to three blanks. There are three options for each blank, or five if there is only one. With one option for each blank, there is only one correct response. No points are awarded for partially accurate responses. 
    • Sentence Equivalence: Sentence Equivalence questions have one sentence, one blank, and six answer options. Candidates must choose two answers from the available options for these questions. No points are awarded for partially accurate responses. 
  3. Quantitative Reasoning – The Quantitative Reasoning section assesses the candidate’s ability to comprehend, interpret, and evaluate quantitative data, solve problems using mathematical models, and apply fundamental skills and basic ideas of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. An on-screen calculator is available in this section. This section also includes two sections, including the types of questions, such as
  • Quantitative Comparison Questions
  • Multiple-choice Questions — Select One Answer Choice
  • Multiple-choice Questions — Select One or More Answer Choices
  • Numeric Entry Questions

Note: Along with the three main sections of the GRE, there are two other sections with varied numbers of questions and allotted time to complete them: the Unscored Section and the Unscored Research Section.

GRE Structure & Scores

Navigating the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is pivotal for individuals aspiring to pursue advanced degrees. Understanding the GRE structure and scores is essential for test-takers to approach the exam strategically. In this section, we delve into the intricacies of the GRE General Test, breaking down its format, the allocation of sections, and the scoring methodology. Whether you’re preparing for the test or seeking insights into interpreting your scores, this section aims to clarify the structure and scoring dynamics of the GRE.

Updated Test structure after September 2023

Beginning September 22, 2023, the GRE lasts about 1 hour and 58 minutes. There are five sections.

SectionNo. of SectionsNo. of QuestionsTime Allotted
Analytical WritingOne section “Analyze an Issue” task x 1 30 minutes
Verbal ReasoningTwo sectionsSection 1: 12 questions18 minutes
Section 2: 15 questions23 minutes
Quantitative ReasoningTwo sectionsSection 1: 12 questions21 minutes
Section 2: 15 questions26 minutes

The section for analytical writing will appear first in the test. Quantitative and verbal reasoning sections may not appear in a particular order but will appear after the analytical writing.

Section-Level Adaptation

Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are section-level adaptive. The difficulty of the second section depends on the test-taker’s overall performance in the first section.

 Test Design Features

The advanced adaptive design of the GRE General Test offers features like preview and review capabilities within a section, “Mark” and “Review” features to tag questions and an on-screen calculator for the Quantitative Reasoning section. Test-takers can move forward and backward throughout an entire section and change/edit answers within a section.

Test structure Before September 2023

The duration of the GRE is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections, with a 10-minute break after the third section.  The basic structure of the test before September 2023 looked something like this.

SectionNo. of SectionsNo. of QuestionsTime Allotted
Analytical Writing1 section;Two separately timed tasks“Analyze an Issue” task x 1″Analyze an Argument” task x 160 minutes(30 minutes per task)
Verbal Reasoning220 per section30 minutes per section
Quantitative Reasoning220 per section35 minutes per section

GRE Scores

Achieving a solid performance on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is crucial to the graduate school application process. This section provides an in-depth exploration of GRE scores and the scoring system, shedding light on how your performance is evaluated and what it means for your academic aspirations.

Understanding GRE Scores

The GRE General Test encompasses three main sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. Each section is scored separately, contributing to the overall GRE score. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, with half-point increments, while the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a scale of 130 to 170, in one-point increments.

 Score Reporting

After completing the GRE, test-takers receive a preliminary score report for the Verbal and Quantitative sections immediately after the test. The official score report, including Analytical Writing scores, becomes available 10–15 days after the test date. Test-takers can view and send their scores to designated institutions through the ETS (Educational Testing Service) GRE online portal.

GRE Percentile Rank

Understanding percentile ranks is crucial for interpreting GRE scores. A percentile rank indicates the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than you. For instance, a Verbal Reasoning score at the 70th percentile means you performed better than 70% of test-takers.

 Score Validity

GRE scores are valid for five years. Institutions typically consider your most recent scores, but some may accept scores from all test administrations within five years. It’s advisable to check the specific score policies of the institutions you are applying to.

ScoreSelect Option

The GRE offers the ScoreSelect option, allowing test-takers to choose which scores (from multiple test attempts) they want to send to institutions. This feature provides flexibility and empowers you to showcase your best performance. 

How to Prepare for the GRE

What is the best way to prepare for the GRE? Whether it’s increasing their level of knowledge or learning the nuances of how sections are structured, prospective master’s students can gain a tremendous advantage by carefully prepping themselves for the GRE. The following is a list of a few study tips to help candidates make the most of the time spent preparing for the GRE.

  1.  Establish a Baseline – Before getting into heavy studying, it is best to take at least one full-length GRE to establish a starting point. It will help students identify problem areas to assess better where they should spend much of their study time.
  2. Identify a Score Goal – Exam preparation will be more constructive if one has a goal to aim at. It is best to have a score goal higher than necessary for acceptance into a graduate program. It will also prove helpful when tracking the progress and effectiveness of any study plan.
  3. Start with Problem Areas – After creating a baseline, candidates should identify where they need the most help and start studying that section. The section students struggle with will likely provide the most significant improvement for the least amount of studying.
  4. Find a Study Buddy – Have you ever wondered why many people who work out have a partner or trainer? To help make them accountable. Having a study buddy helps clear any confusion about a particular question, and it helps motivate students to practice a little more.
  5. Read Challenging Material – Students should spend some of their free time reading academic or trade journals to help improve their vocabulary and writing ability.
  6. Simulate Test Day – The more familiar a prospective master’s student is with the test format and testing process, the more comfortable they will be on test day. And the more comfortable they are, the more relaxed they will be, and the better they will perform.

GRE Study

There are various methods and strategies that people can use as a part of their preparation for their exams. Preparing for the GRE can be made much easier by using prep materials. Below is a list of some of the best ones, including a few that are free:

  1. GRE Apps
    • Magoosh – Regarding test preparation, Magoosh is a well-known brand, and its GRE prep courses are among the most in-demand options available. This mobile application provides access to various functions, some of which can be used for free.
    • Kaplan – Kaplan is a central entrance exam preparation company with many preparation classes and materials for a cost. However, they offer a GRE with accessible video explanations for each answer.
  2. GRE Tutors
    • Princeton Review’s GRE Self-Paced – The Princeton Review is well-known for offering tutorials and study materials to prospective undergraduate and graduate students. Their Self-Paced Program is available online and allows students to prepare for the GRE on their timetable. It guarantees that anyone not happy with their GRE score can retake the program at no additional charge.
    • Union Test Prep – Union Test Prep provides access to three free study guides for the GRE’s Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning sections. 
  3. GRE Prep Books
    • Test Prep Books’ GRE Prep 2022 and 2023 – Test Prep Books’ GRE Prep 2022 and 2023 is a comprehensive study guide featuring essential components for adequate preparation. It offers a quick overview, practical test-taking strategies, and a detailed breakdown of the GRE content. The guide includes a structured study prep plan covering Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. Practice questions reinforce learning, and detailed answer explanations help identify areas for improvement. This resource ensures a thorough and efficient preparation for the GRE.
    • Kaplan’s GRE Prep Plus 2023 – Kaplan’s GRE Prep Plus 2023 is a GRE step-by-step, with expert strategies, essential content review, and five online practice tests. The book includes proven test-taking strategies, a math skills review, and 1-year access to online lessons and practice plans. 
  4. GRE Practice Tests
    • Shorter GRE Test Prep – The GRE practice test is vital for honing your skills and readiness. Offering Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores allows you to assess performance, practice test-taking strategies, and familiarize yourself with GRE content. Additional features like Analytical Writing essay feedback and answer keys provide a comprehensive overview to refine your approach and boost confidence for the GRE. 
    • CrunchPrep– CrunchPrep provides free and paid adaptive full-length practice tests that simulate the actual GRE and provide instant and accurate scores.
  5. GRE Videos
    • GregMat – GregMat produces GRE videos, hosts live and recorded classes, and helps students prepare a study plan. One can pay $5 a month to access all site features.
    • Vince’s Free GRE Videos – Vince’s Free GRE Videos has an extensive collection of GRE math videos, verbal and essay videos, vocabulary videos, how-to study for the GRE videos, and more.

The Day Before the GRE

Here are some tips on what students should and should not do the day before they take the GRE. Following these will reduce any uncertainty or anxiety on test day:

  1. Relax & Unwind – Put down your books, relax, and try not to stress! Do not take any practice tests. Assure yourself that you are ready to take the GRE test.
  2. Check Paperwork & ID – Ensure you have all the required paperwork and verify the information on your Admission Ticket. Keep your ID and anything you may need for the test ready.
  3. Prepare Your Ride – Check the weather conditions, driving directions, and traffic information, accounting for probable delays. If you need to know where your test center is and think it is close enough, go by. Determine the parking situation and your destination.
  4. Eat Right – Have a nutritious, light meal with bland or neutral foods, and avoid drinking alcohol.
  5. Sleep Well – Do not stay up late; hit the bed early and get as much rest as possible; ideally, 8 hours should suffice.

GRE Test Day Tips

Here are some tips on what students should and should not do when they take the GRE:

  1. Stick to Your Routine – When you wake up, continue with your regular regimen. For instance, only start drinking coffee before the GRE if it is your habit. Maintaining consistency in your routine can help you concentrate on your primary goal: doing well on the test.
  2. Practice, if Possible – If you have time, practice a few questions, ideally ones you already know. It will effectively allow you to warm up before the exam starts and make you more confident because you already know how to approach those questions. You only need to solve three or four problems to prepare for the test-taking process.
  3. Breakfast – Eat a healthy, filling breakfast, but ensure you do not eat things that usually upset your stomach. Add fruit and nuts to your meal.
  4. Dress for Comfort – Do not dress for style, but dress for comfort. Wear more than a layer of clothing because if the test center is chilly and warm, you can remove some clothing. Remember that, except for religious attire, most test centers do not permit caps or hoods.
  5. Arrive Early – Leave home early to avoid traffic delays and arrive at the testing location early. You can sit in your car and read or unwind even if you arrive 30 minutes early.
  6. Bonus Tip – Run the test in your mind while you prepare to head to the test center and imagine performing exceptionally well. Tell yourself that you have confidence in your ability to perform well. Positive affirmation goes a long way in helping students tackle exams, a strategy used by many sportspersons to perform their best during sporting events.

Schools That Don’t Need GRE

Most colleges in the United States require applicants to submit their GRE or GMAT scores when applying for a master’s degree. However, some colleges have waived or entirely done away with the GRE as a prerequisite in recent years. 

Here are some notable schools with No GRE programs:


Is GRE challenging?

Undoubtedly, the GRE poses a substantial challenge, demanding quick thinking and practical problem-solving skills. However, the GRE becomes more manageable with diligent preparation, consistent studying, and regular practice. Strategic planning and dedicated effort can significantly mitigate the perceived difficulty of the exam.

Are calculators allowed in the GRE?

Is the GRE computer-adaptive?

How long should you prepare for the GRE?

How to prepare for the GRE?

Are GRE subject tests required for all graduate programs?

How can test-takers send GRE scores to schools?

How is the GRE scored?

Can GRE scores be canceled?

Can GRE scores be superscored?

How long do GRE scores last?

How many times can you take the GRE?

Can I take the GRE on paper?

Are accommodations available for test-takers with disabilities?

GRE vs. GMAT – Which is Better?

Choosing a GRE or GMAT can always be confusing. However, whether to opt for the GRE or GMAT primarily depends on the program one wants to apply to, and students must always check to see the program requirements. The following quick look at the GRE vs. GMAT will present a fair idea of how the two differ:

WhyIt is a requirement for most graduate schools for admission into their graduate programs.It is a requirement for most business schools for admission into their MBA programs.
Who accepts the test?Graduate schools. A lot of online master’s schools accept a GMAT score.Business Schools. A lot of online master’s schools get a GRE score.
Format3 Sections – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.4 Sections – Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.
Scores260-340200 to 800
Time3.75 hours3.5 hours
Score ValidityFive yearsFive years

Additional GRE Resources

Preparing for the GRE can sometimes be challenging, especially if one has family, study, or work commitments. Getting the best and maximum help would significantly reduce stress and anxiety related to taking the GRE. Here are some valuable resources for prospective candidates to explore:

  1. The Grad Café – GRE/GMAT Forums – If students have concerns about GRE questions or want advice about their study strategy, this is a great place to ask others for advice.
  2. The GRE Prep Club – The GRE Prep Club has many online resources for test takers, including an active message board and reviews of various GRE tutoring and prep services.
  3. Khan Academy – The Khan Academy is an educational website that offers free videos to help students learn about certain academic or test subjects. Their math lessons benefit the Quantitative Reasoning section of the General Test.
  4. Manhattan Prep – Manhattan Prep offers a variety of GRE preparation services for a fee, but they allow interested test-takers to take any first-class session for free. It also provides several free GRE resources, such as study tips, practice tests, and flash cards.
  5. Quizlet – Quizlet is a free online tool for making flashcards, including preparing for the GRE.
  6. Education Testing Service (ETS) – Education Testing Services, or ETS, is the owner and administrator of the GRE. The site offers detailed information about the three components of the GRE General Test, including sample questions and answers.

GRE Sample Questions

It is always good to know what to expect in a GRE test. Listed below are some sample questions and their answers for each section of the GRE:

1. Verbal Reasoning

 Verbal reasoning is a key component of the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), and it assesses your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from written material, understand relationships between different parts of sentences, and recognize relationships between words and concepts. Here are a few sample questions to help you practice:

A. Reading Comprehension Sample Questions

B. Text Completion Sample Questions

C. Sentence Equivalence Sample Questions

2.Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE assesses your ability to understand, interpret, and analyze quantitative information and to solve problems using mathematical concepts and techniques. Here are a few sample questions:

A. Quantitative Comparison

B. Multiple Choice Question – Select One Answer Choice

 C. Multiple Choice Question – Select One or More Answer Choices

D. Numeric Entry Questions

E. Data Interpretation

3. Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing measure tests your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses your ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. It does not assess specific content knowledge.

The Analytical Writing measure consists of one separately timed analytical writing task:

The Issue task presents an opinion on an issue of general interest followed by specific instructions on responding. You can evaluate the issue, consider its complexities, and develop an argument with reasons and examples to support your views.

Source: Practice ETS