Many universities offer graduate programs and only accept the best students; they provide top-notch education to those who can succeed in their programs. But admissions officers can only make an educated guess on an applicant’s potential. To quantify the potential of applicants, there are a variety of things an admission official can review, such as the applicant’s undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Sometimes, they can even conduct applicant interviews. At some schools, admission committees assess a student’s future performance and abilities by looking at the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. In this guide, discover the GRE, why schools might want to see it, how to prepare for it, some tips and advice, and why some schools forego it altogether. 

What is GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standard entrance exam developed by test makers –  Educational Testing Services (ETS). Most schools that ask for GRE test scores will require applicants to take this test. It consists of two different types:  

  1. The GRE General Test – The GRE General Test closely mirrors the way candidates and the abilities they will need to succeed in today’s competitive graduate programs, including business and law. This test evaluates long-standing abilities that are relevant to all fields of study and not directly related to any one of them in particular.
  2. The GRE Subject Test – The GRE Subject Tests are academic assessments that gauge the candidate’s proficiency in a specific area of study. Students with a major or substantial background in one of the following fields are recommended for each Subject Test:
  • Physics 
  • Chemistry 
  • Mathematics 
  • Psychology 

Of the two, the most common is the General Test. However, while a school or program may sometimes require both the GRE General and GRE Subject Tests, some schools may make the Subject Test optional while requiring the General Test.  

One of the biggest reasons schools require the GRE is because it provides an objective measure of a prospective master’s student’s potential academic performance. Most of the other components of the student’s application are largely subjective in nature, such as the essay or letters of recommendation. For certain objective measures, such as a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), admissions committees know that each school (and each program within a school) will have its own level of “grade inflation.” 

GRE Basic Information

How much does the GRE cost?

The GRE costs $205 in the U.S. This test fee does not include special handling requests such as rescheduling fees – which is $50 extra, and changing the test center – which is $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: $27 
  • 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
  • Sore Reinstatement Fee: $50 
When to take the GRE?

The GRE General Test is available year-round. Aspiring candidates may take the test as often as they like, although they are limited to taking the test every 21 days and no more than 5 times in 12 months. The exact test dates will depend on the test center of choice and available seating. However, in many areas, students will have several days available to choose from in any given week.  

GRE Sections

The GRE consists of 3 main sections: 

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning 
  • Quantitative Reasoning 

Most test-takers will also have a fourth component, which will either be an experimental or research set of questions. The experimental and research sections are similar in that they are not scored and can consist of either Quantitative or Verbal Reasoning questions. However, the research section will always appear at the end of the exam, while the experimental section can appear anywhere. The research and experimental questions allow the test creator to conduct research and try out new questions for future exams. 

GRE Registration

Individuals can register for the GRE General Test online or by phone. The user will create an Education Testing Service (ETS) account when registering online. Test takers are encouraged to register as soon as possible as availability in each testing center is on a first-come, first-served basis. 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. 

GRE Format

The GRE General Test is a computerized adaptive exam where sections will become more difficult or easier depending on the test taker’s performance on earlier sections. Listed below are the three main sections of the GRE: 

  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 issue 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 the information obtained from it. The Verbal Reasoning section is divided into 3 components:
    • Reading Comprehension: Reading Comprehension questions assesses the candidate’s reading ability. It presents a passage of 1 to 4 paragraphs. There are three different 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 right 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 abilities and basic ideas of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. An on-screen calculator is available in this section. The types of questions are:
  • 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

The duration of the GRE is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. There are 6 sections in all, with a 10-minute break after the third section. The basic structure of the test is as follows: 

Section No. of Sections No. of Questions Time Allotted 
Analytical Writing 1 section; 
2 separately timed tasks 
“Analyze an Issue” task x 1
“Analyze an Argument” task x 1 
60 minutes (30 minutes per task) 
Verbal Reasoning 20 per section 30 minutes per section 
Quantitative Reasoning 20 per section 35 minutes per section 
Unscored Varies Varies 
Research Varies Varies 

GRE Scores 

  • The Analytical Writing assessment has a score range of 0 to 6, in 0.5-point increments. 
  • The Verbal Reasoning assessment has a score range of 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. 
  • The Quantitative Reasoning assessment has a score range of 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. 
  • An NS (No Score) for a measure is reported if at least one question has not been answered within a measure. 

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 any heavy studying, it is best to take at least one full-length GRE to establish a starting point. This will help students identify problem areas to better assess 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 that is a little higher than what is necessary for acceptance into a graduate program of choice. This will also prove useful when tracking the progress and effectiveness of any study plan. 
  3. Start with Problem Areas – After creating a baseline, candidates should identify the section where they need the most help and start studying that section first. Most likely, the section students struggle with will provide the greatest amount of improvement for the least amount of studying. 
  4. Find a Study Buddy – Ever wondered why many people who work out have a partner or trainer? To help make them accountable. Having a study buddy can not only help clear up any confusion about a particular question, but it can help 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 – When it comes to test preparation, Magoosh is a well-known brand, and its GRE prep courses are among the most in-demand options available on the market. This mobile application provides access to a wide variety of functions, some of which can be used for free.
    • Kaplan – Kaplan is a major entrance exam preparation company with a host of preparation classes and materials for a cost. However, they offer a GRE with video explanations for each answer for no charge. 
  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 own 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 each of the GRE’s Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning sections. 
  3. GRE Prep Books
    • Official GRE Super Power Pack – This official set of 3 books on the General Test, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning is published by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers 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 5 online practice tests. The book includes proven test-taking strategies, a review of math skills, and 1-year access to online lessons and practice plans. 
  4. GRE Practice Tests
    • PowerPrep Online Practice Tests – The Educational Testing Service (ETS) offers 3 different practice tests for prospective GRE test-takers. These tests cover Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning and include an untimed one as well.  
    • CrunchPrep – CrunchPrep provides free and paid adaptive full-length practice tests that simulate the real GRE and provide instant and accurate scores. 
  5. GRE Videos
    • GregMat – GregMat produces GRE videos, hosts live classes and recorded classes, and helps students prepare a study plan. One can sign-up for $5 a month to access all features of the site. 
    • 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 – Make sure 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. Drive by if you do not know where your test center is and think it is close enough. Determine the parking situation and your destination.  
  4. Eat Right – Have a wholesome, 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 on the day they are taking the GRE: 

  1. Stick to Your Routine – When you wake up, continue with your regular regimen. For instance, do not start drinking coffee the morning of the GRE if it is not your habit. Maintaining consistency in your routine can help you concentrate on your primary goal, which is doing well on the test. 
  2. Practice, if Possible – If you have time, practice a few questions, ideally ones you are already familiar with. This will effectively give you a chance 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 yourself for the test-taking process.  
  3. Breakfast Properly – 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 if you are 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 get ready 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, in recent years, some colleges have waived or entirely done away with the GRE as a prerequisite. Here are some notable schools with No GRE programs: 


Frequently Asked Questions

Is GRE difficult?

Without a doubt, the GRE is a demanding examination that requires test-takers to think and act quickly. But if one prepares for the GRE well in advance, putting in several hours of hard work, studying, and practicing regularly, this test should not be too difficult.

Are calculators allowed in GRE?

How long should you prepare for the GRE?

How to prepare for GRE?

What does the GRE test include?

How long do GRE scores last?

How many times can you take the GRE?

Can I take the GRE on paper?

GRE vs. GMAT – Which is Better?

Choosing GRE or GMAT can always be a little 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 GRE vs. GMAT will present a fair idea of how the two differ: 

Why It 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 also. Business Schools. A lot of online master’s schools accept a GRE score also. 
Format 3 Sections – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. 4 Sections – Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. 
Scores 120 to 170 200 to 800 
Cost $205 $205 
Time 3.75 hours 3.5 hours 
Score Validity 5 years 5 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 some 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 available to 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 are especially useful for 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 session of any class for free. It also provides several free GRE resources, such as study tips, a practice test, and flash cards.
  5. Quizlet – Quizlet is a free online tool for making flashcards for any purpose, 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

A. Reading Comprehension Sample Questions

B. Text Completion Sample Questions

C. Sentence Equivalence Sample Questions

2.Quantitative Reasoning

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 two separately timed analytical writing tasks:

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

The Argument task requires you to evaluate a given argument according to specific instructions. You will need to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than agree or disagree with the position it presents.

The two tasks are complementary in that one requires you to construct your own argument by taking a position and providing evidence supporting your views on an issue, and the other requires you to evaluate someone else’s argument by assessing its claims and evaluating the evidence it provides.

Source: ETS

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