GRE FAQ

What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is required for admission to most graduate programs in natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, education, and other fields. If you are applying to law, business, or med school, you don't need the GRE because each of these schools has its own test:

  • Law school = LSAT
  • Business school = GMAT
  • Med school = MCAT

However, there is a growing trend for business schools to accept either the GMAT or the GRE.

The GRE actually consists of two separate tests:

  • General Test
  • Subject Tests

The GRE General Test, also referred to as the GRE revised General Test to reflect changes effected in August 2011, measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills – unrelated to any specific field of study.

The GRE Subject Tests gauge undergraduate achievement in eight specific fields of study and can help forecast a candidate's potential for success in graduate school. Not all graduate schools require a Subject Test. Each Subject Test is intended for students who have majored in or have extensive background in that specific area:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

For students still in college and not quite sure yet what they want to do, taking the GRE is a superb idea. It's like having an insurance policy for your future – especially in today's uncertain economy. Now more than ever, you need every advantage to get a job, and keep it. In fact, as of March 2009, there were 30% fewer unemployed advanced degree holders than those with just a bachelor's degree. So, keep your options open while you're still in a test-taking frame of mind: register and prepare for the GRE!

The GRE revised General Test is a 3-hour computer-based test given in the United States, Canada, and many other countries. Paper-based tests are offered in parts of the world where computer-based testing is not available. The Subject Tests are paper-based and last 2 hours and 50 minutes.

How is the GRE revised General Test organized and scored?

The Computer-Based GRE

The Analytical Writing section is always first, while the other five sections may appear in any order.

Section # Questions Time
Analytical Writing
(One section with 
two separately timed tasks)
"Analyze an Issue" task
"Analyze an Argument" task
30 minutes/task
Verbal Reasoning 
(Two sections)
Approximately 
20 questions/ section
30 minutes/section
Quantitative Reasoning 
(Two sections)
Approximately 
20 questions/section
35 minutes/section
Unscored Section Typically a Verbal Reasoning or 
Quantitative Reasoning section
Varies

An identified research section that is not scored may also be included in the computer-based GRE revised General Test.

There is a 10-minute break following the third section and a 1-minute break between the other test sections.

The revised Verbal Reasoning contains three types of questions:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Text Completion
  • Sentence Equivalence

The revised Quantitative Reasoning section contains four types of questions:

  • Multiple-choice questions – select one answer choice
  • Multiple-choice questions – select one or more answer choices
  • Grid-in questions
  • Quantitative Comparison questions

Each math question appears either independently as a discrete question or as part of a set of questions called a Data Interpretation set. All of the questions in a Data Interpretation set are based on the same data presented in tables, graphs or other displays of data. Math questions are surprisingly similar to those on the SAT and are taken from the following content areas:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Data Analysis

The Paper-Based GRE

Section # Questions Time
Analytical Writing
(One section with 
two separately timed tasks)
"Analyze an Issue" task
"Analyze an Argument" task
30 minutes/task
Verbal Reasoning 
(Two sections)
25 questions/ section 35 minutes/section
Quantitative Reasoning 
(Two sections)
25 questions/section 40 minutes/section

Scoring

The verbal and the quantitative tests each yield a separate score in the 130-170 range (in 1-point increments). Scores on the analytical writing test are reported in ½-point increments along a scale of 0 to 6. The Subject Tests yield scores from 200 to 990. Admission to graduate school will typically depend more on the verbal and quantitative scores than on a Subject Test score. It is essential that test-takers do well to get into most doctoral programs; master's programs are less competitive.

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