All About GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States and other countries. Created and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE is designed to measure general academic readiness for graduate programs. The test assesses verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills. The GRE General Test is the most widely accepted for graduate admissions, while the GRE Subject Tests are specialized exams that test knowledge in specific fields.

History of the GRE


The GRE was first established in 1936 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Initially, it was created to provide a common measure for comparing the academic capabilities of applicants from various colleges and universities. The test was designed to assess skills that were believed to be essential for success in graduate school.


Over the years, the GRE has undergone numerous changes and updates to better reflect the skills and knowledge needed for graduate education. The format and content of the test have evolved to include sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. In 2011, the GRE revised the scoring system and the structure of the test to make it more user-friendly and to better measure the abilities required for graduate and business school programs.

Structure of the GRE

GRE General Test

The GRE General Test is divided into three main sections:

Verbal Reasoning

This section measures the test-taker’s ability to understand and analyze written material, and to recognize relationships among words and concepts. It includes:

  • Reading Comprehension: Questions based on passages.
  • Text Completion: Fill-in-the-blank questions with multiple blanks.
  • Sentence Equivalence: Questions that require selecting two choices that lead to a complete and coherent sentence.

Quantitative Reasoning

This section assesses basic mathematical skills and the ability to understand and analyze quantitative information. It includes:

  • Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
  • Problem-solving and quantitative comparison questions.

Analytical Writing

This section measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It includes:

  • Issue Task: Writing an essay on a given topic.
  • Argument Task: Writing an essay that critiques a given argument.

GRE Subject Tests

The GRE Subject Tests are specialized tests that measure knowledge in specific fields. They are available in the following subjects:

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

These tests are intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in these disciplines.


GRE General Test Scoring

The GRE General Test scores are reported in three parts:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Scored on a scale of 130 to 170, in 1-point increments.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Scored on a scale of 130 to 170, in 1-point increments.
  • Analytical Writing: Scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments.

GRE Subject Test Scoring

According to Wilson GRE, the GRE Subject Tests are scored on a scale of 200 to 990, in 10-point increments. Subscores are reported for the Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, and the Psychology tests.

Score Validity

GRE scores are valid for five years from the test date. This allows test-takers to use their scores for multiple application cycles if needed.

Registration and Costs

Registration Process

Registration for the GRE can be completed online, by phone, or by mail. The test is offered year-round at Prometric test centers and on specific dates at additional testing sites.


The cost of taking the GRE General Test is approximately $205, but fees can vary based on the country in which the test is taken. The GRE Subject Tests cost around $150. Additional fees may apply for services such as score reporting, rescheduling, and changing the test center.

Fee Reductions

ETS offers a Fee Reduction Program for individuals who demonstrate financial need. This program provides a 50% reduction in the test fee and includes free access to GRE test preparation materials.

Test Preparation

Study Materials

ETS provides various official preparation materials, including practice tests, sample questions, and study guides. Additionally, there are many third-party resources available, such as books, online courses, and tutoring services.

Study Strategies

Effective study strategies for the GRE include:

  • Familiarizing yourself with the test format and types of questions.
  • Developing a study schedule that allows for consistent practice.
  • Taking full-length practice tests to build stamina and identify areas for improvement.
  • Reviewing basic math concepts and practicing verbal reasoning skills.
  • Writing practice essays to improve analytical writing skills.

Test Day Tips

On test day, it is important to:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before the test.
  • Arrive at the test center early with the necessary identification.
  • Follow the instructions carefully and manage your time effectively during the test.
  • Stay calm and focused throughout the test.

Importance of the GRE

Graduate School Admissions

The GRE is a critical component of the graduate school application process. Many programs use GRE scores as a significant factor in admissions decisions. High GRE scores can enhance an applicant’s chances of acceptance, especially if their undergraduate GPA is lower.

Scholarships and Fellowships

Some scholarships and fellowships consider GRE scores as part of their selection criteria. Strong GRE scores can improve the likelihood of receiving financial aid for graduate studies.

Career Opportunities

In addition to its role in graduate admissions, the GRE can also impact career opportunities. Some employers and industries value high GRE scores as an indicator of analytical and problem-solving abilities.

Criticisms of the GRE

Test Bias

One of the main criticisms of the GRE is that it may be biased against certain groups, including non-native English speakers and individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Critics argue that the test may not accurately reflect the abilities of these individuals and that it can disadvantage them in the admissions process.

Predictive Validity

Another criticism is related to the predictive validity of the GRE. Some studies suggest that GRE scores are not strong predictors of success in graduate school. Critics argue that other factors, such as research experience, letters of recommendation, and personal statements, may be more indicative of a student’s potential.

Stress and Anxiety

The high-stakes nature of the GRE can cause significant stress and anxiety for test-takers. The pressure to achieve high scores can negatively impact mental health and well-being.

Alternatives to the GRE

Test-Optional Policies

Some graduate programs have adopted test-optional policies, allowing applicants to choose whether or not to submit GRE scores. This approach is intended to reduce barriers to admission and focus on a more holistic review of applicants.

Other Standardized Tests

In certain fields, other standardized tests may be accepted as alternatives to the GRE. For example, business schools may accept GMAT scores, and some psychology programs may accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).

Holistic Admissions

Many graduate programs are moving towards a more holistic admissions process, which considers a wide range of factors beyond standardized test scores. This approach aims to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of an applicant’s qualifications and potential.

Future of the GRE

Technological Advancements

As technology continues to evolve, the GRE may undergo further changes to improve accessibility, security, and the overall testing experience. Innovations such as artificial intelligence and adaptive testing could enhance the accuracy and fairness of the test.

Changes in Graduate Admissions

The role of the GRE in graduate admissions may continue to evolve. As more programs adopt test-optional policies or alternative assessments, the emphasis on standardized testing may decrease. This shift could lead to more diverse and inclusive admissions practices.

Global Expansion

The GRE is already widely accepted by graduate programs around the world. As international education continues to grow, the GRE may expand its reach and influence, providing a common measure for comparing applicants from diverse educational backgrounds.

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