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GRE: Everything you need to know

Edvoy
Edvoy
Last updated: Sep 21, 202215 min read
GRE: Everything you need to know

Overview

The GRE — Graduate Record Examination — is a standardised test designed to measure a student’s abstract thinking ability in analysis, mathematics and vocabulary. 

One of the major examinations for graduates, the GRE, takes just over 3 hours and is most frequently used to gauge whether or not a student is prepared for graduate school. 

Its purpose is often confused with that of the GMAT exam, and while they share some similarities, they also have some key differences. To find out more, read our article, GMAT vs GRE: Which is easier?

In this comprehensive walk-through, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the GRE. If you’d like a quicker, shorter recap of the GRE and its inner workings, check out our article: A brief overview of the GRE!

Let’s get started!

GRE at a glance

GRE Full NameGraduate Record Examination
Conducting BodyETS
Test Types
  • GRE General Test
  • GRE Subject Test
Exam Method
  • Offline ( Paper-based at test centre )
  • Online ( Computer-based at test centre)
  • Online (Computer based at home)

What are the different types of GRE tests?

There are two types of GRE tests: 

  • The GRE General Test 
  • The GRE Subject Test

There are both in-person and home versions of the GRE tests, meaning you can choose to sit the exam from the comfort of your own home or at an official testing centre near you. 

What is the GRE General Test?

The General GRE test evaluates a candidate's qualifications in analytical writing, numeric skills and verbal thinking. 

The General GRE test is most commonly taken by students seeking admission to graduate programs such as business and law in the United States and Canada.

What is the GRE Subject Test?

The GRE Subject Test assesses the abilities of candidates on particular subjects. 

The GRE subject tests are administered in mathematics, physics, psychology, and chemistry

It’s worth noting that there used to be GRE subject tests in biology, English literature, and biochemistry, cell & molecular biology, but these have been discontinued. 

Generally, the GRE Subject Test is required to gain a place in one of the above specialist courses. 

Why should you take the GRE?

The GRE is one of the most widely accepted entrance exams for anyone who wishes to continue to graduate school or study for a master’s or PhD. 

By checking the entrance requirements of the course of study you want to pursue, you’ll be able to decide if you should take the GRE. 

GRE Exam Eligibility: Who can take the GRE?

The GRE Exam is not subject to any strict eligibility conditions. However, even though there are no strict GRE academic criteria laid down by Educational Testing Services (ETS), test participants must almost always hold a bachelor's credential along with their GRE to get into a graduate program. 

The main question, though, is whether you need to do the GRE test rather than whether you can. Again, we recommended checking out the admissions requirements for the programme you’d like to study to find out if you should take it!

GRE Exam syllabus

The GRE General Examination consists of three sections:

  • Analytical writing
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Quantitative reasoning

Syllabus of GRE Analytical Writing

  • Knowledge in critical thinking and reasoning
  • To support and strengthen complicated concepts
  • Build and evaluate arguments
  • To maintain a robust and consistent debate

In this part, there are two tasks:

  • Analysis of a problem.
  • Argument analysis.

Syllabus of GRE Verbal Reasoning

  • Analyse and evaluate textual materials like phrases, paragraphs and passages.
  • Understand written texts.
  • Understanding equivalence of sentences.
  • Identify the author’s assumptions and views. 
  • Understand numerous significance levels, such as literal and figurative intent. 

Syllabus of Quantitative Reasoning

The GRE assesses fundamental mathematical skills and numerical reasoning. The test consists of around 66 questions with multiple choices from courses that are routinely taught at the graduate level. 

Trigonometry, calculus or other higher mathematics are not included. The GRE allows a calculator to be used in the math section. However, not all questions require or allow the calculator to be used.

Quantitative reasoning is tested in the following areas:

  • Comprehension, Interpretation and Analysis of Quantitative reasoning.
  • Solve mathematical model problems.
  • Use basic abilities including basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis principles.
  • The Quantitative part contains an on-screen calculator.
  • Some of the quant questions are based on factual life circumstances, while others are purely mathematical.

Themes evaluated in the “GRE Quant” section include:

  • Algebra, geometry & data analysis.
  • Percentages & ratios.
  • Time, speed & distance.
  • Statistics & Probability.
  • Surface area & volume

Syllabus for GRE Subject Test

The following subjects are included in the GRE Subject Test Programme:

Chemistry

The GRE chemistry test includes 130 multiple choice questions in the following fields:

  1. Analytical chemistry
  2. Inorganic chemistry
  3. Organic chemistry
  4. Physical chemistry

Physics

The test has around 100 questions of five choices, some of which are linked together in sets and based on diagrams, graphs, experimental data and physical scenario descriptions.

The fields tested include:

  1. Electromagnetism.
  2. Wave Phenomena & optics.
  3. Thermodynamics & mechanical statistics.
  4. Atomic physics.

Mathematics

The GRE maths test includes approximately 66 multiple-choice questions drawn from courses commonly offered at the undergraduate level.

  1. Approximately 50% of the questions involve calculus and its applications. 
  2. About 25% of the questions in the test are in elementary algebra, linear algebra, abstract algebra, and number theory. 
  3. The remaining 25% of the questions deal with other areas of mathematics currently studied by undergraduates in many institutions, such as sequences, graph theory, logic, geometry, statistics, probability and numerical analysis

Psychology

This test involves approximately 205 multiple-choice questions. Some materials provided include descriptions of experiments or graphs to base questions upon.

The topics of psychology covered include:

  1. Biological
  2. Cognitive
  3. Social
  4. Developmental
  5. Clinical
  6. Measurement & methodology

GRE exam pattern

Please note that the following information is specifically for the GRE general exam. For more information on each specific GRE subject exam pattern, we recommend checking out the official ETS website. 

The total duration of the GRE test is around 3 hours and 45 minutes for the GRE General Test. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the GRE General Test pattern. 

SectionNo. of SectionsTotal no. of QuestionsAllocated TimeTotal Time
Analytical Writing2Two tasks30 minutes for each task60 Minutes
Verbal Reasoning220 questions for each section30 minutes for each section60 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning220 questions for each section35 minutes for each section70 Minutes

Note:

  • A section that does not count for your score can exist in any sequence named “The Unscored Section” following the analytical writing section.
  • Questions in the unscored section are either tested in the future or guarantee that new test results are comparable to previous test scores.

*GRE Home Edition

Taking the ongoing pandemic into consideration, ETS has launched a popular GRE Home test. However, it’s expected that the GRE Home test will remain in place in the future. 

For the GRE Home, the curriculum & examination structure is the same as the above.

GRE General preparation tips

Preparing for the GRE requires the same approach as any high-stakes entrance exam. We always recommend that you follow these GRE preparation tips:

  • Start studying between 8 and 12 weeks before your test. 
  • Get familiar with the format and types of questions. 
  • Follow a regular GRE plan of study.
  • Take practice examinations.

But beyond these general tips, we’ve written a complete article on the smartest ways to prepare for your GRE. Check it out when you’re done here!

When should I take the GRE?

You can take the GRE at home any time you wish. However, it’s best to take the test a few months before the deadline for admissions to the graduate program you wish to follow. That way, you’ll have your results in good time and can resit the exam if necessary. 

GRE application & registration

It’s effortless to register for the GRE, whether you’re taking it at home or at a test centre. Just visit the ETS website to register. Select whether you wish to take the test at home or at a centre, and follow the prompts!

GRE exam fees

The fee for the GRE changes from country to country, so here’s a breakdown of the latest costs:

GRE General Test fee ( except India )$205
GRE General Test fee in India$213 ( 15,800 INR )
GRE Subject Test fee $ 150
Rescheduling fee$ 50
Changing test centre fee$ 50

GRE exam dates and test locations

The GRE General Test offers a wide range of easy testing options to help you choose where and when to take the test.

  • The GRE Test may be performed once every 21 days, up to 5 times throughout 365 days. This is valid even if the candidate has previously cancelled the test.

Home testing

  • The GRE General Test is offered at home, seven days a week, 24 hours after registration.
  • One must meet the equipment and environment Requirements to take the test at home. The details on this are made known to you before booking your test. 

At the Test Center

  • The GRE General Test is available at Prometric Test Centers and on specific days in other testing places outside Prometric's network.
  • It is advisable to check the ETS website for the test calendar.

GRE results and scores

The total score for the GRE is out of 340. The table below shows the score range for each GRE section. Wondering what score you’ll need? That depends on the college and program you wish to pursue, so check with them first. 

However, anything above 318 is generally considered good, while anything above 329 is excellent.  

SectionRange
Analytical Writing*0 - 6
Verbal Reasoning130 - 170
Quantitative Reasoning130 - 170

*The Analytical Writing score you receive does not affect your overall score out of 340. 

Receiving your scores

  • The official GRE scorecard can be viewed from 10 to 15 days following the test on the candidate's ETS account.
  • When GRE results are available, the exam administrator sends an email to the candidate.
  • The GRE scores are valid for five years. 
  • The ETS maintains a candidate's five-year score report from the test date.
  • GRE scores should not be compared directly as each measurement is individually scaled.

GRE Score  & Percentile

There are two components in each GRE score:

  1. A scaled score (your final score)
  2. Percentile (where you rank compared to others)

Your percentile rank is more significant than your scaled score, but generally, a score above 318 puts you in the 75th percentile, while a score of 329 puts you in the 90th percentile. 

When and how can you retake the GRE test?

Hopefully, you won’t need to, but just in case… 

Data shows that most people who have taken the GRE General Test for a second time have achieved the same or more outstanding results. 

Retaking the test is easy. Just register online again through your existing ETS account. 

The GRE General Test may be taken once every 21 days, up to 5 times over a continuous period of 12 months. You can send your marks to the universities of your choosing for up to five years from the date you receive your score.

FAQs:

When should I start preparing for the GRE?

We recommend you to prepare for the GMAT/GRE for at least two and a maximum of 4 months, depending on your schedule.

What is a good GRE score?

A 75th percentile is often quite a decent GRE score, while a 90th is a fantastic result. So we can say that the 318 and the above score is decent, while 329 is exceptional. An average score of 300+ is considered, with a score of 292 below an average.

How long does it take to get the GRE scores?

You will receive your official scores 10–15 days after the test date.

How much does it cost to take the GRE?

The GRE examination price is $205 for the general test. The GRE General Test registration price in India is $213, or around INR 15,800.

Do the GRE scores expire? 

The score can be registered for five years after the date of the test.

How many sections are there in the GRE?

Three topics are tested in the GRE General Test: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and writing.

How many questions are there in the GRE?

On the GRE-based computer, there are a total of 82 questions. However, on the test day,  you may have 102 questions with the experimental section included.

What is asked on the GRE general test?

The General GRE Test checks your verbal thinking, your quantitative capabilities, and your critical thinking.

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