GRE Guide

Last Updated on January 9, 2022

ETS GRE Preparation Guide: Format, Syllabus, Best Books - YouTube

Do you have any knowledge about GRE Guide? Do you ever feel confused? Do you often feel overwhelmed with all the information available on GRE Guide so you can’t figure out which one is correct? This article will let you know about GRE Guide.

The GRE is a standardized test used by graduate schools as part of their application process. A strong score can be the difference between being accepted to or rejected from the graduate program of your choice. This guide will walk you through how to plan and execute a study guide so you may achieve your goals.

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What is the GRE Test?

Let’s start out with some GRE basics. You’d think that knowing the GRE’s full name would give you some clue to what the test itself is. But what does GRE stand for? Graduate Record Examination. That could be almost anything!

To clarify: the GRE test is an exam that American universities, including master’s and doctoral programs, use to evaluate candidates. However, individual universities do not offer the GRE as an entrance exam. Instead, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), an independent organization, writes and administers the test. Admissions committees (adcoms) then use an applicant’s GRE scores, most often in combination with other factors such as undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, and personal statements, to evaluate the candidate’s admissions file.

If you’re thinking about applying to a graduate program, it’s important to find out as soon as possible whether it requires applicants to submit GRE scores for admission. Not only will this give you a better idea of the school’s requirements, but it will also help you pin down your test date and register for the exam.

When is the GRE Exam Offered?

The GRE exam is offered almost every day of the year. (Not on Sundays or national holidays, though! If you have a full-time job, Saturday is probably your best bet.) However, there’s a big caveat to that: seats at test centers fill up fast on GRE test dates, so it may not be available to you every day of the year. That’s why you should register for the exam as soon as you know you want to take it, bearing in mind deadlines for the programs to which you’re applying.

If you’re taking the paper-based GRE exam (rare, but it still happens), it’s so important to schedule your test date as soon as you know you’ll be taking the GRE. Why? Because there are only two GRE test dates a year FOR PAPER-BASED TESTS. You can take it in February or November—but that’s it.

Can you retake the GRE?

Yes, but there are strict rules about when you can retake it. No more than once every 21 days, no more than five times a year. Basically, if you think you may want to retake the GRE exam, it’s all the more important to register right away. Consider the application schedules of the schools to which you’re applying and plan accordingly.

What Does the GRE Exam Evaluate?

Now that you know how important it is to register early (super important!), let’s look at an overview of the GRE general test. What is the GRE test like? Although it’s broken down into six sections, the GRE only tests you in three areas: Verbal, Quantitative Reasoning, and the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA).

If you’re wondering what’s on the GRE, what to expect on the GRE exam, or even what is the GRE like?, basically think of it as the SAT, but harder. The GRE test setup is pretty similar to the SAT’s.

The Verbal Reasoning section is similar to the SAT’s equivalent. It includes some text completion questions, critical reading, and sentence equivalence. That last type of question—sentence equivalence—is unique to the GRE exam. It asks you to fill in a blank in a sentence with two separate words, with the aim of creating two sentences that have the same meaning. For that, you’ll need to brush up on synonyms.

The Quantitative Reasoning section is a series of math questions that rely on nothing more than high-school-level mathematics. Don’t start celebrating yet, though: that doesn’t mean the questions are easy. The scope of questions includes algebra, geometry, statistics, and other high school level subjects. It does not include trigonometry or calculus. There’s no need to memorize sine and cosine or integrals and derivatives. Like Verbal, there are three main question types: problem solving, quantitative comparison, and numeric entry. Quantitative comparison asks you to compare two quantities and figure out which one is larger.

Finally, the Analytical Writing Assessment requires you to write two essays. One is an “argument” essay, in which you are given an argument someone else has made, and you write about what more you need to know to evaluate the argument. The second type is an “issue” essay, in which you take a position and make an argument of your own about a specific issue.

All About the GRE Test and Timing

The total length of the GRE exam is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. That’s a long time! How does it break down? Take a look:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: This section takes one hour, split into two 30-minute tasks.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This is split into two sections, each 35 minutes long, with 20 questions per section.
  • Verbal Reasoning: This area is also split into two sections, each 30 minutes long, with 20 questions per section.

There is an additional unscored research section that the GRE uses for its own purposes. This could be either a Verbal or a Quantitative Reasoning section. You will not know which section is experimental. Definitely do not try to guess!

There is a 10-minute break following your third section of Quantitative or Verbal. You will receive quantitative and verbal sections in a random order, but, once you have completed three sections, you will be given your 10-minute break.

All About GRE Scoring

The GRE is scored on a 130–170 point scale for both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections. That means, even if you get all answers wrong, you’ll get 130 points per section! Don’t get too excited, though: that’s true for everyone else who takes the test, too.

The writing section is scored on a different scale: 0–6, in half-point increments. So, while you can’t get a 0 on the other two sections, you can get a 0 on the writing section.

All About the GRE vs GMAT

In recent years, some business schools have begun to accept the GRE as a replacement for the GMAT. (To clarify, only business schools use the GMAT. Choosing between the GRE exam vs the GMAT really only applies if you’re a business school candidate.) Both tests have Verbal and Quantitative sections.

So why might you prefer to take the GRE exam?

Well, if you’re very strong in verbal skills but weaker on math, the GRE is probably your better bet. GMAT math is much harder than GRE math.

If you’re stronger in math than verbal, you still might want to consider taking the GRE, depending on your skill set. GMAT verbal isn’t necessarily easier than GRE verbal, but it is more focused on grammar and identifying errors than the GRE is. So if you’re strong in math and vocabulary, the GRE still might be the way to go.

Finally, if you’re strong in math and better at grammar than vocabulary, the GMAT is probably a good test for you.

However, it really doesn’t matter what test you’ll do better on if your target programs don’t accept the scores!

Which Business Schools Accept the GRE?

Several top business schools (think Harvard and Stanford) have begun to accept GRE scores in place of GMAT scores. However, not all programs do.

The universities in the following table all accept GRE scores as part of the application to their MBA programs. The program rankings are from US News & World Report’s 2019 Best Business Schools Rankings.

Take a look below to see which b-school programs accept both GRE and GMAT scores. Some schools only accept the GRE for particular tracks, so check the admissions pages of the programs you’re applying to before registering!

MBA Programs That Accept the GRE

#1University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
Philadelphia, PA
#2Stanford University
Stanford, CA
#3Harvard University
Boston, MA
#3Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
Cambridge, MA
#3University of Chicago (Booth)
Chicago, IL
#6Columbia University
New York, NY
#6Northwestern University (Kellogg)
Evanston, IL
#6University of California—​Berkeley (Haas)
Berkeley, CA
#9Yale University
New Haven, CT
#10Duke University (Fuqua)
Durham, NC

GRE Test Scores

Before you take the GRE, it’s important to familiarize yourself with GRE test scores: how you’ll be evaluated and what your score means in context.

This is all the more important because at first, the GRE scoring scale may seem pretty arbitrary. After all, who has ever been graded on a test from 130-170?

Well, if you’re taking the GRE exam…you will be, along with thousands upon thousands of other test-takers who have been graded using the same range.

And, just to clarify, both these scales apply to the Verbal section and Math section, so, technically, the GRE is out of 340. However, few (if any) programs will care about your composite score, and instead will look at your GRE test scores on both multiple-choice sections, usually giving one much more significance (depending on your field).

GRE Score Percentiles

Always look at your percentile ranking. That is, when you receive a score report, you will also receive a number indicating the percent of people you scored better than (in the chart below, look to the right of the score for the percentile rank).

If you score in the top 90% in both Math and Verbal, then you are a competitive candidate, even at competitive schools. Period. Less competitive schools may only require 50%. So, look at your percentile rankings.

But, if you scored below 30% in any section, then you may want to seriously consider taking the test again. Doing so is by no means the end of the world.

With that in mind, here are some percentile tables to help you translate your GRE practice test scores into GRE percentiles (percentiles from the official GRE exam will be on your score report).

GRE Exam Score Percentiles: Verbal


GRE Exam Score Percentiles: Quantitative


Who Takes the GRE Test?

Future graduate students, that’s who. Graduate programs use the GRE as an admissions metric for Master’s and Doctoral programs. This applies almost across the board, from the sciences to the humanities. And yes, you have to take all the sections, no matter what program you’re applying to (although STEM programs will usually not care much about your Verbal score, while humanities programs rarely worry about your Quant score).

Are there exceptions to this? Of course: medical school (MCAT), law school (LSAT) and sometimes (but, as we’ve already seen, not always) business school (GMAT).

To sum it up:

  • If you’re applying to a Master’s or Doctoral program in the Arts, Sciences, or Humanities, you probably need to take the GRE.
  • If you’re applying to medical or law school, you almost definitely don’t need to take the GRE.
  • If you’re applying to business school, you might need or want to take the GRE—see the section above comparing the GRE and the GMAT.

While we’re here, let’s address two frequently asked questions about the GRE:

1) What are the criteria for eligibility for the GRE?
There aren’t any. A 12-year-old could take the GRE exam if she wanted (I wouldn’t recommend it, but she technically could). You can take it in college, after college—it’s really up to you, though there are a few factors to take into consideration.

Actually, while there aren’t any eligibility requirements for GRE per se, there are a few things that can make you ineligible to take the exam:

  • If you’ve taken the exam five times within the last year, you’ll have to wait to take it again.
  • You’ll have to wait at least 21 days between GRE exams before retaking the test.
  • You’ll need a valid form of ID.

But that’s pretty much it.

2) Do you need your passport to take the GRE if you’re an international student?
Good question! YES. If you are not a U.S. citizen and you’re taking the exam in the United States, you’ll need your passport at GRE sign-in. You’ll also need it if you’re taking the GRE exam at an international location. Don’t forget it on test day!

GRE Test Prep

Do you have to prep for the GRE? No, you don’t have to.

Should you prepare for the GRE? Yes!

Even if you’re a person who uses words like punctiliously fluently in everyday life and, as Gilbert and Sullivan say, is brimming full of facts about the square of the hypotenuse, you’ll still need to familiarize yourself with the instructions, work on your timing, and generally get used to the test format.

How Hard is the GRE Test?

Are you trying to trick me with this question? Because I get it all the time, and the answer is the same as it is to “How long is a piece of string?”

More specifically, when you’re wondering what to expect from the GRE…well, it depends on you. What did you study in college? How long ago were your classes? What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Have you prepared for the GRE exam? How? Have you taken any practice tests?

If you’re really going to push me for an answer…it’s definitely harder than the SAT and ACT. If you are weak in math, it is easier than the GMAT. As for the MCAT and the LSAT…? Apples and oranges. Let’s not even go there.

How Long Should I Study for the GRE?

Taking GRE and TOEFL and Applying for a MS/PhD: A Self-Help Guide for  Engineering and Physical Sciences Students – Nova Science Publishers

That, too, depends on you. What’s your target score? What did you study at college? How long ago were your classes? (Okay, don’t worry—I won’t repeat the whole spiel—but you get the idea!)

The best way to figure out how long you’ll need to study for the GRE is to take a diagnostic test: a practice test that you use to “diagnose” your strengths and weaknesses. Then, you’ll have some idea of how much work you need to do before the official exam.

Check out the study schedules below and cross-reference them with your calendar. Be honest about your commitments: it’s totally fine if your five-hour Netflix Sundays are non-negotiable, but factor that into your study time. There’s nothing worse than watching Netflix feeling guilty that you should be studying for the GRE exam. More importantly, you need to be realistic about how much time you have to know how much you’ll be able to accomplish. Magoosh’s quiz, How Long Should I Study for the GRE, can also help give you an idea of your study needs!

How to Study for the GRE Exam

When it comes to studying for the GRE test, you have four basic options: books, classes, a tutor, or online prep. While we’re obviously a little biased, there are definite pros and cons to each option.

GRE Books

If you’re a self-starter with lots of energy and motivation, working with GRE books can be a good option. They’re inexpensive, and you can follow them at your own pace. On the other hand, without having taken the test or studied it, it can be hard to determine which books will actually equip you for test day (Chris shares some thoughts on this over it the Best GRE Books post). Also, just following a book straight through may not be the best option for you if you have particular weaknesses you need to address, as almost everyone does, and need special guidance.

With all of that said, Magoosh has an eBook you can get for free here, and an affordable paperback GRE Prep book that you can buy on Amazon. Both are excellent! We also have some advice on how to set up your GRE study schedule.

GRE Classes

GRE classes can be a good option if you need motivation, if you have a compressed timeframe, or if you want to have an expert explain the test to you in person. On the other hand, they can be expensive, may not fit your schedule or be easily accessible from your location, and you’ll need to do some research to find reputable classes.

GRE Tutors

An excellent option for those who need extra motivation, want personalized study plans and support, and/or are looking to address particular problem areas. Tutors will normally be more expensive than classes, because you’re paying for one-on-one time. The biggest issue here is finding someone qualified—not just because he or she scored well on the GRE exam, but also because of strong tutoring skills (and these are different than teaching skills needed for a large group).

Online GRE Test Prep

Online test prep, in a lot of ways, offers the best of all worlds. Lots of materials—often more than any one book could ever provide—practice on computers (after all, the GRE is a computer-based test); and some level of personalization. Online GRE test prep lets you go at your own pace, but provides a clearer, and often more tailored, path forward than books do. Good online GRE prep will also be transparent, letting you know what you can expect from the program and having the data (and testimonials) to back their claims up.

At the end of the day, you’ll need to evaluate what works best for you based on what you need to improve (Verbal? Math?), how long it’s been since you dealt with GRE-type materials, and how familiar you already are with the best practices for the GRE.

Best Online GRE Practice

There are two key components to finding the best online GRE practice that apply to every possibly way you might choose to study for the exam:

  1. Practice Questions
  2. Full-Length Practice Tests

When you’re choosing your GRE program of study, those are the materials you’re going to rely on most, and so those are the materials you need to evaluate first.

You’ll rely on these resources most because they’re the best possible way to improve your score and guide the direction of your studies. That’s in addition to giving you important information about how you’re doing along the way, and how close you are to achieving your goals!

Constantly evaluating your progress with practice tests—I’m talking about once a week—is vital to see what you need to practice. And practice questions are the key to, well, practicing!

So now, the big question: how do you distinguish good GRE materials from bad ones?

Good GRE Practice vs. Bad GRE Practice

You might think that all practice is good practice. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

Not always! In fact, the wrong kind of practice can harm your GRE performance, sometimes significantly.

When you’re looking for GRE prep, you want to make sure that the program has:

  1. Practice questions that mirror exactly what you’ll see on test day
  2. Lots of practice, including full-length GRE practice tests
  3. Detailed answers and explanations for every problem, ensuring that you understand how to answer similar questions correctly
  4. Access to experts to help answer any questions you may have and guide your practice when necessary
  5. A proven track record (or even a score guarantee) of helping students improve their GRE scores significantly

As you can see, the quality of questions and explanations are two of the most important factors in choosing a program. There is no point in practicing problems that are unlike what you’ll see on test day, and there is no point in practicing even the most test-like problems if you don’t understand the solutions.

To illustrate the difference between a good practice question (and a good explanation) and a bad practice question (and a bad explanation), jump down to the end of this post, where we take an in-depth look at a sample math problem from Chris Lele, Magoosh’s GRE Expert.

Not ready to dive that deep into how Magoosh develops our practice problems? No problem—let some happy Magooshers tell you why they recommend Magoosh GRE prep.

To start, students love that we know how to help boost your scores. In 2017 alone, Magoosh has helped GRE students raise their scores an average of 7.3 points. That’s even more than our 6-point score improvement guarantee!

Students also love our video explanations, which offer step-by-step instructions for how to answer every single question in our GRE prep.

Enough about us…let’s talk about study schedules.

All About GRE Study Schedules

The final step to your study success will be creating the perfect GRE study schedule for you. We have several free, expert-crafted schedules that you can adapt to your own needs. Whether you have one week or six months, we have a plan that can help get your GRE score where you want to be.

Again, the key to success here involves being honest about how much time you have, where you are now, and the scores you’re aiming for; for more advice, check out Making the Most of Magoosh GRE Study Schedules.

There is a lot of jumbling information on the internet about the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) that confuses us to no end. So here is a neat and detailed account of everything you need to know about GRE.

Whether you’re a young student aiming for admission in a credible college or a professional aspiring to hone your craft for better career prospects, there is a lot to ponder over before selecting and applying for an educational program. Many colleges require students to take exams like SAT, MCAT or ACT before being eligible for their programs. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is one such test, and in this article, we give you all the relevant GRE exam details.

What is GRE?

It’s common for students to scratch their heads and wonder what GRE is. For starters, it’s a broad assessment of a student’s aptitude. The exam measures a student’s skills related to disciplines like critical thinking, analytical writing, and verbal and quantitative reasoning. Most international universities and degree programs require a GRE exam for the USA university aspirants.

What is the GRE exam pattern?

The GRE General Test lasts for the average duration of 3 hours 40 minutes. It is divided into 3 main sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Section and Quantitative Reasoning.  Apart from these, there are also the Unscored and Research sections which do not count in the actual GRE score and are variable in nature. Here’s a breakdown of the entire GRE exam pattern 2019:

How to Register?

The registration process for GRE is pretty straightforward. The candidate has to register online on the ETS website before the test date to be eligible for the test. ETS administers the GRE and it is conducted at Prometric test centers. The registration fee of the exam is $205, but opting to change the test center or rescheduling the exam can cost you an extra $50. ETS offers fee reductions to students who prove their financial hardship.

There are two ways to conduct GRE. A Paper-delivered test with a total test of 3 hours and 30 minutes and a Computer-delivered test with a total time of 3 hours and 45 minutes. Paper-delivered tests are rare and are conducted only thrice a year. The computer-delivered tests are offered throughout the year. In computer-delivered, the computer selects the next section of a measure based on your performance on the first section.

GRE Exam dates 2020

As is the case with other entrance exams such as IELTS, there are no fixed GRE exam dates. You can decide to apply for the GRE test all year-round. All you have to do is to choose which mode of examination you want to attempt and choose the test centers for the Computer-delivered test or Paper-delivered test.

It is important to promptly book an appointment at the GRE test center of your choice. There is a possibility that you might not get the date or center you want due to a lack of free slots.  You can take a look at the GRE test centers, GRE test dates, and the seat availability.

How is the GRE exam scored?

As we mentioned earlier, the exam is comprised of three main sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Section and Quantitative Reasoning. The Quantitative and Verbal sections are graded on a scale of 130-170 each, whereas analytical writing scores range between 0-6. Some colleges require additional test sections to be taken with the GRE test, but they’re not graded in the final score of the test. The GRE test score in each exam is valid for 5 years.

GRE exam syllabus

  1. Analytical Writing– A two-segment test that examines your ability to interpret and express your thoughts on complex issues and arguments.
  2. Verbal Section– In these sections, you are asked to understand the written-content and answer the queries (Reading comprehension, Text completion, and Sentence equivalence) accordingly.  
  3. Quantitative Reasoning– This section analyzes your problem-solving skills and basic mathematical concepts such as Algebra, Geometry, Data analysis, etc.

How much should your GRE Score be?

The importance of your GRE score varies depending on the institution and degree program. Some programs may consider your test score to be a critical determinant for your admission while others may only consider it a formality. But most institutions have their own formula for incorporating your GRE test scores in their selection process.

The average GRE scores are:

Verbal and Quantitative sections – 150-155(Range 130-170)  

Analytical section – 3.5(Range 0-6) 

GRE sample papers

You can always take a look at these GRE sample papers and attempt a GRE mock test. This will give you a clear idea of what to expect in your final GRE scores.

What You Need to Know about the GRE

Thinking about going back to school? A graduate degree will let you focus on a field you’re passionate about, and it can open up many doors (and job opportunities).

But before you start combing through next semester’s course list, remember that there’s an important step ahead of you: taking the GRE. Here’s all the basics on planning, preparing, and test-taking to help you get started.

Official GRE Guide (ETS) | Marketplace – Students' Society of McGill  University

Your first step (yes, before you even start thinking about the exam) is to do some research on the schools to which you want to apply. While the majority of graduate programs require you take the GRE, there are a handful that don’t (and some require other tests, like the GMAT). And if you do need to take the test, you’ll want to get an idea of what scores the program is looking for so you know how high to aim.

Get to Know the Test

Next, you’ll need to figure out which GRE exams are applicable to you and the programs you’ll be applying for. There’s a General Test, but also several Subject Tests that focus on specific topics, like Biology, Math, or Psychology. Nearly all programs will require the General Test, but you should find out whether they also require (or strongly recommend) taking one or more of the Subject Tests.

The General Test contains five sections: two of each in Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning, and one in Analytical Writing. You’re allotted just under four hours for the entire test, with short breaks in between

Book it Early

The computer-based test is offered at testing centers all over the world, with some countries still offering the paper version as well. Keep in mind that all testing centers operate on a first come, first served basis, so plan well in advance and schedule your date as soon as you know you’ll be ready to take the exam. You don’t want to have to drive three states away just because you didn’t make the appointment months ahead of time.

Get the Right Study Tools

When it comes to preparing for the GRE, resources are endless. If you prefer the old-school pencil-and-paper route, pick up a study guide like The Official Guide to the GRE Revised Test. But technology now also offers a whole slew of new ways to get ready for the big day, and it’s wise to take advantage of them.

Software like POWERPREPIIavailable (for free!) on the official GRE website,not only gives practice questions, but actually simulates the test taking experience with a test preview tool.

You can also sharpen your writing skills for the Analytical Writing part of the test with ScoreItNow!, practice test software that presents you with actual topics seen on the GRE. Once you submit your response, you’ll immediately get a sample score and additional feedback on where you need to do some extra work (all for a mere $13).

If you prefer a more structured study environment, consider test-prep companies like Kaplan, which offer not only preparatory courses and tests, but also simulations to give you a feel for what you can expect on test day. Not only do these practice rounds teach how the test will go, but they’ll also make you aware of just how much time you’ll have for each of the three sections and help you pace yourself.

Getting Your Score

Once you’ve completed the test, you’ll receive preliminary scores for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning portions, right then and there on the computer screen. For each section, your score will range from 200 to 800 points (though after December 2011, this will shift to a scale of 130 to 170).

However, the Analytical Writing section will take a few weeks to get back. When you do receive that score, you’ll also get a report of exactly where your scores fall compared to other GRE test takers.

If you’re happy with your scores, great! They’re valid for up to five years after the year you took the exam. Of course, if you think that you could have done way better, go for it again—just keep in mind that you can only take the test once every 60 days and no more than five times a year. (I’m guessng that’s for the sanity of all potential test takers.)

Good luck, soon-to-be graduate school students! Load up on study guides, appropriate GRE software, and make yourself some tea. You have a tough few months ahead of you, but once you’re accepted into a great program, the hard work will all pay off.

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