The GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is an admissions test used around the world to screen graduate school applicants in a multitude of disciplines in the arts and sciences. The GRE is intended to test verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing ability. The GRE presumes fluency in English, but its verbal reasoning sections emphasize efficient reading and understanding words in context, rather than memorization. The GRE is generally considered by admissions departments to be less important than undergraduate GPA, equally important to letters of recommendation, and more important than other admissions considerations.

GRE Basics
This page discusses general information about the GRE, including basic information about the content and structure of the test, details about its adaptive computer algorithm, and a description of its scoring system. Also covered are how the test is used by graduate schools, and a comparison with the GMAT. Some business schools have recently begun accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, and there are score comparison tools that schools can use to help them evaluate candidates who have scores from either test.

2011 Changes to the GRE
In 2011, the GRE underwent a substantial revision to the structure and content of the test. The test computer system changed from adapting after every question (like the GMAT) to only adapting between sections, making it possible for students to go back and review all their answers before submitting them for each section. This revision produced a stark contrast between the GMAT and the GRE, making both tests useful and unique evaluation tools for business and graduate schools to use. The GRE is generally regarded as being more difficult in terms of language, whereas the GMAT is generally considered more difficult in terms of Quantitative Reasoning.

GRE Administration
The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which is also responsible for the composition and administration of the GRE subject tests and other graduate examinations. ETS has comprehensive information about the GRE on its website, including details about its history, organizational team, and ongoing research about the test. ETS also has many useful resources related to the test, some of which are free. If you know that you will be taking the GRE General Test, the ETS website is the place to go to schedule your sitting and get the most updated information about the current test.

Computer Test vs. Paper Test
A comparison of the computer-based test and the paper-based test. Computer-based testing is preferred worldwide, with paper-based testing only in those areas where computer-based testing is unavailable. Computer-based tests are administered all throughout the year, whereas paper-based tests are only administered three times per year. While the computer-based test is adaptive between sections, the paper test is not adaptive, so all sections are weighted the same. A handheld calculator will be provided to students who take the paper-based test.

GRE Scores
GRE scores vary greatly in importance depending on the applicant and the program to which they are applying. Generally, graduate schools regard GRE scores as less important than undergraduate GPA, equally important as letters of recommendation, and more important than other admissions considerations. The scoring system was changed in 2011 to a scale of 130-170 for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning. Analytical Writing is scored on a scale of 0-6 by a combination of human and computer grading. The ETS “Scoreselect” system makes it easy for students to submit their scores immediately after the test. ETS has a score comparison tool that makes it easy to compare GRE and GMAT scores, although the tests are designed to evaluate different things.

GRE History
A history of the development of the GRE including its revision in 2011, ETS claims about the test, and a description of the use of research and experimental sections to continuously update the test content.
GRE General Test vs. Subject Tests
A comparison of the GRE General Test with the GRE Subject tests. While the GRE General Test measures Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing abilities, the GRE Subject tests measure knowledge and aptitude in specific undergraduate courses of study: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. If you know what sort of graduate program you want to pursue, check with specific departments to see whether they require any GRE Subject Tests.

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