What is GRE

What is GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is an exam written and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The standardized test GRE is an admission requirement for masters and doctoral degree program from top universities of U.S.A.

The test which was completely revised in August 2011, is primarily delivered as a computer-based test and it is composed of Analytical Writing, Quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

Eligibility: Bachelor’ s degree holders and undergraduate students who are about to graduate are eligible for taking GRE. Fluency in English is assumed from students taking the GRE.

Fee: Fee to take the exam is the US $205.

Restriction on attempts: GRE exam can be attempted only after 21 days from the day of the previous exam and it cannot be attempted more than five times in a year.

Exam Structure: The revised test has six sections. You will get a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sections and a 1-minute break between the others. The first section is analytical writing section. The other five sections can be seen in any order and will include:

  • Two verbal reasoning sections (20 questions each in 30 minutes per section)
  • Two Quantitative Reasoning sections (20 questions each in 35 minutes per section)
  • Either an unscored section or a research section.

An unscored section will look just like a third Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning section, and you will not be told which of them doesn’t’ count. You have to attempt all these five sections seriously. If you get a research section, it will be identified as such, and will be the last section you get.

Section Section Type Questions Time Scored?
1 Analytical Writing 2 essays 30 minutes each Yes
2 Verbal #1

Quantitative #1

(order can vary)

Approx. 20 30 minutes Yes
3 Approx. 20 35 minutes Yes
                                                                    10-Minute Break
4 Verbal #2

Quantitative #2

Unscored Section (Verbal or Quant)

(Order can vary)

Approx. 20 30 minutes Yes
5 Approx. 20 35 minutes Yes
? Approx. 20 30 or 35 minutes No
Last Research Section Varies Varies No


Therefore, the GRE is very much a test of endurance, pacing and mental stamina play a big role in success on the exam.

Multi-Stage Test: How the GRE Adapts

The GRE is a multi-stage test (MST), meaning that it adapts at the section level. Within each section, you can freely move back and forth among the questions, so you can change answers, edit responses and flag questions to answer later. The adapting occurs from section to section rather than from question to question (e.g., if you do well on the first Verbal section, you will get a harder second verbal section and if you do well on the first quant section, you will get a harder second quant section). If you do poorly on the first section, the second section will be easier, but the range of scores for which you are eligible will be limited to the low end of the scoring range. If you perform well on the first section, the second question will contain more difficult questions, but you will be eligible for a higher score.


When you take the GRE, you will receive separate scores for the Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning sections. The scores for the revised GRE Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning are reported on a 130-170 scale in 1-point increments. You will receive one 130-170 score for Verbal and a separate 130-170 score for Quant. Your performance in the first section is based solely on the number of questions you answer correctly. You only score points for questions that are answered correctly – there is no penalty for answering a question incorrectly, so it’ s to your benefit to attempt an answer to every question on the test.

The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale from 0 to 6, in 0.5-point increments.

GRE Subject Test

Whatever we have discussed so far is about GRE general test. There are also GRE subject tests. GRE subject tests are mandatory for students who are applying for masters or doctoral degree program in following disciplines:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • English Literature
  • Psychology

If a student is applying for masters or doctoral degree program in any other discipline then there is no need to have a GRE subject test score.

How much emphasis do admission officers give to GRE score?

The GRE is a key factor in the graduate school admission process. But, apart from GRE, following other credentials are required to get admitted to a top school for MS:

  • Academic CGPA/Percentage/Rank in your batch
  • Undergraduate University
  • SOP
  • LOR
  • Research papers
  • Work experience

In 2010, Kaplan Test Prep surveyed admission officers from the top 50 graduate programs for education, psychology, and public administration (according to US News & World Report rankings) and found that these programs’ admissions officers cited the GRE as the most important factor in graduate school admissions more often than any other factor.

Therefore, GRE score is an important factor but emphasis on GRE score vary not only from university to university, also from department to department and also from program to program. For example, most of the universities require high GRE score for business and economics programs and allows slightly low score for engineering based programs. In some universities, science and engineering programs may consider only GRE quant score while programs in liberal arts topics may consider only GRE verbal score of their interest. Some universities use GRE score for admission process but not for offering the scholarship, while some universities use GRE score for offering the scholarship but not for admissions. To find out how a particular university evaluates GRE score is to contact the person in charge of admissions for that specific program.

Most Popular Resources

GRE Verbal Reasoning Format

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Format

GRE Analytical Writing