What Is The GRE Exam?

What is GRE and who needs it?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a standardized test that aims to predict your academic performance in graduate or business school. Everyone who is interested in pursuing a master’s, MBA, specialized master’s in business or doctoral degree is required to take the GRE.

Your GRE score is an important part of the graduate/business school application process and is taken into consideration along with your work experience, academic record, and supporting materials. The GRE is owned and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) which was established it in 1949.

The GRE takes place in roughly 1,000 test centers, located in more than 160 countries.

The GRE structure

The GRE is a multiple choice exam, and its questions closely reflect the skills and the way of thinking you’ll have to adapt to as a graduate/business school student. Unlike other standardized tests — the GRE gives you the option to skip questions within a section. You can also go back and change answers, and even enjoy the flexibility of choosing which questions within a section you want to answer first.

The GRE has five sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Unscored (the unscored portion may be either Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning), and Research (used for ETS research purposes).

The first three sections aim to measure skills required of a graduate or business school student:

Verbal Reasoning

  • Analyze and draw conclusions from discourse – how well you comprehend materials from incomplete data; understanding the author’s assumptions and/or perspective; understanding the essence of the author’s intent and more.
  • Choosing the important points – summarize text, understand the text’s structure and more.
  • College-level vocabulary – understand the meanings of less common words, sentences, and entire texts.

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Know basic skills and elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
  • Know how to interpret and analyze quantitative information.
  • Know common mathematical models.

In the Quantitative Reasoning section, you are given access to an on-screen calculator.

Analytical Writing

  • How you support a thesis with relevant reasons and examples in response to new and unfamiliar topics.
  • How you articulate your thoughts on complex ideas in a clear and rational way.
  • How familiar you are with the elements of standard written English.
  • How well you can examine claims and accompanying evidence.

In this section, students are required to provide focused responses based on the tasks presented. This is how they can accurately demonstrate their skill.

Tip: Sometimes students receive a question that is merely a modified version of a question they’ve already seen. Even if a question appears to be similar to another, it may, in fact, be different and have a different answer. So, you should pay attention and not fall into this trap.

There are three scores on the GRE

  • Verbal Reasoning: scored on a 130 to 170 scale.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: scored on a 130–170 scale.
  • Analytical Writing; scored on a 0–6 scale.
Test SectionQuestionssectionScoreTime
Verbal Reasoning6 Text Completion questions
4 Sentence Equivalence questions
10 Reading Comprehension questions
2 separately timed tasks130 to 170 scale60 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning7-8 Quantitative Comparison questions
12-13 Problem Solving questions
130 to 170 scale70 minutes
Analytical WritingOne ‘Analyze an Issue’ task
One ‘Analyze an Argument’ task
2 separately timed tasks0–6
60 minutes
Experimental or unscored30 or 35 minutes
GRE EXAM TIMEApproximately  4 hours

How much does it cost and when is it offered?

Taking a GRE test will cost you $205, and that includes sending your score reports to up to four colleges or universities. The GRE can be taken once every 21 days, and up to five times in a 12-month period (365 days).

GRE scores are valid for five years. So, it’s very important to choose the right time for you to take the GRE, and of course, choosing the right prep course, so you don’t have to take the test once again.

* Some prep courses offer to pay for your GRE fee.

The paper-delivered GRE test version

You can take a paper-delivered exam, which is administered at certain testing centers, and on a limited basis. Like the computer version, you can skip questions within a section, go back and change answers if you need and even have the flexibility to choose which questions within a section you want to answer first.

There are paper version equivalents for most of the question types, including text completions and numeric entry. Answers are entered into the test book, rather than a separate answer sheet. Also, like the computer version, you will be provided with an ETS calculator during the Quantitative Reasoning portion.

In the print version, there are six sections:

Test SectionQuestionssectionTime
Analytical WritingOne ‘Analyze an Issue’ task
One ‘Analyze an Argument’ task
2  separately timed tasks60 minutes
Verbal Reasoning25 questions2  separately timed tasks70 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning25 questions2  separately timed tasks80 minutes
GRE EXAM TIME3.5 hours

The Analytical Writing sections will always be the first located within the first few sections, while the other four may appear in random order.