Depending on where you plan to apply for graduate school, you may have to take the GRE. The GRE, which stands for Graduate Record Exam, is a test designed to reflect the kind of critical thinking you’ll do in graduate school.
The GRE is required for admission to most graduate programs in the US (although a growing number of top schools are making the test optional) as well as some Canadian and Australian universities. The GRE is also very occasionally required when applying to a PhD program in Europe. If you are applying to a university in one of these regions, make sure you check if the GRE is required.
Depending on your field, you may also be required to take a GRE Subject Test in addition to the GRE General Test. There are GRE Subject Tests for biology, chemistry, literature in English, mathematics, physics, and psychology. If you are applying for a PhD in one of these fields, you should check if the GRE Subject Test is also required.
The GRE assesses your skills in three main areas: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative writing. You will receive a score in each of these three areas.
Analytical writing- this section of the test measures your critical thinking and writing skills. The GRE has one analytical writing section that comprises of two different writing tasks. You have 30 minutes to complete each task. Analytical writing is scored in half-point increments from 0 to 6.
Verbal Reasoning- this part of the test measures your critical reading and analysis skills, as well as your ability to draw conclusions, summarize, and understand vocabulary. The GRE has two 30-minute verbal reasoning sections, each with 20 questions. Verbal reasoning is scored in one-point increments between 130 and 170.
Quantitative Reasoning- quantitative reasoning questions measure your skills in problem-solving, data interpretation, algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. The GRE has two 35-minute quantitative reasoning sections, each with 20 questions. This part of the GRE is scored in one-point increments from 130 to 170.
Sometimes your test will have an additional verbal reasoning or quantitative reasoning section which is used to test out new questions. Your results from this section won’t be included in your score, however, the section won’t be identified as an unscored section. It can appear at any point in the test.
The GRE takes three hours and 45 minutes to complete. There is a one-minute break between every section and an optional 10-minute break you can take after completing the third section. In total, you should plan to be at the testing centre for four and a half hours.
Most people take the GRE on a computer, but the paper-based test is still available in some remote communities. The test program allows you to skip around questions in a section and go back to change your answer. The program has a timer as well as an on-screen calculator for the quantitative reasoning section. One of the benefits of the computer-based test is that you will receive your unofficial results for the quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning section at the end of the test. You will be notified when your official score, including your analytical writing score, is available (usually 10-15 days after the test.) You GRE scores are valid for five years from your test date.
You can take the GRE at designated testing centres, which are located in more than 160 countries. You can find the test centre closest to you here. The computer-test is offered continuously throughout the year in most countries, except for China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea where it’s offered up to three times a year. In countries where the computer based-test isn’t available, the paper test is offered every February and November. It costs between $205 and $255 to take the GRE.
If you’re not happy with your GRE scores, you can retake the test after waiting at least 21 days. You can take the GRE up to five times in 365 days.