What does GRE stand for?

GRE stands for The Graduate Record Examination. It is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States and Canada. The GRE is owned and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). The test aims to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills that have been acquired over a long period of learning.

Overview of GRE

The GRE was established in 1936 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Today, it is a widely accepted test for graduate school admissions. More than half a million individuals take the GRE annually, and it is recognized by thousands of graduate programs worldwide.

Test Structure

The GRE comprises three main sections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning: Measures the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse, understand multiple levels of meaning, select important points, distinguish major from minor or relevant points, understand the meanings of words, sentences, and entire texts, and understand relationships among words and concepts.
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses basic mathematical skills, understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, and the ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems in a quantitative setting.
  3. Analytical Writing: Tests critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically the ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion.

Detailed Breakdown of GRE Sections

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to understand and analyze written material, synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences, and recognize relationships among words and concepts.

Question Types
  • Reading Comprehension: Involves reading passages and answering questions about them. These questions test the ability to understand, analyze, and apply information and concepts.
  • Text Completion: Requires filling in the blanks within passages. These questions assess the ability to interpret and evaluate information.
  • Sentence Equivalence: Involves choosing two words that fit the meaning of a sentence. These questions evaluate the ability to recognize how context affects word meaning.
Skills Tested
  • Reading Comprehension: Understanding the structure and meaning of texts, identifying the author’s tone and intent, and making inferences.
  • Vocabulary: Knowing the meaning of words and their use in context.
  • Analytical Skills: Drawing conclusions from text and reasoning through complex information.

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section measures problem-solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

Question Types
  • Quantitative Comparison: Involves comparing two quantities and determining the relationship between them.
  • Multiple-Choice Questions: Includes questions with one correct answer and those with multiple correct answers.
  • Numeric Entry: Requires entering a numerical answer to a question.
  • Data Interpretation: Involves analyzing and interpreting data presented in graphs, tables, and other formats.
Skills Tested
  • Arithmetic: Basic operations, properties of numbers, and problem-solving involving integers, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
  • Algebra: Understanding algebraic expressions, equations, and inequalities.
  • Geometry: Understanding properties and measurements of geometric figures.
  • Data Analysis: Interpreting and analyzing data, understanding statistics, and working with probability.

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing section assesses critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It requires test-takers to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively.

  • Issue Task: Requires writing an essay in which you respond to a statement or claim, discussing the extent to which you agree or disagree with it.
  • Argument Task: Requires critiquing an argument presented in a brief passage. The task involves discussing the logical soundness of the argument rather than agreeing or disagreeing with the position it presents.
Skills Tested
  • Articulation of Ideas: Clearly and effectively expressing ideas and thoughts.
  • Critical Thinking: Evaluating and critiquing arguments and claims.
  • Writing Skills: Constructing coherent and logically structured essays with proper grammar and syntax.

Preparing for the GRE

Study Materials

Numerous resources are available for GRE preparation, including:

  • Official Guides: ETS provides official preparation guides, practice tests, and online resources.
  • Prep Books: Various publishers offer comprehensive study guides, including practice questions and test-taking strategies.
  • Online CoursesWilsonGRE offers online GRE prep courses with video lectures, practice questions, and personalized feedback.
  • Practice Tests: Taking full-length practice tests helps familiarize with the test format and time constraints.

Test-Taking Strategies

  • Time Management: Practice pacing to ensure that you have enough time to answer all questions in each section.
  • Question Prioritization: Focus on answering easier questions first to secure points before tackling more difficult ones.
  • Elimination Techniques: Use process of elimination on multiple-choice questions to narrow down answer choices.

GRE Scoring

Score Scale

  • Verbal Reasoning: Scores range from 130 to 170 in one-point increments.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Scores range from 130 to 170 in one-point increments.
  • Analytical Writing: Scores range from 0 to 6 in half-point increments.

Score Reporting

  • ScoreSelect: ETS offers the ScoreSelect option, allowing test-takers to choose which scores to send to schools. Test-takers can send scores from their most recent test, all tests taken in the last five years, or any specific tests taken.

Importance of GRE Scores

Admissions Criteria

GRE scores are a critical component of graduate school applications. Admissions committees use GRE scores to assess an applicant’s readiness for graduate-level work. High GRE scores can enhance an application, especially when combined with a strong academic record, letters of recommendation, and relevant experience.

Fellowships and Scholarships

Many universities and organizations offer fellowships and scholarships based on GRE scores. Strong performance on the GRE can increase the chances of receiving financial support for graduate studies.

Special Considerations

Accommodations for Disabilities

ETS provides accommodations for test-takers with disabilities, including extended time, extra breaks, and alternate test formats. Test-takers must submit a request for accommodations and provide documentation of their disability.

Test Retakes

Test-takers can retake the GRE if they are not satisfied with their scores. The GRE can be taken once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period.

GRE and Graduate Programs

Fields of Study

The GRE is accepted by a wide range of graduate programs, including but not limited to:

  • Humanities and Social Sciences: Literature, History, Psychology, Sociology.
  • Natural Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science.
  • Engineering and Technology: Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science.
  • Business: Many MBA programs accept GRE scores in place of GMAT scores.

Test Optional Programs

Some graduate programs have adopted a test-optional policy, allowing applicants to decide whether or not to submit GRE scores. This approach considers the overall strength of an applicant’s profile without relying solely on standardized test scores.

GRE vs. Other Standardized Tests


  • Focus: The GMAT is specifically designed for business school admissions, while the GRE is accepted by a broader range of graduate programs.
  • Sections: The GMAT includes a section on Integrated Reasoning, which is not present in the GRE.
  • Scoring: The scoring scales and methodologies differ between the two tests.


  • Purpose: The LSAT is designed for law school admissions, while the GRE is used for a wider array of graduate programs.
  • Content: The LSAT focuses on reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning, whereas the GRE includes verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

Future of the GRE

Adaptations and Changes

ETS continuously updates and adapts the GRE to ensure it remains a relevant and effective tool for assessing graduate school applicants. Future changes may include enhancements to the test format, new question types, and additional resources for test preparation.

Digital Advancements

With the increasing use of technology in education, the GRE has also embraced digital advancements. The test is now available in both computer-based and paper-based formats, depending on the test-taker’s location and preference.

GRE Subject Tests

In addition to the GRE General Test, ETS offers GRE Subject Tests in specific disciplines. These tests are designed to measure knowledge in a particular field of study.

Available Subject Tests

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

Purpose of Subject Tests

Subject Tests can help graduate programs assess an applicant’s knowledge and readiness for advanced study in a specific field. Strong performance on a Subject Test can enhance an application, particularly in highly competitive programs.

GRE Test Preparation Resources

Official Resources

ETS provides a range of official resources to help test-takers prepare for the GRE:

  • Official GRE Guide: A comprehensive guide with practice questions and test-taking strategies.
  • POWERPREP Online: Free practice tests that simulate the actual test-taking experience.
  • GRE Diagnostic Service: A tool that provides feedback on performance in specific areas.

Third-Party Resources

Many third-party publishers and educational platforms offer GRE preparation materials:

  • Prep Books: Comprehensive study guides with practice questions and detailed explanations.
  • Online Courses: Interactive courses with video lectures, practice questions, and personalized feedback.
  • Tutoring Services: One-on-one or group tutoring sessions with experienced instructors.

Test-Taking Tips

Before the Test

  • Practice Regularly: Consistent practice helps improve familiarity with the test format and question types.
  • Review Fundamentals: Brush up on basic math concepts, vocabulary, and writing skills.
  • Take Practice Tests: Simulate test conditions by taking full-length practice tests under timed conditions.

During the Test

  • Pace Yourself: Manage your time effectively to ensure you have enough time to answer all questions.
  • Read Questions Carefully: Understand what each question is asking before selecting an answer.
  • Stay Calm: Maintain a positive attitude and stay focused throughout the test.

GRE Score Reporting and Use

Sending Scores

  • ScoreSelect Option: Choose which scores to send to schools, allowing you to send only your best scores.
  • Free Score Reports: ETS provides up to four free score reports that can be sent to institutions of your choice.

Interpreting Scores

  • Percentile Ranks: GRE scores are accompanied by percentile ranks, indicating how a test-taker’s performance compares to others.
  • Score Use by Institutions: Different programs and institutions may place varying levels of emphasis on GRE scores in their admissions processes.

GRE and Career Advancement

Relevance to Employers

Some employers use GRE scores as part of their hiring process, particularly for positions that require strong analytical and quantitative skills. High GRE scores can enhance a resume and demonstrate readiness for advanced work.

Professional Development

Pursuing graduate education with the help of a strong GRE score can lead to career advancement opportunities, higher earning potential, and increased expertise in a chosen field.

GRE Myths and Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions

  • Only for Graduate School: While primarily used for graduate school admissions, GRE scores can also be relevant for job applications and professional development.
  • Impossible to Improve: With dedicated preparation and practice, it is possible to improve GRE scores significantly.
  • Only for Certain Fields: The GRE is accepted by a wide range of graduate programs, not just those in the sciences or humanities.

GRE Success Stories

Real-Life Examples

Many successful professionals and academics have used their GRE scores to gain admission to top graduate programs and advance their careers. These success stories highlight the importance of preparation, perseverance, and strategic test-taking.

GRE and International Students

Global Recognition

The GRE is recognized by thousands of graduate programs worldwide, making it a valuable credential for international students seeking admission to programs in the U.S. and other countries.

Additional Considerations

  • Language Proficiency: Non-native English speakers may need to demonstrate proficiency in English, in addition to taking the GRE.
  • Visa Requirements: International students should be aware of visa requirements and application timelines when planning to study abroad.

GRE and Diversity

Promoting Inclusion

ETS is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in graduate education. The GRE is designed to provide an equitable assessment for all test-takers, regardless of background.

Support Programs

Various programs and initiatives aim to support underrepresented groups in preparing for and taking the GRE, including scholarships, fee waivers, and preparatory workshops.

GRE and Online Learning

Impact of Technology

The rise of online learning and digital resources has transformed GRE preparation. Test-takers can access a wealth of online materials, practice tests, and interactive courses to prepare for the GRE.

Online Test Preparation Platforms

  • Khan Academy: Free resources and practice questions for GRE preparation.
  • Coursera and edX: Online courses and programs designed to help test-takers prepare for the GRE.

GRE Test Day Experience

What to Expect

  • Check-In Process: Arrive early for check-in, where you will present identification and store personal belongings.
  • Testing Environment: The testing center provides a quiet, controlled environment with individual testing stations.
  • Breaks: Scheduled breaks are provided during the test to help maintain focus and stamina.

Post-GRE Steps

Reviewing Scores

After receiving your GRE scores, review them carefully to determine if they meet the requirements of your target programs.

Application Process

Use your GRE scores to complete your graduate school applications, ensuring you meet all deadlines and requirements.

GRE Retake Strategy

When to Retake

Consider retaking the GRE if your scores do not meet the requirements of your target programs or if you believe you can significantly improve your performance.

Preparation for Retake

Analyze your previous performance, identify areas for improvement, and adjust your study plan accordingly to achieve better results on the retake.

GRE and Personal Growth

Skill Development

Preparing for the GRE can enhance critical thinking, analytical writing, and quantitative reasoning skills, which are valuable in both academic and professional settings.

Confidence Building

Successfully preparing for and taking the GRE can boost confidence and demonstrate the ability to achieve challenging goals.


The GRE is a crucial component of the graduate school admissions process. It assesses the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills that are essential for success in graduate-level studies. Preparing for the GRE requires dedication and the use of various study materials and test-taking strategies. High GRE scores can significantly enhance an applicant’s chances of admission to graduate programs and eligibility for scholarships and fellowships. As the GRE continues to evolve, it remains a valuable tool for measuring academic potential and readiness for advanced study.

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