What is the GRE?

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is an important step in the graduate school or business school application process. The GRE is a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that is often required for admission to graduate programs and graduate business programs (MBA) globally.
The GRE is developed and administered by test maker ETS to provide graduate and business schools with common measures for comparing applicants’ qualifications and preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Graduate school and business school admissions committees look at your GRE score, along with your academic record and supporting materials, to assess your readiness for the rigors of graduate academic study.
A high score on the GRE will have a direct, positive impact on your graduate or business school application.

What Does the GRE Test?

The GRE exam measures your command of basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis as well as college-level vocabulary. More importantly, it measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material, think critically, and solve problems.

What are the GRE Sections?

The GRE contains two essays, at least two quantitative and two verbal sections, and one experimental or research section.
SectionNumber of QuestionsTime AlottedScore Range
Analytical Writing Two separately timed tasks; one Argument essay and one Issue essay 30 minutes per essay; 60 minutes total 0 to 6
Verbal Reasoning (Verbal) 6 Text Completion questions + 4 Sentence Equivalence questions + 10 Reading Comprehension questions = 20 total questions per section Two 30 minute sections; 60 minutes total 130 to 170
Quantitative Reasoning (Quant) 7–8 Quantitative Comparison questions + 12–13 Problem Solving questions = 20 total questions per section 35 minutes per section; 70 minutes total 130 to 170

You can expect to sit for the exam for approximately four hours, including test-taking time and short breaks. Note that this time does not include your check-in time at the testing center. It is important to be on time and fully prepared. ETS recommends that you arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your test time.

How is the GRE Scored?

The GRE is a Multi-Stage Test, which means that your performance on the first section of the scored Verbal and Quant sections will determine the level of difficulty of the subsequent Verbal and Quant sections. The raw score from each section is the number of questions you answered correctly. Your raw score is then converted to a scaled score through a process called “equating.”
For example, if you perform very well on the first Verbal section, you will receive the most difficult second section in Verbal, but you’ll also have access to the highest potential score range. If you perform less well on the first section of Verbal, you’ll see a less difficult second Verbal section, but you’ll also have access to a lower score band or “potential.”
You will receive three scores on the GRE:

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

These scores are generated by the following sections:

  • 1 Analytical Writing Assessment section
  • 2 Verbal Reasoning sections
  • 2 Quantitative Reasoning sections

In addition, you will see one of the following sections:

  • Unscored (may be either Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning)
  • Research (used for ETS research purposes)

The Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are each scored on a scale of 130 to 170. The mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151, and the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153. The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and the mean score is 4.0.
[RELATED: What’s a good GRE score?]
The ScoreSelect feature of the GRE gives you the option to send only the GRE test scores from whichever test date you want schools to see. Note that even with the ScoreSelect option, you’ll want to perform your best on the GRE the first time so you don’t have to retake the exam and pay an additional testing fee.

Unscored Sections: Experimental or Research

The unscored, so-called “experimental” section and Research section have no effect on your GRE score. You may see either, but not both, on your test. Let’s talk about them separately for a moment. The unscored section, if you have one on your test, will appear among the scored sections in any order. You will not be able to distinguish it from the scored sections. What does that mean for you as a test taker? You should do your best on all of the Quant and Verbal sections. The Research section is a little different. It will always come at the end of the test and it will always be identified as an unscored section. The test maker may offer you an incentive for completing the section or for performing well on it. So, read the instructions and decide whether you want to take the section. Your score will not be affected either way.
So, why does the GRE include unscored and/or Research sections? It’s because the test maker is testing out new questions. In unscored sections, they’re trying out new items in familiar formats (QC, PS, etc.). In Research sections, the GRE is actually trying out new question formats. A couple of years ago, for example, All-That-Apply Quant questions appeared only in Research sections. Now, they’re part of the test.

When is the GRE Offered?

The computer-delivered GRE is administered year-round in Prometric™ testing centers and on select test dates at other testing centers. The paper-delivered GRE is administered at certain testing centers on a limited number of dates. Seating for the GRE is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and some testing center locations can fill up well in advance of the popular fall testing time. You can see a full list of testing centers, test dates, and seat availability on the ETS site.
It is highly recommended that you register for your preferred GRE test date early so you can select a date that will allow enough time for ETS to process your scores and send them to the institutions you’ll be applying to. This can take from 10 to 15 days. During popular testing times, seats in Prometric™ testing centers can be limited. You can take the computer-delivered GRE once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days).
You can register for the GRE online via ETS. For GRE-related questions, you can find contact information for ETS here
[ GOOD TO KNOW: When is the right time to take the GRE? ]

How Much Does it Cost to Take the GRE?

The cost to take the GRE is $205 for all testing locations except China. The fee includes sending score reports to up to four graduate institutions of your choice.