What is GRE Test?

The Graduate Record Examination or the GRE test is a graduate-level standardized tests, which is used by most of the graduate schools in the U.S. and around the world, as a criterion for allotting admission to the best talents in the country and throughout the world. The colleges use the GRE scores as a means to measure the overall academic abilities of the candidates.

Previously, the GRE would be used only for admission into non-business schools, but with time, increasing number of business schools have started to accept the GRE test scores.

It is important to note that not all the graduate schools require you to take the GRE exam, rather, some colleges may ask their candidates to take some specific subject test. Thus, you must check with your desired institutions about the exam that they accept.

It may be noted that the GRE® Revised General Test is now the GRE® General Test. Everything else is the same about the test.


GRE General Test = GRE revised General Test

About the GRE General Test

about the gre general test

The greatest advantage which the GRE exam carries with itself is that, unlike other exams, it lets you skip questions, answers the ones you know better and then go back, change your answers and take control of the exam.

In short, the GRE test dates are milestones that empowers the students to control their destiny. We are sure that you have already started to get some positive vibes. Read on because it is just going to get better.

The GRE general test provides the candidates with a better scope of success. If you appear for the test, you can decide which particular scores you want to send to the schools. For any reason, if you believe that your performance was below par on the test day, you can use the score select option and then send your best scores to the schools at your wish. The GRE test scores are valid for five years from the test date.

This test basically comprises of questions that are very close to the kind of approach that you shall have in your business or graduate school.

GRE General Test – Who Should Appear for It?

Students those who are interested to pursue an MBA, graduate programs, master’s program or a doctoral degree are advised to take the GRE test. In addition to the other parts of a candidate’s application, like the recommendation letter, undergraduate transcripts, etc. the GRE test scores help the institutions to judge the ability of the candidate to sustain the graduate-level study program.

The GRE Exam Dates

Since the GRE General test has found its popularity among the institutions and the test-takers, the test owning company, ETS has set up more than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries throughout the world.

In the countries that follow the trend of computer-delivered test, the GRE general test are available up to three times in a month. In the countries, where the students prefer the paper-delivered test, the GRE general test is mostly available up to three times in a year in the months of October, November, and February.

Where to Appear the GRE Exam?

You can visit the following link to check out the different test centers.

For Online GRE Tests – https://myGRE.ets.org/GREweb/action/RegPortal

For Paper delivered GRE – https://www.ets.org/s/GRE/pdf/GRE_pbt_center_lists.pdf

Please not that every center has a limited number of seats on particular GRE exam dates. Therefore, apply as early as possible.

GRE General Test- The Revised Test Structure

The GRE exam, which is taken by hundreds of thousands of business and graduate school aspirants every year, was revamped in the year 2011. Conducted under the aegis of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), GRE is a computer-based test with the following sections:
gre test section

  • Analytical Writing
  • Quantitative Reasoning, and
  • Verbal Reasoning.


Students taking the GRE must know that the questions in the GRE can be broadly classified into three sections


S.No Test Section Number of Questions Skills Analysed Duration
1 GRE Analytical Writing Section 2 Essays Analytical Writing & Critical Thinking Skills 30+30=60Minutes
2 GRE Quantitative Reasoning Section 2 Subsections with 20 Questions Each Problem Solving Abilities in Geometry, Algebra, Data Analysis  35+35=70 Minutes
3 GRE Verbal Reasoning Section 2 Subsections with 20 Questions Each Vocabulary, Reading and Comprehension Skills 30+30=60 Minutes
TOTAL Time 3 hours 45 minutes

GRE Analytical Writing Section – Typically, the computer based GRE general test starts with the analytical writing section, which requires the test takers to write two essay on the given topics. The candidates are allotted a time of 30 minutes for each essay, which makes the GRE Analytical Writing section an hour long. This section analyses the analytical writing skills and critical thinking skills, while checking the candidate’s ability to articulate and support complex ideas effectively.

  • The GRE Analytical Writing Section asks the candidates to write two essays: The Issue and the Argument.
  • For the Issue task, the candidate will be provided with two topics. Of the two topics, the candidate is required on any one topic, and provide examples and reasoning to support his/her ideas.
  • For the Argument task, the test taker will be provided with a topic and its explanation. The candidate must analyze the logic, and suggest how and where the reasoning may be faulty.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Section – The quantitative reasoning section of the GRE general Test consists of two sub sections, which contain approximately 20 questions each. The candidates are allowed a time of 35 minutes to complete each sub-section of the GRE quantitative reasoning section, which makes it 70 minutes long. The questions in this section analyze problem solving abilities using basic concepts of mathematics, geometry, algebra and data analysis.

  • The test takers must expect two types of multiple choice types questions in the GRE quantitative reasoning section, namely quantitative comparisons and problem solving. The test also contains numeric entry questions, where the student will have to enter his/her own answer. Some questions may also involve data interpretation.
  • The questions asked in this section probably tends to be of 10th grade level.
  • The students are provided with an on-screen calculator for this section, while the students taking the paper based GRE general test are required to bring their own calculator.

GRE Verbal Reasoning Section – The verbal reasoning section of the GRE general test consists of two sub-sections. The two sub-sections contain approximately 20 questions. The candidates are allotted a time of 30 minutes for each sub-sections. These type of questions analyzes your ability to assess and evaluate written content and streamline information received from it while scrutinizing the relationships among different parts of the sentences while identifying relationships between words and concepts.

  • The test takers must expect three types of questions in the GRE Verbal Reasoning section, namely sentence equivalence, text completion and reading comprehension.
  • This section mostly focuses on the candidate’s vocabulary skills, and the comprehension questions judge the student’s ability to read and comprehend.

Note: The total duration of the GRE general test is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Also, an unidentified unscored section may appear at any part of the test for the students.

Taking the GRE opens the door to the most prestigious graduate schools. The GRE exam not only screens out weaker candidates effectively, it also does a great job in comparing strong candidates and pitting them against one another. In a survey among admission officers from the top 50 graduate schools offering programs in engineering, education, psychology and public administration, it was established that GRE is the most influential factor in determining admissions. No wonder it is among the most keenly contested tests the world over.

GRE Test – Analyzing the Sections

gre test section analysis

  • GRE Analytical Writing – 1 section: 2 essays, 30 minutes per essay
  • GRE Quantitative Reasoning – 2 sections: 35 minutes per section
  • GRE Verbal Reasoning – 2 sections: 30 minutes per section

In some tests:

  • Verbal or Quantitative – 1 unidentified, unscored section: varied length
  • Research – 1 unidentified, unscored section: varied length

Please note:

  • The GRE exam lasts for three hours and 45 minutes. There are 1-minute breaks in between sections, and a 10-minute break after the third section. All breaks are optional. There is also what is known as ‘pre- ‘and ‘post-test time’, all of which add up to around five hours.To you this means the GRE exam is a true test of your endurance. You need to pace your answers right and have the required mental stamina to keep going. Prepare yourself accordingly and be at your best.
  • The test begins with the Analytical Writing section that has two essays: The Issue Essay and the Argument Essay (for details, see next section). You get 30 minutes for each.
  • Next up would be either the Quantitative Reasoning section or the Verbal Reasoning section.
  • The evaluators may spring a surprise on you by adding an experimental section in Quantitative Reasoning or Verbal Reasoning that does not contribute to your final score. They do this in order to standardize new questions in future GRE exams dates. But you have no way of knowing which is the experimental section, so you must give all sections equal importance and attempt all of them as if they are all scoring sections.
  • You may also see, after you finish your scoring sections, a final section – often in the place of the experimental section. This is used by the evaluators for research, and is unscored. Remember that it is not mandatory to answer this section, and the ETS will inform you about its optional nature. However, the ETS may offer you a reward for answering the research section so it is in your interest to do so.

GRE General Test Feature – Adaptive and flexible

GRE General Test Feature

The GRE is an adaptive exam. It sets the degree of difficulty based on your performance. For instance, the first section (Math or Verbal) will have a combination of questions that are high-, medium- and low-difficulty in nature. Depending on how you answer them, the test sets the difficulty level for the next section. If you fare well in the first section, your second section comes with tougher questions – but your scoring range would also be high. If a majority of your answers are incorrect, the test sets the next section with easier questions – but the scoring range will be low. The good part is, there is no negative marking for wrong answers so make sure that you do not leave any question blank.

The flexibility of GRE allows you to browse questions freely within a section. You can edit or change your answers or mark questions to attempt them later.

GRE Test Scores- The Scoring System

gre test Scoring System

How Do They Decide Your GRE Test Score?

The test is designed in such a way that you will be given scores separately for the different sections.

The final GRE test scores are calculated out of the maximum score of 340. Both the verbal and quantitative sections are scored out of 170 points. The GRE analytical writing score is reported separately and is not included in the final score.

Starting from July 1 2016, the GRE test scores will hold valid for five years from the any particular GRE test date

How Do They Decide Your GRE Test Score

GRE Analytical Writing

  • The GRE scores range from 0 to 6, in increments of 0.5, where 0 is the lowest score and 6 is the highest one.
  • Your writing is evaluated, as ETS puts it, ‘on the basis of the overall quality of an essay in response to the assigned task’.
  • Your essays are evaluated by a human evaluator as well as a computer grader, which is a program developed by the examiners.
  • If the difference between the two evaluations exceeds by more than one point, a second human reader is used to evaluate the essay.
  • The emphasis is on reasoning and analysis. Given the shortage of time, elements like grammar and spelling are considered less important.
  • 5 or 6.0 is considered a good score.
  • As per the criteria of ETS, here is what an excellent answer should be: ‘…insightful, in-depth analysis of complex ideas; develops and supports main points with logically compelling reasons and / or highly persuasive examples; is well focused and well organized; skillfully uses sentence variety and precise vocabulary to convey meaning effectively; demonstrates superior facility with sentence structure and language usage, but may have minor errors that do not interfere with meaning.’ Such an answer is deserving of an excellent score.
  • To know more about the ETS criteria in Analytical Writing, visit:

GRE Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning

  • The GRE test scores for Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning are calculated separately.
  • The scoring range is from 130 – 170, with increments of 1.
  • There are 41 potential Quantitative and Verbal scores and 40 questions that contribute to each section’s score. Which means even a small difference in the number of correct answers can result in a huge increase in the percentile rankings. This is how the scaled scores work along with percentiles. To study a sample scoring table form ETS, visit http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table1a.pdf

Understanding percentiles

Where do you stand compared to the entire universe of applicants? How does your performance compare with theirs? Percentiles are the only way to know.

Percentiles stack your performance against a large sample population of other GRE candidates who take the test. In simple terms, it tells you of the percentage of population that has scored lower than you.

These rankings also tell universities what your scaled scores are really worth. Which means, even if all the candidates scored high, the graduate schools would be able to spot the consistent ones thanks to percentiles.

Keep in mind that the sample population does not comprise everyone who took the GRE the same day as you did. To make the comparison fair, ETS takes a random three-year population of recent GRE candidates who took the test, and compares your performance with theirs

What is a Good GRE Test Score?

What is a Good GRE Test Score

What is a good GRE test score depends on a specific year which is under scrutiny, and how the universe of students performed in that particular year.

And it depends on the graduate school you are applying to. It is best to visit their website and learn the 50th percentile and 75th percentile GRE scores or the average GRE test scores of the students who were admitted. That should give you an idea of what your own score should be in order to gain admission. You must strive to be above the average GRE test scores of the admitted students.

Equally important, GRE test scores are a key benchmark when it comes to seeking financial aid. It also helps you stand out in grants, fellowships, and teaching and research assistantships. Keeping all these considerations in mind, it is to your benefit to get the highest score possible in GRE.

How to Overcome Cutoff GRE Test Scores?

gre test cutoff score

Cutoff scores are threshold levels below which graduate schools do not consider applications. But remember, it does not mean that all you need is this score to get in!

When applying to a graduate school, find out if the cutoff score is the bare minimum or if it is the average GRE test score for that particular program. This is a key factor that influences your preparation – how hard you work depends on the acceptance levels of scores in the schools you have shortlisted. You should build in the drive and stamina within yourself to achieve those scores and attain admission to the graduate school you desire.