What is the GRE? Learn about questions, scores and validity.
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GRE: What you need to know

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Craig OCallaghan

Updated May 15, 2024
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Preparing to take the GRE General Test (formerly the GRE revised General Test)? Or maybe you just keep hearing it mentioned when people talk about graduate and business school admissions? Read on for some quick answers to the most commonly asked questions about the GRE…

What is the GRE?

When people talk about the GRE, they’re probably referring to the GRE General Test. This is a standardized test used by many universities and graduate schools around the world as part of the graduate admissions process.

In addition to the GRE General Test, there are also the GRE Subject Tests, currently available in six fields: psychology, physics, mathematics, literature in English, chemistry and biology. The GRE is administered only in English.

Who administers the GRE?

The test is run by ETS (short for Educational Testing Service), a nonprofit organization which also runs the TOEFL, one of the most widely used tests of English proficiency.

What does GRE stand for?

This one’s simple! Graduate Record Examinations.

Why take the GRE?

A GRE score may be a required part of your application to a graduate-level program. Even if it’s not a set requirement, it may still help to support your application for a place on a master’s or PhD program, or for a fellowship.

Which universities accept the GRE?

Thousands of universities, graduate schools and departments around the world accept GRE scores, for graduate course places and/or graduate fellowships – too many to list here! This includes an increasing number of business schools which use the GRE for MBA program admissions. A full list is available on the ETS website, or you can ask universities directly whether they consider GRE scores.

Where and when can you take the GRE?

Currently the GRE test can be taken at over 1,000 test centers, spread across more than 160 countries. In regions where the computer-based version is available, the test can be taken throughout the year. If only the paper version is available, it is offered on set dates up to three times a year in October, November and February.

How can you prepare for the GRE?

Free preparation materials are available on the ETS website. These include sample questions and even full-length practice tests, to give you an idea of exactly what to expect. Further official preparation guides and materials can also be purchased through the site. You should start preparing for the GRE at least three to six months before the test date, and try not to cram at the last minute. Follow some of these GRE preparation strategies to help you prepare.

Find out how to decide if you're ready to take the GRE test.

What skills does the GRE test?

The GRE General Test has three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. The first section aims to assess how well students can understand and interpret passages of text. The second section has more of a numerical focus, testing students’ ability to interpret sets of data. The third section consists of two timed essays – one analyzing an issue, and one analyzing an argument.

Can I guess the answers to the GRE test?

Adequate preparation will ensure you don't need to blindly guess answers to the GRE, as you should be able to eliminate some of the multiple choice options logically. Moving through questions quickly is important so don't be afraid to make an educated guess rather than remaining stuck on a question.

What can I expect on test day?

You should allow plenty of time to get to the test center, as it’s very important not to be late. No personal items are allowed in the test room except for your identification documents (not even a watch!), so the test center staff will advise you on where you can store your things.

From 22 September 2023, the GRE test will be shortened, to feature three 45-minute sections: 

GRE test questions

Question type Time allowed Score range
Analytical writing: One section and one essay task 30 minutes 0-6
Verbal reasoning: Two sections, covering text completion, sentence equivalence & reading comprehension 41 minutes 130-170
Quantitative reasoning: Two sections, covering quantitative comparison & problem-solving 47 minutes 130-170

The new GRE® test will be rolled out from 22 September 2023. There will be no difference to the way applicants register for the test. Those with an appointment before that date will take the current test and those with an appointment from 22 September will take the shorter test.  

Learn more about the updated version of the GRE test and what to expect.

How much does it cost to take the GRE?

The standard fee for taking the test is currently US$205 everywhere in the world except China, where it is US$231.30, Australia, where it is US$230, Nigeria, where it is US$220, and Turkey, where it is US$255.

You’ll need to pay additional fees for special handling requests such as rescheduling or changing your test center.

Can you get a fee reduction based on financial need?

Yes, a limited number of Fee Reduction Certificates are available for those who meet criteria for demonstrating financial need, which mean a 50 percent reduction in the fee of either one GRE General Test or a GRE Subject Test.

When will your scores be available after the test?

This depends on which form your test was delivered in – if you took the computer-delivered GRE test, your official scores will be available online in your account and sent to your designated institutions approximately 10-15 days after your test date. If you took the paper-delivered test, your scores will be available online and sent to the institutions within five weeks after your test date. 

What's a good GRE score?

GRE scores by percentile

Percentile Scaled GRE score (verbal) Scaled GRE score (quant)
Top 10% 162 166
Top 25% 157 160
Top 50% 151 153

*Based on the performance of GRE test takers between 2012 and 2015

Should I change my answers on the GRE?

Research has shown that students who thoughtfully change their multiple choice answers manage to improve their overall score.

Can you retake the GRE test?

Yes – if you took the paper-delivered test, you can retake it as many times as it’s offered. If you took the GRE test via computer, you can retake it once every 21 days, and up to five times in a year. 

If you have a low GRE score, it's worth considering a retake or delaying your business school application.

How can you use your GRE scores?

As part of the fee for taking the test, you have the option to send your scores to up to four graduate schools or prospective employers. (You can send your score to more organizations later for an extra US$27 each).

If you’ve taken the GRE General Test more than once, you can use the ‘ScoreSelect’ option to choose which scores from the past five years to send.

How long is the GRE valid for?

ETS will keep your score on file for five years after your test administration date. Check with your chosen university to find out if they require test scores from within a certain period.

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