GRE Guidebook: Everything you need to know about the GRE

Tyler York
GRE Guidebook - Everything you need to know about the GRE

Looking for an answer about the GRE?  Our GRE guidebook is here to help! We’ve listed out all the important, burning questions you might have about the GRE, and answered them for you. As far as we’re concerned, this is the official guide to the GRE General Test, or at least the best we know of! See below:

What is the GRE?

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is a standardized test for individuals who want to get into a graduate school or business school. Most of these educational institutions require the GRE for admission to their programs. It’s one of the criteria they use to compare all applicants, who come from all over the world and would have varied professional backgrounds. The schools also use the GRE to gauge the candidates readiness for graduate academic studies. You can see the competitiveness for each school’s program by looking at their average accepted GRE percentiles.

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When to study for and take the GRE
When to study for and take the GRE

When to take the GRE?

The GRE is offered year-round at accredited test centers like Prometric, so it’s not necessary to schedule the test way in advance. Furthermore, the GRE is now available for at-home administration, which means students have even more flexibility with respect to their test dates than ever.  Some recommend taking the GRE during the first year of college since most will be fresh from taking the SAT, which is similar to the GRE. However, you also need to consider the duration of the GRE test results, which is 5 years, and if you really want to go to graduate school after college. 

A solid strategy is to wait for a couple of years of college to start planning for the GRE. Better still, find out your chosen graduate or business school’s application deadline and schedule your GRE in accordance with their dates. Give yourself 2-3 months of preparation and enough of a window for retakes.

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Where to take the GRE?

The GRE General Test is a computer-based exam that is available at more than 1,000 test centers, such as Prometric, in more than 160 countries. The GRE can also be taken at home under specific controlled conditions. . Both are monitored by a human proctor.

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What to bring to the GRE?

You will need valid identification when you report to the testing facility. ETS recommends bringing two forms of acceptable ID, which, in general, are government-issued photo IDs. Make sure that the information on the ID matches your test registration information. Bring water, snacks, and a sweatshirt or jacket. You do not need to bring calculators or scratch paper, as these components are either provided on site or integrated into the testing software.

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How to sign up for the GRE?

Before you can schedule to take the GRE exam, you must first create an account with ETS. Then you must register online or by phone to schedule your appointment. Walk-in applications at test centers are not accepted. You will receive a confirmation email with your exam details.

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How is the GRE scored?

GRE test-takers will receive scores for every section of the exam. For verbal and quantitative reasoning, your performance on the first scored section will determine the level of difficulty on the second scored section, as well as your overall potential score range. All questions in both sections contribute equally to the final score. Analytical Writing scores range from 0–6 and are provided by an e-rater and one human rater, whose independent scores are averaged as the final score.

If you’d like more info, we’ve written an article on how the GRE is scored over at MBA Crystal Ball.

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Even old school Oxford University accepts the GRE for MBA applications.
Photo credit Delfi de la Rua on Unsplash.

What is a good GRE score?

The best way to gauge a good GRE score is knowing the median scores of successful applicants to the  graduate or business schools to which you are applying – aka the GRE percentiles of that school and program. Scoring at or around those values is “good enough” relative to your competition. The Verbal and Quantitative Sections are each scored from 130 to 170, with a mean score of 150 and 153, respectively. The Analytical Writing section is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The mean score for this section is 3.5.

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How long is the GRE test?

The entire exam will take you about 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete, not counting breaks.

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What is on the GRE?

The GRE test consists of three sections, namely: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The GRE evaluates your verbal reasoning and vocabulary; basic mathematical concepts in algebra, arithmetic, and geometry; and your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The test consists of two analytical writing questions, a total of 40 questions for Verbal Reasoning, a total of 40 questions for Quantitative Reasoning, and a variable 20-question Unscored or Research section.

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How hard is the GRE?

It is a general consensus that the GRE is more difficult than college entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT, but not quite as hard as some other graduate admissions tests, like the GMAT and LSAT. In general, the GRE test uses trickier vocabulary and utilizesa more challenging passages for its reading comprehension questions. 

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When to take the GRE
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How long does it take to get GRE scores?

You will receive your unofficial Verbal and Quantitative scaled scores immediately after finishing the test. Your official scaled scores — along with your Writing score — will be confirmed 10–15 days after your test date. You will receive an email notification that your official scores are now available in your ETS Account.

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How to send GRE scores?

GRE gives you the option to send your test scores for free to up to four graduate institutions or business schools via the ScoreSelect feature immediately following the completion of your test. Otherwise, you can send your test scores to as many academic programs as you like after the fact for a small fee. Keep in mind that it can take up to 10 business days for programs to receive your official scores from ETS. 

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How long are GRE scores valid?

Your GRE score is valid for up to 5 years.

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How much does the GRE cost?

The GRE General Test costs $205 in most locations around the world. In Australia and China, it’s about $230. In Turkey, it’s $255. Additional fees may be incurred if you have opted for special handling and additional scoring services.

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How many times can you take the GRE?

You can take the test once every 21 days, but only up to five times within a 12-month period (365 days). This rule applies even if you canceled your scores on an earlier test.

GRE practice questions
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How long should GRE essays be?

Though not official, our research shows that 1,000 words, more or less, is the ideal length for your GRE essay. The logical reason is that to fully develop your argument, you would need an essay of this length. Incorporating more text into your essay also gives the e-grader a better opportunity to identify the types of sentences that are required for a high score. Learn more by reading our blog post on GRE essay topics, which includes example essays graded by our team.

How long should I study for the GRE?

There is no prescribed length of time for studying for the GRE. A good range would be 1 to 3 months. This would largely depend on the amount of time you spend studying each day or each week, and also on how much you want to improve your scores when you take the practice tests.

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How to prepare for the GRE?

ETS offers a number of free tools to help you study for the GRE. We at Achievable can also help you achieve higher scores with our GRE prep program, which includes an online textbook, an unlimited supply of review questions, and full-length mock exams for only $299. You can get started, completely free. 

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Should I hire a GRE tutor?

Hiring a GRE tutor can be a great boost to your studies if you can afford it. Just go to the session with a clear plan of what you’d like to focus on so your time can be spent effectively.

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Ready to Take the Next Step?

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