GRE/About the Test
Sign Up For The GRE
The test can be signed up for by going to the GRE website at GRE.com. The test typically costs $160 or more to take each time. There are certain designated testing centers for taking the GRE, and if there isn't one close to your location, you may be in for a long drive.
The GRE may be retaken as many times as you wish, and only your highest score needs to be reported. However, you may only take the GRE once per calendar month, and you may only take the GRE up to 5 times per year. Each time you retake the GRE, you must pay the same registration fee. If you do poorly therefore, it is a good idea to take some time off (a month or two) to study the exam materials, improve your essay writing and typing, and become more familiar with the concepts covered on the exam. Do not waste your money by rushing back to take it immediately, because you will make the same mistakes. Research has shown that on the GRE, test scores do not improve dramatically for retests.
The Test Format
There are two versions of the GRE test: the paper test and the computer test. People who live in the USA, US Territories, and Canada will take the computer test. The paper test is only reserved for geographic areas that have no computer or internet access. There is a 10 minute break provided if necessary, or you may choose to skip the break or end it prematurely.
The GRE has both a general test that all students take (with verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections), and optional subject tests that focus on particular subjects. Subject tests are registered for separately. It is important to check with each individual school to determine which tests are required for admission to different programs. Some programs don't require you to take any subject tests, and some programs may require 2 or more subject tests to be considered for admission.
Unlike the SAT test, you are not penalized for providing an incorrect answer on the GRE general test. It is therefore not a good idea to ever leave a question blank on the test. If you do not know the answer to a particular question, eliminate some erroneous choices and make an educated guess.
As of August 1, 2011, ETS changed the format of the GRE. It is now a multi-stage test, or MST, and differs in some critical ways from the older versions.
- Rather than the test adapting one question at a time, the test now adapts one section at a time.
- You can return to previous questions within a section.
- An on-screen calculator is provided for the Quantitative Reasoning sections.
- There are Mark & Review buttons.
- Previously the test was scored on a scale from 200-800; however, the test is now scored on a scale from 130-170.
- The revised GRE is slightly longer, about 3 hours and 45 minutes.
- You get a one minute break between each section. The break is optional.
- You can sign up for the GRE just two days before the test (although, this is not recommended).
- The MST version of the revised GRE is offered all year long; however, you cannot take the GRE as frequently: you can only test every 60 days.
- You don't have to take it on the same day as a subject test.
- It gives you your unofficial Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores immediately.
At any time during the test you may choose to leave the testing site. You will not get your money back so you may as well continue until the very end, even if you feel you are doing poorly. This way you can get a good understanding of the information that is on the GRE test, so you can better prepare for the next time you want to take it. Also, you may be doing much better than you think!
You may not bring your own calculator to the GRE test; there is an on-screen calculator provided as of August 1, 2011. Pencils will be provided by the testing center, along with scrap paper (however, taking the paper-based test, scrap paper is not permitted, you'll be instructed to work out any problems within the available space in your workbooks). You may not bring pens, pencils of your own (mechanical pencils are expressly forbidden), additional paper, books, or other materials into the testing center.
You may not have any form of food or drink in the testing area, though you can have access to this during your break or any time you leave while the time continues. You may also not bring in objects that can transmit or store voice or text, such as cell phones, pagers, PDAs, etc...
The types of questions asked on the GRE are not generally conducive to cheating, so it is a waste of time to attempt to cheat on the test. Instead, use your time to study the relevant material, get good sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, and be prepared to do your best on the test.
Both the computer test and the paper test have multiple-choice sections. With the introduction of the MST on the revised GRE, you can move about freely in a section. You can even mark questions you are struggling with so that you can return to them later. When you've reached the end of the section, you can hit a "Review" button that informs you of any questions you have marked or not answered so that you can return to them. On the paper test, you are also free to go back and change answers as you see fit.
In the paper test, the analytical essays must be written on the paper provided by the testing center. Additional paper can be requested, if needed. On the computer test, the essay must be typed into the text-box provided on the computer. This textbox has some common computer commands available (cut and paste), but not other (no "copy" command, no spell check, no grammar check, etc...) features. The text editor does not accept the common Ctrl+X or Ctrl+V commands to cut and paste: these operations must be performed by clicking the specified buttons with your mouse.
The different sections are scored differently:
- Quantitative: 130–170, in 1 point increments
- Verbal: 130-170 points, in 1 point increments
- Writing 0-6, in half point increments
In the computer test, the quantitative and verbal sections will be scored immediately, and your answers to those 2 sections will be provided before you leave the testing facility. The writing exam will be graded by 2 separate graders each. The writing scores are averaged together, and rounded up to the nearest half point. The writing scores will not be available immediately, but will instead be mailed to the address you provide within 6-8 weeks.
In the paper test, all 3 sections need to be mailed off and graded by hand, so all scores will be mailed to your given address in 6-8 weeks. Test-takers may call for scores five weeks after your paper test.
Scores on the paper test have been found to be equivalent to scores on the computer test, so this difference should not be an issue. Students who are better typists (faster and more accurate) are shown to score higher on the essay portions of the computer test, however. It is therefore a good idea to practice your typing skills before the test.
Average scores for the verbal section are in the range of 400-500, although students with majors that are intensive in using language (such as humanities) score over 500 points on average. Students who are applying to graduate school in an area that requires language skills (humanities, social sciences, education) should score in this range or higher.
Average scores in the quantitative section are often between 500-600, although students in science and engineering are expected to score between 700-750 on average. Students who are applying to graduate school in areas that require math (for mathematics, science, engineering, and economics) should have scores in this range or higher.
Average scores for the analytical Writing section for all majors are usually between 4.0-5.0. This is a good target range for students of all majors.
The format of the GRE leaves open the possibility of adding additional sections to the test, although these sections will not count towards your score. One experimental section of the test will be announced, and participation in it is optional (although high scores in these sections can be rewarded with monetary prizes). Another experimental section might be included, but it will be unannounced and will be either verbal or quantitative (no additional essays, luckily). Scores in either experimental section will not be counted towards your final score. These scores will also not be reported to your target institutions.
It is not a good idea to try and identify the unannounced experimental section. You should do your best work on every section of the GRE, even though some of your hard work may not count towards the final score.
- Kaplan's New GRE Premier 2011-2012