Understanding the GRE

Most graduate degree programs will review your scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) before making a final decision about accepting you into their Ph. D. or Master's program.  Each school has its own criteria concerning the test.  Some programs put a lot of emphasis on the GRE scores while other schools just want to see a decent showing.  There are schools that have minimum score requirements on each part of the test and other schools seem interested in just one particular section. Talk to the admissions counselor at the schools you are considering to find out how the test is viewed in order to properly prepare for the exam.

The newest version of the GRE will be introduced in August 2011.  Critics of the exam complained that the test did not cover enough information to adequately predict a person's performance in a graduate program.  Another common complaint was the scoring system that worked question by question.  Some experts argued that some students actually improve as a test progresses once they understand the exam's format.

You should give yourself at least a few months to adequately prepare for the exam.  Proper preparation stretched over time will help calm your nerves and improve retention when it is time to sit for the exam.  Here are some things you should know before taking the test.

  1. You have a limited amount of time to complete the test.  You are given 45 minutes to complete the quantitative portion, 30 to finish the verbal reasoning, 30 minutes to write an argument essay and 45 minutes to write the issue essay.
  2. There are two types of GRE exams.  One type is a general exam that will test your math and verbal abilities along with analytical thinking.  The second type of exam is the subject test that covers specific topics such as psychology or computer science.
  3. The price of the computer based GRE is $160.  This price includes software to help prepare you for the exam's format and you can receive it immediately after you have completed registration. This price also includes the fee to forward your results to four graduate schools that you pick.  If you wish to send the results to more schools the fee is $23 per school. 
  4. The initial 10 questions are crucial.  The scoring model looks at your answers from these first few questions and determines how high you can possibly score.
  5. Notes and calculators are strictly prohibited inside the testing area.
  6. You can take the test via paper method if a designated computer lab is not available.  Most large cities across the country have at least one computer site available for the test.
  7. On the computer based test, the questions are dictated by your answers.  As you answer more and more questions correctly each new question becomes a little more difficult.
  8. You will have a 10 minute break once the analytical writing portion is completed.  All other breaks will be one minute in between the sections.  Test participants are not permitted to leave the building during breaks.
  9. If your scores are not to your liking, you can cancel the test.  None of your scores will be sent to any school and you may sit for the exam again.  Individuals are allowed to sit for the exam a maximum of 5 times each year. 
  10. People whose undergraduate transcripts have a few low grades can use a high scoring GRE exam to improve their chances of getting accepted into a master's program.