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GRE General Test (Graduate Records Examination) Overview
Graduate Record Examinations

GRE General Test (Graduate Records Examination): The GRE is required by most U.S. graduate schools and /or departments for candidates applying in the fields of science, technology, or engineering. Generally, the quantitative section of the exam is weighed heavily in the sciences.

GRE Subject Test is only offered on a limited basis in paper-based format. The GRE Subject Tests are required for the following fields:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

The GRE General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study. The GRE Subject Tests gauge undergraduate achievement in eight specific fields of study.

GRE General Test

The GRE General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study.

GRE General Test Overview

What Is It ?
The GRE® General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study.

Verbal Reasoning-The skills measured include the test taker's ability to

  • Analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it
  • Analyze relationships among component parts of sentences
  • Recognize relationships between words and concepts.

Quantitative Reasoning — The skills measured include the test taker's ability to

  • Understand basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis
  • Reason quantitatively
  • Solve problems in a quantitative setting.

Analytical Writing — The skills measured include the test taker's ability to

  • Articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively
  • Examine claims and accompanying evidence
  • Support ideas with relevant reasons and examples
  • Sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
  • Control the elements of standard written English

Who Takes It and Why ?

Prospective graduate applicants take the General Test. GRE test scores are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement undergraduate records and other qualifications for graduate study. The scores provide common measures for comparing the qualifications of applicants and aid in evaluating grades and recommendations.

Where Do People Take It ?

The General Test is offered year-round at computer-based test centers in the U.S., Canada, and many other countries. It is offered at paper-based test centers in areas of the world where computer-based testing is not available. See which format is available in your area.

Who Accepts It ?

Any accredited graduate or professional school, or any department or division within a school, may require or recommend that its applicants take the General Test, a Subject Test, or both. If approved by the GRE Board, a non-accredited institution can also receive test takers' scores.

Test Content

  1. Computer-Based General Test Content and Structure
  2. Typical Computer-Based General Test
  3. Paper-Based General Test Content and Structure
  4. Typical Paper-Based General Test
  5. Modified Versions of Verbal and Quantitative Questions

Computer-Based General Test Content and Structure
The computer-based General Test has three sections.

  • In addition, one unidentified pretest section may be included, and this section can appear in any position in the test after the analytical writing section. Questions in the pretest section are being tested for possible use in future tests, and answers will not count toward your scores.
  • An identified research section that is not scored may also be included, and this section would always appear in the final section of the test. Questions in the research section are included for the purpose of ETS research, and answers will not count toward your scores.
  • Total testing time is up to three hours, not including the research section. The directions at the beginning of each section specify the total number of questions in the section and the time allowed for the section.
  • The analytical writing section is always first. For the Issue task, two topics will be presented and you will choose one. The Argument task does not present a choice of topics; instead, one topic will be presented.
  • The verbal and quantitative sections may appear in any order, including an unidentified verbal or quantitative pretest section. Treat each section presented during your test as if it counts.

* For the Issue task, two essay topics are presented and you choose one. The Argument task does not present a choice of topics; instead one topic is presented.
** An unidentified verbal or quantitative pretest section may be included and may appear in any order after the analytical writing section. It is not counted as part of your score.
*** An identified research section that is not scored may be included, and it is always at the end of the test.

Paper-Based General Test Content and Structure
The paper-based GRE General Test contains five sections.

In addition, one unidentified pretest section may be included, and this section can appear in any position in the test after the analytical writing section. Questions in the pretest section are being tested for possible use in future tests, and answers will not count toward your scores.

Total testing time is up to 3 3/4 hours. The directions at the beginning of each section specify the total number of questions in the section and the time allowed for the section.

The analytical writing section is always first. For the Issue task, two topics will be presented and you will choose one. The Argument task does not present a choice of topics; instead one topic will be presented.

The verbal and quantitative sections may appear in any order, including an unidentified verbal or quantitative pretest section. Treat each section presented during your test as if it counts.

*For the Issue task, two essay topics will be presented and you will choose one. The Argument task does not present a choice of topics; instead, one topic will be presented.
** An unidentified verbal or quantitative pretest section may be included and may appear in any order after the analytical writing section. It is not counted as part of your score.

Modified Versions of Verbal and Quantitative Questions

The test you take may include questions that are modified versions of published questions or of questions you have already seen on an earlier section of the test. Some modifications are substantial; others are less apparent.

Thus, even if a question appears to be similar to a question you have already seen, it may in fact be a different question and may also have a different correct answer. You can be assured of doing your best on the test you take by paying careful attention to the wording of each question as it appears in your test.

The GRE Program is currently investigating the feasibility of reusing questions that have been published in GRE practice materials. As part of that investigation, you may see questions from these materials on a test you take.

Overview of the Revised General Test (Post June 2009)

The revised Graduate Record Examinations® (GRE®) General Test will be offered for the first time worldwide in September. The first test dates will be September 10, 15 or 16 (depending upon location), and 29, 2007. Read Press Release

With the new test, the GRE® Program will introduce a significantly revised and improved GRE General Test. The primary reasoning for the revisions to the test are to

  1. Address current and potential future security challenges associated with continuous testing
  2. Increase the validity of the test by reducing the possible effects of memorization in the Verbal and Analytical Writing sections of the test. Revisions to the test are also being made to provide faculty with better information on applicants' performance, and measure skills more directly related to graduate study. Revisions to the test include revisions to the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing measures; modifications to test structure and administration, and new Verbal and Quantitative score scales.

  1. Value of the Revised General Test
  2. Test Content Revisions
  3. Test Administration Revisions
  4. Changes to the Verbal and Quantitative Score Scales
  5. Sample Revised General Test Score Report
  6. Sample Verbal Test Questions
  7. Sample Quantitative Test Questions
  8. Sample Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing Topics
  9. Sample Questions for Test Takers with Disabilities
  10. Timeline of Major Events
  11. Revised GRE General Test Brochure (PDF)
  12. Frequently Asked Questions for Limiting Registration for the Current GRE® General Test
  13. Frequently Asked Questions for Educators
  14. PowerPoint Presentations for Educators


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