What is the Graduate Record Examination&Reg;?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2018
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The Graduate Record Examination®, also known as the GRE®, is an admissions test required by many graduate programs within the United States. The GRE® may be a prerequisite for admission to a master's or PhD program at most colleges in the US. It is a standardized test designed to allow professional schools to compare the knowledge, skills and qualifications of applicants from different academic backgrounds.

The Graduate Record Examination® is similar in many ways to the Standard Aptitude Test® (SAT®) required of most high school students before attending college. Like the SAT®, the Graduate Record Examination® contains a verbal section, a math section and a writing section.

The writing section of the Graduate Record Examination® requires students to write two essays. One essay asks students to analyze a quote and present an opinion or argument on that quote. The other asks students to take a position on an argument.

The math section of the exam focuses mainly on algebra and basic geometry. Order of operations, exponents and factoring are also covered. No calculus or trigonometry is required in the GRE® and students are not permitted to use a calculator to complete the math portion.


The portion of the test that focuses on English requires students to demonstrate vocabulary skills as well as skills in reading comprehension. Students are asked to fill in the missing word in a sentence. They are also asked to analogize pairs of words and to analogize antonym pairs to other groups of words. The reading comprehension section of the verbal portion of the examination asks questions about passages contained on the test that students have read.

The scores for both the verbal and math sections are out of 800. The scores are also assigned a percentile rank so students and schools can compare the results across all test takers. The higher the score, the better a student's chances of receiving financial aid and/or admission to the college program of his choice.

The GRE® is conducted on a computer, which means students report to a testing center and complete test questions using a special software program. The GRE® can thus be taken at any time throughout the year since students simply sign up and report to the testing facility. Students receive their scores instantly from the computer upon completing the exam and can then send those scores on to graduate schools.



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