What is the Graduate Record Examination?



The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is a standardized test that assesses an individual’s readiness for graduate study. Most graduate programs in the arts and sciences require GRE scores for admission. The test consists of three sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing.

The Quantitative section tests an individual’s competence in mathematics. The 28 questions within this section cover basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. Some questions are multiple choice, while others require the test-taker to generate and enter a numeric answer. While the test does not require advanced mathematical knowledge, test takers who have not recently taken a math class should complete a review to ensure success on this section.

The Verbal section contains questions to assess reading comprehension skills and knowledge of vocabulary. There are three question types in the Verbal section. The first question type, sentence equivalence, asks the test-taker to choose two closely related words which can be used interchangeably within a sentence. Similarly, text completion questions require the test taker to choose the most appropriate word to complete a sentence or short paragraph. Both sentence equivalence and text completion questions are designed to assess a test-taker’s vocabulary. Reading comprehension questions test reading skills such as the identification of main idea, detail and inference and are found after a short passage or paragraph.

The last section, Analytical Reasoning, consists of two timed writing tasks. The first, Analyze an Issue, presents a topic and asks the test taker to create an argument supporting his or her position on the issue. The second, Analyze an Argument, asks the test taker to critique an argument by assessing the logic of the argument. These tasks are designed to test overall writing ability and critical thinking skills.

The Verbal and Quantitative sections of the GRE are scored on a scale from 130-170. The 50th percentile of all test takers usually score around 151 on Verbal and 149 on Quantitative. The Analytical Writing tasks are scored on a scale from 0-6. Most universities publish data on the average GRE scores for students entering graduate programs.

The GRE is administered in independent testing centers. There is no limit to the number of times a student can take the test, and scores are valid for 5 years after the test date. Contact the admissions department at your school for more information on the GRE.