What is the GRE&Reg; General Test?

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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2019
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The Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®) General Test is a required test for many graduate school applicants that assesses a student’s aptitude and potential for graduate school success. Most schools ask for the General Test and one or more Subject Tests, depending on the degree program. The General Test is made up of three types of questions: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. The GRE® is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and its format is revised periodically.

The verbal reasoning section of the GRE® General Test analyzes one’s reading comprehension and reasoning ability. The quantitative reasoning questions assess fundamental mathematical skills, using concepts from arithmetic, geometry, and basic statistics. The analytical writing portion measures both critical thinking skills and the ability to express ideas thoroughly and clearly through writing. The GRE® General Test typically includes a fourth, experimental section that utilizes one of the three previously mentioned types of questions, but without actually counting the scores. It is typically used for research in order to develop future exam questions.

The GRE® General Test is offered throughout the world. In the U.S. and Canada, students generally take the exam on a computer at a local testing center. In some jurisdictions, students take a paper-and-pencil-based test. This is more common in countries where students do not have access to testing centers with computers.


The procedures for registering for the GRE® General Test vary by location. Those taking the computer-based test can usually register online, by mail, by phone, or by fax. Registration for the paper-based test is normally limited to either online or mail-in registration. Depending on the test administration site, the registration fees can also vary.

Exam scores are usually submitted to graduate schools along with other application materials, such as undergraduate transcripts, essays, and recommendations. GRE® General Test scores might be given different weights, depending on the programs to which they are submitted. That is, admissions officials usually decide how much to emphasize test scores as part of an overall application. Their policies can often affect admissions and scholarship or financial aid funding decisions.

There are several ways to prepare for the GRE® General Test. Students have a number of books and software packages available to them, along with online study assistance. Study methods may vary, but people often find review questions and practice tests to be helpful. Most of these resources are offered by ETS, the company that administers the test, as well as by commercial test preparation services.

Some common issues with the exam include debates over whether the GRE® General Test is a fair assessment of one’s skills. Other people question the overall utility of requiring standardized tests for admission. In addition to the General Test, a student may also be required to take one of eight Subject Tests, which include areas such as biology, chemistry, and psychology.


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