Considering Graduate School? Introducing the GRE

What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Records Examination) General Test is a standardized test that is often required for post-baccalaureate (aka “graduate”) education. Similar to the ACT or the SAT, the GRE is a general education exam, that focuses on verbal, quantitative (i.e. math), and analytical writing skills. The exam is administered by ETS, or Educational Testing Services; as of 2020, costs just over $200; and lasts just under 4 hours. The exam is a computer adaptive test, or CAT. A CAT exam is a learning test: the more answers you get right, the harder the questions become, and the higher your score may be; the more questions you get wrong, the easier the questions get, but the number of points you can score also goes down. You can take the exam more than once.

How do I know if I should take the GRE?

The GRE is generally a required part of a graduate school application (for MA/MS or PhD). It is also being accepted at some business schools and law schools (although this is not universal, and you should check to see if the GMAT or LSAT is a better exam choice for those types of schools).

GRE scores are valid for five years, meaning you can take the exam and use the scores to apply for schools for up to five years. If you are considering graduate school, you may want to take the GRE. Even if you decide not to attend graduate school right away, taking the exam while you are in “school mode” may be helpful for some. You will need to evaluate that for yourself based on your personality and situation.

How do you study for the GRE?

Like other standardized college entrance exams (ACT, SAT, etc.), there are numerous preparation tools available from sources like Barron, Kaplan, and Princeton Review. These include prep books, flash cards, apps, and courses. The test administrators, ETS, also offer practice questions on their website. You will need to determine what type of preparation works best for you. For example, courses often work well for people who have trouble self motivating study or who have test anxiety. Books, flash cards, and apps can work well for those who need an overview of the types of information that will be covered on the exam.

How can I learn more about the GRE?

Here’s a link to the official exam website:


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