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GRE General Test

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The GRE is a standardized test for test-takers in order to obtain admission to a business or graduate degree in English-speaking countries. It was created by ETS (Educational Testing Service) in 1949. The as a tool to evaluate the candidates based on their scores and grades. A business or graduate degree would be very advantageous to your career. The General Test of GRE consists of the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing sections, an Unscored section along with a Research section and is not related to any particular field of study. These test the basic skills of the candidates who want to gain admission in graduate schools. Admission managements consider the test score is considered just a mere formality as well as an important factor by various business schools in the admission process.

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The General Test is given in the form of a computer-adaptive test as well as a paper-based test. Usually it is computer-based, but in areas where computer networking is not possible, a paper-based test is given. The General Test is a section-wise computer-adaptive test that adapts to your skill set. You can take up the test not more than 5 times in a given year. In the General Test, the second section of both the Verbal and Math sections are based on your performance in the first section. You have to answer all the questions given in the test; otherwise, you get a penalty for not answering a single question. This test is structured in a user-friendly way that lets you edit questions.

Along with the General test, there are also eight subject test papers which are optional. Depending on the graduate school that you seek admission to, you can attempt these subject tests.

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The GRE subject tests emphasize your abilities and skills in a particular subject. If you want to major in a particular subject, you have to take up that subject test along with the General test of GRE. Some business schools and programs might consider this as part of the admission process, but other schools might not. When you register for a particular subject test, you will be given practice preparation material that describes the test content in detail. This study material can also be downloaded on


The General Test for GRE consists of 6 sections, the first one being a writing test while the Quantitative and Verbal sections are multiple choice sections. An Unidentified section consisting of Verbal or Quantitative questions is also given. Also, a Research section is given at the end of the test which is unscored. The 6 sections are explained in detail below:

Verbal Reasoning: The following are the features of this section.

  • New type questions in Text Completion assess your ability to interpret, evaluate and reason the content in the given passages. This is done by filling in meaningful words and phrases in the passages.
  • In Sentence Equivalence, questions are given where you would have to complete sentences keeping in mind the meaning of the sentence.
  • Reading Comprehension questions consist of multiple choice answers where you would have to select more than one answer to a particular question. It also includes highlighting a set of words in a passage as an answer to questions given.

In short, this section tests your ability to summarize content, understanding the meaning, interpret the passages, analyze the meaning, and understand the relationship between words, phrases, and sentences. This section consists of two levels each of 20 questions with 30 minutes for each level.

Quantitative Reasoning: This section consists of basic math which you would have studied in school. However, there is specific emphasis on data interpretation. There are new types of questions that test your ability to reason. They include the following:

  • Emphasize more on math, algebra, geometry, data analysis, graphical representation, and also include situations that you would be facing while studying in graduate school.
  • Multiple choice questions that require more than one correct answer.
  • Numerical answers to questions.
  • An on-screen calculator for calculation purpose.

In this section, you have to analyze and interpret data, apply basic concepts and ideas to math, geometry, graphs, solve problems, etc. This section consists of two levels each of 20 questions with 35 minutes time for each level.

Analytical Writing: This section consists of 2 essay-writing tasks. They are an argument task and an issue task. You will be given a particular topic for each of the two essays. You would have to analyze and reason the specific essays, and write your views on both the tasks. Specific emphasis is on your reasoning and analyzing skills which will be definitely brought to the fore. This section has two separate essay-writing tasks with 30 minutes for each essay.


The Analytical Writing score is scaled on a 0-6 scale with half-point increments. Scoring for the two essay-writing tasks is done by two readers who determine the score. If the two scores differ by more than a point, then a third reader determines the scores. Alternatively, the scores on the two essays are averaged and rounded up to the nearest half-point. A single score is given for the Analytical Writing. More importance is given to sentence formation, grammar, content and your writing skills.

Verbal and Quantitative scores are scaled on a range of 130-170 with 1-point increments. Here, the scoring is determined by how well you have performed and the number of questions that you have answered. This test is section-adaptive; the second part of the test is selected based on your performance. You have to answer all the questions in both the levels. For both the levels, a score is calculated. The total score is the number of questions answered correctly. This then is converted to a scaled score through equating. Minor differences as well as tough questions in the different sections are taken into account. The scaled score shows the same performance level irrespective of when the test was taken or the section selected. If a particular question is not answered by you, then it is a no score.

The essays written by you in the Analytical Writing test will be reviewed by ETS essay-detecting software as well as officials to determine whether the essays were originally written by you, or written by someone else, or from another source, etc. If it is found so, your General score will be discarded. Your scores with that of other candidates can be compared easily with regards to admission. Minor differences in scores will not be considered as an obstacle in the admission process. The scores hold good for five years from the time you attempted the General test. Scores for the General and subject tests of GRE are reported with a percentile rank. A percentile rank for a score signifies the number of test-takers who have scored lesser than you. The percentile scores compares the scores of all the candidates who have tested within the past 3 years. In fact, the percentile score makes it much easier for the candidates to be selected to business programs and graduate colleges.


A range of study materials is provided for the test in the form of books, software, online help that various websites offer, as well as on the official website, ETS (Educational Testing Service), the administrators behind the GRE offer plenty of test preparation for the General Test. Sample questions and mock tests are offered to test-takers with tips and strategies to improve their skills. POWERPREP II Software can be downloaded which offers you timed tests. You can also get to know the test content and structure, the question types given, understand the scoring process, etc. ETS has offered a new preparation book, The Official Guide to the Revised General Test. This book includes a CD-ROM. It also offers two practice tests, one test in the book and one test on the CD. It also contains test questions, tips and suggestions to improve your skills. Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing practice material can also be studied. The Online Writing Practice helps you to practice for essay-writing in the Analytical Writing section, where you get reviews and feedback on how you performed, and tips and strategies to improvise your skills.


Preparing well for the General Test helps you to achieve a high score. This is the aim of test-takers who take up the exam. It helps to be aware of the test content and structure, question types, the scoring scale, etc. You would have to be disciplined enough to follow a study plan. It would be ideal if you started preparing for the test 3 months before the test. The General Test of GRE is certainly not a very easy exam to study for, but having a graduate degree certainly benefits you.

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