All that you need to know about GRE

What is GRE?

GRE or Graduate Record Examinations is a standardized test administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), private, non-profit organization. This test provides students with the opportunity of taking admission in a college or university in many English-speaking countries including US, UK, Canada and Australia. This test is a common platform for the students to perform on, irrespective of their socioeconomic background, and thus the scores are unbiased. Because it is difficult for the college or university authorities to judge students coming from various parts of the world, they often turn to the test scores to get an overall idea of each student’s abilities. As more and more colleges and universities are accepting this test score, it has become an essential part of the admission procedure. The structure of the test has been revised recently, and the new version of the test will start from August 2011.

What are the different sections of the GRE test?

GRE consists of the General Test and the optional Subject Test. While the General Test evaluates the students on the basis of their overall verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing skills, the Subject Test attempts to assess their special knowledge on a specific field of study. Commonly it is the General Test score that the admission authorities need, but depending on the subject a student is applying for, specific knowledge over that subject can be either a bonus or a requirement.

The General Test has three sections, each judging the students for a specific skill. First, there is the Analytical Writing section which has two essay-writing tasks complementing each other. One task requires the students to develop an argument on a given topic, and the second task provides an argument which the students are asked to evaluate. The Verbal Reasoning section tests the students’ comprehension skills, i.e. how well they can understand and interpret the English language. The Quantitative Reasoning section tests the students’ logical and analytical skills through mathematical problems. In the revised version of the test, real-life situations are prioritized to focus on the kind of thinking the students will need to do. In the Verbal Reasoning section analogies and antonyms have been removed to reflect the change, whereas in the Quantitative Section an online calculator is introduced to relieve students of the minor calculations. The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections contain multiple-choice type questions, but the Analytical Writing section is a written test.

Additionally, one unidentified experimental section and one identified research section may be included. Both are unscored sections.

How the GRE Test actually measures students?

As the different sections point to, GRE evaluates the students on their skills for verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing and critical thinking. The Verbal reasoning and the Analytical Writing sections test the students’ understanding of the English language, because they need to be able to communicate their thoughts and comprehend written materials well to be considered capable of taking up a graduation course in these colleges. The question types included in this section are Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence and Reading Comprehension questions. As mentioned above, antonyms and analogies are no more there in the revised version of the test. The Quantitative Reasoning section tests the students for mathematical skills, but the knowledge expected from the students is that of a 10th standard student. Therefore, students need not have higher mathematical skills. The question types in this section include Quantitative Comparison, Multiple-choice and Numeric Data Entry Questions. Now the multiple-choice questions can have more than one correct answer. In the Analytical Writing section, the first task asks students to develop an argument on the basis of a given topic; the second part requires them to evaluate a given argument. While the Verbal Reasoning section judges the students’ command over the English language, the Analytical Writing section gives more importance on how well the students can come to a conclusion by means of logical thinking.

In case a student has good understanding of a specific subject and wants that knowledge to get counted at the time of admission, he can take the Subject Test to show off his skills. Some colleges and universities require the students to have special knowledge over one subject, and in such cases the Subject Test scores are very significant. The Subject Test currently offers test on the following eight subjects: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics and Psychology.

How the GRE test is administered?

The General test is a computer-based test. Students can opt for the computer-based test from almost all over the world. In places where computer-based test centers are unavailable, students have the option of taking the paper-based test. The Subject Test, however, is offered only in the paper-based format. The official test website contains up-to-date information on which format of the test is available in a certain region.

How the scoring is done?

Scoring scale of the revised General Test has changed vastly for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections. While the previous scale was 200-800 with 10-points increments, the revised one is 130-170 with 1-point increments. The reason the authorities put up is that the new score scale would ignore minor differences in scores, while still being able to point out major differences. The score scale of the Analytical Writing section remains unchanged at 0-6 scale with 0.5-point increments. The test scores are valid for five years from the time of taking the test. This means that if a student, who has previously taken the old version of the test, takes the revised test, scores of both tests will be valid for five years. According to ETS, the revised score scale is more accurate and thus should be given priority. Though the scores of the two versions of the test are not directly comparable because of the huge score scale difference, the percentile scores can be compared to approximate the scores. The percentile score is a tool which decides how the student has performed compared to the other students taking the test. For example, if a student gets a percentile score of 90, that means he has scored better than 90% of the test-taking population. It is generally the percentile score, and not the actual test score that the admission authorities consider while admitting a student. The test score of a student is valid for 5 years.

How to know which colleges accept GRE score?

Day by day, the number of colleges and universities accepting the GRE course as a standard for taking admission increases rapidly. The official website of the test offers a list of colleges and universities that accept the GRE score. It should be noted that many business colleges are also accepting this test's scores for quite some time now.

How do I register for the GRE test?

You can register either online or by mail for both the computer-based and the paper-based tests. Additionally, you can register by phone or fax for the computer-based test, the latter option being available only for students outside United States.

What is the test schedule?

The computer based test, which is available in most part of the world, is offered all year round. In regions where the computer-based test in unavailable, the paper-based test is offered three times a year.

How do I prepare for the test?

The official test website offers sample questions and answers for all the question types. Additionally, students can download the Powerprep software, which is a free test preparation tool. There are numerous other products available for purchase that the students can choose from. Most of the books are getting updated to conform to the standards of the revised test.