The GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations, are standardized tests taken by potential graduate or professional students as supplements to their undergraduate records. Accredited graduate or professional schools, individual graduate departments or occasionally non-accredited schools may require the GRE. It serves to neutralize grades and faculty recommendations of the pool of applicants from different schools. There is a GRE General Test, required of most applicants, designed to measure general knowledge, and there are 8 different GRE Subject Tests, which may be requested by specific graduate departments.
The GRE General Test can be taken either as a computer-based or paper-based test. Most sites in the United States and Canada offer the computer-based test, whereas most of the paper tests are overseas. The types of questions posed on both examinations are similar, although the distribution of questions and time allotted is somewhat different. Both methods of testing begin with Analytical Writing sections, in which you are asked to write two different essays. The writing sections are followed by up to five multiple choice portions, measuring either verbal or quantitative skills. In the computer-based test, the multiple choice questions employ a unique method of generating questions and scoring them which is computer adaptive. In other words, the difficulty of questions posed depends on your answer to the previous question, and your score is determined by difficulty and number of questions answered. In the case of paper examinations, there is no adaptive feature, and the raw scores are just scaled to the difficulty of the test given. Each type of test may have a random pretest section which is not scored and not identified, and the computer tests may have an un-scored research section which would be identified.
The computer-based GRE General Test can take up to 3 hours. The first two sections pose two different type of Analytical Writing questions and you are asked to write two essays. For the first essay, you are given two topics of general interest to choose from. You are then required to address this issue from any perspective you wish in an essay, as long as you demonstrate pertinent reasoning and examples to support your point of view. This is followed by a 30 minute section in which you must critique the argument presented in a given passage in terms of its logic without regard to your own viewpoint. Each writing section is graded by two trained readers and given a score between 0 and 6 (best); the total score averages the readers' scores for both essays combined. The multiple choice sections follow. If a pretest is included, the number and type of questions in that section can vary, but there will be at least one Verbal part, consisting of 30 questions to be completed in 30 minutes, and one Quantitative portion, posing 28 questions to be finished in 45 minutes. The range of Verbal questions can include identifying relationships or opposites, filling in the blanks, or answering questions about written passages. In the Quantitative portion, you will be asked to compare quantities (including whether sufficient information is presented), to employ basic mathematics skills in problem solving, or to interpret data presented in graph or table form. There may also be an un-graded research section. The total Verbal or Quantitative scores range from 200 to 800.
If you are taking a paper-based test, the test will begin with the same type of essays as in the computer-based test, an issue and an argument, for 45 and 30 minutes respectively. The multiple choice sections are not computer adaptive but they pose the same type of questions. However, you will be given more sections; there will be two Verbal portions, each with 38 questions to be completed in 30 minutes, and two Quantitative sections, each containing 30 questions to be finished within 30 minutes. A 30 minute pretest section may also be included.
The GRE General Test is administered by the Educational Testing Service, www.ets.org. The cost is $130 in the U. S. and its territories, $175 in certain Asian countries, and $160 elsewhere. The computer-based test can be taken a maximum of once per month up to 5 times in a 12 month period and is given year-round. Paper-based tests are only given about 3 times a year on Saturdays with some Monday alternative dates. Potential candidates can find test sites and register online at the ETS website, or by mail (or phone for the computer test). Examinees can ask for score sheets to be sent to up to 4 institutions. Scores are available to you in 10 to 15 days after the test by computer, or will be sent by mail in 4-6 weeks for the paper test.
The GRE Subject Tests, if required, are offered in 8 different subject areas. These are (1) Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, (2) Biology, (3) Chemistry, (4) Computer Science, (5) Literature in English, (6) Mathematics, (7) Physics, and (8) Psychology. They are only given at paper-based test centers in November, December and April. The subject tests cover specific subject matter. They are generally reported on a 200 to 990 point scale, and are scaled to the difficulty of the test.
Last Updated: 09/11/2012
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