GRE Frequently Asked Questions
The GRE exam measures your command of basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis as well as college-level vocabulary. More importantly, it measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material, think critically, and solve problems.
You will receive three scores on the GRE:
- Analytical Writing
- Verbal Reasoning
- Quantitative Reasoning
The GRE is a Multi-Stage Test, which means that your performance on the first section of the scored Verbal and Quant sections will determine the level of difficulty of the subsequent Verbal and Quant sections. The raw score from each section is the number of questions you answered correctly. Your raw score is then converted to a scaled score through a process called “equating.”
For example, if you perform very well on the first Verbal section, you will receive the most difficult second section in Verbal, but you will also have access to the highest potential score range. If you perform less well on the first section of Verbal, you will see a less difficult second Verbal section, but you will also have access to a lower score band or “potential.”
For the Analytical Writing section, each essay receives a score from at least one human reader, using a 6-point scale.
When considering your GRE score goal, look at the requirements—or minimums, if applicable—at the graduate or business programs to which you are applying. This will let you know your score baseline. If you can find the mean or average GRE score of admitted applicants, you will be able to determine what GRE score will make you a competitive applicant. The Verbal and Quant sections of the GRE are each scored from 130 to 170. The mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151, and the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153. The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and the mean score is 4.0.
The ScoreSelect feature of the GRE gives you the options to send only the GRE test scores from whichever test date you want schools to see. Note that even with the ScoreSelect option, you’ll want to perform your best on the GRE the first time, so you don’t have to retake the exam and pay an additional testing fee.
On GRE Test Day, you can expect to sit for the exam for approximately four hours, including test-taking time and short breaks. Note that this time does not include your check-in time at the testing center. It is important to be on time and fully prepared. ETS recommends that you arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your test time.
GRE Section - Time
Analytical Writing -- 30 minutes per task
Verbal Reasoning -- 30 minutes per section
Quantitative Reasoning -- 35 minutes per section
Experimental or Unscored -- Varies (30 or 35 minutes)
Optional Breaks (total) -- Approximately 12 minutes
Total -- Approximately 4 hours
The computer-delivered GRE is administered year-round in Prometric testing centers and on select test dates at other testing centers. The paper-delivered GRE is administered at certain testing centers on a limited number of dates. Seating for GRE is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and some testing center locations can fill up well in advance of the popular fall testing time. You can see a full list of testing centers, test dates, and seat availability on the ETS site.
It is highly recommended that you register for your preferred GRE test date early so you can select a date that will allow enough time for ETS to process your scores and send them to the institutions you’ll be applying to. This can take from 10 to 15 days. During popular testing times, seats in Prometric testing centers can be limited. You can take the computer-delivered GRE once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days).
You can register for the GRE online via ETS. For GRE-related questions, you can find contact information for ETS here.
Since graduate programs have a wide range of application deadlines, you will want to research your programs of interest ahead of time and ensure that your GRE score can be reported in time for your earliest deadline. Your GRE score is good for five years.
You will want to devote 1–3 months to studying for the GRE, and top scorers report studying for 100+ hours.
The cost to take the GRE is $205 for all U.S. testing locations. Check with ETS for the cost in locations outside the U.S. The fee includes sending score reports to up to four graduate institutions of your choice.