Your Guide to Taking the GRE Test

What is the GRE test, does it matter, and do I really have to take it? If you’re looking into graduate school, these may be questions that you’re asking yourself. And the answer, at least to the last two questions, varies. Most universities accept and/or require the GRE, others prefer the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). In order to find out if the GRE suits your needs, we’ll give you a rundown of what this test entails, what types of GRE scores you’ll want to shoot for, and what kinds of GRE prep you’ll want to do.

What is the GRE?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a test that many schools require as part of the application process for prospective grad students. The GRE test has three sections: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. While students have their choice of standardized tests (there’s also the GMAT), the GRE test sets itself apart with its flexibility. When taking the GRE exam, students have the option to go back and change answers, select which questions they want to answer first in a section, and select which GRE scores (from multiple tests) to send to universities. Most universities use GRE scores as a way to determine aptitude in several skill sets that are necessary for graduate-level business programs as well as other graduate degrees.

The majority of MBA programs that accept the GRE exam only require the GRE General Test, but some may recommend that you take a GRE subject test. Students can take a subject test in English literature, mathematics, psychology, biology, chemistry, or physics. When considering the GMAT vs GRE for admissions, potential business school students should keep in mind that demonstrating specialty skills with one of the subject tests may do wonders to set themselves apart from the crowd.

GRE Test Prep

Step one of preparing for the GRE is registering to actually take the test. You’ll need to create an ETS account, which you can do here. This account will give you crucial information about the test, and allow you to check your scores once you’ve completed the GRE. Be sure to complete your registration at least two days before your intended test date. When you’re registering, you can select up to four recipients to receive your official GRE scores once you complete the test.

Your GRE prep should look a bit like your SAT or ACT prep. This test will determine your future, so no pressure or anything. This is definitely not a situation where “winging it” will bene fit you, preparation is key.

But also, let that pressure fuel your studies. You should choose a method of study that suits your learning style. Increasing your reading can help boost your vocabulary and reading comprehension before the test. Take practice tests and retake them. And then for good measure, retake them again. Have we stressed that you should not go into the GRE exam blindly?

Here are some other suggestions for GRE test prep that may help:

    • Printed study guides: Sometimes it helps to have a physical copy that you can hold, highlight, and take notes on.
    • Flashcards: There are websites that provide printable cards, or you can create your own based on the research you’ve done. These flashcards can help you memorizing critical elements of the GRE test like vocabulary words or math equations.
    • Private Tutoring: This depends on your financial situation. If you have the means to hire a private tutor and feel that it will benefit you, it can’t hurt to hire someone to work one-on-one with you. Be sure you do your research though, hire someone with a proven track record for success.
    • Practice Apps: GRE studying apps are increasingly popular and easy to use for those who are constantly on the go. And if you plan to take your graduate courses online, this could be great practice for the studying you’ll have ahead of you in your program.
    • Practice Tests: These can be found online in varying degrees of difficulty. As you get closer to taking your actual GRE test, you’ll want to increase the difficulty so that you’re fully prepared. The practice materials on is a great place to start.

On the day of the GRE exam, try to arrive at least 30 minutes early. Be sure to bring a valid photo ID, your confirmation email, and a sweater or jacket of some kind in case the testing room is cold. You can leave your notes, scratch paper, and calculators at home. The administrator of the GRE test will provide scratch paper and calculators for you, and having your notes would be cheating, and we highly recommend that you refrain from doing that.

How did you do? GRE scores explained.

We’d love to say that your passion for business can’t be quantified, but apparently, it can. GRE scores are important, and the whole point of taking the test. The GRE score range for the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections is between 130 and 170 total possible points (for each section). These sections are scored in one-point increments. The analytical writing section has a score range between zero and six and is also scored in one-point increments. Sections with no answers will result in a “no score” or “NS”.

Once you get your GRE scores, you’ll receive a scaled score and a percentile rank. Your scaled score is your individual performance and your percentile rank is how you stack up against other GRE test takers.

So what are decent GRE scores? The average scores for the GRE General Test 2013-2016 were as follows: 149.97 for the verbal reasoning, 152.27 for the quantitative reasoning, and 3.48 for analytical writing. But it goes without saying, the higher you can score, the better.

In Summary

This is going to be like the Reddit tl;dr portion of this page. The GRE test is accepted by most universities and is a good indicator of your readiness for an MBA program or another graduate-level program. While the GMAT has its virtues, the GRE exam allows you to show specialization in other subject matter which could help you stand apart from the competition. Aim for GRE scores above 155 on the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections, and above 3.5 on the analytical writing portion. Do not go into the test with no preparation, hope will not get you far here. Prepare by using the methods that have served you well in the past and, while we make no promises, you should do just fine.

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