frequently asked questions about the GREYou’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. As you embark on your GRE preparation journey, it’s helpful to know exactly what’s in store for you. Put another way, as the great Lao Tzu said: “Know thy enemy!” So without further ado, here are answers to your most burning questions about the GRE.

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About the GRE

  1. What is the GRE?
  2. What does the GRE test?
  3. What is the format of the GRE?
  4. How much does the GRE cost?
  5. How long is my GRE score valid?
  6. Where do I take the GRE?
  7. Is the GRE hard?
  8. Can I use the GRE to apply to business school?
  9. What’s the difference between the GRE vs GMAT?
  10. How should I study for the GRE?
  11. What’s a good GRE score?


Q: What is the GRE?

A: The GRE General Test is an examination designed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to measure the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills you have developed in the course of your academic career. High GRE scores strongly correlate with the probability of success in graduate school: the higher you score, the more likely you are to complete your graduate degree. For this reason, many graduate and professional schools — and now business schools — require applicants to take the GRE General Test.

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Q: What does the GRE test?

A: The verbal section measures your ability to use words as tools in reasoning; you are tested not only on the extent of your vocabulary but on your ability to discern the relationships that exist both within written passages and among individual groups of words. The quantitative section measures your ability to use and reason with numbers and mathematical concepts; you are tested not on advanced mathematical theory but on general concepts expected to be part of everyone’s academic background. The mathematics covered should be familiar to most students who took at least two years of math in a high school in the United States. The writing section measures your ability to make rational assessments about unfamiliar, fictitious relationships and to logically present your perspective on an issue.

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Q: What is the format of the GRE?

A: The GRE General Test you take will have five or six sections. There will always be

  • one Analytical Writing section composed of two 30-minute tasks (60 minutes)
  • two 20-question Verbal Ability sections (30 minutes each)
  • two 20-question Quantitative Ability sections (35 minutes each)

In addition, there may be

  • an unidentified Experimental Section, which would be a third verbal or quantitative section

Occasionally, there may be

  • an identified optional research section (but not if there is an Experimental Section)

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Q: How much does the GRE cost?

A: The worldwide cost of the GRE is $205 US. You can learn more and register HERE.

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Q: How long is my GRE score valid?

A: GRE test scores are valid for five (5) years after the testing year in which you tested (July 1–June 30).

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Q: Where do I take the GRE?

A: The test is administered year-round at various centers in most locations around the world. The paper-based test is offered in areas of the world where computer-based testing is not available. The test appointments are given on a first-come-first-served basis — and seats fill up quickly so register early to get your preferred time, date, and location. To find a testing location near you, click HERE.

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Q: Is the GRE hard?

A: Going to war is hard. Losing a loved one is hard. Titanium is hard. The GRE? Let us put it this way: The GRE is a beatable test. All of the verbal and quantitative concepts tested on the GRE can be learned. It’s not an intelligence test, but rather a test of your ability to reason through challenging questions and apply vocabulary analytical writing, and mathematical concepts you’ve already learned at various points in your academic career.

Now, what makes the GRE challenging is that it may have been a long time since you’ve even thought about some of the quantitative topics tested — you know, things like the circumference of a circle or finding the roots of a quadratic equation. But don’t worry, that’s what our comprehensive online GRE prep courses are for — to help you dust off those math and verbal cobwebs and dominate every question type thrown your way.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, most people find the GMAT to be a more quantitatively-rigorous exam than the GRE. More on that below.

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Q: Can I use the GRE to apply to business school?

A: Yes. Er, maybe. Let me explain. Starting a few years ago, the GRE became an acceptable entrance exam alongside the long-standing GMAT exam for admission to most business school programs, including the traditional MBA. The GRE is increasing in popularity, and more and more students are applying to business school with it instead of the GMAT for various reasons. However, it’s still a good idea to check with the business schools you’re applying to and make 100% sure that they do in fact accept the GRE — and, more importantly, that they’ll view it as an equal to the GMAT when considering your application. While a huge majority of the world’s business schools are now on board with the GRE, there are still a few holdouts, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Q: What’s the difference between the GRE vs GMAT?

A: The GRE and GMAT are more alike than they are different. They both test roughly the same mathematical concepts, they both test your ability to comprehend what you read, and they both test your analytical reasoning ability, though in slightly different ways. The difference between the two exams comes in how they test these concepts. On the GMAT you’ll find a unique quantitative question type called Data Sufficiency, for example, while on the GRE you’ll find the infamous Quantitative Comparisons questions. On the GMAT you’ll find an explicit Critical Reasoning section, while the GRE is more vocabulary-intensive with its Sentence Completion questions. And of course the scoring metrics are different as are some of the logistical test-taking options (e.g. you can skip questions and come back to them on the GRE, whereas you can’t on the GMAT). For a full breakdown of the key differences between these two tests, watch the video below so that you can make the best decision for you as to which exam to take.

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Q: How should I study for the GRE?

A: Success on the GRE requires a balancing act between Content, Strategy, and Practice. First, you need to study and learn (or re-learn, in some cases) the actual underlying content tested on all sections of the GRE. You’ll need to brush up on geometry rules, solving simultaneous equations, finding the slope of a line, and comparing the relative size of ratios, for example. You’ll need to fill your head with TONS of vocabulary words, learn how to analyze a logical argument, and read complex passages for comprehension. And the list goes on.

But knowing a bunch of “stuff” is only half the battle. Being able to apply that knowledge to getting right answers in the most time-efficiency way possible is a second area where you need to focus time and energy during your studies. We call this GRE Strategy, and it’s the biggest differentiator for most students between getting a high GRE score and not.

And then ultimately, doing well at anything in life comes down to practice. In many ways the GRE is a test of what we call “pattern recognition,” meaning how quickly you can diagnose a question that pops up on your screen and immediately know how to proceed in answering it. The best way to improve your GRE pattern recognition is by working hundreds of practice problems and applying what you’re learning to full-length GRE simulator exams as well.

For a detailed, step-by-step game plan for dominating the GRE, our comprehensive online GRE prep course will teach you everything you need to know to boost your GRE score and get into the graduate program of your choice, guaranteed.

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Q: What’s a good GRE score?

A: Ultimately a “good” GRE score is any score that will get you admitted to the graduate program of your choice. That’s why you’re taking this test after all, isn’t it? So check with the admissions offices of the schools you’re applying to for a breakdown of their median and mean expected GRE scores, and use that as your gauge of “good.”

That said, let’s talk big picture for a second. You will receive one aggregate GRE Verbal score ranging from 130-170 in 1-point increments, and a separate aggregate GRE Quantitative score also ranging from 130-170 in 1-point increments. You will receive a third score for your Essays ranging from 0-6.

Based on current average scores for all GRE test takers worldwide, here’s a breakdown for you based on percentile rankings:

Elite GRE Scores (top 10%)

VERBAL: 163 – 170
WRITING: 5.0 – 6.0

Competitive GRE Scores (top 25%)

VERBAL: 158 – 162

Good GRE Scores (top 50%)

VERBAL: 152 – 157

Below Average GRE Scores (lower 50th percentile range)

VERBAL: 151 or below
QUANTITATIVE: 152 or below
WRITING: 3.5 or below

Note: These scores may still be enough to get you in to a wide variety of graduate programs, so be sure to communicate with the admissions offices of the schools you’re applying to — they’re there to help!

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