How to Prepare for the GRE Test

GRE is short for Graduate Record Exam. Many MBA and graduate business programs require it for admission. This exam tests critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, analytical writing skills, and verbal reasoning, which are essential to succeed in graduate programs and the business world.

The questions will cover basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis, passage comprehension, and college-level vocabulary. Read on to find out what the exam is all about and how to get ready for it.

About the GRE Test

With almost all graduate school applicants nowadays boasting fabulous transcripts and resumes, a great GRE score may be the only thing standing between you and that admission offer.

Most graduate school admission boards consider GRE scores when evaluating students’ applications. A great GRE score will give you an edge over other students.

The GRE is a 4.5-hour exam (including breaks) given by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). There are two types of GRE tests: the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Test.

Most schools require the General Test, while some require the Subject Test. In most cases, students use their Subject Test scores to demonstrate deep knowledge of specific subjects when applying to graduate-level programs.

Who takes the GRE?

woman in black and white sweater sitting by the table

You can take the GRE regardless of your age or educational background – there is no specific eligibility standard.

Even a bachelor’s degree is not required for the GRE. Nevertheless, since the GRE is used in conjunction with an applicant’s undergraduate qualifications to supplement their applications for graduate school, the GRE is often taken by people who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or are currently pursuing undergraduate programs.

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A high level of English fluency and strong reading comprehension skills are required when taking the GRE.

Furthermore, the general test evaluates a candidate’s knowledge of mathematical topics such as geometry, statistics, and algebra, whilst the subject tests evaluate their knowledge of that subject to graduate-level standards.

Institutions use it to assess a candidate’s qualifications and suitability for graduate school. To prevent poor performance in the exam, you must prepare for the GRE, just as you would for any other exam.

What is on the GRE?

There are three separate scoring sections on the GRE general test: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. It also includes an experimental element, which is assessed but not graded. Because the experimental section is always an extra verbal or quantitative section that is not graded, test takers have no way of knowing which section they are in. 

As a result, candidates are advised to answer all questions on the exam to the best of their abilities. The experimental part provides ETS with information on the effectiveness and complexity of new questions used to develop future tests. The GRE includes the following categories of questions:

  • Text Completion
  • Analytical Writing(Essay format)
  • Sentence Equivalence
  • Multiple Choice — select one answer
  • Numeric Entry
  • Multiple Choice — select more than one answer
  • Select-in-Passage

1. Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing component of the GRE is divided into two different and timed activities. Each activity in this section will take about 30 minutes to complete. The score scale is 0-6.

Analyzing an issue

As it turns out, the ‘issues’ task is actually where candidates present their own arguments, while the ‘argument’ task asks them to analyze and dissect the arguments of others.

Candidates are assigned a topic from a pool of general topics made public in advance. It is then up to them to interpret and organize arguments around the issue, choose a position, write a structured essay presenting their opinion, support it with evidence, and offer possible counterarguments.

Analyzing an argument

Here a candidate is required to evaluate the effectiveness of an argument presented to them in the argument task. Afterward, they should craft a response demonstrating their understanding of how the argument is built, what claims it makes, and the supporting evidence it provides.

Each question includes specific guidelines that a candidate must follow when responding. For that reason, it is a fabulous idea to practice with many GRE Writing Prompts before taking the examination.

2. Verbal Reasoning

In GRE Verbal Reasoning, you will encounter reading comprehension questions, text completion questions, and equivalence questions. The test evaluates a candidate’s vocabulary, knowledge of word relationships, comprehension skills, information retrieval skills, strategic reading abilities, and paraphrasing abilities.

Approximately half of the questions in this part demand the candidate to read long passages to find information. In contrast, the other half assess their ability to complete, evaluate, and comprehend sentences and paragraphs. The score scale is 130-170.

Text Completion

The verbal section of the GRE consists of roughly six Text Completion questions, where the candidate is required to choose from a range of choices to fill up to three blanks and complete sentences. The recommended time to take on each question is one minute.

Sentence Equivalence

In sentence equivalence questions, candidates must fill in the blank with two words, so two sentences give the same meaning. The Verbal section consists typically of 4 Sentence Equivalence questions that should take about a minute each.

Reading Comprehension

The GRE Reading Comprehension section consists of about ten questions based on five passages. To answer the questions that follow, candidates must read and paraphrase passages that are approximately 1-3 paragraphs long. It is recommended that students take around 1 to 3 minutes to read the passages and 1 minute to respond to each question.

3. Quantitative Reasoning

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning part consists of 3 major sections, each having 20 questions: Problem Solving, Quantitative Comparison, and Data Interpretation. The score scale is 130-170. The recommended time on each question is 1.5-2 minutes making approximately 35 minutes per section. 

Quantitative Comparison

In these questions, candidates are asked to identify the relationship between two variables, as stated in the following statements:

  • The quantity of A is greater than the quantity of B
  • The quantity of B is greater than the quantity of A
  • Both quantities are equal
  • In light of the information given, it is impossible to determine the relationship

To do a quick, reasonable comparison, candidates should make estimates or transform quantities only as much as it is necessary rather than trying to calculate them.

Problem Solving

A typical problem-solving exam typically requires 12 multiple choice and numeric entry questions (including three based on Data Interpretation). Candidates need to use different problem-solving strategies while also applying their knowledge of geometric and algebraic concepts to succeed.

Data Interpretation

The Data Interpretation questions also involve problem-solving, but the data is presented in charts and graphs. You will get three questions in this section.

Chart Summary of GRE sections, score scale, and recommended time per each.

SectionQuestion TypeNumber of QuestionsScore ScaleRecommended Time Per Question
Analytical WritingAnalytical Writing Essay Format20-630 minutes
Verbal
Reasoning
Text Completion6130-1701 minute
Verbal
Reasoning
Sentence Equivalence4130-1701 minute
Verbal
Reasoning
Reading Comprehension10130-1703 minutes to read a passage, 1 minute per question
Quantitative ReasoningQuantitative Comparison8130-1701.5 to 2 minutes
Quantitative ReasoningProblem Solving9130-1701.5 to 2 minutes
Quantitative ReasoningData Interpretation3130-1701.5 to 2 minutes

How is the GRE delivered?

You will be required to take a computer-based or paper-based test.

Preparing for the GRE can be a daunting and stressful experience. But it doesn’t really have to be that way!

We asked graduate students throughout the country for their best GRE preparation advice. Here’s what they recommend:

Study Tips!

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug

Prepare a 3- or 6-month study plan. 

The GRE is a vast syllabus. Most students take about 3 to 6 months to go through it from the start to the end. Be sure to build in time for taking practice tests under actual test day-like conditions.

Take a practice test for four quiet hours, track your time for each section, and allow yourself as many breaks as they allow you during the actual GRE.  This will acclimatize you to the test day conditions so you won’t panic, feel bored, or be exhausted quickly.

Here is the breakdown of the steps to follow in your study plan:

1. Schedule regular GRE prep time between now and test day

2. Use GRE Diagnostic Tests to figure out your strengths and weaknesses

3. Use professionally chosen GRE Study Guides to prep for your areas of weakness.

4. learn test-taking strategies and techniques for different types of GRE questions

5. Recreate exam conditions — practice on the desktop or P.C. if you’re taking a computer-administered test.

6. Continue studying and taking mock exams until you feel confident on test day!

Download a dedicated student study app

Student study apps make it easy to study on the go. Most of them provide access to flashcards, practice questions, and video lessons. Take advantage of these innovative apps.

While you’re waiting for class to commence or on the bus, use your app to study vocabulary or work through some practice questions instead of scrolling through TikTok or whatever social media app is trending in your time.

Schedule the exam during summer or winter break. 

There are a lot of GRE test dates every year, which is great for giving you options, but it can make choosing the best test date a challenge. Most GRE candidates are students enrolled in various undergraduate programs.

If that’s you, the best time to schedule the exam is during your winter or summer break. That way, you will not feel overwhelmed by your undergraduate classes while also taking the GRE.  Your GRE score is valid for five years after sitting for the exam.

Expand your vocabulary

Don’t simply study single vocab words; also look at roots, suffixes, and prefixes. I get a book that examines the roots of Greek, Latin, etc. roots of common English words to help expand your vocabulary.

Study test strategies

Don’t simply concentrate on the arithmetic and writing parts; study techniques to approach different GRE questions. Even gifted students panic in the exam if they don’t know the strategies to approach various questions.  

Various courses and books teach students proven and efficient test-taking strategies by former perfect test scorers. Learn how to manage your time, anxiety and break down tough questions. 

Study Resources

Part of the preparation involves prep resources. There are various GRE prep resources to help you get ready for your GRE. Get a prep solution that balances your workload and doesn’t stress you out.

You can pick from Private tutors, Quizlet flashcards, test prep websites, live in-person classes, and self-paced courses. It’s also possible to study with friends who share your work ethic. Here’s the breakdown:

  • If you want an app, you can download the Magoosh or Kaplan GRE app and go through the GRE vocab flashcards whether on the bus, waiting in a line, or taking a short breather from regular daily. These apps have vocabularies of varying difficulty, each with a definition, sentence, and rating option to indicate how much you know about the word. 
  • Get the official GRE test prep books from ETS. These offer an insider’s guide on the GRE, including how it’s marked, what strategies it tests, and teach several concepts. It also comes with hundreds of authentic practice tests.
  • Borrow the current Princeton Review’s GRE prep book from your local community library. Visit your local public library if you don’t have cash to splash on premium GRE prep materials. Several of them carry prep books and even have these periodic used book sales where you may find what you are looking for! For example, you may get the Princeton Review’s GRE prep book which provides an excellent explanation of tactics along with thousands of practice problems and up to 7 full-length practice tests.
  • Ask your friends, family, or anyone in your community to let you use their old books.
  • Hire a tutor. Test prep companies like Magoosh, ExamPAL, The Economist, and Princeton Review have GRE tutor bundles for students who want one-on-one private coaching. If you have difficulty understanding a particular exam topic or want a perfect score, tutoring is often the best way to prep.

Come Prepared

  • It will be a shame if you mess up on the test day after all the reading and testing because you get lost on your way to the venue, arrive late and without all the tools.
  • Do not drive yourself to the test center. Have someone drop you off there. You’ll be able to relax and be distracted from your nerves when you do this. You will also benefit from the encouragement of your family or friends before the big exam!
  • Bring a Valid photo I.D., authorization voucher or Confirmation email, water and sweatshirt and layers because exam centres are often cold.
  • If noise-cancelling headphones are provided at the examination center, please use them. This could help you feel less distracted and intimidated by your fellow test-takers – leading to better performance!
  • Be sure to make a list of a few graduate schools before taking the GRE.
  • If you pass the test, you can send your score directly to the programs for free. 
  • Check ASHA EdFind before you take the GRE to find out what score you should aim for based on the grad schools you wish to attend
  • Pack some healthy snacks to re-energize during breaks

How to register for the GRE

You can sign up for the GRE either via mail or online. You can verify test center availability and register for the computer-delivered exam on the ETS  website. If you have previously booked the exam online or by mail, you can also sign up by phone

  • Call 1-800-473-2255 to register by phone. Have a paper and pen with you ready to write down vital details.
  • To register via mail if you plan to sit for the paper-and-pencil exam, complete the Test Authorization Voucher Request Form and mail it together with your payment to the address written on the form

If you want to learn more about the GRE registration proves, please visit  GRE Exam Registration Information and How to Register for the GRE Exam websites.

GRE costs

 Subject TestGeneral Test
Australia, Nigeria, Turkey, and ChinaNAGRE Registration Fees
The United States and the rest of the world$150$205

What is the TOTAL cost of the GRE?

Candidates for the GRE should factor in the expense of preparation materials in addition to the registration fee. Test takers frequently purchase a variety of study aids, such as:

  • Textbooks (about $30 each)
  • Complete course manuals (about $175 each)
  • GRE preparation classes (up to $4000)
  • Private tutoring (fees range from $100 to $200 per hour)

How is the GRE scored?

To calculate a GRE score, raw scores (the EXACT number of questions answered correctly) are converted into a scaled score using an equation. The scores of each candidate are scaled so that they may be compared across versions of the test (since difficulty levels vary slightly between editions).

Analytical writing is scored on a 0–6-point scale, while Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning are both rated on a 130–170-point scale. Any part where the student doesn’t answer will be assigned a No Score (N.S).

What is considered a good GRE score?

Within the GRE score range, a good score depends on what program to get into and the school you have in mind.  Some colleges publish online the information on GRE result percentiles they’ve accepted in past years.

As a point of comparison, average  Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning scores on the GRE are about 151 and an average Writing Analytical score of around 3.5.

Scaled Analytical Writing ScorePercentile
4.050th
4.575th
5.0-6.090th
Scaled Quantitative Reasoning ScorePercentile
153-15850th
159-16475th
165-17090th
Scaled GRE Verbal Reasoning ScorePercentile
152-15750th
158-16275th
163-17090th

How important are my GRE scores?

During the admissions process, your GRE score has an important impact on your application. Consequently, you should prepare as well as you can for the test. Many college admission boards consider it when evaluating candidate applications.

What is GRE ScoreSelect?

ScoreSelect is a method of sending your GRE scores to selected schools after taking the computer-delivered test. The computer displays your unofficial Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores as soon as you complete the test. Choose either of these options:

  • Choose your latest score
  • If you have taken the GRE a few times, submit all of your scores
  • If you don’t want your scores shared, don’t submit any

Alternatively, after leaving the test center, you can send any test scores you have previously obtained if you feel that results from a particular attempt will be more helpful. A GRE score is useful for five years, and when you decide to submit the results for every section of the exam will be shared – you cannot pick and choose to share the sections you performed well only and hide the rest

GRE frequently asked questions

How long does the GRE take? The computer-administered test takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, while the paper-and-pencil exam test takes three and a half hours. There are breaks between sections, which brings the total exam time to a total of 4.5 hours.

What do I carry to the exam testing center? Please bring the following items on the GRE test day because the test center won’t supply them.

Computer-delivered test

  • Valid photo I.D.
  • The authorization vouchers

Paper-delivered test

  • Valid photo I.D.
  • The confirmation email/letter
  • A good eraser and three No. 2 or H.B. pencils are required (mechanical pencils and pens will not be permitted)

Does the GRE allow students to use calculators? A calculator may be used while taking the GRE test, but you cannot bring your own calculator.

Candidates taking a computer-delivered test can utilize an on-screen calculator, while those taking the paper-and-pencil exam test can borrow a one from the testing facility.

Is scratch paper allowed during the GRE? Indeed, scratch paper is encouraged. During the exam, you cannot use your own paper, though. The test center will supply you with one.

How long does it take to get GRE scores? You can view your GRE scores in your ETS account and share them with the schools you wish to join. You can see your unofficial Quantitative and Verbal results for the Verbal and Quantitative parts right away if you choose to report your scores after completing the computer-delivered test. Otherwise, it’s as follows.

 GRE Subjects TestGRE General Test
Computer-administered examWithin five weeks of the test’s completion10 to 15 days
Paper-and-pencil examIt takes about five weeks following the test date to see the results.It takes about five weeks following the test date to see the results.

How long do the GRE scores remain valid? After taking the exam, your score will be valid for five years. The GRE testing year begins on the 1st of July

What is the process for submitting my GRE scores? You are allowed to submit your score to up to four graduate schools without any additional charge. As soon as you have completed your examination, you can select which institutions you wish to report your scores to, as explained on ScoreSelect above.

Additionally, you can choose to have your scores sent to additional institutions after the test date for an extra $27 per school

When should you take the GRE? If you want to take the GRE, make sure to register early because spots fill up rapidly. Prometric test centers give computer-delivered examinations all year, while non-network testing centers only offer GRE tests at particular times, and paper tests are only offered twice a year.

The biggest factor is when you plan on attending graduate school. Make the decision to take the GRE only once you’re certain that graduate school is the next step in your career. If you intend to enter graduate school immediately or soon after graduation from college, taking the exam during your junior year is the best option.

If you want to get a few years of professional experience under your belt before going to grad school, taking the exam during your senior year may be a better option. You’ll have five years to decide whether or not to go back to school before you have to take the test again.

Is it possible to retake the GRE? Yes, if you are not pleased with the first-time score, there are five chances to retake the GRE in a year. But at least 21 days must pass between tests.

Is it possible to cancel my GRE scores? Upon completing the test, you will be able to view your scores or cancel them. You cannot cancel your scores after you have viewed them. It is impossible to cancel scores for specific sections while viewing others – either you report your score for the whole exam or cancel everything. If you want to reinstate your canceled score, you can do so through your ETS account within two months of the test date for an extra $50.

Wrap-up 🎁

Prepping for the GRE involves learning all there’s to know about the exam, how to register, how it’s scored, what kind of questions to expect, what’s considered a good score, then learning both concepts and strategies.

It also involves lots of practice to gain test-taking confidence. Many schools consider the GRE when evaluating candidate applications, so prepare adequately using the above steps.