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GRE FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the GRE

The GRE is a long, complex exam that requires many hours of preparation. Students (like you) are bound to have various questions as they progress through their studies. Thankfully, our test experts have thoroughly analyzed the most prevalent questions and provided their answers in our GRE FAQ blog post series. Find the answers to all of our students’ GRE frequently asked questions (GRE FAQs) below!

Note that most of these questions pertain to the GRE General Test, not the GRE Subject Tests.

gre frequently asked questions

GRE Frequently Asked Questions Table of Contents

So many questions, so little time! We grouped your frequently asked GRE questions by topic to make them easier to find.

Use the links below to jump to the topic most closely related to your question.


 

GRE FAQ: Basics

Click the black arrows to reveal the short answer to your question. Then click the “Recommended Read” link to learn more.

How much does the GRE cost?

At a minimum, everyone who takes the GRE must pay a mandatory $205 registration fee. However, there may be late fees, rescheduling fees, and other costs depending upon your situation.

Recommended Read: How Much Does the GRE Cost

How long is the GRE?

Excluding breaks, the test length is three hours and forty-five minutes. This includes:

  • The writing section—two essays in total (60 minutes total)
  • Two verbal sections (30 minutes each, 60 minutes total)
  • Two quantitative sections (35 minutes each, 70 minutes total)
  • One ungraded experimental section (30-35 minutes)

Recommended Read: How Long is the GRE?

Who can take the GRE?

Actually, anyone can take the GRE. However, because the GRE is used for graduate schools admissions, most people will not be ready to take the GRE until they have completed a significant portion of their undergraduate work.

Recommended Read: GRE Exam Eligibility

How important is the GRE?

The GRE is one factor in grad school admissions. It’s not the only factor, but at least one section of the exam (typically the one most directly connected to the field you’re applying to) is an important piece of the admissions puzzle.

Recommended Read: How Important Is the GRE?

What does the GRE measure?

The GRE tests both verbal concepts (grammar, reading comprehension, etc.) and quantitative reasoning (math and data interpretation skills), as well as your analytical writing abilities. Within each test section, you’ll come across a variety of question topics and concepts, from sentence equivalence in the Verbal test to geometry in the Quant test.

Recommended Reads: Everything You Need to Know About the GRE and The Test Format of the GRE

How is the general GRE different from GRE subject tests?

The GRE general test examines your verbal, math, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. GRE subject tests, on the other hand, each focus on a particular area (like Math, Biology, or English).

Recommended Read: GRE General vs GRE Subject Tests

How is the GRE administered?

The GRE is a computer-based test, so you’ll take it at a testing center in a room full of computers. This means that it’s important to become familiar with the test interface beforehand—for example, by taking an online practice test.

Recommended Read: Magoosh’s Guide to GRE Test Day

What is adaptive testing (CAT)?

Adaptive tests use computer algorithms to “adapt” to the user’s skill level. The GRE is adaptive between sections. This means questions within a given math or verbal section will not change depending upon your performance. However, after completing a section, the next section you see will be adjusted to your abilities, based on the results of the previous section.

In other words, performing better on the first section will lead to a more difficult second section. This can be a good thing if you start strong—those who advance to more difficult sections will typically receive higher scores than those who are relegated to easier sections.

Recommended Reads: Is the GRE Adaptive? and Free Magoosh Lesson Video: Computer Adaptive Testing

Can I take a paper GRE?

Maybe! You can take a paper-based GRE if the computer-based test isn’t available in your part of the world. Unlike the computer-based test, the paper-based GRE is only available a few times a year, so it’s important to make plans early.

Recommended Read: Educational Testing Service’s (ETS’s) guide to the paper-based test


 

Registering for the GRE

Click the black arrows to reveal the short answer to your question. Then click the “Recommended Read” link to learn more.

How do I register for the GRE?

To register for the GRE, you’ll need to create an ETS account. Have your test dates in mind before you log on.

Recommended Read: How to Register for the GRE

How do I register for a paper-based GRE?

You can register for a paper-based GRE online, at the ETS website, or by mail. However, before you do, make sure that the computer-based test is not offered in your area; otherwise, you might end up having to do a lot of traveling to get to a test center!

Recommended Read: ETS’s guide to the paper-based test

Where can I take the GRE?

Short answer? Prometric test centers. Longer answer? You can find the test centers nearest you on the ETS website.

Recommended Read: ETS: GRE Test Centers & Dates

When can I take the GRE?

Almost any day of the year! That is, if you’re taking the computer-based test. The paper-based test is offered far less often, most recently twice a year (in November and February).

Recommended Read: Magoosh’s full guide to GRE test dates

How do I reschedule the GRE?

You can reschedule your GRE exam as long as you aren’t within four days of your scheduled test date. To do so, login to your ETS account and pay the $50 rescheduling fee.

Recommended Read: How and When to Reschedule Your GRE Exam
 
Jump to Retaking the GRE to learn how often you can take the test.


 

GRE Scores

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How are multiple-answer questions scored?

Sorry, there’s no partial credit on the GRE. If a question asks for more than one correct answer, you’ll need to give all possible correct answers to get those points. Your answer is either 100% correct or 100% incorrect.

Recommended Read: ETS Sample Questions

When and how do I get my scores?

You’ll see your unofficial scores (for the math and verbal sections of the test) right there at the test center after you finish the exam. But remember that it takes time to grade your essay. Your official scores won’t be available in your ETS account, or mailed out to graduate programs, until 10-15 days after the test.

Recommended Read: ETS: Getting Your GRE Scores

What is a good GRE score?

Average GRE scores are: 303 overall, 150 in Verbal and 153 in Quant. Most people consider “above average” to be pretty good. What’s good for you, though, will depend on the programs you hope to attend.

Recommended Read: What Is a Good GRE Score?

How is the GRE scored?

GRE multiple-choice sections (Verbal and Quant) are scored between 130 and 180, for an overall score of 240-360. The AWA is scored between 0 and 6, in half-point increments.

Recommended Read: Ultimate Guide to Scoring on the GRE

Which GRE scores do schools see?

You choose which schools to send your scores to at the beginning of the test (before you know how well you performed) using ScoreSelect—but remember that you you do not have to use this feature!

At the end of the test, when you see your scores, you can determine whether or not you want to send these particular scores to your programs. Schools see only the scores you want them to see. So, even if you don’t use ScoreSelect on the day of the test, you can still choose to send your scores later, for an additional fee.

Recommended Read: The Ultimate Guide to GRE Scoring

How do I send GRE scores?

You have two options: either use ScoreSelect on test day to send your scores to schools automatically, or choose to opt out and pay a fee to send your scores later on.

Recommended Read: How do I send my GRE score report?

How long are GRE scores valid?

If you took (or will take) the GRE on or after July 1, 2016, then your scores are valid for up to five years after your test date.

So, say you’re planning to take the GRE on February 2, 2020. Your GRE scores will be reportable until February 1, 2025.

Can I cancel my GRE scores?

Yes. You’ll have the option to cancel your scores at the end of the exam, when you get your unofficial scores on-screen. However, depending on your circumstances, you might consider re-taking the GRE instead and just choosing not to send those earlier scores to your programs.

Scroll down to read more about retaking the GRE.


 

The GRE and Admissions

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What schools accept/require the GRE?

When applying to graduate school, most students find that at least one program they’re interested in requires the GRE. Generally, you’re more likely NOT to need the GRE when applying to professional degrees, non-doctoral terminal degrees, or online programs, but this can vary considerably.

Recommended Read: Schools That Don’t Require the GRE

Can I use the GRE to apply to business school?

In some cases, yes! The GRE is an increasingly popular alternative to the GMAT for some—not all!—business schools.

Recommended Read: GRE scores you need for business schools

How do GRE and GMAT scores compare?

GRE test takers are scored between 130 and 170 for each multiple-choice section and 0-6 for the AWA, for a combined score of 260-340. GMAT test takers receive a raw score of between 0 and 60 on both multiple-choice sections, for a combined score of between 200 and 800. The GMAT AWA is also scored between 0 and 6, while Integrated Reasoning is scored between 1 and 8.

Recommended Read: GRE vs. GMAT—Which Should You Take?

Do business schools prefer the GRE or the GMAT?

If the schools you’re looking at say they accept the GRE in place of the GMAT, it doesn’t make a difference which scores you submit. However, make sure that they do—while the practice of accepting either is increasingly popular, it’s not universal just yet!

Recommended Read: GRE vs. GMAT—Which Should You Take?

Can I submit GRE scores for law school?

Sometimes! ETS has a list of law programs that accept GRE scores.

Recommended Read: GRE vs LSAT


 

Preparing for the GRE

Click the black arrows to reveal the short answer to your question. Then click the “Recommended Read” link to learn more.

What are the best GRE books?

The offerings from ETS—including the Official Guide, the Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, and the Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions—are the best GRE books you can find. ETS is the same company that produces the GRE itself, so the material in these books is written to the same specifications as content you’d find on a real GRE.

Aside from these, we recently published our own book: GRE Prep by Magoosh. The content in this book was carefully curated by our GRE experts, and we believe it is one of the strongest third-party GRE books available.

We also have a series of free eBooks and resources that may be found below:

Recommended Read: Best GRE Books

How do I prepare for the GRE?

GRE preparation is different for everyone, depending on your strengths, weaknesses, score goals, and many other factors. However, a great first step is to check out this Free Guide to the GRE test, then pick out a GRE study guide that matches your needs and goals.

Recommended Read: How to Study for the GRE in One Month

How long should I study for the GRE?

Most students will need to study for between one and six months, depending on their existing level of preparation and score goals.

Recommended Read: How Long Should I Study for the GRE (Bonus: There’s a free quiz to help you decide!)


 

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Measure (GRE Math)

Click the black arrows to reveal the short answer to your question. Then click the “Recommended Read” link to learn more.

How hard is GRE math?

Most students find GRE math challenging, especially because many haven’t taken a math course since college (or even high school!). However, once you’ve refreshed your memory of the basics and tackled some specific concepts that are frequently tested on the GRE math test, you’ll likely be feeling much more confident!

Recommended Read: How Hard is the GRE (by section)

Can I use a calculator?

GRE test takers will have access to a simple calculator capable of performing addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, and square root operations.

That being said, we are strong advocates of avoiding the calculator whenever possible.

The GRE is not testing your ability to punch numbers into a machine. Instead, the GRE is analyzing your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Most problems will not require a calculator at all, and it is typically quicker to perform simple operations mentally. Granted, there will be a few problems—like those involving multiple decimals, or multiplication/division of complex numbers—where calculator use is warranted. But for the most part, relying on mental math is the best strategy.

Recommended Read: Can you Use a Calculator on the GRE?

Can I use scratch paper during the GRE?

Yes! That is, you are allowed to use the scratch paper that the test center provides. You’ll get plenty; just raise your hand if you need more. You’ll also get a pencil.

Recommended Read: Scratch Paper on the GRE


 

GRE Verbal Reasoning Measure

How hard is GRE verbal?

Pretty hard—a lot of test takers find the vocabulary especially tricky. However, just like GRE math, you can prepare in advance to tackle this challenge. Vocabulary flashcards and reading practice are top priorities!

Recommended Read: How Hard Is the GRE?

What does GRE verbal test?

GRE verbal tests three question types: reading comprehension (passages followed by questions), sentence equivalence (finding words that give the sentence the same meaning), and text completion (completing a sentence with a reasonable vocabulary word).

Recommended Read: The Ultimate Guide to GRE Verbal Reasoning

Do I need to study vocabulary for GRE verbal?

Yes! Even if you’re a vocabulary genius, you will still want to brush up on your GRE-level vocabulary. GRE verbal loves to test obscure, esoteric words. But just like everything else on the GRE, you can prepare to master this aspect of the test by getting good materials (flashcards) and starting to study well in advance of your test date!

Recommended Resource: Magoosh Vocabulary Builder (You can download the app or study online.)


 

GRE Analytical Writing (The Essay)

Click the black arrows to reveal the short answer to your question. Then click the “Recommended Read” link to learn more.

How is the AWA different from a regular essay?

First of all, remember that you’re writing two essays in the analytical writing section—and these aren’t your elementary school book reports! On the Analyze an Issue essay, you’ll respond to a general statement about contemporary life (yep, pretty broad&mash;this can be political, educational, or cultural), and make a coherent argument about it. In the Analyze an Argument essay, you’ll break down and analyze the logic of the argument the test provides for you. Check out this video for more AWA basics.

Recommended Read: The Ultimate Guide to the GRE Analytical Writing

What tools does the AWA interface have?

It’s a pretty basic word processor interface. You can insert, delete, cut and paste, undo, and scroll. No spell-check! Sorry.

Recommended Read: ETS: What to Expect While Taking the GRE General Test (Click the “+” next to “Computer-delivered GRE General Test.”)

How is the AWA scored?

The two AWA essays you write are scored by both a computer and a human grader on a scale between 0 and 6. Those scores are averaged and rounded to the nearest half-point. Don’t worry—if there’s a disagreement, a second human grader will read your essay, and your score will be the average of the two human graders’ scores.

Recommended Read: ETS: Score Level Descriptions for the Analytical Writing Measure


 

GRE FAQs: Retaking the GRE

Click the black arrows to reveal the short answer to your question. Then click the “Recommended Read” link to learn more.

Can I retake the GRE?

Absolutely! Many test takers do. In fact, you can retake the computer-based test up to five times a year (no fewer than 21 days apart).

Recommended Read: Should I Retake the GRE?

How often can I take the GRE?

You can take the computer-based GRE once every 21 days, if you want to! Well, sort of—you can only take the GRE a maximum of five times within a 12-month period, even if you canceled your scores for one of your previous exams. The paper-base GRE is a bit different, though. You can take it as often as it is offered, which is usually about two times in a year.

Recommended Read: Is it worth taking the GRE again?

How do I study for a GRE retake?

The most important thing you can do when studying for a GRE retake is to figure out what went wrong on your last test. Do you need to prep more in a certain concept area? Work on time management? Take more practice tests? Lower your anxiety levels? Focus your energy where it counts so you can walk into your retake with confidence.

Recommended Read: How to Study for a GRE Retake

Enough Q&A: What do I do next?

Preparing for the GRE can seem overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to actually be overwhelming! Now that you know more about what the test is and how it’s delivered, there should be very few surprises on test day. Now it’s time to study.

Breaking your study time into manageable chunks can help you get where you need to be by your scheduled test date. Where should you start? Check out Magoosh’s GRE study schedules for advice on how to organize your GRE test prep in the way that works best for you!

P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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2 Responses to GRE FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the GRE

  1. Aniruddh July 8, 2018 at 2:32 am #

    Hello Magoosh Team,

    I just wanted to know how much does the actual GRE vary with regards to toughness to the ETS Power Prep Tests.

    I have my GRE on July 31,2018 and I gave my ETS powerprep test 1 a couple of days ago and scored 330 in it. How much can i expect in my actual GRE?

    Would appreciate a response.

    Warm Regards,

    Aniruddh.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 11, 2018 at 10:28 am #

      Hi Aniruddh,

      The Powerprep test is generally the most accurate score predictor because it’s made by the test-makers themselves. If you took the Powerprep test under real test-like conditions, then you are in great shape for the test! Keep in mind, however, that there are several things that can negatively impact your score on test day. Make sure that you have a plan to decrease test stress and deal with adverse testing conditions such as noisy neighbors, cold A/C and other distractions. Sleep well the night before, have a healthy breakfast, bring snacks, and plan your route to the test center! You should plan ahead to make sure that you give yourself the best shot at achieving this awesome score on the big day!


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