What Is The GRE? A Complete Guide (2023)

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Since its inception in 1936, thousands have taken the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)® to gain admission into advanced training programs. If you want to enroll in a master’s degree program without sitting for the Graduate Admission Management Test (GMAT)™ or Law School Admission Test (LSAT)®, the GRE is your best bet.

This guide answers pertinent questions about the GRE, including how much it costs, what is considered a good score and how to study for the GRE.

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What Does the GRE Cover?

The GRE is a standardized test often required for admission into graduate school. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) oversees and administers the exam.

Previously, graduate-level business schools required the GMAT as the standard screening test for admission. Today, more business schools accept the GRE as an equivalent option.

In addition, some arts and science graduate programs also use the GRE to screen graduate school applicants. In a 2021 council meeting, the American Bar Association voted to permit accredited law schools to accept GRE test scores instead of LSAT scores during admission screenings.

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The GRE general test covers three primary sections:

Verbal Reasoning

The verbal reasoning section evaluates a candidate’s ability to understand words, sentences and texts. The section also measures one’s ability to understand text structure, analyze reading material and determine the author’s perspective.

The verbal reasoning section contains three question categories—reading comprehension, text completion and sentence equivalence. The assessment lasts one hour, with 30 minutes allotted for each section and 20 questions in each section.

Quantitative Reasoning

The quantitative reasoning section of the exam measures your ability to solve problems using mathematical models. The problems presented in this section touch on topics such as algebra, arithmetic, geometry and data analysis.

The section lasts 70 minutes. The test is split into two 35-minute sets, with 20 questions in each section.

Analytical Writing

The GRE’s analytical writing section evaluates your ability to articulate complex ideas and construct and evaluate arguments with relevant reason. The section consists of two separately timed writing tasks, each lasting 30 minutes.

The “analyze an issue” task requires you to construct an argument based on an issue highlighted in the prompt. You must also provide reasons and examples to prove your viewpoint on the matter.

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The “analyze an argument” task requires you to evaluate the rationality of another argument according to specific instructions.

How Is the GRE Scored?

Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning

Scores for the verbal and quantitative reasoning measures ranked on a scale of 130 to 170. First, the ETS grades verbal and quantitative reasoning tests on the number of correct responses to all questions in each segment.

Then ETS converts the raw score into a scaled score through the equating process. The equating process accounts for variations among multiple test versions and ensures that the test’s difficulty level and required performance stay consistent, regardless of the test edition.

The scaled score is the final grade displayed for the verbal and quantitative reasoning measures.

Analytical Writing

An experienced essay rater appointed by the ETS grades each essay in the analytical writing measure on a scale of 0 to 6. Afterward, the e-rater scoring engine—software developed by the ETS to evaluate students’ writing proficiency—assigns its own scores to each essay.

If the e-rater and human-assigned grades are within the same range, the average of both grades becomes the final score. However, if the trained rater’s and e-rater’s scores differ, a second human score is obtained. Then, the average of both human-assigned scores becomes the final grade for the candidate’s analytical writing test.

What Is a Good Score on the GRE?

A “good” GRE score is subjective based on the admission requirements for your preferred graduate program. However, as with all other standardized tests, there is a benchmark you should strive for.

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In the following section, we analyze the average performance of GRE test-takers using data obtained by the ETS from 2018 to 2021.

  • Verbal Reasoning: 150.61
  • Quantitative reasoning: 154.34
  • Analytical writing: 3.60

While it’s reasonable to consider the average scores as a benchmark, some graduate institutions may select candidates based on performance relative to other test-takers, such as the percentile formula.

Candidates who scored 162 in the verbal reasoning segment and 168 in quantitative reasoning fell in the 90th percentile, according to ETS. Candidates who scored 5.0 or higher in the analytical writing section performed better than 91% of all the other test-takers.

High performance significantly increases a candidate’s chances of admission into a prestigious graduate program.

What Are the GRE Subject Tests?

The GRE subject tests evaluate a candidate’s depth of knowledge in a particular field of study. The tests are for graduate candidates who have completed an undergraduate major in chemistry, physics, mathematics or psychology.

The GRE subject test consists of multiple choice questions and lasts two hours and 50 minutes.

Taking the GRE

How to Register

  • Decide when to take the test. The GRE is offered year-round at authorized centers in over 160 countries. Make sure to schedule your exam before the admissions deadline, as results are released 10 to 15 days after your test date.
  • Create an ETS account. The next step is to create an account that matches your identification documents. An ETS account will give you access to GRE testing updates, test preparation materials and score reports.
  • Determine where to send your scores. After paying the test fee, you can select up to four graduate institutions or fellow sponsors to receive your scores. For an additional fee, the ETS can send your scores to more than four recipients when you request additional score reports.
  • Register for the GRE. You can register for the general test at an authorized test center or at home via your ETS account. Complete the registration at least two days before your test date to get your preferred test center.

Where to Take the GRE

To find a GRE test center near you, simply search on the ETS website. However, if you meet the ETS equipment and environment requirements, you can take the general tests from the comfort of your own home.

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To do so, you must meet the following equipment requirements:

  • Use a desktop or laptop
  • Use an approved and licensed operating system, such as Windows® OS for PC and Apple® OS for Macbook
  • Use a Chrome™ or Firefox® browser
  • Use a single screen or monitor for the exam
  • Pass the ProctorU equipment check

How Much Does the GRE Cost?

The cost of GRE registration varies depending on your location. The general test fee is $220, but it is $231.30 in China and $228 in India.

Additional fees apply to special handling requests such as rescheduling the test, changing your test center and additional scoring services.

If you need assistance covering the cost of the GRE, you can request a fee reduction voucher. The voucher covers a significant portion of the test fee, reducing the general test fee to $100 and the subject test fee to 50% off the regular fee.

GRE test fees can be paid via a credit or debit card, PayPal, eCheck or an authorization voucher.

Retaking the GRE

If your GRE scores do not meet the admission requirements of your chosen graduate school, you can retake the test after 21 days. However, note that you can only take the test up to five times within 12 months. The retesting policy applies even if you cancel your previous test scores.

GRE Preparation Tips

The ETS offers complimentary sample questions to help candidates prepare adequately for the exam. In addition, the organization offers free access to PowerPrep practice tests and monthly GRE virtual events where candidates can gain insights from successful test takers.

(Video) ETS GRE Preparation Guide: Format, Syllabus, Best Books

Individuals who struggle with quantitative reasoning can improve their skills through in-depth study with Khan Academy math courses and ETS’s math review.


Is the official guide to GRE enough? ›

in GRE Product Reviews

If you're preparing for the GRE, you must have heard of The Official Guide to the GRE General Test. It is the most authoritative book for the GRE as it comes directly from the test-makers. It contains authentic exam questions from actual past GRE tests.

How hard is a 150 on the GRE? ›

For example, a scaled Verbal score of 150 on the GRE translates to roughly the 47 th percentile, meaning that you scored better than 47 percent of other test takers—and worse than the other 53 percent of test takers. Here are the most recent GRE percentile ranks, released by ETS.

How hard is 320 GRE score? ›

The 320 GRE percentile is around 80 percent or above! But again, the GRE is a sectional game. If you want admission in a specific course, say engineering, you need to up your game and receive the highest possible score in the quant section.

How hard is it to get 170 on the GRE? ›

Yes, 170 on the quants equals the 97th percentile. This means that 3 out of every 100 students who take the GRE receive this score. The average GRE Quant score is approximately 152.

Is the actual GRE easier than the practice tests? ›

ETS practice tests are designed to mirror the overall difficulty of the actual GRE. That said, the GRE has changed somewhat over the years. So, older official practice tests (i.e., the two, free POWERPREP I tests) are slightly easier than current GRE exams, particularly in quant.

Is 80% good on the GRE? ›

In general, any score above the 50th percentile can be considered a decent GRE score. Try to aim for a score that's higher than the average of students in your prospective program. Remember to focus on the GRE section that's most relevant to your field of study.

Is 130 the lowest GRE score? ›

The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning consists of 40 questions each. So, the highest raw score would be 40, provided you get every single question right. These raw scores are then converted, or scaled, to the score range of 130 to 170, the former being the lowest and the latter being the section-wise GRE highest score.

Why is the lowest GRE score 130? ›

Very few people receive the lowest possible GRE score. When we look at the GRE percentile chart, we can see that 131-132 are both 1st percentile scores for Verbal. This means that so few people receive a score of 130 on verbal that it is numerically negligible.

How many questions can you miss on the GRE to get a 150? ›

How Many Questions Can You Miss on the GRE?
Raw Score/Number of Correct AnswersVerbal Reasoning Scaled ScoreQuantitative Reasoning Scaled Score
47 more rows

Can I study for the GRE in 30 days? ›

But, it is strongly recommended that you spend at least 30 days studying for the GRE. Any less than that will only mean you will have to sacrifice a few topics, which is not ideal for someone looking to score a 320+ on the GRE.

What is a failing GRE score? ›

What's a bad GRE score? A bad GRE score is one that excludes you from the program that you want to attend. That's all! But, for more context, the bottom 10% of test-takers score below 139 in Verbal and 141 in Quant.

Is 315 a low GRE score? ›

For most top-50 schools, a good GRE score is in the mid-to-high 150s on both sections. Based on this data, an overall GRE score of 310 to 315 is a good GRE score for MBA applicants, while a score of 325 is excellent.

Can high GRE compensate low GPA? ›

While applying, GRE is one of the few ways for the admissions committee to judge your academic prowess. Since your GPA is low, therefore a high GRE score can compensate by establishing your academic ability.

Can I increase my GRE score by 20 points? ›

Here's about how long you can expect to study for a particular point increase: 5 points = 40 hours. 10 points = 80 hours. 20 points = 160 hours.

How is 260 the lowest score in GRE? ›

Understanding the GRE minimum score for admission requires the candidate to know what the lowest possible score that can be scored in GRE. GRE verbal and GRE quant are both marked on a GRE score range of 130 – 170. Therefore, the lowest score is not 0 but 130 in each of them, with the total GRE score being 260.

What is the hardest section of the GRE? ›

The Math Portion: The math portion of the GRE does require a solid knowledge of math concepts. For many, this makes the GRE difficult because the quantitative reasoning portion covers concepts such as basic statistics, graphs, data tables, geometry and algebra.

Why is the GRE so easy? ›

Compared to other graduate exams, such as the MCAT, LSAT or, GMAT, the GRE is often considered less difficult because the GRE requires less specialized knowledge, has an easier curve, and generally has less-challenging math questions compared to other graduate exams.

Do most people take the GRE more than once? ›

Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “no!” Many people take the GRE more than once in order to get their highest score. Sometimes you just have a bad day at the test center, or you need to take the GRE more than once to learn how to pace yourself, and grad schools are aware of that.

What is the lowest acceptable GRE score? ›

Your GRE exam is divided into three sections. The GRE minimum score for your Verbal Section is 130, your GRE minimum score for your Quantitative Section is 130 and the GRE minimum score for your Analytical writing is 0. Hence, the GRE minimum score is 260 excluding the GRE Analytical section.

How long should I study for the GRE? ›

By and large, the exam is a test of patterns, not facts, so if you want to raise your GRE score, you will need sufficient time to practice. We suggest you devote between 4 and 12 weeks to GRE preparation.

What is a good starting score for GRE? ›

He adds that a score near or above 160 is generally good enough to get into most programs, though some top programs with a math focus might still want to see higher scores around 165. For verbal scores, anything in the high 150s or above is a good score, Starr says.

What is the lowest GRE score accepted at Harvard? ›

If you're planning to get into one of the renowned universities in the USA, for your graduate or postgraduate studies, then you probably are wondering how much GRE is required for Harvard? Generally, the highest possible GRE Harvard score is 340, and the lowest possible score is 260.

What is the top 1% GRE score? ›

GRE percentile scores are different for Quant and Verbal reasoning. For instance, a score of 169 and 170 will be in the 99th percentile, which means it is among the top 1%, but in Quant, a score of 170% will be in the 97th percentile, implying that around 3% of Quant test-takers will receive the perfect score.

Is a 290 bad on the GRE? ›

Is GRE Score Between 290-300 Good Enough? A GRE score between 290 and 300 is neither poor nor particularly well-regarded. You must achieve a score of at least 300 to be admitted to a highly renowned Ivy League institution. But there's no reason to give up.

Is 292 a good GRE score? ›

Generally, a 75th percentile is a pretty good GRE score, and a 90th percentile is an excellent one. Thus, we can say that a score of 318 and above is good, whereas a score of 329 is an excellent one. A score of 300+ is considered average, and a 292 score is considered below average.

What is the most common GRE score? ›

The average GRE scores in 2021-2022 were about 151 (151.3) for verbal reasoning and 157 for quantitative reasoning. The average analytical writing score was 3.4, but this section is not included in your total score.

Is 299 a bad score for GRE? ›

A GRE score average of 290 to 300 can take you to a quality university in the USA, which would surely help you take off your career ladder. Not just that, there are a variety of courses and MS programs that you can choose from.

Can I clear GRE in one month? ›

If you are focused and confident about your prep, a GRE One Month Plan will work out great for you, as long as you are willing to put in the time. You will have to dedicate at least 3 hours a day on an average; that too, only if your basic math concepts are clear.

Do colleges see how many times you take the GRE? ›

While schools can see if you've taken the assessment more than once, it doesn't negatively impact your application. After taking the test, you have the option to report just your most recent scores or your score history for the past five years.

What if my GRE score is 311? ›

Is a GRE Score Between 310 and 320 Good Enough? Any GRE score above 310+ is considered to be an exceptional score, however, what the colleges or universities consider while looking at your scorecard are the verbal and quant section scores and percentile. The sectional scores and percentile vary.

Is the GRE harder than the SAT? ›

Remember, the SAT is designed for people with high-school level skills, because it assesses college readiness. The GRE is designed for people with college-level skills, because it assesses graduate school readiness. So again, in a vacuum, we may be able to say that the GRE is harder than the SAT.

Is 2 months sufficient for GRE preparation? ›

Yes, it is possible, but not easy. Though it is not impossible, you must remember that two months is not a lot of time to prepare for the GRE, so it is important to maximize your time. Know about the different sections of the test and prepare with mock tests.

Can I improve my GRE score in 3 weeks? ›

Unlike the two week and one week study plans, the 36 hours that you spend during the three week plan should not only help you to become familiar with the GRE, but you should be able to significantly improve to the score that you would get if you were not to study.

Does GRE outweigh GPA? ›

High GRE Scores

If you diligently plan, study, and then kick butt at the GRE, a high score could help offset a low GPA. This aptitude test helps measure your readiness for graduate school. A high score may even do more than your GPA to communicate your capability as a graduate student.

Can you still get into grad school with a low GRE score? ›

However, it still has its place in your complete graduate school application. ​A low GRE score will be noticed by a university. Many universities do not have minimum GRE scores for admission. Certain universities and/or programs do however have strict requirements for GRE scores.

Can I take GRE again if I fail? ›

Yes. You can take the GRE twice and more. ETS allows you to retake the GRE up to five times in a year.

Is getting 160 GRE hard? ›

It's not easy to get the GRE Quant score of 160+. It's an online adaptive exam that 'adapts' to your level of competency. That is, the successive sections get harder or easier based on the performance of your previous section.

Why is my GRE score so low? ›

A low score in GRE can happen due to many reasons. Perhaps you didn't get enough time to prepare. Maybe you didn't get enough sleep the previous night. Maybe you were just too stressed to do well calmly.

How hard is it to get a 340 on the GRE? ›

A perfect 340 score on GRE is possible with the right study preparation. There are multiple ways for students to prepare for this exam. Based on how you align your studying patterns, the chances of achieving a 340 GRE score remains high.

Is the 5lb GRE book enough? ›

While the Manhattan 5lb is certainly a great book and is totally recommended, the book is certainly not enough for preparation. There are at least three other books (Official Guide, Verbal Reasoning Official Guide, Quantitative Reasoning Official Guide) that all students must go through before taking the exam.

How accurate are unofficial GRE scores? ›

It is important to note that the unofficial GRE score might differ from the scaled scores on your official score report. Having said that, in most cases, your unofficial scores will be identical to your official scores.

What is the best resource to study for GRE? ›

  • The Princeton Review's GRE Premium Prep, 2022. ...
  • GRE Prep by Magoosh. ...
  • Manhattan Prep's GRE Strategy Guides, 4th Edition. ...
  • Test Prep Books' GRE Prep 2022-2023 Review. ...
  • Barron's GRE Essential Words, 5th Edition. ...
  • The Princeton Review's 1,027 GRE Practice Questions, 5th Edition. ...
  • Mometrix's GRE Prep 2021 and 2022, 5th Edition.

Why is the GRE being phased out? ›

“The decision to eliminate the GRE was based on evidence of bias and structural barriers that we as a school aim to eliminate to ensure that all students have access to high-quality educational programs,” says Sullivan.

What is the best GRE preparation course? ›

The Best GRE Prep Courses
  • Kaplan – Best Overall.
  • Varsity Tutors – Best Live Online Class.
  • ExamPAL – Best On-Demand Course.
  • The Princeton Review – Best Score Guarantee.
  • ETS Official Prep – Most Affordable.
  • PrepScholar – Best for Extended Prep Time.
  • Magoosh – Best for Limited Prep Time.
  • Manhattan Prep – Best for MBA Applicants.
May 3, 2023

Is it hard to get 165 on GRE? ›

A score of 165 is in the 95th percentile, meaning that if you score 165 in the Verbal or Quantitative Section, you will be in the top 5% of all test takers. If so, the GRE score will be a strong positive factor for your application.

Can you prepare for GRE in 2 weeks? ›

This answer depends on your goal scores and how far you are from those scores. In any case, you should not spend less than 2 weeks studying for the GRE and will likely reach diminishing returns by 6 months of studying. Ideally, you should spend somewhere from 1 month to 5 months studying.)

Is it better to guess or skip on GRE? ›

Answer every question

Nothing is subtracted from your score for incorrect answers. To maximize your scores on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures, it's best to answer every question.

What is the lowest GRE scores accepted? ›

Average GRE scores would range anywhere from 280 to 300. And, since 260 is the minimum GRE score, anything below 260 will not guarantee you admission to the university of your choice. However, these GRE scores vary from university to university.

What is the lowest passing GRE score? ›

The GRE minimum score for your Verbal Section is 130, your GRE minimum score for your Quantitative Section is 130 and the GRE minimum score for your Analytical writing is 0. Hence, the GRE minimum score is 260 excluding the GRE Analytical section.

What happens if you don't score well in GRE? ›

So, if you scored low on the GRE, there are two options in front of you. You can either retake the test and improve your score, or go ahead with the score you got. If you want to retake the test, you will have to make sure you are doing it right.

Do grad schools care about GRE score? ›

The Importance of Percentiles

Grad school admissions officers sometimes care as much about a candidate's GRE percentiles, meaning the percent of fellow test-takers who the candidate outperformed on each section of the exam, as they do about actual GRE scores.

Can I get into grad school with a bad GRE score? ›

However, it still has its place in your complete graduate school application. ​A low GRE score will be noticed by a university. Many universities do not have minimum GRE scores for admission. Certain universities and/or programs do however have strict requirements for GRE scores.


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