Graduate Record Examination (GRE)


The term Graduate Record Examination refers to a test used by graduate schools as part of their admissions decision making process.  The GRE tests the student's analytical writing, quantitative and verbal reasoning skills, with total test scores that range from 130 to 170.


The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is used by the admissions departments of university graduate schools to identify prospective students.  The test is administered electronically throughout the year, while paper-based tests are offered in October, November, and February.  GRE Subject tests (also paper-based) are offered in September, October, and April.

Electronic test results are available for online viewing in ten to fifteen calendar days; reports are delivered to up to four schools in that same timeframe as part of the test fee.  Paper-based examination results are available approximately six weeks after the test date.  Schools typically require students to take the GRE in December to be admitted to a program in the following fall.

The test consists of four sections and students have approximately three hours to complete the entire examination, including:

  • Analytical Writing:  measures the student's ability to think critically and communicate complex ideas effectively (6 points).
  • Verbal Reasoning:  measures the student's ability to analyze written material and synthesize information, including relationships between words and concepts (130 to 170 points, two 30-minute sessions).
  • Quantitative Reasoning: measures the student's ability to solve problems, focusing on data analysis, and basic mathematics such as algebra and geometry (130 to 170 points, two 35-minute sessions).

Note:  The test includes one experimental section that can be in either verbal or quantitative reasoning.

Raw scores in the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are converted to a scale that ranges from a low of 130 to a high of 170 points.  The test can be taken every 21 days, but students cannot take the test more than five times in 12 months.  Scores are considered valid for five years.

GRE Subject Tests

Examinations are also available to test the student's knowledge in a specific area.  For example, GRE Subject Tests include:

  • Biochemistry:  170 multiple choice questions covering areas such as biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, genetics, thermodynamics, reactions, and molecular structures.
  • Biology: 170 multiple choice questions covering areas such as cellular and molecular biology, genetics, organismal biology, ecology and evolution.
  • Chemistry:  130 multiple choice questions covering areas such as analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry.
  • Literature (English):  230 multiple choice questions covering areas such as literary analysis, identification / recognition, cultural and historical knowledge, and theories of literary criticism.
  • Mathematics:  66 multiple choice questions covering areas such as calculus, algebra, sequences of numbers, set theory, and geometry.
  • Physics:  100 multiple choice questions covering areas such as classical mechanics, electromagnetism, optics and wave phenomena, thermodynamic and statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, atomic physics, and relativity.
  • Psychology:  205 multiple choice questions covering areas such as experimental psychology, social psychology, measurements, and methodologies.

Related Terms

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