The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for most graduate schools in the United States. Created and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) in 1949,the exam aims to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study. The GRE General Test is offered as a computer-based exam administered at Prometric testing centers.
In the graduate school admissions process, the level of emphasis that is placed upon GRE scores varies widely between schools and between departments within schools. The importance of a GRE score can range from being a mere admission formality to an important selection factor.
The structure of the computer-based GRE revised General Test consists of five sections. The first section is always the analytical writing section involving separately timed issue and argument tasks. The next five sections consist of two verbal reasoning sections, two quantitative reasoning sections, and either an experimental or research section. These five sections may occur in any order. The experimental section does not count towards the final score but is not distinguished from the scored sections. Unlike the computer adaptive test before August 2011, the GRE revised General Test is a multistage test, where the examinee's performance on earlier sections determines the difficulty of subsequent sections. This format allows the examined person to freely move back and forth between questions within each section, and the testing software allows the user to "mark" questions within each section for later review if time remains. The entire testing procedure lasts about 3 hours 45 minutes. One-minute breaks are offered after each section and a 10-minute break after the third section.
The paper-based GRE General Test consists of six sections and is only available in areas where computer-based testing is unavailable. The analytical writing is split up into two sections, one section for each issue and argument task. The next four sections consist of two verbal and two quantitative sections in varying order. There is no experimental section on the paper-based test.
Verbal section
The computer-based verbal sections assess reading comprehension, critical reasoning and vocabulary usage. The verbal test is scored on a scale of 130-170, in 1-point increments (Before August, 2011 the scale was 200–800, in 10-point increments). In a typical examination, each verbal section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 30 minutes. Each verbal section consists of about 6 text completion, 4 sentence equivalence, and 10 critical reading questions. The changes in 2011 include a reduced emphasis on rote vocabulary knowledge and the elimination of antonyms and analogies. Text completion items have replaced sentence completions and new reading question types allowing for the selection of multiple answers were added.
Quantitative section
The computer-based quantitative sections assess basic high school level mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills. The quantitative test is scored on a scale of 130–170, in 1-point increments (Before August 2011 the scale was 200–800, in 10-point increments). In a typical examination, each quantitative section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 35 minutes.Each quantitative section consists of about 8 quantitative comparisons, 9 problem solving items, and 3 data interpretation questions. The changes in 2011 include the addition of numeric entry items requiring the examinee to fill in a blank and multiple-choice items requiring the examinee to select multiple correct responses.
Analytical writing section
The analytical writing section consists of two different essays, an "issue task" and an "argument task". The writing section is graded on a scale of 0–6, in half-point increments. The essays are written on a computer using a word processing program specifically designed by ETS. The program allows only basic computer functions and does not contain a spell-checker or other advanced features. Each essay is scored by at least two readers on a six-point holist scale. If the two scores are within one point, the average of the scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than a point, a third reader examines the response.
Issue Task
The test taker is given 30 minutes to write an essay about a selected topic. Issue topics are selected from a pool of questions, which the GRE Program has published in its entirety. Individuals preparing for the GRE may access the pool of tasks on the ETS website.
Argument task
The test taker will be given an argument (i.e. a series of facts and considerations leading to a conclusion) and will be asked to write an essay that critiques the argument. Test takers are asked to consider the argument's logic and to make suggestions about how to improve the logic of the argument. Test takers are expected to address the logical flaws of the argument, not to provide a personal opinion on the subject. The time allotted for this essay is 30 minutes. The Arguments are selected from a pool of topics, which the GRE Program has published in its entirety. Individuals preparing for the GRE may access the pool of tasks on the ETS website.
Experimental section
The experimental section, which can be either verbal or quantitative, contains new questions ETS is considering for future use. Although the experimental section does not count towards the test-taker's score, it is unidentified and appears identical to the scored sections. Because test takers have no definite way of knowing which section is experimental, it is typically advised that test takers try their best on every section. Sometimes an identified research section at the end of the test is given instead of the experimental section.There is no experimental section on the paper-based GRE.
An examinee can miss one or more questions on a multiple-choice section and still receive a perfect score of 170. Likewise, even if no question is answered correctly, 130 is the lowest possible score
Scaled score percentiles
The percentiles for the current revised General test and the concordance with the prior format are as follows. Means and standard deviations for the measures on the new score scale are not yet available:
Scaled score Verbal reasoning percentile Verbal prior scale Quantitative reasoning percentile Quantitative prior scale
170 99 760–800 98 800
169 99 740–750 97 800
168 98 720–730 95 800
167 97 710 94 800
166 96 700 92 800
165 95 680–690 90 790
164 93 660–670 88 790
163 92 650 86 780
162 89 630–640 83 770
161 87 620 80 770
160 84 600–610 78 760
159 81 590 74 750
158 78 570–580 71 740
157 74 560 68 730
156 71 540–550 64 720
155 67 530 60 700–710
154 63 510–520 56 690
153 59 500 52 680
152 54 480–490 48 660–670
151 50 460–470 44 640–650
150 45 450 40 630
149 41 430–440 37 610–620
148 36 420 32 590–600
147 33 410 28 570–580
146 29 390–400 25 550–560
145 25 380 21 530–540
144 22 370 18 500–520
143 18 350–360 15 480–490
142 16 340 12 460–470
141 13 330 10 430–450
140 10 320 8 400–420
139 8 310 6 380–390
138 7 300 4 350–370
137 5 290 3 330–340
136 3 280 2 300–320
135 2 280 1 280–290
134 2 270 1 260–270
133 1 260 1 240–250
132 1 250 <1 220–230
131 1 240 <1 200–210
130 <1 200–230 <1 200

Field-wise distribution of takers of GRE revised General Test.
Analytical Writing score Writing % Below
6 99
5.5 98
5 93
4.5 80
4 56
3.5 38
3 15
2.5 7
2 2
1.5 1
1 <1
0.5 <1
"Field-wise distribution" of test takers is "limited to those who earned their college degrees up to two years before the test date." ETS provides no score data for "non-traditional" students who have been out of school more than two years, although its own report "RR-99-16" indicated that 22% of all test takers in 1996 were over the age of 30.

GRE Subject Tests

In addition to the General Test, there are also seven GRE Subject Tests testing knowledge in the specific areas of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular BiologyBiologyChemistry;Literature in EnglishMathematicsPhysics; and Psychology. The length of each exam is 170 minutes.
In the past, subject tests were also offered in the areas of Computer Science, Economics, Revised Education, Engineering, Geology, History, Music, Political Science, and Sociology. In April 1998, the Revised Education and Political Science exams were discontinued. In April 2000, the History and Sociology exams were discontinued; with Economics, Engineering, Music, and Geology being discontinued in April 2001.The Computer Science exam was discontinued after April 2013.


An analysis of the GRE's validity in predicting graduate school success found a correlation of .30 to .45 between the GRE and both first year and overall graduate GPA. The correlation between GRE score and graduate school completion rates ranged from .11 (for the now defunct analytical section) to .39 (for the GRE subject test). Correlations with faculty ratings ranged from .35 to .50.