What is the GRE?

Education, Home & Family
on August 19, 2011

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test that is used by many higher education institutions as one criterion for admission to graduate programs. A GRE score often is combined with prior degrees, grades and other specific requirements deemed to be necessary by the school in question. In general terms, the GRE is an attempt to measure a person’s academic ability through an objective measure, rather than rely on the grades issued from a wide variety of institutions that may have different academic standards.

Logistics. The GRE is now available as a computer-based examination, whereas in the past it was administered as a pencil-and-paper test. Students can take the GRE several times throughout the calendar year, and the key to selecting a test date is making sure that the reporting of scores coincides with deadlines of the desired graduate school. Students taking the test should take note that the fee can increase from year to year.

Areas of expertise. Like other academic ability tests, the GRE measures several areas. The test consists of sections that test analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. An unscored section can appear at any point throughout the exam. In addition, a research section may be administered in place of the unscored section. Throughout the test, students may take a few short breaks when designated by the proctor.

New revisions. As noted by the Educational Testing Service, the organization that administers the GRE, the test was revised as of Aug. 1, 2011. Changes include new questions to better measure ability for graduate school. In addition, a number of new features are intended to make the test a more friendly experience from a design standpoint. Since some students experience anxiety and difficulty when taking tests, the purpose of revising a test like the GRE is to create an environment that is more conducive to the user.

Studying for the exam. Studying for a test like the GRE can be accomplished in a variety of ways. It helps when students already have the verbal, writing and quantitative abilities. However, books, classes and Internet sites are available that can help students practice. In many ways, the best skill to practice is time management, as students may know much of the material, but struggle to get it done in a timely fashion. Since the GRE is timed, students must make sure that they get through as much of the test as possible, rather than getting stuck on a few problems and missing out on opportunities to answer more questions.