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What is GRE? Full form, registration, cost, syllabus, eligibility, and more

What is GRE? Full form, registration, cost, syllabus, eligibility, and more
A 12 min read

The full form of GRE is Graduate Record Examinations, and Educational Testing Service (ETS) conducts it. There are two types of GRE tests – General and Subject test. The GRE General Test is accepted by many graduate and business schools worldwide and is a standardized computer-based exam with multiple-choice questions. On the other hand, the GRE Subject test is a paper-based test and its scores can be used by fellowship panels or admissions to supplement your undergraduate records, other qualifications, and recommendation letters.

GRE Exam

Here is a brief overview of the GRE:

GRE Full FormGraduate Record Examinations
Official Website
Conducted byETS – Educational Testing Service
Types of FormatComputer-delivered and Paper-Delivered
Types of GRE General and subject test
GRE Fees$ 220 worldwide for the general test. Except for a few places including India. The fee for the GRE subject test is $150. Check the GRE fees for 2023 here.
GRE Validity5 years
GRE SectionsVerbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing section. There are no sections for the GRE subject test.
Scores/grades used by Most graduate schools in the USA, and few in other countries
Counties/regions About 1,000 test centers in more than 160 counties
Calculator AllowedYes
Scratchpad AllowedYou may use the test booklet to take notes for paper GRE, whereas computer-delivered test sheets will be provided at the center
GRE Contact Number1-609-771-7670 or 1-866-473-4373 (Toll-free for test-takers in the United States, U.S. Virgin Island, Canada, and Puerto Rico)   91-1244517127 or 000-800-100-407 (Toll-free for test-takers in India) Email:

GRE 2021- Update (At-home testing option available)

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, ETS has started to offer GRE at-home testing options. Here you can take the test on your computer at home, and a human proctor monitors the exam.

You can take the At-Home option for General Test around the clock seven days a week. Also, appointments may be available within 24 hours after you register. Did you know you can now also take the GMAT at Home? Check out this article to know more.

Learn the difference between GRE vs. GMAT at-home exam.

Attention test takers– Educational Testing Service (ETS) is launching a shorter version of the GRE. Starting September 2023, the revised GRE General Test will only require less than two hours to complete, cutting the current test time in half. Shorter version of GRE is now open for registration, with test dates commencing from September 22, 2023.  Read this article to know all about the New Shorter GRE

Shorter GRE

If you are planning to appear for the GRE exam, here is a list of topics you can have a look into:

what is GRE?

What is GRE? 

GRE is a standardized computer-based exam with multiple-choice questions. You can also register for a paper-based exam. However, it is available two-three times a year in areas of the world where computer-delivered testing is not available.

It provides schools with a standard measure for comparing candidates’ qualifications. There are two types of GRE:

  1. General test
  2. Subject test

General Test

The General Test is taken by prospective graduates and business school applicants who are interested in pursuing an MBA, Master’s, specialized master’s in Business, Doctoral, or Law degree.

It consists of questions that are based on the kind of skills and thinking you will need to get ahead in today’s demanding business school and graduate programs.

Between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, around 532,826 examinees took the Exam. Most of the test takers were from United States (295,829), followed by China (74,568) and India (72,855).

However, from the total examinees, only 42,700 intended to pursue a Business major. The majority of them took the test with the intent to pursue a Life science major (118,396), followed by a Physical Sciences major (78,779) and an Engineering major (67,318).

Subject Test

The Subject test measures your knowledge of a particular field of study. This exam is for students who have an extensive background or an undergraduate degree in one of these four disciplines:

  1. Chemistry
  2. Mathematics
  3. Physics
  4. Psychology

The scores of Subject tests are used by fellowship panels or admissions to supplement your undergraduate records, other qualifications, and recommendation letters.

When and Where to Take the Exam?

when and where to take GRE Exam

There are 1000+ GRE test centers worldwide, in more than 160 countries, where you can take the GRE general or subject test.

The General test allows you to choose from 1000s of graduate and business school programs around the world. If you are unsure about what to do after graduation, GRE makes perfect sense.

You can take the computer-based or paper-delivered exam. The former can be taken throughout the year in most of the countries. Besides, in Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong, the computer-delivered exam is available up to three times per month. The latter is offered twice a year in November and February. Check out the difference between both formats here. 

The General Test is the only admissions test for professionals and graduate school that lets you skip questions within a section. Thus, you can go back and change your answers.

On the other hand, Subject tests are offered at paper-delivered test centers worldwide, three times a year in – September, October, and April. When you select a test date, make sure your scores are reported in time for your application deadline. The registration for 2020-2021 subject test administrations is open. Take a look at the test dates available here.

How Long is the Exam?

The overall testing time for the computer-delivered General test is about three hours and 45 minutes. One optional break is also given for approx. 12 mins. Thus, in total, you can expect to spend at least 4 hours.

For the subject test, the duration is 2 hours and 50 minutes. Unlike, general test there are no separately timed sections.

Here is the allocated test timing for general test section-wise:

GRE SectionsTime
Verbal Reasoning30 minutes
Analytical Writing30 Minutes
Experiential or Unscored30 or 35 minutes
Optional Breaks12 mins Approx.
TotalApprox. 4 hours

What is on the test?

GRE Exam Pattern and Format

You can take the General test in two ways – A computer-delivered test and a paper-delivered test. Although the Exam syllabus for both formats remains the same, one significant difference is that the GRE paper test does not have Reading comprehension select-in-passage type questions. Also, the number of questions in Quantitative and Verbal reasoning differs. The paper-based test consists of 25 questions per section, whereas the computer-based exam includes 20 questions per section.

Thus, the total number of questions is 82 for the computer, and 102 for the paper-delivered exam. Take a look at the detailed general test exam pattern 2021 here.

Unlike the General Test, the subject test can be taken only through paper-based testing. You can choose to be tested in six disciplines that consist of various topics. There are different types of multiple-choice questions for each discipline. Take a look at the detailed exam pattern 2021 for the Subject test.

How many Sections are there on GRE? 

Unlike, General Test, the subject test does not have sections.

The computer-delivered general test has six sections, one of which is an unscored/unidentified section. Both Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning has two sections each. The analytical writing section has two tasks.

On the other hand, the Paper-delivered test does not have an unscored/unidentified section. However, the analytical writing section has two sections with one task in each.

Check out this article to know in detail what to expect in each section?

Note: An identified research section that is not scored may be included in place of the unscored part. Also, you will see a Research section which is for ETS research purposes.

What is the order of the sections?

The General test starts with the Analytical section always, followed by Verbal, Quant, and unidentified section in any order. For the computer-based test, you need to select the correct answer choice on-screen, and for the paper-based, you need to enter all responses in the textbook itself.

What types of questions are asked?

For the General Test, there are three types of GRE questions:

  1. Verbal Reasoning: This type of questions measures your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from the discourse, understand multiple levels of meaning, understand the meaning of words, sentences, and entire text, reason from incomplete data, and understand relationships among concepts and words
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: This type of question measures the ability to interpret, understand, and analyze quantitative information, solve math problems, and apply basic arithmetic concepts like algebra, data analysis, and geometry. There is an emphasis on quantitative reasoning skills.
  3. Analytical Writing: This type of question measures your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. More emphasis is placed on analytical writing skills.

For the GRE subject test, questions related to the discipline. For instance, For the Chemistry test, there are four fields into which the test content emphasizes:

  1. Organic Chemistry
  2. Analytical Chemistry
  3. Physical Chemistry
  4. Inorganic Chemistry

Check out the types of questions with examples for GRE General and subject test here.

Can I use a calculator for the exam?

Yes. You can use the on-screen calculator for computer-delivered testing. For Paper-delivered testing, you will be provided with a basic calculator for use during the quantitative reasoning section.

How is it Scored?

How is GRE scored?

Every Subject test yields a total score on a 200 to 990 score scale, in 10-points increments. The Physics and Psychology test yields subscores on a 20-99 score scale, in a one-point increment. Note that each of the individual test subscore scales occupies only a portion of the 20 to 99 score range.

On the other hand, the General Test is a computer-adaptive test just like the GMAT, where the level of difficulty of the subsequent Verbal and Quant sections is determined based on your performance on the first section.

The raw score is computed based on the number of questions you answer correctly and then converted into a scaled score through the process of “Equating.”

The Analytical Writing section includes two essays that receive a score from at least one trained rater, using a six-point holistic scale. The final scores on the two essays are then averaged and rounded to the nearest half-point interval on the 0-6 score scale.

Note: Like GMAT, three scores are reported on the GRE – Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning.

Look at the table below to see how GRE is scored:

GRE SectionsGRE Scores
Verbal Reasoning130-170, in 1-point increment
Analytical Writing Score0-6, in half-point increment
Quantitative Reasoning130-170, in 1-point increment

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How to analyze your scores?

To interpret your scores, you need to use the GRE score percentile ranking. A percentile describes the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than you. For example, if you scored 95th percentile, it means that you scored better than 95 out of every 100 GRE test-taker.

Check out the GRE score percentiles for each section here.

What is a good GRE score?

A good GRE score is the one that can help you get in your dream business school. The average score of test-takers between July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2019, is as follows:

  1. Verbal Reasoning: 150.37
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: 153.39 
  3. Analytical Writing: 3.58

The average total GRE score comes up to 303 after adding Verbal and Quantitative reasoning scores. However, this score is good enough but it won’t get you into the highly competitive programs. For example, the average GRE score for the top 10 business schools is above 320. 

Thus, to know what is a good GRE score for you,  there are a few steps that you can follow. Check out this article which helps you derive a good GRE score to get into top business schools. 

Average Score at top business schools

How high should you score to get a scholarship?

First of all, a high GRE score does not guarantee that you will get the scholarship. To know what score can get you a scholarship, here are three steps that you can follow:

  • Step 1: Evaluate what parameters your targeted institution takes into consideration while giving out a scholarship. Remember, GRE is just a part of your application. 
  • Step 2: Reach out to people who have got the scholarship and check their GRE score 
  • Step 3: Evaluate the average GRE score of the incoming class 
  • Step 4: Arrive at your targeted GRE score for scholarship 

Check out the above-mentioned steps in detail here. 

How to send your scores to institutions?

On the exam day, you can choose up to four institutions/business schools for free where you want to send your score report. Once your official score report is available on your ETS account, your scores will be automatically forwarded to the institutions you selected. Besides, if you want to send your scores to more than four institutions, you need to pay $27 per report.

It takes 10-15 days after your exam date to get your official score report. Learn more about the GRE Score report here.

What is ScoreSelect?

This feature gives you the option to send only the scores from any exam date. You will decide which Score you want to send out to business schools.  Thus, if you have taken the exam multiple times, you can select the best Score that you want to send out.

Check out the list of business schools accepting the GRE score. Did you know 9 out of 10 MBA admission decisions are made using a GMAT score? Start your GMAT Preparation by registering for our FREE Trial.

We can help you with a personalized study plan and give you access to quality online content to prepare. We are the most reviewed GMAT Preparation company on the GMATClub with more than 2060 reviews!

Is GRE Exam hard to crack?

How hard is GRE Exam?

One way to get a general sense of how difficult it is to crack the GRE is by comparing it with another standardized test. GMAT is another type of standardized test that you can take to get into business schools.

When we had compared the GRE sections with GMAT, we found out that the GRE Verbal section is a bit challenging as it tests your vocabulary. The emphasis of the GMAT verbal section is on reasoning and grammar. Thus, the GRE Verbal section is slightly harder than GMAT.

On the other hand, GMAT Quant is considered to be harder than GRE Quant as it tests your problem-solving skills. Also, the GMAT data sufficiency questions are quite challenging. Thus, GRE Quantitative reasoning is slightly easier than GMAT Quant.

How to Register for the Exam? 

To register and book your dates there is an 8-step process

Learn in detail how to register for GRE exam here. 

How many times can you retake the GRE?

You can take the general test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous 12-month period. This is applied even if you cancel your scores. on the other hand, you can take the subject tests as often as they are offered. The test is offered three times a year in – April, October, and September.

What is the cost of taking the GRE?

Starting July 1, 2020, the GRE General Test fee is between $205 and $255 based on your location. 

Here is the fee in different countries:  

CountryGRE Fees

The cost of the computer-based and the paper-based test is the same.

The cost of taking the subject test is $150 worldwide. Take a look at other costs associated with the subject test.

How to reduce the fee? 

ETS offers a fee reduction voucher which reduces the registration fee by 50%.  To be eligible for the fee Waiver:

  • you must be a US citizen 
  • A college senior or a college graduate not enrolled 
  • Part of national programs for underrepresented 
  • Unemployment 

Check out this article to know the GRE Fee Waiver in detail. 

Can I cancel or Reschedule my GRE Exam? 

Yes. You can cancel or reschedule your GRE exam. The test can be rescheduled no more than four days before the test date by paying $50. Candidates in Mainland China are required to reschedule their exam 10 days prior to the test date. 

Similarly,  you can cancel your appointment and get a refund for canceling is half the registration fees. 

Do Business Schools prefer GRE?

In the last few years, the acceptance and popularity of GRE for MBA admissions have increased. However, the GMAT is still highly valued by all the top business schools.

Many top business schools such as Harvard Business School or Stanford GSB do not clearly state that they don’t prefer GRE over GMAT or vice versa. But, when you compare the MBA application objectively, many of these b-schools convert GRE to the GMAT score.

Around 73% of Business schools give equal consideration to GMAT and GRE. However, the majority of test-takers apply with a GMAT score, and thus, the admission committees convert GRE to GMAT to objectively compare all applications. This is one of the reasons why the GRE score comparison tool to GMAT is provided by ETS.

Learn more about the factors to consider while choosing GMAT or GRE.

Do business schools convert GRE to GMAT Score?

Yes. As many applicants apply with a GMAT score, the admissions committee tends to convert GRE to GMAT scores to objectively compare all the applicants. Here is the conversion chart that you can refer to.

Did you know 9 out of 10 MBA admission decisions are made using a GMAT score? Start your GMAT Preparation by registering for our FREE Trial. We can help you with a personalized study plan and give you access to quality online content to prepare. We are the most reviewed GMAT Preparation company on the GMATClub with more than 2000 reviews!

FAQs – What is GRE

What is the full form of GRE?

Commonly referred to as GRE, the full form of GRE is the Graduate Record Examination. It is conducted by Educational testing service (ETS).

What does the GRE test you on?

The GRE general test is a broad assessment of your critical thinking, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. On the other hand, the Subject test is conducted to test you on four disciplines – Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Psychology.

Is GRE accepted for an MBA Program?

Yes. GRE is accepted for an MBA Program. The GRE general test is one of the most widely accepted graduate admissions test worldwide. It is accepted by both graduate and business schools. It is a multiple-choice, computer-based standardized exam.

How long is the GRE Test?  

It takes 3 hours 45 minutes to complete the GRE general test without any breaks. For the subject test, the duration is 2 hours and 50m minutes.

Can I cancel my GRE Scores?

Yes. You can cancel your GRE Scores. However, you need to do it on the day of the exam. Once you have taken the exam, you will be asked if you want to report/view or cancel your scores. Once you chose the report/view option, you cannot cancel your scores. Here are a few points that you need to keep in mind if you decide to cancel your scores.

Which is easier GMAT or GRE?

Both GRE and GMAT are similar when it comes to the overall difficulty level. However, the GRE Verbal section tests challenging vocabulary than GMAT. Also, GMAT Quant is considered a bit harder than GRE.
Know everything about GMAT here.

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