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Module A: GRE® General Test Overview


Video duration: 38:48

MATTHEW: Hello. My name is Matthew Bashi-Kadlubowski, and I'm with the GRE® program at Educational Testing Service. Welcome to the GRE® General Test for graduate, business, and law school. For your future.

The goal of today's presentation is to put you on the path of doing your best on the GRE General Test. When we finish, you will know all about the test, including what it measures, how it is structured, tips for registering, and what to expect at the test center on test day, and how to get your scores, and how to send them to the schools of your choice.

You will also learn how to prepare for the test using free GRE test preparation materials and more. Plus, we will share some additional ways to help you stand out among other applicants. The GRE program team wants you to be successful on test day, so let's get started with some great news to help you do just that.

So, let's take a closer look at the GRE General Test. The GRE General Test is accepted for graduate and business schools around the world, also an increasing number of law schools. So, you have more opportunities for your future. Whether you're interested in obtaining a masters, specialized master's in business, MBA, JD, or doctoral degree, the GRE is the first step on your path to success.

But maybe you're not quite sure of what you want to do, or maybe you're still considering your options, and that's OK. GRE scores are valid for five years, so you can take the test now, and your scores will be ready for when you're ready to make application.

If you're not aware, more than 1,300 business schools worldwide trust and accept GRE scores for their MBA programs, including top business schools. It is very important to know that most schools are following the Harvard Business School's lead in weighing GRE scores equally with other business school admissions tests. They note on their website that there is no minimum GMAT or GRE score for application, and they do not have a bias towards either test.

Are you considering law school? Many law schools are accepting or considering accepting GRE General Test scores. This saves you time and money from taking another admissions test. To view the complete list of schools that accept GRE scores for JD admission, please visit the GRE website.

Taking the GRE General Test is a smart choice because it is accepted by graduate and business schools for all types of programs, and by an increasing number of law schools. It is, in fact, the most widely accepted graduate level admissions test in the world and can help you get where you want to go. It is the only graduate level admission test with test-taker friendly features that let you skip questions and change answers and use more of your own personal test taking strategies. Another big advantage of taking the GRE General Test is ScoreSelect, where you can send schools only the scores that best reflect your ability level. And we'll talk about that in more detail later in this presentation.

It is good to know what the test is like before you take it, so I'm going to help you with that. I'm going to walk you through the computer-delivered test since that is the format taken by most people around the world. The GRE test is comprised of three measures: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The first measure you'll encounter is always the Analytical Writing section. It is comprised of one section with two essay tasks. You're required to write a separate essay response for each of those tasks. And you'll have a total of 30 minutes to write each of those responses.

Both the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures are comprised of two sections each. These sections can appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section. Each Verbal Reasoning section contains 20 questions, and you have 30 minutes to complete each section. Each Quantitative Reasoning section contains 20 questions, and you have approximately 35 minutes to complete each section.

All test takers also receive either an unscored section or a research section. You will not know if the section you are working on is an unscored section, so you should try to do your best on all sections. If you should receive a research section, it'll be clearly identified and will always be the last section of the test. Whether you receive an unscored section or a research section, your answers to those questions will not count towards your score.

In total, the GRE General Test is approximately three hours and 45 minutes in length, plus timed breaks.

Now let's move into some specific details to help you understand what each measure of the test is like. I'm going to start with Analytical Writing because it is the first section you will see on the test. This section assesses your critical thinking and Analytical Writing skills through two timed tasks. You'll be asked to write an essay response for two different tasks: Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument.

You will type your responses on the computer using the keyboard. And the software offers the basic functions of insert, delete, cut and paste, and undo. Note that the software program does not include grammar check or spell check in fairness to individuals who handwrite their essay responses for the GRE paper-based exam, and who do not have the benefit of such tools.

So, let's take a closer look at the Verbal Reasoning section. The Verbal Reasoning section assesses your ability to understand what you read and how you apply your reasoning skills. The question types that you encounter will include reading comprehension, text completion and sentence equivalence.

Reading comprehension questions are either multiple-choice questions or selected passage questions. The multiple-choice questions might ask you to select one answer choice or more than one answer choice. The selected passage questions will ask you to highlight your answer within the provided text passage.

For text completion questions, you will see one or more sentences containing one to three blanks. You will answer by selecting a choice for each blank presented.

And finally, the sentence equivalence question type requires you select two answer choices from a list of six choices that, when inserted into the sentence, create two sentences that are alike in meaning. Note that the GRE does not award partial credit on the questions that require you to provide more than one answer. In order to get those questions right, all the correct answers must be selected.

So, let's take a closer look at the Quantitative Reasoning section. The Quantitative Reasoning section assesses your ability to interpret and analyze quantitative information and solve problems using mathematical models. In the Quantitative Reasoning section, there are four question types: quantitative comparison where you compare data, multiple-choice questions where you select one answer choice, and multiple-choice questions where you select one or more answer choices.

There are also numeric entry questions where you will have to solve the problem for the correct answer and enter it in the appropriate field or fields. This measure focuses on basic mathematical skills of elementary mathematical concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

The on-screen calculator is available during the Quantitative Reasoning section and can be brought up using the Calc button. It's important to know that the calculator is not needed in order to answer every question in the quantitative section. In fact, some questions may be answered faster through estimation or other methods.

The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the test are section-level adaptive. So, what does that mean to you as a test taker? Essentially, it means that the computer selects the second section of each measure based on your performance on the first section. A stronger performance on the first section means that you will receive a more difficult second section, and the difficulty level is taken into account during the scoring process.

Your final score on each of these measures is based on the total number of questions you answer correctly, including the difficulty level of the question. Test takers often ask is it better to guess or leave an answer blank? It is always best to answer a question even if you're making a guess, since points are not deducted for wrong answers.

So now, let's review some tips about registering for the GRE General Test. So, you're probably asking yourselves, How do I get started? Well, it's really simple. Just register for the test. If you register early, you're more likely to get your preferred testing location, date and time. And you can also create a test preparation plan that will allow you to focus on your end goal, which is taking the exam.

To register, go to and create your personal ETS account. It is this account that you will use whenever you want to access information on your test date or view and send your scores after test day. There are also short videos on how to create your ETS account and how to register for the GRE test at

It's also important to review the GRE registration bulletin as you are aware of the ID requirements, policies and procedures on test day. And you should also think about where you want to send your scores. So, you should definitely check the admissions deadlines and the respective admission websites for specific information related to application.

The GRE Fee Reduction Program is available to individuals who meet certain criteria. A GRE fee reduction voucher can be used to register for the GRE General Test and/or a Subject Test for a 50% reduction of the test fee. For additional details, please visit

The GRE program is also pleased to announce that beginning with the 2019-2020 testing year that began on July 1, 2019, all test takers who receive a GRE fee reduction voucher for the GRE General Test will also receive vouchers for two POWERPREP PLUS practice tests and ScoreItNow online writing practice at no cost. This is a $100 value.

Before you create your ETS account, you should review the identification documents in the GRE information bulletin or on the GRE website. Also, when you create your ETS account, make sure you have your identification documents ready.

Entering your name correctly is probably the single most important step in the registration process. It is also one of the most frequently asked questions about registration. I cannot stress enough that your name that you use when registering must match your ID documents exactly, excluding accents. Ensure the spellings match exactly and be sure to provide your entire first or given name, which means do not use a nickname or first initial.

You also must apply your entire last name, family name, or surname. For those of you that have a two-part last name like myself, you need to be sure to supply your complete last name, again, as it appears on your identification documents, again excluding accents.

So, let's look at an example. In this example, the test taker's name is Jose Fernandez de Cordova. The red star next to the fields that you see means that they were required fields and must be completed. As you can see, the first or given name is a requirement in addition to the last or family name. The middle initial is not a required field. In the example, the name Fernandez de Cordova includes an accent. However, when Jose enters it into the last or family name, he does not include the accent as our system does not recognize that.

So here is the complete first screen that you will see when you're creating your ETS test taker account page at After entering your name exactly as it is on your identification documentation, excluding accents, you will enter your date of birth, gender, and email address followed by your country, address, city, and postal code. All this information needs to match your documentation as well.

The fields that you see that do not have an asterisk are not required but completing them will make it easier for your graduate or business school program to be sure they're reviewing the correct candidate information.

Once you finalize your ETS account setup, it's time to register. Remember when you select a test day, be sure to base it on your earliest admission deadline, as those schools to which you are applying. And when you are registering, you could sign up for free GRE Search Service as well. And we'll talk about that in more detail later in this presentation.

So, let's take a closer look at what you will encounter on test day. On test day, make sure to get to the test center early. In fact, test takers are required to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the test. You also may want to visit the test center in advance.

Before you leave for the test center, make sure that you have your official identification documents with you. Remember these are the documents you used when registering for the test. It is vitally important that you have these documents with you on test day or you will not be permitted to enter the test taking facility.

Once you arrive at the test center, be sure to follow the test center policies and procedures. Remember as I said earlier, you can review them either on the GRE website or in the registration bulletin. The information there will explain to you what you need to bring with you, what you are allowed to bring in the test center, and how to conduct yourself once inside the center. After all, being prepared will help you have the best possible test day experience. And that will help you do the best on the test.

In addition to having your valid identification documentation with you, you should also have the names of the schools where you'd like to send your scores.

Please note that food; drinks; tobacco; e-cigarettes; personal items including cell phones, smartphones, PDAs, watches; and other electronic recording, listening, scanning, or photographic devices are not permitted in the test room. In addition, note that you may not access your phone during the test or during the breaks to check messages at that time.

Before the start of the test, your photo will be taken and a sample of your handwriting will be collected. You will be scanned with a handheld metal detector to ensure that you are not carrying any electronic devices. You will then receive a writing utensil and a supply of scrap paper. You'll be able to replenish the scrap paper throughout the test as needed, but please note you will not be allowed to take it from the test center for security purposes. Also, please note that the testing room will have proctors and electronic surveillance.

Other graduate level admissions tests require you to answer each question as it appears on your screen. You cannot go back and see what you've already answered, and you cannot move ahead until you've answered the question directly in front of you.

The good news here is that this is not how the GRE General Test is structured. It features a test taker-friendly design, so you can approach the test using more of your own personal or natural test taking strategies. You can reconsider and change answers. You can mark questions that you answered and come back to review later. You can skip questions altogether and return and respond to them later. And you have the freedom to go back and forth within a section.

Also, you may have heard that it's best to stick with your first answer on multiple-choice test questions. However, ETS research suggests that students who thoughtfully change their first answer are likely to improve their scores. The research showed that most GRE test takers who changed answers went from wrong to right and actually boosted their score. In addition, changing answers helped test takers at all ability levels.

As you see in the Quantitative Reasoning example, the top navigation bar allows you that flexibility, enabling you to skip questions and come back later, or change your initial answers with the Next and Back buttons. Use the Mark button to identify questions you plan to return to later or choose the Help button to give you general directions for answering specific question types that you may be on. When you click the Calc button, the on-screen calculator will appear. And you can use it to assist you with more complex calculations during the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Since we know everybody needs an occasional break, there are breaks that are structured throughout the test. There is one 10-minute break after the third section of the test. And there are 1-minute breaks between each of the other sections. During the 10-minute break, you may want to use the restroom, restock your scrap paper, stretch, or just relax a little so you're ready to resume testing. If you do decide to take an unscheduled break during the test, the clock will not stop. Once the test begins, the best strategy is to proceed without interruption.

I have some important test taking tips to share with you that should keep building your confidence. So, let's start with some basic general strategies. It's important to become familiar with question formats and directions before test day so that you don't have to spend additional time during your test doing so.

Also, be cognizant of your time, but don't rush. To help you with your pace, a section clock appears on the screen so you know how much time you have left during the section. However, if you prefer, you can hide that clock. However, during the last five minutes of the section, the clock will appear to let you know that you need to start wrapping things up.

Make sure you understand what each question is asking before you answer. Remember that you do not get credit for answers that are partially correct. As I mentioned earlier, there are no points subtracted for incorrect answers. So, the best strategy is to answer all questions in the section, even if you have to make an educated guess. This will help you achieve your best score. Also use your knowledge to work through and figure out answers to unfamiliar questions.

Make sure you do not waste time on questions that you find particularly difficult or challenging. No question carries any greater weight. So, it's always best to provide an answer to every question. Throughout the test, watch your pace and try not to spend too much time on the review screen, as this can detract from the time that you can spend on other questions. Instead, use it as a way to check your progress and ensure that you answer each of the questions in the section before moving on to the next.

Now, let's review some tips and strategies for the Analytical Writing section. Before test day, review the score guidelines for the issue and the argument task to get a better understanding of how readers evaluate these essays and what they're looking for. Practice under timed conditions, so that you're used to writing responses to the Analytical Writing tasks in the allotted time before test day.

Try to pay close attention to the task directions, and make sure that your essay responses address specific instructions in order to achieve your best score on this section. And organize your thoughts and prepare an outline before you begin to write your essay response in order to keep your essays focused.

On the issue task, make sure you support your position on the issue with reasons and examples drawn from your reading experience, observation or academic studies. Make sure you leave a few minutes at the end of each test to read your essay and make any revisions that you think are necessary. Check for any obvious errors such as grammatical mistakes or misspelled words. And finally, be sure to avoid excess irony or humor in your essay response because it may be misinterpreted by the reader.

OK. So now, let's review some tips and strategies for the Verbal Reasoning section. When reading comprehension questions, read the passage to get an overall sense of them before answering questions that pertain to them. Make sure you answer strictly on behalf of what the passage says and do not rely on any outside knowledge.

After you choose your answer choice for a question that contains blanks, it's always a good idea for you to reread the whole passage just to make sure it makes sense. You may want to try to fill in the blanks with your own words and then find answer choices that match. And it might be particularly helpful to identify words or phrases in the passage that seem particularly significant.

The GRE program is frequently asked where test takers can find GRE-level reading materials. So, let's review what the reading comprehension questions address. They identify a passage's purpose and main idea. They recognize specific points made in a passage. They recognize assumptions underlying a passage's argument. They draw inferences and conclusions based on a passage. And lastly, they evaluate passage's logic and rhetoric.

In order to support questions that assess these skills, a GRE reading comprehension passage has to be logically and rhetorically complex. It cannot merely be a collection of facts or assertions.

You should look for material that presents an argument supported by reasoning or evidence. You can find such material in specialized academic journals, feature articles in newspapers like the New York Times, The Economist, Scientific American, or the London Review of Books. Trade books by experts and journalists for general audiences are also good to read. Textbooks and popular periodicals generally are not good sources of material because they generally do not demonstrate the kind of complexity that are found in GRE reading passages.

And finally, let's review some tips and strategies for the Quantitative Reasoning section. Remember that the geometric figures may not be drawn to scale. Therefore, be sure to avoid estimating sizes by sight or by measurements of such figures. You may want to consider drawing your own figure or diagram or making a list to help you sort out what the question is asking.

Another important tip is to try to avoid lengthy calculations by rounding up numbers before computing an estimate or by looking for comparisons, or by recognizing a continuing numerical pattern. If you get stuck or if a solution seems to require an inordinate amount of time, consider switching to a different strategy.

After arriving at an answer, reread the question to make sure that your answer is reasonable given what the question asked. And again, you can review some additional problem-solving strategies at the GRE website, which is

So now that you have an understanding of what to expect on test day and some strategies for an overall strong performance, let's move on to your scores. The scores for the Analytical Writing measure are reported on a 0 through 6 score scale, in half-point increments. Whereas scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures are reported on a 130 to 170 score scale, in 1-point increments.

So, after the last section of the test, you're going to be asked if you want to cancel your scores permanently, which we do not recommend. We recommend that you review and report your unofficial scores. And at that time, you'll see your unofficial Verbal and your unofficial Quantitative Reasoning scores. At that time, you can decide if you want to send your four free score reports at the test center.

Or you can also choose not to send these scores at this particular time. You always have the option to decide later. We will talk about the ScoreSelect in more detail in a few minutes, but always remember that your GRE scores are valid for five years from date of administration.

If you do choose to report your scores, you're going to see a screen that looks exactly like this. As I mentioned earlier, we do offer ScoreSelect, which helps you put your best foot forward. Whether you take the test once or again at any time in five years, you can send only the scores that you want institutions to see. And this option is only available with the GRE tests.

So, on test day when viewing your scores at the test center, you can designate schools to receive either your most recent scores or scores from all tests that you've taken in the last five years. Both of these options are available for you for your four free score reports.

And if you decide not to send your scores when viewing them at the test center, you can always send them after test day. Just sign into your ETS account and send additional score reports to the schools that you designate for a fee. When you send your scores after test day — and you have the most recent and all options as you had on test day — you will also be able to use the Any option and select to send scores from any of the GRE tests that you have taken in the last five years.

Whichever option you select, all scores from a test date must be reported in their entirety. For example, you cannot report a verbal score for one test administration and a quantitative score from another. Note that some schools want to see an applicant's scores from all GRE tests that they have taken. We advise you to check with the schools to which you are applying for their particular admission requirements.

So about 10 to 15 days after your test, you're going to be able to view your official scores online through your ETS account. Your account will include all scores in your reportable history, and that is the past five years. When viewing your scores online, you'll be able to print a copy of your score report for your personal records as well.

If you decide not to send scores to any schools on test day, or if you want to send scores to another school, you could do so at any time, again, through your ETS account. Just select the Order Additional Score Reports feature from the main menu, and you'll be able to send official copies of your scores to the institutions of your choosing for a fee.

And remember with the ScoreSelect option, you can select the scores you want to send from your complete reportable history. If needed, we also have a short video on the GRE website on how to send additional score reports. And that can be accessed at

And as you know with ScoreSelect, you never need to send scores from a particular administration that you feel do not reflect your best ability level. You always have the option to test again. With GRE General Test, it's once every 21 days up to five times with any continuous rolling 12-month period.

If you would like more information on your performance on the test that you just took, you can access the free GRE Diagnostic Service, again, from your ETS account. This diagnostic service gives you information about how well you did on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning questions on the test you took.

You can see a summary of the questions you answered right and wrong, and the difficulty level of each question, and the time that you spent on each question. This information is especially helpful if you're planning to take the GRE General Test again. You can access this service about 15 days after your computer-delivered test and for up to six months following the test administration date.

This sample Verbal Reasoning section in the GRE Diagnostic Service shows the questions in each verbal section are organized by question type. In this sample, the test taker saw a total of seven longer passages reading comprehension questions. Three were answered correctly and four incorrectly. So, the table represents the difficulty level of each question and the time spent on each question.

The sample Quantitative Reasoning section in the GRE Diagnostic Service shows how the mathematics content is organized. This information precedes the breakdown of questions, which is shown on the next slide.

After the description of how questions are categorized on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the service, detailed information regarding how the test taker performed on the Quantitative Reasoning section appears. In this sample the test taker solved three arithmetic questions. Two were answered correctly and one incorrectly. Similar to the Verbal Reasoning section, the table for the Quantitative Reasoning section presents the difficulty level of each question and the time spent on each.

The GRE program offers a number of tools to help you prepare to do your best on the GRE General Test. So, let's take a closer look. So, test prep information can be located on the GRE website. You can view section overviews that include general advice, sample questions with explanations, scoring guides and tips for answering questions to become familiar with each of these test sections.

We provide an overview of the Verbal Reasoning measure, an overview of the Quantitative Reasoning measure, and an overview of the Analytical Writing measure. And additional links to section overviews can be found in the My Test Preparation and Services section of your ETS account. Again, for more information, access

The POWERPREP test preview tool contains information to help you familiarize yourselves with question types, test features, and Help tools that are available during the actual GRE General Test. This can be found in your ETS account, again, under the My Test Preparation and Services link. For more information, visit

I also encourage you to access POWERPREP Online. This online practice test can be accessed in your ETS account. The two, valuable, free POWERPREP online practice tests can provide you with two simulated computer-delivered test taking experiences that are as close to the actual test experiences as you are going to get. There is also a downloadable test prep booklet for those of you that may need to take the paper-delivered GRE General Test for those that live in regions where the paper-delivered test format is administered.

The GRE program is also going to provide you with more free tools to help prepare for the GRE General Test. And that includes GRE Math Review and GRE Math Conventions. GRE Math Review is a 100-page refresher, which includes definitions, properties, examples, and sets of exercises with answers at the end of each section. It also includes links to the Khan Academy, which is very popular with GRE test takers.

GRE Math Conventions, on the other hand, includes mathematical notations, symbols, terminology, and guidelines that are included for interpreting information in the GRE General Test.

As you're probably aware, ETS has always been the leader in providing test taker accommodations. With that said, we have provided the POWERPREP Online, which provides the following accommodations: extended time, extra breaks, screen magnification, selectable colors, and screen reader and refreshable braille compatibility. We also have practice materials in braille, recorded audio, tactile figure supplements, large print, and accessible electronic format. For more information, please access the URL provided below.

You may recall at the opening of this presentation I mentioned that I would provide you with some additional ways to help your application stand out among other applicants. So, let's take a closer look.

We want your application to set you apart from other applicants. And adding a GRE Subject Test score to your application is one way to accomplish that. The GRE Subject Tests demonstrate achievement in a particular field of study. Each test assumes that you have an undergraduate major or extensive background in this particular discipline.

There are six Subject Tests, and those include biology, chemistry, literature and English, mathematics, physics, and psychology. The tests are administered worldwide in the months of September, October, and April. So be mindful of the timing as it relates to application deadlines. For more information on the GRE Subject Tests, please visit the GRE website at

You can also help schools find you with the GRE Search Service. Add your unique profile to the GRE Search Service database. Graduate and business and law school recruiters around the world use this service to find prospective students like you. If you match the recruitment profile, you could receive information about their programs, admission requirements, and even scholarships and fellowships to help pay for tuition. Best of all, it's free. And you can sign up for this when you register for the GRE General Test at any time in your ETS account.

So, let's take a closer look at additional GRE resources. Additional GRE resources that can be found on the ETS website are the GRE Information Bulletin, the GRE Bulletin for Test Takers with Disabilities and Health Related Needs, the official GRE Test Prep at a Glance, the POWERPREP Test Preview Tool, institutions and fellowship sponsors approved to receive GRE scores, business schools that accept GRE scores for MBA programs, and last, law schools that accept GRE for JD programs.

Please access the official GRE website at for an in-depth explanation of the test regarding changes, policy information, test dates, locations and more. Also and websites are easy to use sites that were specifically created for the test taker in mind. And they also include quick summaries, helpful guidance, and some tips on how to get started.

If you want to hear what other test takers are saying, feel free to join the conversation on the official GRE test page on Facebook, Instagram, or watch GRE videos on YouTube. You can also join the conversation on the official GRE test taker page on LinkedIn.

Feel free to also check us out on Sina Weibo, WeChat, Zhihu.

And on behalf of the GRE program at Educational Testing Service, I'd like to offer you the best of luck in all your future educational endeavors. Thank you so much and have a great day.