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Overview of the GRE® General Test


Video duration: 25:49

JULIE SHURTS: Hi, I'm Julie Shurts, Associate Director of Global Higher Education at ETS, and welcome to an Overview of the GRE® General Test. The topics I'm going to cover with you right now are an overview of the GRE General Test, registration tips, how to get your scores as well as send your scores to institutions, free tools to help you prepare for the test, and additional GRE resources to help you get ready for test day.

The Overview of the GRE General Test -- The GRE General Test is used around the world for a variety of different graduate level programs. So, whether you're applying for a master's program, a PhD program, an MBA, or even a JD program -- as a growing number of law schools are now accepting the GRE General Test for admission -- you can take the GRE and apply it to a wide variety of programs. And the good news is that your scores are valid for a full five years from the date that you take the test.

Currently, more than 1,300 business schools accept GRE scores for admission to their MBA programs. And this includes some of the top business schools in the world. Many schools are following Harvard Business School's lead, which weights GRE scores equal to other business school admissions tests and have notated on their websites that there are no minimum scores and there is no bias or preference toward one test or the other.

A growing number of law schools are now accepting GRE General Test scores for admission to their JD programs. This should be great news if you've taken the GRE or are studying for the GRE, because now you don't have to take another test that's specific for law school admission. This can save you time and money.

The University of Arizona was the first law school to accept GRE General Test scores for admission. And that list has grown considerably since then. You can find a full list of the law schools that accept GRE General Test scores on the GRE website, which is

Taking the GRE General Test is a very wise choice because it is accepted by graduate and business schools for all types of programs and by a growing number of law schools. In fact, it's the most widely accepted graduate-level admissions test in the world. So, it can really help you get where you want to go.

It also is the only graduate-level admissions test with a test-taker friendly design that lets you skip questions and go back and change answers. And another advantage of the GRE General Test is the ScoreSelect option, in which you can send only the scores you want to send to a particular school or graduate program.

It's helpful to know the format and structure of the test before test day. So, I'm going to walk you through the structure and length of the computer-delivered GRE General Test. It is comprised of three measures: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

The first measure that you'll take on test day is the Analytical Writing section, which is comprised of one section with two essay tasks. You are required to write a separate essay response for each of the two tasks, or items. You have a total of 30 minutes to write each essay response.

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 35 minutes to complete each section.

In addition to the three scored measures of the test that I just spoke about on the previous slide, all test takers will also receive an unscored or research section on test day that does not count towards the final reported score. If you get a research section, it is always clearly identified as the research section. And it will always be the very last section of the test that you'll take on test day.

If you get an unscored section, it will look just like a Verbal Reasoning, or just like a Quantitative Reasoning section that is scored. And you will not necessarily know that it is not a scored section. So, it's always a good idea to do your best on all of the test sections you encounter on test day. The total testing time for the GRE General Test is about three hours and 45 minutes plus several time breaks.

Let's talk about the skills that each measure is assessing. The Verbal Reasoning measure is assessing your ability to understand information that you've read and to apply reasoning skills. The Quantitative Reasoning measure is assessing your ability to interpret and analyze quantitative information and to solve problems using mathematical computations. The Analytical Writing measure is assessing your critical thinking and analytical writing skills and requires you to construct an argument and also to critique an argument.

You may feel better about approaching test day knowing that the GRE General Test has features that let you use your own personal test-taking strategies. These features, which can be used within each timed section, are buttons that allow you to move back and forwards so that you can skip ahead through questions and also return to a question and select a new answer.

There is also a Mark button which lets you mark or flag a question if you feel that you'd like to skip it and then return to it later. You can basically navigate freely within any timed section of the test. But remember, once you exit out of that section, you can no longer return to it.

So, this slide illustrates the test-taker friendly design features. If you notice the toolbar circled at the top, you can see the tools that allow you to move freely back and forth within a test section. Those are the Next arrow and the Back arrow.

The Next arrow lets you skip ahead through questions. And the Back arrow allows you to return to a question that you've already answered. So, let's say you wanted to change an answer, you could skip back using the Back button and change your answer.

It also has the Help button that shows you the general directions for that particular section. It has the Review screen which shows you your progress on all of the questions within that section. It has the Mark button that allows you to mark, or flag, a question that you'd like to return to.

The Calc button pulls up an on-screen calculator. And you can see that circled on the bottom right-hand portion of the screen. This is of course only for your use during the Quantitative Reasoning measure. And then there's the exit section for you to escape from a section once you've completed it.

Now, remember that these tools, the forward and backward arrow, are only available within a particular section. And once you have exited a section, you can no longer go back or return and change answers. Please note there's also the time that appears on the top-right corner. You can either leave the time counting down viewable, or you can click Hide Time if you do not wish to see the clock.

It's important to note that the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures are section-level adaptive. This means the computer selects the second operational section of the measure, based on your performance on the first section. Within each section, all questions contribute equally to the final score.

So, I mentioned earlier that there are two sections for both the Verbal Reasoning measure and two sections for the Quantitative Reasoning measure. So, if you perform very well on the first section of Verbal Reasoning questions, then your second section is likely to be at a higher difficulty level. On the other hand, if you perform very low on your first section of Verbal Reasoning, the second section you receive will be of a lesser or lower difficulty level. And remember that points are not deducted for wrong answers. So, it really is always better to guess than to leave an answer blank.

Registration Tips -- It's a really good idea to register early to take the GRE General Test. If you do register early, you are more likely to get your preferred testing location, date and time. And that also leaves you with plenty of time to create a preparation plan that focuses on your test date and gives you plenty of time to get ready for test day.

To register, you'll simply go to the website that you see on the screen,, and you'll create your own personal ETS account. You'll use this account to access information about your test date and also to view or send scores after test day. So, make sure that you do keep track of your account credentials, such as your login and password, because you will need to use it.

We do have some short videos on how to create your ETS account posted on the GRE website. And it's important to review the GRE registration bulletin so you are fully aware of the ID requirements and test day procedures and policies. You should also think about where you might want to send your scores and check your program's admissions deadlines.

Before you create your ETS account, you should review the Identification requirements in the GRE information bulletin or on the GRE website. Also, when you create your ETS account, make sure you have your ID document handy. And this is very important: entering your name correctly is probably the single most important step in registering. It is also one of the most frequently asked questions about registration.

I can't stress enough that the name that you use when registering must exactly match your ID documents. Ensure that the spellings match exactly, and be sure to provide your entire first or given name. That means you should not register using a nickname or only your first initial of your first name.

You must supply your entire last name, often called family or surname. And if you have a two-part last name, you need to be sure to supply your complete last name as it appears on your ID documents. And this is excluding any accents or diacritical marks.

Here's an example of how to enter your name when you register for the GRE General Test. You'll see there are certain fields that have a red star next to them. These are fields that are required. So, the first, or given name, and the last, or family name are required and must be filled out. The middle initial is not a required field and is optional. And please note that the last name was entered excluding the accent mark as it should be.

This is an example of what this screen looks like when you create a test-taker account at the website. You'll see that there is some personal information that you need to enter. And the fields marked with a red star are required. Remember again to always exclude any accent marks that may appear in your first or last name.

Some of the fields you'll notice do not have a red star and are not required. But we do recommend adding them because it can make it easier for your graduate school program that you're applying to, to identify you as the correct candidate.

Once you finalize your ETS account setup, it's time to register. And you can do that by clicking on the blue tab that says Register, Find Test Centers and Dates. This is where you'll actually choose the date, time, and location of your GRE test. Remember when you select a test date to be sure to base it on the earliest admission deadline of all of the graduate programs you're applying to. When you register, you'll also be able to opt in to the free GRE Search Service, which helps schools recruit you, based on your information.

Getting and Sending Scores -- Your score report for the GRE General Test will show three separate scores for the three separate measures of the test. There is not one total score for the GRE General Test. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale from 0 to 6 points, in half-point increments. But the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures are scored on a scale from 130 to 170 points, in 1-point increments.

On test day, once you've completed your entire test, you have the option to report or cancel the scores for that test that you just took. If you choose to cancel the scores for the test you just took, they will be permanently deleted, and you will not be able to view them or send them to an institution. We don't recommend this option for a few reasons. First of all, you will not receive a refund for the test if you choose to cancel it. Second of all, it will never be part of your score history for GRE, so you'll never be able to see those scores or send them out. And with our Score Select option, which I will explain in a moment, you can always choose which scores you send to an institution. And you do not need to send scores that you do not wish to send to an institution.

If you report your scores, you will then be able to view your unofficial scores, and they will stay in your GRE reportable history for the next five years. Once you choose to report your scores, you will see the unofficial score for both the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures. You will not see a score for the Analytical Writing measure due to the way that section is scored.

You can also decide on test day if you would like to use your four free score reports. And these can be sent to up to four institutions on test day. Or you can decide not to send scores on test day and instead to send scores after test day once you receive your official scores. You'll always have the option to send scores after test day if you're not ready to send them on test day.

The GRE General Test is the only graduate-level admissions test that has the ScoreSelect option. ScoreSelect lets you decide which scores from your reportable history you'd like to send to the schools you choose. ScoreSelect works whether you're sending scores on test day or after test day. And these are the options you have.

On test day while you're still at the test center, you can use your four free score reports and send your most recent test scores—that would be from the test you just took. Or, if you have additional sets of scores in your GRE reportable history, you can send all scores you have on file from the last five years. So, on test day, you have your Most Recent option or your All option.

If you'd rather send scores after test day, that's fine. And you still have the ScoreSelect options, which after test day are to send the most recent (so that's the most recent test date scores), all scores you have on file from the past five years, or any score or scores that you have on file from the past five years.

Please note that some schools do wish to see all scores from all GRE tests you have taken. So always check with your schools to make sure what their admission requirements are. And make sure you follow them.

Official scores for the GRE General Test are available approximately 10 to 15 days after the test date. And you can see the official scores, once they're available, through your ETS account. Your ETS account will show all of your GRE scores or what we call your reportable history, which is any GRE test scores that you have for the past five years. You will have a PDF test-taker score report available in your ETS account as well.

You'll also be able to select “Order Additional Score Reports” from your ETS account if there are institutions you'd like to send your scores to after test day. And remember that we do have the ScoreSelect option available, which I described in the previous slide, which allows you to decide which set or sets of scores from your reportable history you would like to send to the graduate programs to which you're applying.

The retaking policy for the GRE test is that you can take it once every 21 days, and up to five times, within any continuous 12-month period. And remember with the ScoreSelect option, you never need to send scores from a particular test date if you don't wish to. If you don't feel those scores reflect your best effort, you never have to send them to any schools or programs. You always have the option to take the test again.

If you'd like more information about how you performed on a recent GRE General Test that you've taken, you have access to the free GRE Diagnostic Service through your ETS account. This diagnostic service will provide you with information about how you performed on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning questions.

It will provide you with a summary of the questions you answered right and wrong, the difficulty level of each question, and the amount of time you spent on each question. This information is particularly helpful if you are planning to take the GRE General Test again. You'll be able to access the GRE Diagnostic Service approximately 15 days after your test and for up to 6 months following your test.

This slide shows an example of the GRE Diagnostic Service, which is a free service for GRE test takers. This is a sample for the Verbal Reasoning section, in which you can see the reference number, question type, whether it was answered right or wrong, the difficulty level, and the time spent.

This slide explains how the GRE Diagnostic Service works for the Quantitative Reasoning section. You can see that the free GRE Diagnostic Service divides the questions into different categories, such as the mathematical content area, question type, and setting.

This slide shows what the GRE Diagnostic Service looks like for the Quantitative Reasoning section. For this free service, test-takers can see how they performed on the questions in the Quantitative Reasoning section. And it will show the type of math question, the setting, whether the question was answered right or wrong, the difficulty level, and how much time was spent on the question.

Free Tools to Help You Prepare -- If you're ready to get started preparing to take the GRE General Test, a great first place to visit would be the GRE website. We have a special section on test preparation materials that you can find at the URL at the bottom of the screen. This website will give you an overview of all three measures of the test, and it will include sample questions with explanations, tips and strategies for answering the different question types you'll find in all three sections, as well as scoring guides. You can find links to these section overviews also in your My Test Preparation and Services link in your ETS account.

Available in your ETS account for free is our POWERPREP Test Preview tool. This tool helps to get you familiar with the test features and question types that you'll find on the actual GRE General Test.

An excellent way to make sure you're fully prepared to take the GRE General Test is to practice using the free POWERPREP Online Practice Test tool. These are, as I mentioned, free and available through your ETS account and on the GRE website. POWERPREP Online provides two full-length practice tests that simulate the actual test taking experience.

It's designed to help you understand what's being tested, to get familiar with the different question types you'll encounter in each measure of the test, and to become familiar with the test-taking tools. Again, it's available for free in your ETS account or on the GRE website. And it can be taken in a timed, or untimed, condition. We recommend trying the timed condition at least once to get a good feel for the timing that you'll have for each measure on test day.

For those of you looking for tools to help you prepare for the Quantitative Reasoning measure of the GRE General Test, there are several documents posted on the GRE website that you may find particularly helpful. The GRE Math Review document is a great refresher of the basic math that you'll encounter on the test. It also contains practice questions with answers and links to helpful Khan Academy videos. There's also the GRE Math Conventions document, which provides an overview of the mathematical assumptions and terminology that you'll encounter in the Quantitative Reasoning measure.

ETS is committed to making preparation materials available in accessible formats. Our POWERPREP Online practice tool provides the following accommodations: extended time, extra breaks, screen magnification, selectable colors, screen reader, and refreshable braille compatibility. Practice materials are also available in braille, recorded audio, tactile figure supplements, large print, and accessible electronic format. For more information, please visit the website listed on your screen.

GRE Resources -- Some GRE resources available for prospective test takers and available on the GRE website are GRE registration infographic PDF, a video on how to create an ETS account, a video for how to register for the GRE General Test, an official GRE Test Prep at a Glance PDF, a video for how to reschedule a GRE General Test date, and a video on how to send GRE scores after test day.

In addition to the official GRE website, which provides the most in-depth and comprehensive information about the test policies, test dates, and locations and more, there are several websites designed especially for test takers that provide easy to digest information. So be sure to visit, and written in simplified Chinese and English,

If you're interested in connecting with others and hearing what others who have taken the GRE General Test are saying, we have a GRE General Test page on Facebook, Instagram, and videos available on YouTube. It's a great way to connect and engage with others who are planning to take the GRE General Test just like you may be.

You can also hear what other test takers are saying by joining conversations on LinkedIn. We have an official GRE General Test page and Taking the GRE General Test for business school page. Again, it's another way to connect, engage, and hear from others who are planning to take the GRE General Test for their educational goals. For test takers in China, you can connect and hear what others are saying through the official GRE General Test page on Sina Weibo, the GRE official page on WeChat and the GRE official page on Zhihu.