The GRE is an aptitude test. Like all aptitude tests, it must choose a medium in which to measure intellectual ability. The GRE has chosen math and English. OK, the GRE is an aptitude test. The question is — does it measure aptitude for graduate school? The GRE’s ability to predict performance in school is as poor as the SAT’s. This is to be expected since the tests are written by the same company (ETS) and are similar. The GRE’s verbal section, however, is significantly harder (more big words), and, surprisingly, the GRE’s math section is slightly easier. The GRE also includes a writing section that the SAT does not. No test can measure all aspects of intelligence. Thus any admission test, no matter how well written, is inherently inadequate. Nevertheless, some form of admission testing is necessary. It would be unfair to base acceptance to graduate school solely on grades; they can be misleading. For instance, would it be fair to admit a student with an A average earned in easy classes over a student with a B average earned in difficult classes? A school’s reputation is too broad a measure to use as admission criteria: many students seek out easy classes and generous instructors, in hopes of inflating their GPA. Furthermore, a system that would monitor the academic standards of every class would be cost prohibitive and stifling. So until a better system is proposed, the admission test is here to stay.
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FORMAT OF THE GRE
The GRE is approximately four hours long. Only three-hours-and-ten-minutes of the GRE count toward your score — the experimental section is not scored. There are four sections in the test: 2 Verbal (30 minutes each); 2 Math (35 minutes each); 2 Writing (30 minutes each); Experimental, which can be Verbal or Math.
The verbal section now consists of three types of questions—Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence—and three types of answer structures—Single-answer multiple-choice questions, Multiple-answer multiple-choice questions, and Select-in passages.
The experimental section can be a verbal section or a math section. You won’t know which section is experimental. You will know which type of section it is, though, since there will be an extra one of that type.
Because the “bugs” have not been worked out of the experimental section — or, to put it more directly, because you are being used as a guinea pig to work out the “bugs” — this portion of the GRE is often more difficult and confusing than the other parts.
Knowing that the experimental section can be disproportionately difficult, if you do poorly on a particular section you can take some solace in the hope that it may have been the experimental section. In other words, do not allow one difficult section to discourage your performance on the rest of the GRE.
SCORING THE GRE
The three major parts of the test are scored independently. You will receive a verbal score, a math score, and a writing score. The verbal and math scores range from 130 to 170, in 1-point increments. The writing score is on a scale from 0 to 6. In addition to the scaled score, you will be assigned a percentile ranking, which gives the percentage of students with scores below yours.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When is the GRE given?
The test is given year-round. You can take the test during normal business hours, in the first three weeks of each month. Weekends are also available in many locations. You can register as late as the day before the test, but spaces do fill up. So it’s best to register a couple of weeks before you plan to take the test.
How important is the GRE and how is it used?
It is crucial! Although graduate schools may consider other factors, the vast majority of admission decisions are based on only two criteria: your GRE score and your GPA.
How many times should I take the GRE?
Most people are better off preparing thoroughly for the GRE, taking it one time and getting their top score. You can take the test as many times as you like, but many graduate schools will average your scores. You should call the schools to which you are applying to find out their policy. Then plan your strategy accordingly.
Can I cancel my GRE score?
Yes. You can cancel your score immediately after the test but before you see your score. You can take the GRE only once a month.
Where can I get the GRE registration forms?
Most colleges and universities have the forms. You can also get them directly from ETS by writing to:
Graduate Record Examinations
Educational Testing Service
P. O. Box 6020
Princeton, NJ 08541-6020