The GRE, or the Graduate Record Exam, is a standardized test used to determine a student’s academic potential in graduate school.
Applying to graduate school is a huge step academically and professionally. After preparing for interviews, writing personal and professional statements, and applying for graduate assistantships, students must also consider which entrance exams they must take in order to fulfill admissions requirements.
One of these entrance exams is the Graduate Record Exam, or the GRE, and is required or recommended for a majority of graduate programs. However, there are several options, and since these exams usually come with hefty registration fees, it is important to consider available options before registering for an exam that a student may not need to take.
What is the Graduate Record Exam (GRE?)
The Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, is a standardized test that is meant to measure how well a student will perform academically at the graduate level. The test consists of an analytical writing section, a verbal reasoning section, and a quantitative reasoning (math) section. Either the verbal or quantitative reasoning section is repeated for each test taker as an unscored research section to test potential questions for future exams.
The GRE is scored in two different ways. The verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are scored on a scale of 200 to 800, with a score of 800 being considered perfect, in increments of 10. The analytical writing section is scored on a scale of zero to six in half point increments, with six being a perfect score.
Unless by request or due to a lack of availability, the GRE is a computer-based test and is usually twice a day, five days a week. Those with special requests or who wish to take a paper-based exam need to contact ETS, the test’s administrator, to check for availability.
Do I Need to Take the GRE?
To prevent a student from having limited choices when it comes to graduate programs, the answer is usually yes. Most potential graduate students will need to take the GRE because it is an admissions requirement.
Some graduate programs may exempt students from submitting GRE scores if they are applying to certain programs, or have a high cumulative grade point average (GPA.) Other colleges and universities may only require the GRE if a student has a GPA that is below a certain mark or if a student is looking to apply for scholarships or grants, graduate assistantships, or special awards from the college or university.
However, there are certain areas of graduate study that do not require the GRE, but instead require a specialized test that is meant to measure a student’s abilities and potential in that field. Students in the following fields may find that the GRE is not required, but is instead replaced with a similar test:
- For advanced degrees in business administration, business management, or other business-related fields, potential graduate students may be required to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT.)
- For students looking to enter medical school or are pursuing advanced studies in medicine, the MCAT is the required test for most schools.
- For students who are applying to law school, the LSAT replaces the GRE as the required standardized test.
In addition, some areas of study, such as psychology, may require a subject test that is given in addition to the standard GRE. Some programs may ask for an alternative standardized test, such as the Miller Analogies Exam, in place of the GRE for students who have a low GPA.
Those who are applying to graduate school should carefully evaluate admissions requirements before registering for the GRE or any standardized graduate school entrance exam. Without knowing a college or university’s requirements in terms of testing, students could potentially register for the wrong test or take a test that is not even needed and make a costly mistake in the application process.