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The Graduate Record Examination is a Standardized test that measures verbal, mathematical and analytical skills. It is intended to help the graduate schools (of all fields other than business) assess the potential of applicants for advanced study . Nearly 2300 universities in the US require GRE(R) scores from each applicant. The GRE tests the fundamental skills - Reasoning and Comprehension included - and does not require any subject-specific theoretical study. (This is true only for the General GRE Test, and not the GRE Subject, which is required by certain universities. In this section, we mean the General GRE Test whenever we refer to the GRE Test)

The test is designed in such a way that it would be unlike any other test you would have taken at school or college. First, the test has no question paper or answer sheets, nor does it have the same set of questions for all the examinees. Further, it does not give you the option of not answering a question (unless, of course, you run out of time at the end). All this because the GRE Test is an entirely Computer based test - the keyboard and mouse do the work of a pen or pencil. The test is scored out of 1600 (in multiples of 10).

The GRE Test is only one of several parameters which the graduate schools look at to determine the selection of an applicant. A high score alone does not translate into an admission offer from a great school. But the test can be looked upon as the first major hurdle to be cleared in the process of getting admission into a Graduate school of your choice.

Who administers the GRE ?

The GRE Test is developed and administered by the US-based "Educational Testing Service" (ETS) under the direction of the Graduate Record Examination Board, a non-profit organization of graduate business schools worldwide. This implies that ETS sets the questions, conducts the test, and sends each examinee the score report. For the conduct of the test, ETS has appointed Testing Agencies in various countries, which act as franchisee for ETS. In India, this agency is the "Sylvan Testing Services Pvt Ltd" which administers the test at 9 centres in the country:Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Trivandrum.

When is the GRE test held ?

All-round-the-year. Unlike other exams, you can choose your own date and time for taking the GRE Test! The test is administered in the above cities five-days-a-week (Monday through Friday), twice-a-day. September to December is the high season for GRE Test, so in case you intend to take the test during this period, you need to register very early (say 90 days in advance) to get a date of your choice. Otherwise, registering at least 15 days in advance is mandatory. The test lasts roughly three-and-a-half hours, and most centres offer two slots : 9 A.M. and 2 P.M.

Eligiblity and Fees

Anyone and everyone is eligible for taking the GRE Test - there are no restrictions based on age or qualifications. The test scores are valid for five years, i.e., most universities accept scores up to five years old. But it is always better if your scores are recent (not older than 2 years).

Test fees for GRE Test may vary according to the country in which you take the test. In India, this fee is US $140 (approx Rs. 7000), payable at the time of registration. You cannot pay in Indian Rupees. The fees has to be paid through a US Dollar denominated draft, made out in favour of "ETS - GRE" payable in the U.S. Such a draft is usually available with the Main Branches of most banks (which have a foreign exchange counter) in most of the big cities for a nominal charge (around Rs. 200). Alternately, the payment can also be made through a credit card which has global acceptance. The credit card need not necessarily be yours - you can get your father to sign for you!

What is a Computer-Adaptive Test ?

In a computer-adaptive test, the computer screen displays one question at a time, which is chosen from a very large pool of questions categorized by content and difficulty. The first question is always of a medium difficulty, and each subsequent question is determined by your responses to all the previous questions. In other words, the CAT adjusts itself to your ability level - you'll get few questions that are either too easy or too difficult for you.

Each question in the GRE CAT has five answer options, and you are required to select one of these five as the correct answer by clicking on it. A subsequent question is displayed on the screen only after you have answered the previous question, so you cannot skip a question. You cannot also go back to a previously answered question to change your answer. Thus, if you guess a correct answer or answer a question incorrectly by mistake, your answers to subsequent questions will lead you back to questions that are at the appropriate level of difficulty for you.

Content and Format of the GRE TEST

The test has three distinct sections : Writing Assessment (WA), Quantitative, and Verbal. The Quantitative section has Problem Solving questions, which test your mathematical skills and concepts of roughly the high-school level. The Verbal Section has four types of questions : Antonyms, Analogies, Reading Comprehension, and Sentence Completion. The questions of each type appear in no set sequence. There are a total of 58 questions, 28 in Quantitative and 30 in Verbal.

The third section, Analytical Writing Assessment measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It consists of two analytical writing tasks : (1) "Present your perspective on an issue", and (2) "Analyze an Argument".

There is a one-minute break between each test section. Midway through the testing session, an on-screen message will inform you of the opportunity to take a 10-minute break. Section timing will not stop if you take an unscheduled break.

Section Number of questions Time
Analytical Writing:
Analysis of an issue
Analyze an Argument

1 Topic
1 Topic

45 min.
30 min.
Verbal Section 30 30 min.
Quantitative 28 45 min.
Experimental Section varies varies

An unidentified verbal or quantitative experimental section may be included and may appear in any order after the analytical writing section. It is not counted as part of your score.

Quantitative Section

The section tests you on a level of Maths that is comparable to Class 10 mathematics, with questions on Number Systems, Percentages, Fractions & Decimals, Algebra (including Quadratic Equations), Geometry (including Basic Coordinate Geometry), Ratio & Proportion, Area & Volume of 2-D and 3-D figures, and Probability. This list is not exhaustive; questions from beyond these topics may also be asked.

The section has 28 questions to be completed in 45 minutes.

Verbal Section

The verbal section in GRE Test requires a good vocabulary level, the basic skills of correct English coupled with reasoning and analysis. The 30 questions, to be attempted in 30 minutes, consist of four types : Antonyms, Analogies, Sentence Completion, and Reading Comprehension. The four types are intermingled, with no fixed number for each type.

Analytical writing assessment section

The writing assessment section requires you to write - or type - two short essays. The first is the Issue task, in which you need to analyze the issue presented and explain your views on it. For the Issue task, you will be able to choose 1 of 2 essay topics selected by the computer from the pool of topics. You will get 45 minutes to do write or type this essay.

The second essay is Analysis of an Argument, in which a given argument has to be critically analyzed and evaluated. The Argument task does not offer a choice of topics; the computer will present you with a single topic selected from the topic pool. You will get 30 minutes to write or type this essay.

For both the essays, the emphasis is on the "Analytical" part, and not on the "Writing" part. This implies that a concise essay with well-reasoned points written in simple English will be looked upon more favourably than an essay which falls short on the analytical aspects even though it is high on writing skills.

A ten-minute break follows the two essays. The computer gives you the option to take this break, or to move directly to the subsequent section. Even if you finish the essays before the stipulated sixty minutes, the break will still be of five minutes. It is advisable to utilize this break by gearing yourself up for the tougher sections that follow.

Reporting the Score

ETS has the provision of reporting your GRE scores to a maximum of four universities of your choice, the cost of which is built into the fee you pay. You have to indicate the four universities where you wish a copy of your GRE score to be sent after you get to know your scores. For reporting to each additional university, the ETS charges you $13, payable by an international credit card or a dollar denominated draft.

The score pattern GRE CAT

The GRE Test results comprise four different scores : a total score, and separate scores for Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing Assessment sections. The total score is reported out of 1600 and the sectional scores are out of 800. The Writing Assessment section is scored separately on 6.

In addition to these scores, the score report also contains percents (%) below. These "% below" indicate the percentage of examinees who scored below you based on the scores of the entire GRE testing population for the most recent three-year period. These percentages are important in considering how an applicant for admission to a particular management school compares with everyone in the specified period, with all other applicants to the same school, and with students already enrolled at the school.

Retaking the GRE test

Even though an "I could have done better" feeling is inevitable after any test, taking the GRE Test again may not be helpful. Sometimes it is necessary to take the GRE Test more than once, like when a management school asks you for more recent scores than what you have. However, unless your scores seem unusually low compared to your performance in the practice tests, or if you have not been able to perform well because of a sudden illness or similar exceptional circumstances, it's advisable not to succumb to the temptation of repeating the test. This is so for given the nature of the test, it is unlikely that your scores can substantially improve, and in fact, your scores may decrease.

If you repeat the test, your scores from the latest test date and the two most recent test administrations in the last five years will be reported to the institutions you designate as recipients. In any case, you cannot take the test more than once in the same calendar month, even if you have taken the test and cancelled your scores.