Still have questions about the test? We have answers. . . .
When should I take the GRE?
Different graduate programs have different deadlines, so be sure
to check with the programs you’re interested in to find out their
specific requirements. If you’re still in college, be sure to factor in
your class assignments when deciding to take the test; you don’t want to
be taking the GRE the day before finals.
Also, try to time your study and preparation to culminate about a
week before you take the test. This gives you enough time to go over any
last minute weak spots, but it also gives you time to relax before test
How do I register?
You have three options for registering:
Visit www.gre.org and follow the online instructions.
You’ll need a credit card to register online.
Call 1-800-GRE-CALL. You’ll need a credit card for
this option too.
Complete a paper registration form, available at most
colleges and universities.
When you register to take the test, you’ll also have the
opportunity to designate score recipients, or the graduate programs that
you’d like to receive your GRE section scores.
When is it offered?
The GRE is offered year-round at various times throughout the day.
Depending on demand, some locations may have more dates than others. Go
to the GRE’s website for specific dates: www.gre.org.
Where can I take it?
You may take the GRE at any of the approximately 3,500 GRE testing
centers worldwide, including colleges, universities, and corporate
conference centers. You and your fellow test takers will each have a
computer on which to work. To find the location nearest you, visit
How is the GRE scored?
The Math and Verbal sections are scored in 10-point increments
from 200 to 800. The test makers use a complicated algorithm to
translate the number of questions you answer correctly into your
official GRE score. This official score will also include a percentile
ranking, which allows admission officers to compare your scores to those
of other test takers. The Essay section is scored in half-point
increments from 0 to 6. You’ll receive a single score on this section,
an average of the subscores of your two essays, rounded up to the
nearest half point. In total, you’ll receive three scores, one score for
each of the three sections.
What’s a “good score”?
Simply put, a good score is one that gets you into the graduate
program of your choice. Since some programs have score cutoffs, you need
to check with each individual program to see what it considers “good.”
Note too that some programs might not mind if you don’t do so hot on a
particular section of the test. For example, an English program probably
wouldn’t be concerned if you only got an average score of 500 on the
Math section, because this type of program will be most interested in
your Verbal score. Be safe, though, and do some research.
When will I get my score?
You—and the graduate programs you designated back when you
registered for the GRE—should receive your official score report within
three weeks of taking the test. You’ll get your unofficial Verbal and
Math scores immediately after taking the test, before you leave the
Is there a wrong-answer penalty?
Yes. Every question you answer incorrectly lowers your score. If
you answer a question incorrectly, the GRE software will begin giving
you easier questions. But while these easier questions might seem like a
gift from the test makers, they’re actually not. Easier questions
translate into a lower score percentile, even if you get all the easy
questions correct. Your goal as a test taker is to correctly answer the
questions, especially those you get at the start of each section. These
questions, which constitute about a third of the section, have the
biggest overall effect on your GRE score, because the software makes the
largest jumps in its assessment of your abilities during this early
phase of the section and tends to merely fine-tune its assessment later
on. So it pays to be especially careful on the first few questions to
bump yourself into higher scoring territory as soon as
Who grades my essays?
The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that develops
and administers the GRE, hires college and university faculty to score
the essays. Each essay is read and scored by two graders. If their
scores match, that’s the score you’ll get. If their scores differ by a
point, your score will be the average of those two scores. If the
essay-graders differ by more than one point in their assessments, a
third grader is brought in. Now, it may seem strange that someone who
hasn’t even graduated from elementary school would be brought in to
judge your writing ability. . . . No, not that kind of
third grader! An additional grader above and beyond the
original two will read your essay to settle the score.
Your scores on the two essays will then also be averaged; this
average, rounded to the nearest half point, will be the single score you
receive on the Essay section.
Will graduate schools see my essays?
Yes. Your essays—and not just the scores—will be included in the
score reports sent to your designated graduate schools. Many schools
have begun using the GRE Essays not only as factors in their decisions
about admissions but also for funding, such as scholarships and
How long are my scores valid?
GRE scores are valid for five years from the date you take the
exam. This also means that if you take the exam more than once, graduate
schools will see all of the scores you’ve received in the last five
What if I bomb the GRE? Can I take it again?
If you study the material in this book, you won’t have to worry
about bombing the exam. However, if you really don’t get the score you
want, you may retake the GRE. That said, you’re only allowed to take it
once in a single month and only five times in a twelve-month period.
Graduate programs differ in how they treat multiple GRE scores. Some
programs only look at the most recent scores, some only look at the
highest scores, and some take all of your scores into
How do I cancel my scores?
You have the opportunity to cancel your scores before you leave
the testing center. Think very, very carefully before deciding to cancel
your scores. Neither you nor any graduate program will ever know how you
did on a canceled test, but ETS will notify graduate schools that you
once took a test and canceled the results, which means you might have
some explaining to do on your applications.
Bottom line: Only cancel your scores if something goes horribly
awry on test day.
This section answers common questions often asked by those new to the
How long does the test take?
The whole test takes a little less than three hours: 75 minutes
for the Essay section, 45 minutes for the Math section, and 30 minutes
for the Verbal section. You’ll also have to sit through a tutorial, and
you’ll probably also have to take an unscored pretest or research
section. In all, you should allow around four hours for the
What should I bring to the test center?
You must bring a photo ID to the test center. Bring a pen or
pencil and any vouchers or receipts from ETS as well. If you get cold
easily, bring a sweater. You might also want to take a snack and some
water with you, in addition to any good-luck charms. Hey, whatever
Do I need to know much about computers?
No. All you need is a basic understanding of how a computer mouse
and keyboard work. The programs you’ll use and screens you’ll see on
test day are very basic. Essentially, you click on the screen to enter
your choices. After you click the bubble of your choice, you’ll have to
click the “next” button whereupon the program will give you even another
chance to confirm your answer choice before the next question will
appear. Rest assured that nothing about the programs or screens will
distract you from your true purpose on test day: getting a good
Can I go back and change my answers within a section?
Unfortunately, no. Once you click on an answer, that question
disappears forever. Same deal with the sections. You cannot go back and
change or check your answers.
Will I get a tutorial before the test starts?
You’ll get a tutorial before the test starts. But we suggest that
you download and peruse all the sample software that ETS gives you when
you register for the GRE. You should also get online and take our
full-length practice test at this PDF
Make sure you budget your time so that you have plenty of practice on
the computer before test day!
During the test, you’ll be given a set of general instructions at
the start of every section. The GRE gives you a few minutes to read over
the instructions; the section time starts after you leave the
directions. You’ll receive question-specific directions every time you
begin a new group of questions within a section. We explain these
directions throughout the book, so you can skip them and save time on
How will I write the essays?
You’ll use a rudimentary word-processing program to compose your
two essays. The program does not include a grammar- or spell-checker,
but you can cut, paste, undo, redo, delete, and backspace. Note: The GRE
won’t let you use keyboard shortcuts, so you’ll have to use the cursor
and mouse to make changes.
Can I choose my essay topic or write about whatever I want? Can I
write the essay beforehand?
Only if you want to get a 0. Your essays must address the topics
designed by the test makers. Writing about whatever you want or going
off topic will result in no or a low score.
ETS makes potential Issue and Argument topics available online.
Check them out at www.gre.org/pracmats.html. Making the topics available
sounds counterintuitive, since ETS doesn’t want test takers to memorize
prewritten essays. But ETS also wants test takers to write the best
essays possible on test day—hence the online topic pool.
May I use scratch paper?
Although you may not bring in your own scratch paper, the testing
center will provide you with several pieces of 8½ × 11 paper. If you
need more, the proctor will provide it for you, a few pages at a time.
You won’t be able to take the paper with you when you leave the test,
and you’ll have to hand in the used paper to get fresh
May I use a timer?
The official rule is that silent watches are allowed. Desktop
clocks or any timer that makes a noise are not allowed. The testing
software includes a timer right in the upper left-hand corner of the
screen, which you can hide from view up until five minutes remaining in
the section. From that point on, the timer remains on the screen and
counts down by seconds until time is up. So you can bring a silent
timepiece if you prefer, or use the one provided on the
Do I need to know trigonometry or calculus?
The GRE tests basic math and only basic math. Advanced topics such
as trig and calculus are not tested. Our Math 101 chapter explains every
single topic, concept, term, and formula you’ll need on test day. If
it’s not in our book, it’s not on the test.
Do I need to memorize vocabulary words?
Having a great vocabulary will lead to more points on the exam,
and memorizing words helps you increase your vocabulary. Our book
includes a tear-out chart with 400 of the most commonly tested GRE
words. This book also provides strategies to help you conquer the Verbal
How do I get a good score on the GRE?
You’ve come to the right place. Read on . . .