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The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test created and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing and critical thinking skills.


The computer-based GRE General Test consists of six sections. The first section is always the analytical writing section involving separately timed issue and argument tasks. The next five sections consist of two verbal reasoning sections, two quantitative reasoning sections, and either an experimental or research section, occurring in any order. The experimental section does not count towards the final score but this section is not distinguished from the scored sections. The examinee is free to skip back and forth within sections. The entire testing procedure lasts about 3 hours 45 minutes.  One-minute breaks are offered after each section and a 10-minute break after the third section.

Analytical writing section

The analytical writing section consists of two different essays, an issue task and an argument task. The writing section is graded on a scale of 0-6, in half-point increments. The essays are written on a computer using a word processing program specifically designed by ETS. The program allows only basic computer functions and does not contain a spell-checker or other advanced features. Each essay is scored by at least two readers on a six-point holistic scale. If the two scores are within one point, the average of the scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than a point, a third reader examines the response. The time allotted for each essay is 30 minutes.

Verbal section

The computer-based verbal sections assess reading comprehension, critical reasoning and vocabulary usage. The verbal test is scored on a scale of 130-170, in 1-point increments. In a typical examination, each verbal section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 30 minutes.  Each verbal section consists of about 6 text completions, 4 sentence equivalence, and 10 critical reading questions.

Quantitative section

The computer-based quantitative sections assess basic high school level mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills. The quantitative test is scored on a scale of 130–170, in 1-point increments.  In a typical examination, each quantitative section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 35 minutes.  Each quantitative section consists of about 8 quantitative comparisons, 9 problem-solving items, and 3 data interpretation questions.

Experimental section

The experimental section, which can be either a verbal, quantitative, or analytical writing task, contains new questions ETS is considering for future use. Although the experimental section does not count towards the test-taker’s score, it is unidentified and appears identical to the scored sections. Because test takers have no definite way of knowing which section is experimental, it is typically advised that test takers try their best on every section. Sometimes an identified research section at the end of the test is given instead of the experimental section.


An examinee can miss one or more questions on a multiple-choice section and still receive a perfect score of 170.  Likewise, even if no question is answered correctly, 130 is the lowest possible score.


Top business schools started accepting GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores in 2006, led by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.  Today more than 600 business schools worldwide, including Harvard Business School, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and University of California’s Davis Graduate School of Management, accept GRE scores in addition to the GMAT.

There are many more business schools that also accept GRE scores as an alternative to the GMAT scores in an attempt to attract a wider range of applicants.  The following business schools accept either GRE or GMAT scores, usually no more than 5 years old, in their admission process:

MIT-Sloan, Penn-Wharton, Stanford GSB, NYU-Stern, Berkeley-Haas, Johns Hopkins-Carey, Chicago-Booth (For Economics – the GRE is required. For Finance – the GRE is preferred; GMAT is acceptable. For all other areas – the GRE or the GMAT are accepted), Ohio State-Fisher (The GMAT is required, while GRE scores are eligible for review), Columbia Business School (accepts GRE test scores in place of the GMAT, only if applicant has not taken the GMAT within the last 5 years)

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The GRE was completely overhauled in August 2011, creating an exam that is not computer adaptive, is scored on a similar scale to the LSAT, and has different sections and question types from its predecessor. The Revised GRE General test is said to be better by design and are supposed to test the skills needed in graduate and business schools programs.

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