What is the GRE and Why is it Important?

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

If you’re planning to apply to graduate school, one of the prerequisite tests you’ll most likely have to is the GRE. While some schools have nixed the requirement in recent years, the majority of master’s and Ph.D. programs still require applicants to take the exam. The sole purpose of the GRE is to test your readiness for graduate school; admissions use it to predict how successful an applicant is likely to be as a graduate student.

It also provides admission departments with a quantitative way of comparing applicants. Grad school applicants come from varying educational and cultural backgrounds, and the GRE provides schools with a standard measure for comparing candidates’ qualifications. Also, those who score well on the GRE can receive merit-based scholarships.

What is the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a computer-based or paper-based test used to evaluate graduate school applicants. Some grad programs require applicants to take not only the GRE General Test but also a GRE Subject Test that assesses their technical knowledge related to specific disciplines such as psychology, mathematics, and physics.

Do You Need to Take the GRE?

GRE requirements vary from school to school, but as previously mentioned, most programs do require GRE scores on applications. Some programs value test scores more than others, but internal admissions policies are impossible to know from the outside. Therefore, every grad school applicant should take the exam seriously.

Before starting GRE prep, make sure you research the individual schools you intend to apply to and find out their applicant qualifications.

Who Needs to Take the GRE?

Not everyone pursuing higher education has to take the GRE. For example, medical schools and law schools have their own tests to assess applicants (although, more law schools have started accepting GRE test scores in recent years). But if you want to obtain a Master of Arts or a Master of Science, an MBA, a JD, or doctorate, you’ll most likely need to take the GRE.

When to take the GRE is entirely up to you. Under most circumstances, you should probably take it in the last year of your undergraduate education. Keep in mind that you’ll need to take the test before applications are due, and you may need to take the test multiple times.

The exact GRE test dates depend on what form of GRE you’re going to take—whether online or on paper. The computer-based exam is offered on certain dates year-round. Most applicants opt to take the online test. Not only are there more test dates available, but you’ll also receive your scores immediately.

What is on the GRE?

The GRE test consists of three sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

  • The Analytical Writing section is an essay section that measures how well you can articulate your thoughts and responses to complex ideas.
  • The Verbal Reasoning section consists of two subsections. And they both contain 20 questions each. The Quantitative Reasoning section also comprises two separate parts with 20 questions each.

How to Study and Prepare for the GRE?

When it comes to studying for any standardized test, you’ll want to start by making an organized plan. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Understand What You Have to Study– The first step to preparing for the GRE is to understand what the test comprises. You need to know the details of the test and learn its structure as best you can so you won’t be caught off guard on test day. Also, ensure you acquaint yourself with the different types of questions that each GRE section has and the skills it tests.
  • Take GRE Practice Tests– The second best way to study and prepare for the GRE is to assess yourself and your initial abilities. Working with GRE prep tests helps you gauge your test proficiency. It also gives you insights on how much you need to improve to get the scores you need for grad school.
  • Identify Your Weak Points– Based on the practice tests and your current level of knowledge, identify where you need to work on most.

Your ability to identify your weak areas determines how well you perform in the next preparation steps and, ultimately, your final score in the GRE.

  • Set Study Plan and Schedule–Having a clear plan of what you need to study, and when, is the best way to prepare for the GRE.

Based on your day to day obligations, come up with a workable schedule and hour plan of when and what to study.

Why You Need to Do Well on the GRE

Scoring high (a “good score”) on the GRE will, of course, increase your chances of getting into your dream grad school. A good GRE score can also average out other weak points on your application. For example, if your GPA is a bit low, a higher GRE score than what’s required can help overshadow those weak points.

The GRE is a test that compares grad school applicant’s skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking that are critical for success at the graduate level. The test is widely accepted worldwide by thousands of graduate and business schools. You can either complete it online or ‘on paper,’ and doing well on the exam might increase your percentile ranking, enabling you to get into the grad school of your choice.

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