About the GRE

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to frequently asked questions and everything you need to know about the GRE.


What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a computerized multiple-choice exam required for admission to most graduate programs. The GRE tests math and language skills and includes a graded essay portion. The multiple-choice sections of the test are computer adaptive–meaning that the test reacts to your performance and adjusts question difficulty accordingly. The GRE is offered year-round at computer-based testing centers.

As is the case with most standardized tests, performing well on the GRE requires a combination of both knowledge and strategy. Students need to be familiar with vocabulary definitions and math rules, but they also need to know how to manage all three sections efficiently in order to maximize their score

How is the GRE structured?

The GRE consists of six sections, an Analytical Writing section with two essays, followed by two Quantitative (Math) sections, two Verbal sections, and an unscored Experimental section. The five multiple-choice sections are presented randomly and there is no indication which section is unscored.

Issue Task: Essay – 30 minutes
Argument Task: Essay – 30 minutes
Quantitative: Two sections of 20 questions each – 35 minutes per section
Verbal: Two sections of 20 questions each – 30 minutes per section

What's a good score on the GRE?

Students will receive separate scores for the Verbal and the Quantitative sections. Both sections are scored on a scale of 130 to 170, with a median score of approximately 150.

A good score depends entirely on the programs to which you are applying and your overall strength as a candidate. In addition to GRE scores, graduate programs consider your undergraduate performance, references, application essays, and work experience.

Very few programs will publish required GRE scores, but many make available median scores of their most recent entering class. Note that most universities have multiple graduate programs, each with their own individual expectations for GRE scores. An astrophysics program will have very different priorities from an English program.

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What's a good SAT score?

The new SAT, like the old version of the exam, is intended to produce a median score (50th percentile) of 500 for each of the two areas: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. For the most selective schools (e.g. Ivy League, Stanford, Pomona), applicants will probably need a composite score of 1400 or better, while slightly less selective schools (e.g. UW, Chapman, UCSD) will probably want to see composite scores of 1250 or better. Composite scores in the 1050-1100 range should be competitive at state schools such as Western Washington University or Oregon State University.

How do I register for the GRE?

The easiest way to register for the GRE is online at www.gre.org. The current cost of the test is $205. You can also contact test centers directly to schedule a test appointment.