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What Is GRE?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is one of the primary steps for those who want to get into a graduate study program. According to the GRE Web site, the general exam “measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking and analytical writing skills.” The subject tests measure achievement at the undergraduate level in eight different areas.

The GRE is one of many specific exams under the banner of Educational Testing Service (ETS), a non-profit organization that started in 1947. According to the company, more than 50 million exams are administered by ETS each year, with GRE accounting for a significant portion of that number.

The GRE General Test is for graduate-school applicants whose results are reviewed by university admissions officers or panels that review applicants for upper-level fellowships. Along with the individual’s performance in undergraduate studies, the scores help the committees compare applicant qualifications. GRE registration can now be completed on the Web, as well as by telephone or standard mail. The test is available at various locations all year, though it is necessary to make an appointment for administration of the test with an area facility.

There are a number of programs that help people prepare for the Graduate Record Exam. Many colleges and universities have programs specifically for GRE tutoring. There are private organizations that offer the same service, along with dozens of books and training manuals designed to prepare a person for this admissions test. In fact, a quick search for information about GRE preparation and GRE course will uncover hundreds of thousands of sources. Many of these are profitable tutoring companies that charge a fee for their assistance.

Results of the Graduate Record Exam are measured two ways. The test sections on verbal and quantitative are considered “computer adaptive.” According to the GRE site, computer adaptive means “the questions that are given to the test-taker are dependent partially on the answers the test-taker has provided to previous questions.” A “raw” score of the completed test is converted to a scale that allows the results to account for various difficulty levels on different test versions.

Scores on this converted scale (verbal and quantitative) range from a low of 200 to a high of 800, with results reported in increments of 10 points (a 740 score or a 750 score etc.). The writing exam portion is actually read and according to GRE information is given a score by two readers. The scale runs from 0 to 6. As an interesting note on the writing section, “If the scores given in this section by the two readers vary by more than one point, a third reader scores this section. If the scores do not vary by more than one point among the two initial readers, the scores are averaged and rounded up to the nearest half point.”

Most of the pre-test advice provided by preparation companies and by the Educational Testing Service urge interested people to register well ahead of the time when test results will be needed. Test centers fill their calendars quickly.