GRE Guide

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Many graduate programs require applicants to complete the GRE exam and submit their scores for consideration. Prospective graduate and business school students pursuing a master's degree, MBA, specialized master's in business, or doctoral degree all take the exam. Many graduate-level accounting programs also request that applicants complete the accounting GRE exam. More than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries administer the exam, and most offer the computer-based test on a year-round basis. In Hong Kong, mainland China, Korea, and Taiwan, however, exam sessions are typically conducted three times every month. Other centers administer the paper-based exam instead of the computerized test.

Thousands of business schools, fellowship panels, and graduate programs use GRE scores to supplement applicants' undergraduate records and other admissions requirements. Focusing on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing, the test measures students' problem solving and critical thinking skills, as well as their ability to compose, analyze, and evaluate written material.

GRE Subject Tests

While many graduate programs request scores from the GRE General Test, some require that applicants submit their results from the GRE Subject Tests. The GRE Subject Tests evaluate specialized knowledge in six different disciplines: psychology, physics, mathematics, literature in English, chemistry, and biology. Because Subject Tests demonstrate a student's academic strengths and weaknesses, they are often used for guidance and placement purposes. Even institutions that do not require Subject Test scores will review them when considering students for admittance. Usually offered in paper format, Subject Tests are administered worldwide every September, October, and April.

Do Accounting Students Have to Take the GRE?

Every accounting program maintains slightly different admissions requirements. At some schools, all prospective graduate students must provide standardized test scores, regardless of their major. Others review, but do not require GRE scores for admission. Before applying to an accounting program, it is important to research the institution's admissions guidelines and prepare accordingly. Applicants have many study resources at their disposal, and accounting GRE test prep courses and materials are available both online and in person.

What Does the GRE Look Like?

The Structure of the GRE

The computer-based GRE General Test is made up of six sections, and takes three hours and 45 minutes to complete, including a ten-minute break after the third section. The analytical writing portion of the test consists of two separate, timed tasks that are allotted 30 minutes each. One task involves analyzing an issue or topic, while the other requires that test takers analyze an argument. During the verbal reasoning portion of the exam, candidates complete two 30-minute sections consisting of 20 questions each. The test's two-part quantitative reasoning segment is similar, with 20 questions in each section; however, test takers are allotted 35 minutes per section. The exam also includes an unidentifiable, unscored section and an identified research section, neither of which count toward the final score.

Consisting of six sections, the paper-delivered GRE General Test is three and a half hours long. Test takers receive a ten-minute break after completing the second section. The analytical writing portion focuses on the same tasks as the computer-delivered exams, and students have 20 minutes to complete each task. The verbal reasoning portion is divided into two 35-minute sections, both of which consist of 25 questions. The quantitative reasoning portion is also divided into two 40-minute sections, with 25 questions in each section. In both the computer and paper-delivered exams, the analytical writing section is always first, while the other sections may appear in any order. Test takers can skip questions and return to them later.

Delivery Format

The GRE General Test is offered in both computer-delivered and paper formats. The paper-delivered test is a hard copy version of the computerized version, and is usually administered in areas where the computerized edition is not available. While test takers who have been granted approval for special testing conditions may also be permitted to take the paper version, they may not choose the paper-delivered exam over the computer-delivered format for any other reasons. Candidates who complete the paper test are not given scratch paper like those who take the computerized version, but are permitted to write in their test booklet. The paper test includes five additional questions in the verbal section and quantitative reasoning section, respectively.

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The Verbal Reasoning Section

Skill Areas The verbal reasoning section of the GRE evaluates participants' abilities to analyze and evaluate written material, synthesize information, and identify how words and concepts relate to one another. Questions are delivered in several formats. Half of the items require test takers to read passages and provide responses based on the readings. In the other half, subjects must read, interpret, and complete a series of sentences and paragraphs.
Question Types The verbal reasoning section of the GRE consists of three types of questions: reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, and text completion. Reading comprehension items are delivered in sets, while text completion and sentence equivalence questions appear independently. Reading comprehension questions come in three formats: multiple choice with one answer, multiple choice with one or more answers, and select-in-passage. Text completion questions include a passage and one to three blanks, in which test takers provide their responses. Sentence equivalence questions are comprised of one sentence with one blank and six answer choices.
Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them One of the most common mistakes test takers make in the verbal reasoning section is trying to answer the question based on the provided answers, instead of basing their response on the question itself. While some answers may seem logically accurate, they do not match the question due to grammatical or contextual discrepancies. In addition, some participants read passively, instead of underlining key words, interacting with the passages, and actively posing questions based upon the provided text.
Helpful Tips * Look for words that are significant: The most important words in a passage are not always obvious, and sometimes include words like "although," "that said," or "however." Significant phrases and words are those that are crucial to the author's argument. * Read the entire passage: Some test takers prefer to work backwards, reading each question before searching the accompanying text for the correct response. However, you should bolster your understanding of the text by reading the passage first. * When answering double fill-in-the-blank questions, don't base answers off the first word: Both words should accurately complete the two fill-in-the-blanks. Pay attention to the entire answer choice; not just the first word. * Before looking at the answers, fill in the blank: Before looking at the provided response options, read the passage or sentence and fill the blank on instinct. By doing so, you can compare your answer to the other options and determine which one most closely resembles your own response.

The Analytical Writing Section

Skill Areas The analytical writing portion of the GRE assesses candidates' critical thinking skills. In this section, respondents must develop, explain, and support a complex argument during two different 30-minute analytical writing tasks. In the first, test takers must analyze an issue, while the second requires them to analyze an argument.
Question Types The issue analysis task measures test takers' ability to examine a topic critically and respond to it in writing. Each issue statement poses a claim that may be explored from multiple perspectives. Candidates must take a stance on the issue and provide a detailed response explaining their recommendations, opposing arguments, and reasoning. Argument analysis tasks assess candidates' capacity to comprehend, analyze, and evaluate arguments and subsequently convey their conclusions in writing.
Word Processing Software The computer-delivered test uses a basic word processor developed by the ETS. The word processor allows test takers to insert and delete text, cut and paste, and undo previous actions. To maintain fairness for those taking the paper-delivered exam, the word processor does not include spelling- or grammar-checking features.
Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them To excel at the analytical writing section, respondents must understand how issue and argument tasks are graded. Accounting GRE prep courses offer insight into proper response structures, as well as how administrators evaluate written analyses. Some candidates make the common mistake of incorporating too many complicated or advanced words in their responses. Instead of relying on sophisticated language, it is better to concentrate on presenting an opinion and explaining your conclusions in a clear and concise manner.
Helpful Tips * Review topics prior to the exam day: The ETS website provides a list of possible issue and argument prompts prior to the test, so that candidates may familiarize themselves with the topics beforehand. Outlining potential responses to each topic can help you gain a better understanding of the types of issues and arguments on the exam. * Leave time to proofread: Spelling and grammar errors lower even the best essay's quality. Proofreading your response before submitting it demonstrates that you value quality and precision. * Write a response that completely explains your reasoning: When constructing responses to sentence statements, test takers should strive to fully articulate their reasoning by addressing all potential options and arguments. * Review GRE test book scoring guides: Available online and in bookstores, previously-graded GRE essays and scoring guides offer insight into the elements that make up a well-written response.

The Quantitative Reasoning Section

Skill Areas The GRE's quantitative reasoning section evaluates a respondent's ability to apply basic mathematical skills to real-world issues, as well as their understanding of mathematical concepts and theoretical models. Emphasizing geometry, the section includes topics such as three-dimensional figures, parallel and perpendicular lines, and the Pythagorean theorem.
Question Types The quantitative reasoning section includes four types of items: multiple choice questions with one answer, multiple choice questions with one or more answers, numeric entry questions, and quantitative comparison questions. This section focuses on prime numbers, percentages, arithmetic, and absolute value. Test takers also encounter algebraic concepts, including quadratic equations, graphs and functions, and word problems.
Can You Use a Calculator on the GRE? The computer-delivered test provides an on-screen calculator with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square root functions. While individuals completing the paper-delivered test are not permitted to bring their own calculator, they are given one to use during testing.
Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them Some test takers begin the quantitative reasoning section by attempting to complete calculations for each quantitative comparison. However, it is often possible to eliminate incorrect answers and find the correct choice through estimation. As the quantitative section focuses exclusively on high school algebra and other, less advanced concepts, it is more important to study these areas than higher mathematics.
Helpful Tips * Save time to check your work: Many questions in the quantitative reasoning section provide answers that are only one or two digits away from the correct response. Checking your work against all of the provided options helps ensure that your response is correct. * Refresh basic math concepts: The quantitative reasoning section includes many basic mathematical concepts. Some test takers focus on studying advanced topics and forget to brush up on simpler concepts, such as mean, median, mode, and probability. * Simplify questions: Look for ways to simplify mathematical questions whenever possible. This may include anything from eliminating zeros from a fraction to reducing an algebra term. * Memorize equations: Geometry equations make up a significant portion of quantitative reasoning questions. Many candidates memorize fundamental geometrical formulas and theorems, which may then be used to solve numerous types of equations.

How is the GRE Scored?

The GRE General Test uses three different scoring scales. Verbal reasoning scores are reported on a 130-170 scale in one-point increments. Analytical writing scores are reported on a 0-6 scale in half-point increments, and quantitative reasoning scores are reported on a 130-170 scale in one-point increments. Unanswered questions are reported as No Score (NS).

On the computer-delivered test, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning scores are based on the number of accurate responses to the questions in both sections. The computer selects the second operational section of an area based on a test taker's performance on the first section. Each essay in the analytical writing section is scored by a trained rater, according to a six-point scale.

Score Ranges on the GRE General Test

GRE SectionScore Range
Verbal Reasoning130-170 (1-point increments)
Analytical Writing0-6 (half-point increments)
Quantitative Reasoning130-170 (1-point increments)

Source: ETS

What's the Difference Between Your Scaled Score and Your Percentile Rank?

GRE test scores are comprised of two components: a percentile rank and a scaled score. Percentile ranks are considered to be more important than scaled scores. Percentile ranks display an individual's GRE scores in relation to those of other test takers. However, some institutions emphasize the importance of certain scores over others. Before sitting for the GRE, it's important to determine the type of scores your chosen program is interested in.

What's an Average Score on the GRE?

Average Scores on the GRE General Test, 2013-16

GRE SectionScore Range
Verbal Reasoning149.97
Analytical Writing3.48
Quantitative Reasoning152.57

Source: ETS

How Do You Register for the GRE?

The registration process begins with selecting an exam date and reviewing testing policies and ID guidelines. Test takers must present a valid photo ID before sitting for the exam. After choosing a date, candidates complete their registration by creating an ETS account. These accounts allow participants to view and distribute their official scores after they take the test.

When Should You Take the GRE?

Prospective graduate students should take the GRE about one year before applying to any master's programs. This one-year period allows candidates to retake the exam if necessary. Because GRE scores are valid up to five years after the testing date, taking the test early also lets students apply to a wider variety of programs and schools

How Much Does the GRE Cost?

While the GRE itself costs $205, this may vary according to circumstances. Late registration costs $25, standby testing fees are $50, and applicants must pay $50 to change test centers or reschedule an exam, respectively.

How Many Times Can You Take the GRE?

Individuals who wish to replace an inadequate score may retake the exam once every 21 days, but are only permitted to register five times each year.

How to Prepare for the GRE

At-Home Study Methods

The study methods described below are just a few of the numerous ways test takers prepare for the GRE at home.

  • Printed Study Guides: Providing sample questions similar to those on the GRE, printed study guides let test takers review several question types at once, take notes, and jot down answers.
  • Flashcards: Flashcards are typically used to memorize vocabulary words, both in and out of written contexts. While some candidates prefer paper flashcards, many sites allow users to develop customized virtual decks.
  • Private Tutoring: Private tutoring sessions offer comprehensive, one-on-one academic support and personalized instruction, making them ideal for candidates struggling with a particular subject area.
  • Studying Apps: Making it easy to study on the go, these digital resources come in a variety of forms and functions. Because most are free or inexpensive, test takers can explore multiple apps before selecting the ones that best fit their needs.
  • Online Practice Tests: Comprised of sample GRE questions, online practice tests familiarize participants with the exam structure and format. Accounting GRE practice tests contain questions similar to those on the official exam.

GRE Prep Courses

GRE prep courses come in many different formats. One of the most well-known names in the industry, Kaplan offers both online and in-person prep courses, as well as tutoring services and self-paced study programs. Kaplan's traditional and online prep courses both start at $1,299. The online program combines live real-time instruction and elective virtual sessions hosted on The GRE Channel. In-person courses supplement classroom instruction with The GRE Channel's virtual lectures.

Studying Tips for the GRE

  • Replace scratch paper: To avoid running out while completing the exam, test takers should proactively ask exam administrators for additional scratch paper during breaks.
  • Simplify questions: Whether it means reducing an algebraic expression or eliminating zeros from a fraction, many candidates find it helpful to simplify each question as much as possible.
  • Memorize different equations: The GRE typically includes several different types of equations. Many candidates find that by memorizing an example of each kind, they are better prepared to respond to similar equations that appear on the test.
  • Leave time to review answers: Provide yourself with enough time to double-check your responses before the exam ends. This extra time allows you to find and correct any errors, or fill in questions you may have missed.
  • Review basic math concepts: The GRE features a variety of mathematical problems. Reviewing basic concepts such as probability, mean, median, and mode can better prepare you to answer more complicated questions.

Helpful Resources

From practice tests to online flashcards, students preparing to take the GRE have a variety of useful resources at their disposal. You may be interested in some of the following options.

  • ETS POWERPREP Practice Tests: The ETS POWERPREP practice tests familiarize students with various GRE question types and testing tools, such as the on-screen calculator. Participants also gain a better understanding of what each section evaluates and how responses are scored.
  • Quizlet: This online resource allows users to create customized flashcards based on practice test materials and explore others' flashcard sets.
  • Magoosh GRE Vocabulary Flashcards: Spanning multiple difficulty levels, this free app offers a convenient way to master 1,000 common GRE vocabulary words.
  • LEAP: This site features a variety of GRE study tools and resources, including more than 1,100 sample questions, virtual prep classes taught by world-class tutors, blogs, and instructional videos.

What Should You Expect on Test Day?

On the day of the exam, you should arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes before the scheduled exam time. Individuals who arrive late are not allowed to participate, and test takers may not leave the testing area during the examination unless they must use the restroom. A test administrator provides candidates with assigned seating and scratch paper. Test takers may use scratch paper during the exam, but are prohibited from doing so during breaks or before the test. Participants are given a 10-minute break after completing the third section and one-minute breaks between the remaining sections.

What Should You Bring with You? * Valid Photo ID: Participants must present a valid photo ID during check-in. Verification measures may include videotaping, fingerprinting, signature comparison, or biometric voice and photo identification. * Confirmation Email/Voucher: Confirmation emails or vouchers are the only type of paper permitted in the testing room, and they may not be used as scratch paper. Test takers must bring their confirmation in order to participate. * Layers of Clothing: With the exception of engagement or wedding rings, jewelry is prohibited inside test centers. Hair accessories, glasses, bow ties, neckties, scarves, jackets and outerwear are subject to inspection, while tie clips, cufflinks, barrettes, headbands, combs, and ornate clips are entirely prohibited.
What Should You Leave at Home? * Study Notes/Books: To prevent test takers from copying or looking up answers, notes and books of any kind are not permitted in the testing rooms. All studying should be completed prior to the exam. * Your Own Scratch Paper: All testing sites provide participants with scratch paper. Candidates are prohibited from using their own scratch paper, as it presents opportunities to write down answers or notes prior to the test. * Your Own Calculator: The computer-delivered GRE General Test features an on-screen calculator with five functions: square root, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Students taking the paper-delivered GRE are provided with a calculator. In an effort to decrease reliance on computation and emphasize reasoning skills, students are not allowed to bring their own calculators.

Accommodations for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-Associated Needs

Test takers with disabilities or health-related needs are granted necessary accommodations. The computer-delivered GRE test offers a variety of accommodations, including extended time, screen magnification, extra breaks, selectable colors, and a screen reader with refreshable braille compatibility. Candidates must submit any accommodation requests and have them approved by ETS Disability Services before they can schedule their exam. Application forms may be submitted online or by mail.

Submitting Your Scores

When Will You Get Your Scores?

Official scores for the computer-delivered GRE General Test are sent to candidates' ETS accounts approximately 10-15 days after completing the exam. The scores are then sent to the student's designated institutions. Students who take the paper-based test may wait up to five weeks before their official scores appear in their ETS account and are subsequently sent to their chosen institutions.

How Do You Submit Your Scores to Schools?

After paying the GRE test fee, students are able to send their scores to four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors. Upon registration, students can select their score recipients from a list, and can contact the ETS if their desired recipient is not listed. Applicants may also order additional score reports for a $27 per-recipient fee.

What Scores Will Schools See If You Take the Test More Than Once?

The ScoreSelect option lets students determine which GRE scores are sent to their selected institutions. Upon registration, applicants can choose not to report scores as soon as they become available, or they can choose to send their scores from the test administration where they are currently registering. Applicants also have the option of sending their scores from all subject test administrations completed within the last five years.

How Long Will Your Scores Be Valid?

GRE exams completed on or after July 1, 2016 are valid for five years after the testing date. Exams taken prior to July 1, 2016 are valid for five years following the testing year in which the student completed their GRE exam. An exam that was completed on May 15, 2015 will remain valid through June 30, 2018.

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