Since 1949, the GRE has been administered to aspiring graduate students in an attempt to measure their general knowledge and ability before an admissions officer assesses the subject specific aspects of their application.
The GRE tests an enormous variety of skills and competences. Primarily, these fall into three categories: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. The GRE prepares you for graduate school not just because it is almost always a mandatory component of a graduate school application, but also because it prepares its applicants for the style of thinking that graduate school will require of them.
What is the GRE Test
Created by the Educational Testing Service in 1949, the GRE tests applicants’ skills over a range of subject areas. Its aim is to assess skills that have been acquired over a long period of time, making it somewhat difficult to study for. It focuses on how applicants’ use their knowledge, rather than the specific knowledge itself. The GRE test prepares you for graduate school by measuring the extent to which your undergraduate education has developed your reasoning and abstract thinking.
Head of Admissions Consulting at PrepAdviser, Iliana Bobova, explains:
Preparing for the GRE in a focused manner helps you upgrade the skills that are essential for your success in a Master’s or an MBA degree programme.
Types of GRE tests
There are two types of GRE test – the GRE revised General Test and GRE Subject Tests. Choosing a GRE to prepare you for graduate school depends on the sort of programme to which you plan to apply.
The GRE revised General Test can be used for application to a broad array of fields of study, including business and management related programmes.
GRE subject tests are available in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics and Psychology. Subject tests can be taken in September, October and April. In these specific areas, the GRE test prepares you for graduate school by offering a specific test in your area of expertise.
What is a reasonable GRE Score?
The GRE is marked on a scale of 130 to 170. It is difficult to say what a reasonable score is, because they can vary so markedly from subject to subject, and different disciplines accord more or less weight to different sections of the GRE depending on the skills they are looking for.
What constitutes a good GRE score will depend largely on the course that you hope to take. Recent data suggests that a score of 163-170 in the verbal section and 165-170 in the quantitative section, with a writing score of 5-6, will place you in the top 10% of students.
Check out: GRE Scores That Can Get You into B-School
A good score on the GRE test prepares you for graduate school by placing you in the best position to earn a place at the institution of your choice.
An average score is around 150-152 in the verbal and quantitative sections and 3.5 in the writing section. This score on the GRE test prepares you for graduate school, but you will be less competitive than other applicants.
What are the skills that GRE assesses and how do they prepare you for graduate school?
Broadly speaking, the GRE revised General Test is a reasoning test. It checks your ability to solve unfamiliar problems using verbal and quantitative techniques.
The GRE revised General Test contains three sections:
- Analytical Writing, for 60 minutes, comprising two essays - Analysis of an argument and Analysis of an issue.
ETS gives the following guidelines:
The Analytical Writing section requires you to provide focused responses based on the tasks presented, so you can accurately demonstrate your skill in directly responding to a task.
- Verbal, for 60 minutes, with 40 Reading comprehension, Text completion and Sentence equivalence questions
To be successful in this section, you should be able to analyse and draw conclusions from discourse, select important points, understand the structure of a text, understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts, understand relationships among words and among concepts.
- Quantitative Reasoning, for 70 minutes, with 40 Quantitative comparison, Problem solving and Data interpretation questions.
The testmakers – ETS – explain that this section measures your ability to:
Understand, interpret and analyse quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models and apply basic skills and elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data interpretation.
How are these skills important for your success in graduate school?
The GRE test prepares you for graduate school by ensuring that you have a wide range of skills that will suit the independent learning environment of graduate school. Remembering that leaving behind your undergraduate education means embracing the more undirected learning of graduate school, it is essential for universities to know that you can think and reason clearly and independently.
Iliana Bobova from PrepAdviser highlights:
In order to achieve a good score on admission tests, such as the GRE, you should have the right mindset. Ultimately, the skills that you develop through your preparation are the most important. If you master the skills needed for graduate school, a good test score will come naturally.
Can the GRE replace the GMAT for business school admission?
The GRE is accepted by a growing number of leading business schools internationally, including Harvard, NYU and Stanford. Many applicants consider the GRE to be easier than the GMAT, so it can be a popular alternative. Of course, ultimately, you are trying to impress admissions officers and a good score on the GMAT will give an advantage to an applicant who has performed well on the more difficult test. Thus, the GRE test prepares you for graduate school generally, but the GMAT will probably serve you better for a business school application.
Check out: Is the GRE Test Right for You?
However, the best approach is to check directly with business schools if they have any preference on which aptitude test you should take – the GRE or the GMAT.