GRE® General Test

One Test for Graduate and Business School. More Opportunities for Success.

Getting an advanced degree can create many opportunities. In fact, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development illustrates how education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.

Whether you are planning to go to graduate school, including business or law — or just exploring your options — you are taking an important step toward your future. It is a smart move to show schools your best and with the GRE General Test, you can!

The GRE General Test helps you do your best on test day. With the GRE General Test, you decide which scores to send to schools. If you feel you didn’t do your best on test day, that’s okay. You can retake the test and then send only the scores you want schools to see. It’s all part of the ScoreSelect® option, only available with GRE tests.

Plus, the GRE General Test is the only admissions test for graduate or business school that lets you skip questions within a section, go back and change answers, and have control to tackle the questions within a section you want to answer first.

The GRE General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school.

  • Verbal Reasoning — Measures the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse and reason from incomplete data, understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author’s intent, and summarize text and distinguish major from minor points, understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts, and understand relationships among words and among concepts. There is an emphasis on complex verbal reasoning skills.
  • Quantitative Reasoning — Measures the ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models, and apply the basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis. There is an emphasis on quantitative reasoning skills.
  • Analytical Writing — Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, including the ability to articulate and support complex ideas with relevant reasons and examples, and examine claims and accompanying evidence. There is an emphasis on analytical writing skills.

Who Takes It?

Prospective graduate and business school applicants from all around the world who are interested in pursuing a master’s, MBA, specialized master’s in business, J.D. degree, or doctoral degree take the GRE General Test. Applicants come from varying educational and cultural backgrounds and the GRE General Test provides schools with a common measure for comparing candidates’ qualifications.

GRE scores are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement your undergraduate records, recommendation letters and other qualifications for graduate-level study.

When and Where Do People Take It?

The GRE General Test is available at more than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries. In most regions of the world, the computer-delivered test is available on a continuous basis throughout the year. In Mainland China; Hong Kong, China; Taiwan, China; and Korea, the computer-delivered test is available up to three times per month. In areas of the world where computer-delivered testing is not available, the paper-delivered test is available up to three times a year in October, November and February.

Who Accepts It?

The GRE General Test is accepted at thousands of graduate schools, including business and law, as well as departments and divisions within these schools. View a listing of institutions and fellowship sponsors approved to receive GRE scores.

About the GRE

The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is an important step in the graduate school or business school application process. The GRE is a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that is often required for admission to graduate programs and graduate business programs (MBA) globally.

The GRE is developed and administered by testmaker ETS to provide graduate and business schools with common measures for comparing applicants’ qualifications and preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Graduate school and business school admissions committees look at your GRE score, along with your academic record and supporting materials, to assess your readiness for the rigors of graduate academic study.

What’s the takeaway? A high score on the GRE will have a direct, positive impact on your graduate or business school application.

What is on the GRE?

The GRE exam measures your command of basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis as well as college-level vocabulary. More importantly, it measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material, think critically, and solve problems.

What are the GRE sections?

You will receive three scores on the GRE:

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

These scores are generated by the following sections:

  • 1 Analytical Writing Assessment section
  • 2 Verbal Reasoning sections
  • 2 Quantitative Reasoning sections

In addition, you will see one of the following sections:

  • Unscored (may be either Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning)
  • Research (used for ETS research purposes)

The Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are each scored on a scale of 130 to 170. The mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151, and the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153. The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and the mean score is 4.0.

Analytical Writing

Number of questions

Minutes to complete Chem/Phys

Score range

Two separately timed tasks: one “Analyze an Issue” task and one “Analyze an Argument” task

30 minutes per task; 60 minutes totals

0 to 6

The Analytical Writing Assessment, or “essay” section, measures whether you can articulate your thoughts and responses to complex ideas in a clear and reasoned way. Formulating a well-supported thesis in response to new and unfamiliar topics and key to doing well on Analytical Writing.

During the two, separately timed tasks in Analytical Writing, you will be asked to “Analyze an Issue” and to “Analyze an Argument.” For the “Analyze an Issue” task, you will read an opinion on a topic of general interest and be given instructions on how to respond to the issue at hand. For the “Analyze an Argument” task, you will need to consider an argument according to instructions given in the prompt.

Verbal Reasoning (Verbal)

Number of questions

Minutes to complete Chem/Phys

Score range

6 Text Completion questions
4 Sentence Equivalence questions
10 Reading Comprehension questions
20 total questions per section

30 minutes per task; 60 minutes totals

130 to 170

The Verbal section of the GRE tests your ability to analyze written material, as well as relationships among component parts of sentences, including words and concepts. Verbal Reasoning questions appear in several formats:

Text Completion

Text Completion (TC) questions ask you to fill in the blank to complete sentences. Variations include 1-, 2-, and 3-blank questions. You’ll encounter approximately six of these in each Verbal section, and you should aim to complete each in about 1–1.5 minutes. To master these, you’ll need to build your vocabulary as well as develop your skill at using context clues from the sentence to make predictions for the blanks. There is no partial credit: you must answer correctly for all blanks to receive points for these questions.

Sentence Equivalence

Sentence Equivalence (SE) questions require you to fill in a single blank with two choices that create two coherent sentences that are logically similar in meaning. You will encounter approximately four SE questions in each Verbal section. Aim to complete each in about 1 minute. As with TC questions, you’ll need to work on building your vocabulary and identifying context clues in order to master SE questions.

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension (RC) questions are based on passages of one or more paragraphs that develop an explanation or argument on a topic. RC questions require you to understand central ideas presented in the text and the structure of a text, as well as to research details in the passage and draw valid inferences from it. RC questions require strategic reading and paraphrasing skills.

Each Verbal section will contain approximately 10 RC questions associated with five different passages, and you should aim to spend an average of 1–3 minutes on reading a passage and 1 minute per question.

Quantitative Reasoning (Quant)

Number of questions

Minutes to complete Chem/Phys

Score range

7–8 Quantitative Comparison questions
12–13 Problem Solving questions
20 total questions per section

35 minutes per section

130 to 170

The Quant section of the GRE tests your basic quantitative skills, as well as your ability to reason and solve problems with quantitative methods. You’ll see questions covering basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. These topics are typically covered in high school. You will not see trigonometry, calculus, or any other high-level math. Quantitative Reasoning questions appear in several formats:

Quantitative Comparison

Quantitative Comparison (QC) questions ask you to compare two quantities—Quantity A and Quantity B—and to identify the relationship between the two. You’ll likely see about 7–8 of these in each Quant section. To master these, be familiar with the QC answer choices and with shortcut methods that allow you to compare rather than calculate.

Problem Solving

The most common Problem Solving (PS) questions are standard multiple-choice questions, with five choices and one correct answer. Variants include questions that ask you to select one or more answers from a list of choices (multiple-choice all-that-apply) and questions that ask you to enter your answer in a box (numeric entry.) To master PS questions, be familiar with the math concepts that are tested as well as strategies that allow you to approach solving efficiently.

There are also a handful (typically three per section) of Problem Solving questions associated with one or more charts. These Data Interpretation (DI) questions work like other PS Qs, but it’s important to note that gleaning the information correctly from the graphs is the key to answering them.

How is the GRE scored?

The GRE is a Multi-Stage Test, which means that your performance on the first section of the scored Verbal and Quant sections will determine the level of difficulty of the subsequent Verbal and Quant sections. The raw score from each section is the number of questions you answered correctly. Your raw score is then converted to a scaled score through a process called “equating.”

For example, if you perform very well on the first Verbal section, you will receive the most difficult second section in Verbal, but you’ll also have access to the highest potential score range. If you perform less well on the first section of Verbal, you’ll see a less difficult second Verbal section, but you’ll also have access to a lower score band or “potential.”

For the Analytical Writing section, each essay receives a score from at least one human reader, using a 6-point scale.

What is a good GRE score?

When considering your GRE score goal, look at the requirements—or minimums, if applicable—at the graduate or business programs to which you’re applying. This will let you know your score baseline. If you can find the mean or average GRE score of admitted applicants, you’ll be able to determine what GRE score will make you a competitive applicant.The Verbal and Quant sections of the GRE are each scored from 130 to 170. The mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151, and the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153. The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and the mean score is 4.0. You can use the tables below to see the relationship between scaled scores and the test takers achieving them:


Scaled GRE Verbal Score*

Top 10% of all test takers


Top 25% of all test takers


Top 50% of all test takers


Below 50th percentile of all test takers



Scaled GRE Quant Score*

Top 10% of all test takers


Top 25% of all test takers


Top 50% of all test takers


Below 50th percentile of all test takers


* Based on the performance of GRE test takers between 2012 and 2015

How long is the GRE?

On GRE Test Day, you can expect to sit for the exam for approximately four hours, including test-taking time and short breaks. Note that this time does not include your check-in time at the testing center. It is important to be on time and fully prepared. ETS recommends that you arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your test time.

GRE Section


Analytical Writing

30 minutes per task

Verbal Reasoning

30 minutes per section

Quantitative Reasoning

35 minutes per section

Experimental or Unscored

Varies (30 or 35 minutes)

Optional Breaks (total)

Approximately 12 minutes


Approximately 4 hours


When is the GRE offered?

The computer-delivered GRE is administered year-round in Prometric™ testing centers and on select test dates at other testing centers. The paper-delivered GRE is administered at certain testing centers on a limited number of dates. Seating for GRE is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and some testing center locations can fill up well in advance of the popular fall testing time. You can see a full list of testing centers, test dates, and seat availability on the ETS site.

It is highly recommended that you register for your preferred GRE test date early so you can select a date that will allow enough time for ETS to process your scores and send them to the institutions you’ll be applying to. This can take from 10 to 15 days. During popular testing times, seats in Prometric™ testing centers can be limited. You can take the computer-delivered GRE once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days).

You can register for the GRE online via ETS. For GRE-related questions, you can find contact information for ETS here.

When to take the GRE

Since graduate programs have a wide range of application deadlines, you’ll want to research your programs of interest ahead of time and ensure that your GRE score can be reported in time for your earliest deadline. Your GRE score is good for five years.

You’ll want to devote 1–3 months to studying for the GRE, and top scorers report studying for 100+ hours.

How much does it cost to take the GRE?

The cost to take the GRE is $205 for all testing locations except China. The fee includes sending score reports to up to four graduate institutions of your choice.


7 Tips for Perfect GRE Essay scores:

  • Write at least three practice essays.

    Practice makes perfect! You can study for the GRE online by looking up the AWA prompts and practicing writing several of them within the 30 minute guideline. The only way to get comfortable with the time constraints is to practice them, so set up test-like conditions and get to work. You can find additional Issue essay prompts here.

  • Don’t waffle.

    Choose one side of the issue only, and don’t try to “have it both ways.” Even if you don’t believe in the side you choose, you’ll only have time to argue one side effectively. If you take a middle-of-the-road approach you won’t sound as confident or clear. Remember, according to ETS, the “readers are evaluating the skill with which you address the specific instructions and articulate and develop an argument to support your evaluation of the issue.” What exactly you say (what side you choose to defend) is less important than how you defend it!

  • Choose very specific real-world examples.

    Don’t be general! Every reader would like to see more specific examples: Mitt Romney, the War of 1812, Keynesian economic theory, the mating rituals of octopii, an anecdote about your Uncle Ralph the compulsive gambler, etc. You can have some fun with it, and your examples don’t have to be the most scholarly. What are you an expert on?

  • BUT, make sure your examples are relevant to the topic.

    You can absolutely choose examples from a wide range of subjects: personal experience, pop culture, history, sports, literature, current events, politics, etc. But make sure you explain HOW your example clearly supports your thesis.

  • Avoid first-person and self-reference.

    “I think” or “I believe” are obvious. You are the person writing this essay! First-person pronouns should ONLY appear in a body paragraph if you are using personal experience as an example, and telling a story from your own life to support your thesis. Never use “I” in your introductory or concluding paragraph.

  • Make strong, declarative statements.

    Look for ways to add charged adjectives, adverbs and “because” clauses to make your sentences sound more confident. EX: “The president shouldn’t allow Congress to pass the law.” Or, “It is unacceptable for the president to permit Congress to pass the law because it unconstitutionally overextends Congress’ powers.”

  • Refute the opposing view in your conclusion.

    Many GRE students wonder what to do in their conclusion. Try introducing the opposing viewpoint, showing that you recognize that in fact some people do not support your position. Then refute their argument in 1-2 sentences, and reinforce the validity of  your own thesis.