What to Know Before Taking the GRE Exam



Taking a standardized test can feel like an anxiety-inducing task that you’d really rather skip, but if you plan on applying for graduate school you might have to buckle down and take the GRE. Scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are a part of many graduate school applications.

The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which is responsible for the behind-the-scenes creation and scoring of around 50 million tests in more than 180 countries.

Prepping for the GRE can feel like a daunting task, but breaking it down into steps can make the process of taking the GRE less intimidating. While this information is subject to change, here are some tips about how to take the GRE today.

How to Prepare For The GRE

There are plenty of steps you can take to try and increase your chances at getting a high score on the GRE. You might start by checking your local library for GRE prep books or buying a new copy that you can take notes in.

Sites like The Princeton Review let you take practice tests , either timed or untimed after you register for an account. You could also search your city for GRE prep classes if you prefer one-on-one tutoring.

If you’re wondering “how long does it take to study for the GRE?” the answer is different for everyone. Kaplan suggests “>Kaplan suggests that you take between one to three months to prepare. If you know people who completed the test, ask them about their timeframe and any other tips for taking the GRE they might have from their experience.

Also, keep the cost in mind—as of this writing, the GRE costs $205 to take in areas like the U.S. but the cost changes depending on your location. In Australia, for example, the fee is currently $230; in China it is $231.30. In a way, taking the GRE is part of paying for grad school.

If you need help covering the testing fee, ETS does offer Fee Reduction Vouchers . You’ll need to complete a Fee Reduction Request form in order to apply, and they’re awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

How to Register For The GRE

Once you decide that you will be taking the GRE test, you’ll need to find out where and when it can take place. You can choose either a paper-delivered test or a computer-delivered test.

Paper-delivered tests are typically administered up to three times a year in places that don’t offer the computer-delivered tests. On the other hand, computer-delivered tests are administered year-round in more than 160 countries.

You’ll need to register for an ETS account in order to make an appointment for a test. The ETS site lets you search for test centers near you for the GRE General Test and its related tests—like the GRE Biology Test and the GRE Literature in English Test— and more.

If you need testing accommodations, there are a few available options. For example, you can take the GRE General Test in the U.S. and other countries using the JAWS (Job Access With Speech) computer screen reader program.

The program is available “with or without a refreshable braille device.” Other accommodations include extra breaks, alternative test formats (like a large-print test book or recorded audio), and screen magnification.

If you’re looking for accommodations like these, an application is required. You can also contact ETS Disability Service with questions.

Taking the GRE Test

On the day of your test, make sure to bring a valid identification with you and arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled test time. There are general ID requirements, and also specific ones based on your location. Make sure to double-check the time and location of your appointment.

You can expect to spend about four and a half hours total taking the exam. The paper-delivered test includes a 10-minute break that comes after you complete Analytical Writing section—during any breaks, you won’t be allowed to leave the test location.

For computer-delivered tests, there is an optional 10-minute break following the third section. You can also opt to take one-minute breaks in between the remaining sections. Again, you can’t leave the test location during this time.

If you find yourself needing another break outside of this, the locations require that you raise your hand. Also, keep in mind that the people working at the location will walk throughout the space on occasion and will monitor any suspicious behavior. You can also report anything that seems off during the test time by contacting ETS .

What Happens After

Now the scary part is over. You finished the test and just need to sit back and wait for the results. Easier said than done of course, but you should congratulate yourself for the accomplishment of completing the GRE.

Expect an email notification once your test results are ready. Log in to your ETS account to see, and/or print, your scores. All the recipients (prospective schools) you listed will receive your score report as well.

If you take the test on a computer, you can actually see your unofficial Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores after you finish the test. The essay part of the test takes longer to grade, of course, so you can’t see your score immediately.

For paper tests, expect to wait around five weeks to see your scores. If you take a paper test in October 6, for example, your score report should be available online on November 3. It should be mailed out around November 16. If you take it November 10, your score report should be online around December 8.

The approximate mailing date is December 21. And, finally, if you take the test on February 2, expect online scores on March 2 with an approximate mailing date of March 15. Be sure to check the GRE score requirements for each school you are applying to, and that you can make sure you get everything in on time.

All three sections of the GRE make up your overall score report . The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a 130-170 score scale—the Analytical Writing section is scored on a 0-6 score scale. The former sections are scored in one-point increments and the latter in half-point increments.

Next Steps

If you plan on retaking the GRE, there are a few steps to keep in mind. For starters, if you took a computer test in New York State during a specific time frame, you can pay $50 to see which questions you answered incorrectly on both the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Sections. The dates for this service are currently listed on the ETS site .

For all other states, ETS offers a score review for the Analytical Writing section for $60. You can request it up to 90 days after taking the GRE—your review should arrive around four weeks later via email.

If you took a paper test, you can see a score review for your Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections by requesting it and paying a fee of $50. The same timeframe applies to this score review as the Analytical Writing one.

Financing Your Education

As you continue on your educational journey, it is important to think about how you plan to finance your next degree. If you have exhausted your federal student loan options and still need financing, you can look into private graduate student loans.

SoFi offers graduate student loans that help make it fast and easy to pay for school so you can focus on what matters the most: your degree. You can finish our simple online application in minutes and there are no fees, period.

See if SoFi graduate student loans are right for you. Learn more!

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