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What is the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) consists of two separate tests: the General Test and the Subject Test in psychology. The General Test is composed of three parts--verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing. The verbal and the quantitative tests each yield a separate score between 200-800. Scores on the analytical writing test are reported in ½-point increments along a scale of 0 to 6. The Subject Test, required by only some programs, measures knowledge of psychological concepts that are essential to graduate study; it also yields a score of from 200-800. The book, Graduate Study in Psychology, will tell you whether schools require the GRE as well as the minimum scores they require for admission.

More than anything else, your admission to graduate school will depend on your scores on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE (not the Subject Test). It is essential that you do well--at least 550 on each test (600+ is even better)--to get into most doctoral programs. Master's programs are less competitive, so lower scores (450-500 on each of the tests) are less of a problem. You will probably have trouble being admitted into any program with scores less than 450 on one of the tests.

To ensure that you score as high as you can, it is essential to prepare for the GRE. Buy one of the review books and develop a systematic plan that will enable you to brush up on your skills in vocabulary, reading comprehension, analogies, algebra, and geometry. Don't think that you can "cram" in these areas the week before the test--you will simply need more time (months) if you are serious about doing well. (When you register for the GRE General Test, you will receive free software to help you study for the test, but it is likely that you will need to begin studying before you register.)

Plan to take the General Test in November. This will ensure that your scores will be available to meet any admissions deadline. Also, if you do poorly on your first try, you should have enough time to re-take the test in December to try to improve your scores. Remember, though, that you have a 50-50 chance of doing worse on the next try, and that both sets of scores will be reported to the schools to which you apply, unless you cancel your scores, an option you have after taking the computerized General Test (you must cancel without knowing your scores). You will receive your unofficial test scores on the General Test--taken on computer--as soon as you complete the test; official scores will be sent to you and to the institutions to which you will be applying within 10 to 15 days after the test. Scores for the Subject Test are usually reported about six weeks after you take the test.)

You must register to take any GRE. It is given at specific testing sites in each state (check to see if your school is one of the testing sites). For the General Test, it is important to register early to get your choice of test dates in the busy testing months of November, December, and January. For the Subject Test, you need to register at least six weeks in advance. In any event, you will need to have taken it by February 1 of your senior year to meet the admissions deadlines for most doctoral programs.You can register online (as well as take sample tests and order review books) at GRE Online.You can also register by mail by completing the registration form in the GRE Information and Registration Bulletin. You can obtain the latter by downloading it from GRE- Online or by writing to: GRE, CN 6000, Princeton, NJ 08541-6000. You may also be able to obtain a copy from the Testing Office on your campus.

Taking the General Test (Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing)

Note that the General Test now includes an analytical writing test, in which you type or write by hand your answers to two questions (one on an “issue” topic for 45 minutes and one on an “argument” topic for 30 minutes). The writing test is always taken first. (You can go GRE-Online and review examples of both types of questions.) You are  permitted to re-take the General Test only 1 time per calendar month and only 5 times in  a 12-month period. You will receive unofficial scores as soon as you complete the test; official scores will be sent to you and to the institutions to which you will be applying within 10 to 15 days after the test. You can register on-line (www.gre.org) or by calling the 800 number given in the Information and Registration Bulletin.

Taking the Subject Test

The Subject Test is only given in the paper-and-pencil version. If you plan to take it, you should do so in November (remember that you must register for it approximately six weeks before it is given). Taking the test in November will ensure that your scores will be available to meet any admissions deadline--it usually takes about six weeks from the time you take the test for the scores to be reported to you and to schools. Also, if you do poorly on your first try, you should have enough time to re-take the test in December to try to improve your scores. If you do poorly on either the November or December test, you can re-take it the following April—if the score-reporting dates are not past your admissions deadlines.

Finally, if you are not planning to attend graduate school immediately upon graduation, you should still take the GRE sometime during your senior year. Scores are good for five years, and you will never be as prepared for it as you are now. (It's easy to forget the details of grammar and math and for your reading speed to drop when you're not in school.)


APA-style reference for this page:

Lloyd, M. A. (2002, October 15.) What is the GRE (Graduate Record Exam)? [Online]. Available: http://www.psywww.com/careers/gre.htm.

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