DEFINITION of Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The graduate record examination (GRE) is a standardized exam used to measure one's aptitude for abstract thinking in the areas of analytical writing, mathematics and vocabulary. The GRE is commonly used by many graduate schools to determine an applicant's eligibility for the program. The GRE is primarily offered via computer; however, in areas which lack the appropriate computer networks, a paper-based exam may be given.

BREAKING DOWN Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Although the majority of business schools prefer that applicants attempt the GMAT before applying for an MBA program, many business schools will also accept GRE scores as an equivalent. The exam consists of several sections including writing, verbal, quantitative and experimental. The GRE measures a test taker's skills in vocabulary, as opposed to the GMAT, which focuses more on mathematical ability.

How the GRE is Used

The verbal section is structured to measure the test taker’s ability to analyze and evaluate written material. This section also gauges their capacity to process information they gather from written material, see and analyze relationships between different parts of sentences, as well as see the connections that link concepts and words.

In the quantitative segment, the test taker’s ability to solve problems is measured through the use of concepts of geometry, data analysis, and algebra.

For the analytical writing portion of the exam, the test taker’s capacity for critical thinking and analytic writing are measured. In particular, how well they can articulate complex ideas and provide effective support for those concepts is tested.

The GRE General Test is used broadly by graduate and business schools as a screening criteria for applicants. Some schools may require applicants to take GRE Subject Tests, which measure their knowledge in particular fields of study. These subject areas may include physics, psychology, biology, literature in English, and chemistry. GRE Subject Test areas of focus are not always static; tests have been discontinued for topics such as computer science and biochemistry, though the scores from previously taken tests remain reportable.

Those who wish take the GRE typically schedule to take the exam at a test center. The time allotted to complete the exam is more than three hours, with scheduled breaks between testing sections. The GRE exam can be taken multiple times, with limits on frequency total number of times it may be taken each year. A test taker might do so in order to improve their test scores to increase their chances at being accepted into the graduate schools they are interested in attending. Test takers choose which scores they send to graduate schools, unlike other standardized tests that are reported without input from the applicant.