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General information about the GRE

The abbreviation GRE stands for "Graduate Record Examination" and is in a certain sense a counterpart to the GMAT in the sense that it is also an internationally used standardized test that assesses the ability of a student to take up further studies after the first academic one Should analyze the conclusion. The GRE is offered and administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service), the same provider that also administrates the TOEFL test. The GRE test is by far one of the oldest international test formats and was introduced in 1949. In August 2011, the GRE test was fundamentally revised and renewed, so that information about the test that dates from before 2011 is no longer usable. One of the biggest changes in the revision of the GRE was the step to no longer make the test adaptive from question to question (i.e. a correctly answered question is followed by an even more difficult question and vice versa) but to structure the test in such a way that it is only adapts from test section to test section to the skills and performance of the test participant.

The importance of the GRE in the application process for the various programs at various national and international universities fluctuates considerably. At some universities, the GRE is more of a formal component, while similar to the GMAT in other programs, the test result can be of central importance for admission to the course.

The costs for the GRE are currently (as of 2013) at 185 US dollars. Analogous to the GMAT, the test result is valid for five years and ETS will send test results that are no more than five years old. The use of older test results is not excluded per se, but most institutions do not accept GRE test reports that are older than five years.

The GRE and the GMAT

Like the GMAT, the GRE is offered as a computer-based test and does not require any specific specialist knowledge. Instead, it is intended to determine general skills of the test participants who have acquired them over a longer period of time. The logical-analytical, verbal and quantitative skills of a test participant are in the foreground. Despite the very similar concept, the GMAT and the GRE are used with a different focus. The GMAT dominates the admission process at business schools for economics courses, in particular MBA and management programs as well as a number of Masters in Finance programs expressly require their applicants to take a GMAT. The GRE, on the other hand, is aimed primarily at applicants for quantitative study programs as well as doctoral candidates in various sciences in general, i.e. also at applicants for a whole range of PhD programs. In the field of economics, the GRE is very common in more quantitative Master in Finance programs and occasionally in a few MBA programs, such as the Wharton School, MIT and Standford accept the GRE for their MBA programs. In recent years there has been an increasing trend that more and more universities are allowing the GMAT and the GRE together as two alternative but equivalent test formats for their application process.

Test structure and content

The GRE consists of the three test areas Analytical Writing, Quantitative and Verbal, which in the computer-based version are divided into a total of six sections. The entire test takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. The first section is always the Analytical Writing Section (AWA) of the test. The AWA section has its own time window and is therefore considered a separate test section. The following five sections include two quantitative sections, two verbal sections and an additional section that is inserted by ETS for experimental purposes, for example to test new questions, and can be either quantitative, verbal or an AWA section. The experimental section is not evaluated, but is not recognizable for the test participant, so that he must assume that he is working on an evaluated section. All five sections can follow one another in any order and share a common time window within which the candidate can freely switch back and forth between the different sections. After each completed section, the candidate can take a one-minute break. After the third section, i.e. in the middle of the test, there is also a break of 10 minutes.

The respective test areas, Analytical Writing, Quantitative and Verbal are explained in detail below.

Analytical writing

The Analytical Writing section in the GRE consists of the task of writing two different essays. In the first essay a so-called "issue task" and in the second essay an "argument task" is dealt with. As part of the Issues Task, the test participant has to take a stand on a given topic of mostly controversial nature and express his or her opinion with examples. You have 30 minutes for this task.

In the following essay, a specific argument is made on an individual topic, to which the test participant should not take a pro or contra position as in the first case, but instead critically analyze the argument and check whether it stands up to logical consideration or else is without further substance. The text contains enough information on whether the argument is well elaborated or not. As part of the second essay, you will have another 30 minutes to put your own analysis of the argument put forward in writing.

In the GRE, particular attention is paid to the following points in the essays:

• Clear, effective and understandable presentation and articulation of complex issues
• Thorough analysis and logical examination of allegations made and discussion of supporting or disproving facts
• Ability to bring in your own examples that substantiate your own statements
• Focused and concentrated writing as well as good structure of the text
• Proficiency in the English language in writing at a high level

The Analytical Writing section is not assessed by the computer. Instead, two trained examiners read both essays after the text and then both give a joint assessment, which is then transferred to the 0 to 6 point scale of the AWA section. While grammar and spelling are important, the majority of the points are awarded for the test taker's ability to write a coherent, complete, and compelling essay.

Quantitative Section

Finally, the quantitative section asks the test participant's mathematical knowledge at the level of upper secondary school. Topics from the areas of arithmetic, algebra and geometry are asked. In contrast to the GMAT, most of the questions are more "straight forward" and try less to force the test participant to think outside the box or to lure him into a trap. Regardless of this, the test section is nevertheless very demanding and primarily focuses on evaluating the numerical and analytical-logical skills of the test participant. Each quantitative section consists of 20 questions, for which you have 35 minutes. In the aftermath of the new edition of the test in 2011, the quantitative section no longer only consists of multiple choice questions but also open questions in which the test participant has to enter the result of the calculation in an input field. In addition, multiple choice questions have been introduced in which not only one but also several answers can be correct.

Verbal Section

The Verbal Section of the GRE tests the test participant's abilities in the areas of “Reading Comprehension”, “Critical Reasoning” and “Vocabulary Usage”. The verbal part, like the quantitative part, is rated on a scale from 130 to 170 and each section also consists of 20 questions, with only 30 minutes instead of 35 minutes available for the 20 questions, unlike in the quantitative part of the test. The 20 questions are divided into 6 questions of the type "Text Completion", 4 questions of the type "Sentence Equivalence" and 10 questions of the type "Critical Reasoning" within each section. The changes in the test from 2011 reduce the previously rather high focus on vocabulary knowledge and also include the abolition of questions about antonyms and analogies. Some of the new questions on the subject of "Reading Comprehension" also introduce multiple choice questions with several correct answers, analogous to the changes in the quantitative part, so that the exam participant can no longer be sure that only one answer is correct.

GRE scores and their meaning

As mentioned above, the GRE was fundamentally revised in 2011. As a result, the point scale was re-standardized. In the old version of the GRE before August 2011, the performance of the test participant was assessed in both the quantitative and the verbal section on the basis of a standardized scale of 200 to 800 points. Instead, the new GRE uses a standardized scale from 130 to 170 points with intermediate levels of one point each. The performance in the Analytical Writing section, on the other hand, is rated on a scale from 0 to 6 with intervals of 0.5 points, just like in the GMAT.

With a score of 163 or more, a test participant was recently among the top 10% worldwide in the verbal part of the test. For a top 10% percentile in the quantitative test part, 164 out of 170 points were necessary. The following table shows the respective scores for each section and the last associated percentiles.

The meaning of the individual GRE scores from the various test sections (Quant, Verbal, AWA) is very different depending on the desired study program. Within the economics degree programs for Master in Finance and Master in Economics degree programs (which will probably interest the majority of the readers here) it can be stated that the vast majority of universities attach very little importance to the AWA and the verbal part or this part of the test even ignore it altogether and only look at the applicant's success in the quantitative part of the test. A reasonably good result starts at around 160 points in the quantitative part and, in the experience of most students, is a value that is also very feasible. A few universities, however, require even higher scores, but any number of points in the quantitative area from 165 points or higher is generally a very good test result, which can often open many doors wide. Another rule of thumb is that if a university does not have a minimum score but has a fairly high average value in the GRE, applicants should not deviate from this average value by more than five or six points within the scale in order not to reduce their chances of admission very endangered.

Conversely, it must be clear to every applicant for a university program that the GRE is only one component of many in the application portfolio. As with the GMAT, some students distort the picture of the GRE in that it is the only admission criterion at a university. But the truth couldn't be further away. On the downside, a very poor GRE score often excludes admission to a good program, but the conclusion drawn from this, a high GRE score guarantees admission, is fundamentally wrong. If the GRE score is within a certain range, the college's admissions office practically ticks the list and that's it. Whether the score is 163 or 165 doesn't really matter. Exceptional test results such as 169 points are certainly perceived and rewarded benevolently, but if the Admissions Office is of the opinion that the applicant does not seem to fit into the program and the student body based on their CV or letter of motivation, then the applicant will not be admitted , not even if his GRE score was 170 in all sections. Business schools in particular always consider the entire profile of the candidate and our article on “University Application Tips” identifies the GRE, along with the GMAT, as just one of many components in an application that universities pay attention to.

Preparation for the GRE

At this point we will briefly deal with the best way to tackle the preparation for the GRE. We are not addressing the content-related preparation for the GRE (which comprises several hundred pages in many good books), but want to briefly develop a guide on how best to tackle the topic of GRE. This guide consists of the following rules:

1] Do the GRE at least 1 year, even better 18 months before you start your studies. The last thing you want is to come under massive time pressure until you can only take the test between the door and the hinge. You also need enough reserve time if everything goes wrong on the day of the test and you want to repeat the test again.

2] At the beginning, before you start learning, do the two trial tests that ETS can download for free at The two tests give you an indication of your performance and show which areas you can already do relatively well and where you need to improve the most. Working on your biggest weaknesses brings the greatest profit for every hour invested.

3] Get the good literature to prepare with lots of exercises at an early stage. If anything counts at all, then just practice, practice and practice again. All test concepts have to fit well and then work if numerous test tasks have been worked through beforehand. Above all, good vocabulary is still important. With the changes from 2011, the importance of vocabulary knowledge has been reduced, but it remains an important part of the verbal section of the test. Many books contain vocabulary lists that contain between 200 and 500 words, and Barron’s vocabulary lists even contain 3,500 words. From this level it becomes questionable whether you really need that many vocabulary and the focus when learning should be tailored to your own requirements for the test result or the requirements of the university.

4] Start your test preparation for the GRE about four to eight weeks before the test date, but don't start immediately obsessively studying eight hours a day, it doesn't make any sense at the beginning. On the other hand, take a look at all the test concepts, understand how the questions are structured and what the GRE actually wants from you. You will save a lot of time in the actual preparation time for the GRE if you already have a good understanding of what it is about and what the various questions are pointing to.

5] You should take the last one to two weeks before the GRE test date off to prepare for the test full-time every day. About seven to eight hours a day is a good guideline in the last few weeks before the test. It shouldn't be much more per day, because at some point your mental capacity will be exhausted.

6] It is important that you have a clear agenda on the table at the beginning of the last few weeks and that you have determined exactly in which areas you want to invest how much time. If you were particularly weak in the verbal area but already quite good in the quantitative part, take that into account. Don't keep working through the tasks that you can already do, but tackle the tasks that are particularly uncomfortable and difficult for you.

7] Also align your preparation with the requirements of your university. Are you applying for an MBA program and do you need a well-balanced score or do you want to do a Master in Finance program, for which the quantitative score is particularly important? Many universities provide precise information about this and sometimes also require minimum points in the individual test areas of the GRE and not only in the overall result, take this into account in your preparation.

8] Read the contents and the test concepts carefully, but do not limit yourself to them. What defines the GRE at the end of the day is practice, practice and practice again. Do as many tasks as possible before the test. Write down any questions that you answered incorrectly. Discuss why your answer was wrong and go through the list of incorrect tasks over and over until you have mastered these tasks, including the complete solution. In GRE, speed is particularly important, so it is very important that you read through a task and immediately have an idea with which concept or with which solution you can crack the task.

9] Plan your final preparation so that you are finished with your planned workload at least one week before the test date. Reserve the last week before the test for a comprehensive review only by going through all the tasks you still get wrong, reviewing content, looking at your summaries, and doing the test tests again to see how much you have improved .

10] Take the last day right before the test completely off.Don't stress yourself and relax a little. What you would or would not learn today no longer has any particular influence on the final test result. Instead, concentrate on getting a good rest and relaxed going to the test the next day. Anyone who hectically goes through all the documents at midnight the evening before the test has often already lost for the next day and does more damage than improve. When you arrive at the test center, think of one thing in particular: The GRE is important, that's right. But it is NOT the only criterion with which your entire application stands or falls. Be also confident and have self-confidence: Almost all test participants who spend several weeks in the GRE often achieve their hurdle of usually around 160 or more points very well. Even high scores are nowhere near as difficult to achieve as it is often said - it's just a matter of good preparation.

General and frequent questions about the GRE (FAQ)

Do I need the GRE test to get into an MBA or Master’s program?

Not necessarily. This must be checked beforehand by looking at the program description of the respective university. First of all, the GMAT predominates, especially at business schools, so research beforehand exactly what the university actually wants. Many universities also accept the GMAT and the GRE at the same time or do not require a study admission test at all. In the latter case, however, it is a question of regional universities, whose programs are often only moderately good. In the meantime, practically every high-quality to very good university requires either a GRE or a GRE test for master's and MBA programs.

Do I need the GRE if I have already done a TOEFL?

Definitely yes, or if the GRE is not required, then the GMAT test is usually required. The TOEFL is not a substitute for the GRE or the GMAT, because the TOEFL is a pure language test and is much easier and simpler than the GRE or GMAT. Since the GRE is intended to measure the ability of the student to begin further studies, the GRE pursues a completely different goal than the TOEFL and thus has a completely different structure.

Is the GRE particularly demanding mathematically?

No, nobody has to be a math genius to take the test. The requested concepts are very basic and correspond to the mathematics of the Realschule and the upper secondary school. The difficulty of the test lies more in being able to think logically and analytically. A certain previous mathematical knowledge is not required. The school knowledge of mathematics, which is required for the test, is repeated in detail in all good preparation books.

Can I write down mathematical formulas, e.g. for the area of ​​a circle, and use them in the test?

No, you have to memorize all of the basic math formulas that you may need in the test. No documents may be taken into the test and no collection of formulas or the like will be made available.

What happens if I give the wrong answer or just guess?

In contrast to the GMAT, a single incorrectly answered question does not initially have too great an effect on the test result, as the GRE test is only adaptive at the level of the individual sections. Only if several questions are answered incorrectly within a section does the test continue with the next questions and the test level drops. This means that the next questions will be easier and will earn the candidate fewer points if the answer is correct. In addition, the next questions must be answered better again in the next section in order to increase the test level again and to get back to the higher-value questions.

If an answer has to be guessed, it is strongly recommended to at least try to eliminate the obviously wrong answers in order to guess from the few remaining answers.

What if I don't finish the test?

When the time for the respective test section expires, the test ends automatically and all questions that have not been answered are marked as "wrong". In contrast to the GMAT, unanswered questions in the GRE are “only wrong”, but do not result in a particularly high penalty.

Can I fail the test?

No, you can't fail the GRE. The test determines a number of points between 130 and 170 points in both sections as well as the AWA score for the candidate, who then has to assess for himself whether this number of points is sufficient for his goals or not.

Can i repeat the test?

Yes, the test can be repeated as often as you like, although there must be at least a calendar month break between two test dates. However, the last two test results from the past five years are saved and sent to the universities together with the current score report. This means that every university sees the test history of the applicant and also sees the previous performance of an applicant.

Regardless of the fact that the test costs a lot of money every time, applicants should be careful about repeating the GRE often. A second rep is usually considered okay, especially if the score has increased significantly. On the other hand, anyone who has three tests in their report and also does not show any particular progress in their performance leaves a very bad impression at every university. It should therefore be carefully considered whether you are prepared to invest a lot of time again to significantly improve the test result, because it is better to submit a 155 score once than a series of three test results in which you only go from 155 to 157 could improve, ie no progress can be seen even after three attempts.

Where can I register for the GRE?

Registration takes place online on the website of the official test provider ETS. The direct link to the registration mask is: Direct link

Where can the GRE be taken?

ETS cooperates with several hundred test centers around the world and the GRE can be taken throughout the year on fixed dates in all major cities in Germany and abroad. An appointment calendar with place and date can be viewed without obligation at any time under the test registration for the GRE on the ETS website.

What does the GRE test cost?

ETS is currently charging $ 185 for the test (as of early 2013). Added to this is VAT.

On which dates is the GRE offered?

Test dates are available throughout the year, especially in larger countries like Germany, GRE tests are available every few weeks at the various locations.

How much preparation do I need for the GRE?

This depends on the previous knowledge and cannot be answered across the board. For a very good score, however, two to four weeks should be allowed depending on your skills and knowledge. Still, there are some highly intelligent people who have achieved high scores with less than a week of preparation, while others spend months preparing for the test and then cannot break a certain sound barrier. Experience has also shown that personal performance on the day of the test leads to a fluctuation range of a few points depending on how good you feel and whether you happened to be a little more lucky or unlucky with the questions.

Regarding the structuring of the preparation, the corresponding section at the top of the text explains in more detail how one should plan the preparation for the GRE.

What does the GRE test examine?

The GRE tests verbal, mathematical, analytical and logical skills as well as the written expression of the test participant, which he has acquired during his training and in professional life. The GRE does not test job-specific knowledge, professional skills or certain content from previous courses. Skills in other areas or other personal characteristics such as creativity are also not queried.

Are there practice tests for the GRE?

Yes. The official provider ETS offers two free practice tests on its website, which also give everyone an initial indication of the number of points. The scores in the trial tests already give quite good information about the knowledge and skill level of the candidate. In order to download the tests from ETS, however, it is necessary to create an account on the website beforehand. More information on this is available from ETS at

In addition, private providers offer further practice tests that can be purchased for a fee, but mostly not individually but in a bundle with other materials such as books for preparation.

There are a lot of preparation courses for the GRE, do I really need them?

A high GRE score promises the hope of getting into some of the best higher education programs in the world. It is therefore not surprising that in the last two decades a huge education market with countless offers has emerged around the GRE as well as the GMAT.

We believe that GRE preparation courses are unnecessary and an overly expensive investment. Even (or especially!) The most successful test participants in the GRE are those who independently deal actively and actively with the test and learn intensively. Experience has shown that this is always sufficient for the majority of all students, even when it comes to high scores.

There is one exception, however: For people who have to do the GRE at short notice under high time pressure or who are employed and can only study on the weekend or in the evening, intensive seminars from good providers can make sense. However, a lot of time should be invested in the selection of a reputable, reliable and experienced provider, because many black sheep try to earn a few quick euros with the hope of applicants to get into good programs without really delivering quality.

What number of points do I have to have in the test in order to get into a good master’s program?

This depends on the master's degree and the university itself. First, universities have different average GRE scores, and second, the programs at universities have different scores.

As a rule of thumb, points between 155 and 165 open up a good chance of being accepted into serious and good programs at national and lesser-known international universities.

Can the GRE really predict my performance during my studies?

Opinions differ on this, but there is a very strong tendency towards a resounding “no”. There are numerous studies that show a correlation between GRE results and academic success, and there are also studies that deny precisely this relationship. In almost all studies, correlation and validity values ​​are positive, but rather very low. But two things are undisputed: On the one hand, only extremely hard-working, goal-oriented and highly intelligent candidates achieve very high scores in the GRE. Both factors, intelligence and diligence, have an influence on the applicant's expected study result. On the other hand, the following applies: The GRE is not a test for everything and nobody claims that it is. The skills that the test tests are most likely to provide information about the applicant's analytical skills. In good MBA and Master’s programs, for example, completely different skills such as business judgment and leadership are also important. These are factors that the GRE does not capture and accordingly it cannot make a prediction in this regard. In any case, the GRE is an incomplete or only a partial indicator for the expected performance in the course. For precisely this reason, universities do not make the decision about admission or rejection of the applicant dependent on the GRE alone, but also consider other services such as the letter of motivation, the résumé or professional experience.

Can I postpone a test date that I have chosen once?

Yes, ETS is flexible in this regard. To postpone an appointment, you can log in online at and change the test date there. A service fee is charged for this and the change must be made at least three days before the scheduled test date.

If I take the GRE multiple times, will only my last score be sent?

No. Universities not only the current one but also the last two test results from the last five years.