Admissions Exams

GRE Exam: Graduate Record Examinations

The GRE or Graduate Record Examinations consists of a General Test and a Subject Test. The General Test does not test any specific knowledge. The total testing time is up to 3 3/4 hours. It includes the following three parts:

Verbal Section

  • Reading Comprehension;
  • Sentence Completion;
  • Analogy; and
  • Antonym

Quantitative Section

  • Problem Solving; and
  • Quantitative Comparison

Analytical Writing

  • Analysis of Issue; and
  • Analysis of Argument

Format of the Computer-based GRE General Test


Number of Questions


Analytical Writing 1 Issue Task* 45 minutes
Analytical Writing 1 Argument Task* 30 minutes
Verbal 30 30 minutes
Quantitative 28 45 minutes
Unscored Varies Varies
Research Varies Varies

*In the paper-based test, there is an unscored section.

No one enjoys taking standardized tests. Nevertheless, they are a requirement for your application and there is a wealth of resources available here to help you study for these tests.

Although the GRE might not be a breaking point, it can indicate your level of desire to progress to graduate school. If you are unhappy with your score, consider retaking the exam. Even if you do not test well, you have at least shown that you are willing to try again and that you are serious about your application.

The GRE result is also used for admissions into business PhD programs that traditionally requires the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) test.

Average GRE Scores

Once you’ve finished the test, you’ll have one last question to answer. The computer will ask, “Do you wish to see your score?” If you click on “yes” (twice to be exact) you’ll see your Quantitative, Verbal and Combine scores. Such a quick turnaround should not be surprising – think of it as instant gratification. But as with other forms of instant gratification, the effects are long lasting. Your results go into the ETS databank, where they will stay for five years. Each time you send a score report to a graduate school, all results during the past five years will appear on your report. There’s no way to hide a poor test result!

If you don’t reach your target score, you can take another GRE as of the next calendar month. Keep in mind that most of the top programs will consider the higher of two GRE scores. Some will even consider a third set of results. But none of the top programs will take seriously a strong score that shows on a report next to three, four or more weak scores.

If you decide you don’t wish to see your score, click on “no” and the computer will cancel your results and your performance will not be logged in the ETS databank. Your record will show you took the test, but no school will ever know how you did. Neither will you – it is impossible to cancel the exam once you’ve seen your scores. Because the exam is expensive and you’ll be (hopefully) well prepared when you take it, you probably shouldn’t cancel your score unless your exam becomes a clear disaster.

What is an acceptable score?

What Is a Good GRE Score? There is no official minimum. In theory, any score above 550 for verbal and 700 for Quantitative can be considered acceptable. In the event you get a lower score, but the rest of your application offers very competitive features (professional career so far, secondary studies, etc.), there’s no use wasting time working on your GRE. Bear in mind that putting together an application takes time and that you should manage your time as best as you can. No point in retaking GRE to go from 550 to 570 (verbal); concentrate instead on your personal state and your references. In short, retake GRE only if you’ve made a mistake, and your score was significantly lower than the one you did during your preparation.

ACT – American College Test

SAT – Scholastic Assessment Test

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

As a test administered by ETS (U.S. Educational Testing Services), TOEFL is designed for non-English speaking students who want to pursue college or graduate degrees in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, or other countries where English is the teaching language.

There are two formats for the exam: the Paper-based Test (PBT) and Internet-based Test (iBT). The iBT is available in most developed countries and the PBT is available in developing countries.

What does TOEFL test?

The PBT or iBT does not test specific knowledge. Rather, they test your English proficiency. The school uses the test score to measure your ability to understand and use English in a  classroom setting. It consists of four sections:

  1. Listening Comprehension;
  2. Grammar Correction and Written Expression (for the PBT only);
  3. Reading Comprehension;
  4. Writing Section; and
  5. Speaking Section (for the iBT only).

Who can take the TOEFL tests?

There is no prerequisite: anyone can take the test. Typical test-takers include high school students who want to become college students and college graduates who want to pursue a Master’s or PhD.

When should you take the tests?

The TOEFL tests are offered six times a year. Recent test dates are:

  • 16 Oct 2010
  • 13 Nov 2010
  • 15 Jan 2011
  • 4 Mar 2011
  • 7 May 2011

What does it cost?

The cost for the paper-based exam is US$160. For the iBT, it ranges from US$150 to US$225 depending on the country in which you live.

How should you prepare for the TOEFL tests?

As the tests measure your English ability, the key to success is practicing your English skills. Make good use of each opportunity to speak, listen, write, and read in English. Try to create a daily environment where you can use English.

If the exam is coming soon, the best strategy is to familiarize yourself with the exam format, question types and answering directions. ETS provides sample questions when you register for the test. Called TOEFL® Practice Tests Volume 1. It contains the following content:

  • Two paper-based full tests;
  • 68 minutes of listening material;
  • Scoring information;
  • Sample questions for the Written Section.

Where to take the TOEFL?

See TOEFL test centers in Canada and United States.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System


LSAT – Law School Admission Test

MCAT – Medical College Admission Test