Higher Education Exams


An Indian student's guide to the GRE

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) for admissions to the graduate programs in the United States Of America. This is the test you need to take if you are aspiring to do your graduate studies (Master's or PhD) in the United States. GRE comes in two formats - computer based and paper based. The paper based test is conducted in countries with limited computer facilities. In India, the only format available is computer based.


GRE tests your analytical, logical and critical reasoning skills within a stipulated time frame. The GRE is no longer computer adaptive, meaning you can go back and forth while answering the questions and all questions carry equal weight. GRE is composed of 3 main sections:

Analytical Writing: This section is comprised of 2 essays a.k.a tasks: ďAnalyze an issue taskĒ and ďAnalyze an argument taskĒ. The issue task consists of a claim on a particular issue of general interest along with specific instructions on how you are supposed to respond to the issue. You have to analyze and evaluate the issue, consider all aspects of the issue and develop a solid argument with specific reasons and examples to support your view on the given issue. The argument task expects you to evaluate a given argument along with specific instructions on how to respond to the argument. You will be expected to analyze and evaluate the logic of the given argument and then debate on whether the argument is flawed in any aspect. The two tasks are complementary to each other since the issue task expects you to create your own argument whereas the argument task expects you to evaluate a given argument. Both the tasks must be completed by 30 minutes each. Scoring will be on a scale of 0 to 6.

Verbal Reasoning: The verbal reasoning section of the GRE tests your ability to analyze and evaluate the given passage(s) and sentences by understanding what message they are trying to convey as a whole. Considering that you will be doing a lot of reading in graduate school, understanding what the given sentences convey is extremely important for success in graduate school. There will be 3 types of questions: reading comprehension, text completion, sentence equivalence. Reading comprehension passages are one to two paragraphs long and the questions are of two types: multiple choices where you will be expected to choose 1 or more than 1 correct choice and select-in passages where you will have to choose a sentence from the passage that best fits the question asked. Text completion questions include a passage composed of 1 to 5 sentences with 1 to 3 blanks. For each blank, there will be 3 answer choices and you have to get ALL 3 correct in order to get the answer correct. There will be no credit offered for partially correct answers. Sentence equivalence questions consist of a single sentence with one blank each and you will be expected to find two choices from the given set of 6 answer choices that makes the sentence coherent as a whole. You need to get both the choices correct in order to get full score for each question. There will be no credit for partially correct answers. Scoring will be on a scale of 0 to 120. The GRE test has two verbal sections with 20 questions each and each section must be completed in 30 minutes.

Quantitative Reasoning: Quantitative reasoning tests your understanding of the basic mathematics concepts, your ability to solve problems using basic quantitative methods and your quantitative reasoning skills. You will have access to an online calculator. Topics covered include algebra, arithmetic, geometry, data interpretation and data analysis (statistics and probability). Quantitative reasoning contains 4 question types: quantitative comparison questions, multiple choice questions - select one answer choice, multiple choice questions - select one or more answer choices and numeric entry questions. The quantitative comparison section expects you to compare two given quantities and then decide which of the following statements best describes the comparison: quantity A is greater, quantity B is greater, the two quantities are equal and the relationship cannot be determined from the given information. The multiple choice question - one answer choice gives you a problem to solve and expects you to choose one answer from a list of 5 choices. The multiple choice - select one or more answer choices gives you a problem to solve and expects you to choose one or more choices from a given list of choices. The numeric entry questions gives you a problem and asks you to enter the answer in a single box either as an integer or a decimal value. If the answer is a fraction, there will be two boxes, one for the numerator and one for the denominator. Scoring will be on a scale of 0 to 120. The GRE test has two quant sections with 20 questions each and each section must be completed in 35 minutes.

Experimental section:As if the verbal, quantitative and analytical sections arenít enough, GRE expects the test takers to also solve a mysterious experimental section which will not be credited. Apparently, this section exists for the GRE makers to conduct further research for their tools. The experimental section will be either verbal or quantitative and you will not be able to guess which one is experimental and which one is real. So, you have to do your best in all the sections. Also, the experimental section can occur at any given time, either at the beginning of the test or in the middle or towards the end.

Timing: The entire test takes 4 hours to complete, including the breaks.

Before you register for the GRE, make sure you have a credit card and a valid passport. For registration, click here. Make sure you register for the test at least 6 months in advance as the dates get filled up quickly. Also, while you are registering for your test make sure you are entering the information (such as name, date of birth) correctly as printed in your passport. During the time of your test, the authorities at the GRE test center will check your passport and test confirmation email to make sure your personal information correlates. Even a single misplaced letter will prevent you from taking the test.

GRE test centers are located at the following cities in India:

  • Ahmedabad
  • Allahabad
  • Bangalore
  • Calcutta
  • Chennai
  • Gurgaon
  • Hyderabad
  • Mumbai
  • New Delhi
  • Trivandrum
GRE can be taken anytime of the year. Admissions in the United States are during fall (September) and spring (January). Very few students go for spring and it is highly recommended that you apply for fall admissions. If you are going to apply for fall 2014, then take the GRE before June 2013. Ideally, take the test anytime between March 2013 - June 2013. This way you will have plenty of time to devote to SOP and LORís. Also, if you are unhappy with your scores you will have enough time to take the GRE again. GRE can be taken only once every month. If you have given the test in the month of June and want to write again, you can do so only in July. Also, the test dates get booked really fast. So, please book your dates at least 6 months ahead.

GRE is valid for 5 years. However, some universities prefer GRE scores that are no less than 3 years old. Usually universities provide this information on their admissions web page. If you are not able to find information regarding the validity, then email the graduate coordinator of your program for clarification.

It costs $185 to write the GRE. If you want to reschedule or change your test center, you got to fork out an additional $50. If you have booked the test and want to cancel your dates, you have to do it four full days before your test date and you will be refunded half of $185.
The GRE can be taken any number of times and it is common for students to take the test twice. One advice here is to work really hard and try to crack the test in the first attempt. Students usually become complacent thinking they can give the test again if the first attempt fails. This kind of a lax attitude results in more money and energy spent. So, try your level best to crack it in the first go.This way you will have more time for your SOP, LORís , University selection etc. Also, ETS has now come out with an option called ScoreSelect where you get to decide which scores of yours that you would like to send to universities. This means you can send the most recent score, all your scores or your best score. Universities will get to see only the scores you send and not everything in your GRE history. For more information on ScoreSelect, please click here.

Students usually opt for coaching classes or study by themselves. At the end of the day, only you know what works best for you. However, when it comes to preparation materials, most students use Princeton Review, Kaplan and Barronís. Magoosh and Manhattan GRE are two other awesome GRE prep companies. They are cost effective with a fabulous online learning interface and tutorials. Also, their questions very closely resemble the actual GRE test questions. It is highly recommended that you follow either one of the two.

Magoosh has a large collection of sample GRE questions and answers in their blog. They also have this great study schedule that you can follow.

Manhattan GRE offers, apart from preparation materials, six mocks that are extremely good.They are a little tougher than the actual GRE which is good as it prepares you for the worst. The first mock is free and the rest five can be taken after paying a fee of $30.

As for the preparation material, you can sign up with either Magoosh or Manhattan prep. Donít hoard on preparation material. Following either Magoosh or Manhattan prep is more than sufficient.

Another great tool to learn new words is Quizlet. Through Quizlet, you can create your own flash cards or use existing ones to learn new words by playing games and competing with other students thereby making the learning process more enjoyable.

Also, reading articles from NYTimes and economist regularly can help build your vocabulary, improve your speed and comprehension.

Subject GRE is offered in the following areas:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology


Computer Science was discontinued since April 30, 2013.

Some universities with highly competitive programs, specifically PhD, expect students to submit subject GRE test scores. This information can be found in the web pages of the universities you want to apply to. If no information is given, then that means they do not expect students to submit GRE subject test scores. However, if you feel that taking a subject test will give you a better chance for scholarship and admissions then do email professors or graduate coordinators of the programs for more information.


A few useful resources for subject GRE are: urch-Gre subject tests, Mathematics GRE, Physics GRE.




There is no hard and fast answer to this question. If you are applying to an Engineering program, then your quants score is very important. Usually a quant score above the 90th percentile is expected from engineering students. If you are applying to Arts & Humanities, then your verbal score is more important. Also, there are plenty of university toppers out there with GRE scores in the 75th - 80th percentile range for both verbal and quant. Most of them get admitted to universities of their choice due to outstanding academic performances. We have also observed students from top universities such as the IITs, Peking University(China) etc getting a low verbal score (around 60th percentile) and ending up in big universities such as Stanford, Berkeley due to their stellar undergraduate performance and research projects/internships etc. Some universities have a cutoff for GRE scores (like above the 75th percentile for verbal and above 90th percentile for Quants) so visit their admissions website for more details. If your GRE score is a few points below the specified cutoff and you feel that you are a good candidate, do email the professors or graduate coordinators explaining your situation and asking if they will consider your application inspite of not clearing the cutoff.

Yes. Many universities have started accepting the GRE scores instead of the GMAT for their management programs. However, this does not apply to all the universities. Please check with the universities for more details before applying.

No. GRE is only a part of your application package. Your undergraduate GPA, projects, internships, letters of recommendations and statement of purpose are all equally important.

On the day of the test you will be allowed to report your scores to four universities for free. At the end of the test you will be able to view your verbal and quantitative scores. Since it takes a few days to grade your essays, it will take 10-15 days for ETS to send your official score report to your home address. Once you complete your test, you can order additional score reports to be sent to the universities of your choice. Each report costs $25. If you have taken the test more than once, you can choose to send scores from your most recent, all or any specific test score. Score reports will be sent to your specified universities approx 5 business days after your order has been placed.For more information on score reporting, click here.

While most universities expect you to submit GRE scores for admissions into their graduate programs, a FEW (very few!!) of them do not require the GRE scores for graduate school admissions. However, there is a high chance for your student visa to get rejected if you do not take the GRE. At the end of the day, it is always good to take the test.

A few (not all!!) universities in Canada, Singapore, Japan and the UK expect students to submit GRE scores. These are usually for highly competitive programs. Please go through the graduate school admissions website for more information on the admission requirements.