The Graduate Record Examination or GRE is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States. It is created and administered by the Educational Testing Service and is similar in format and content to the SAT.
GRE General Test
Unlike the SAT, the GRE is a computer-based test. It is a computer-adaptive test: while the number of questions in any given section is fixed, the difficulty
and scoring value of those questions varies according to the previous responses provided by the test-taker. Rather than having a fixed point value, questions of varied difficulty are used in order to 'zero in' on the level of question that represents the upper bound of the test-taker's ability. Because of the way in which the score value changes over the course of the test, early questions are much more important in determining the final score than those that appear near the end of a section. Questions cannot be skipped or returned to.
The general test consists of three graded sections, and one research or experimental section that is not included in the reported score.
Multiple-choice response sections are graded on a scale of 200-800, in 10 point increments. The writing section is graded on a scale of 0-6, in half- point increments. Sections may appear in any order on the test, with the exception of the Analytic Writing section, which always appears first.
One graded multiple-choice section is always a verbal section, consisting of analogies, antonyms, and reading comprehension passages. This section primarily tests vocabulary, and average scores in this section are substantially lower than those in the quantitative section.
The quantitative section, the other multiple-choice section, consists of problem solving and quantitative
comparison questions that test high-school level math, including algebra and basic geometry. The problems in this section must be solved without a calculator. Average scores on the quantitative section are generally higher than those on the verbal section, though the material may present a challenge for students who have not studied mathematics since high school.
The analytical writing section requires the testee to write two short essays: one presenting their perspective on a statement, and the other analyzing and pointing out flaws in an argument. Each essay is scored by at least two readers on a six-point holistic scale. If the two scores are within one point, the average of the
scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than a point, a third reader examines the response.
Use in Admissions
Many graduate schools in English-speaking countries (especially in the U.S.A.) require GRE test results as part of the application procedure. The GRE test is a standardized test intended to measure the abilities of all graduates in tasks of general academic nature, regardless of their fields of specialization. The GRE is supposed to measure the extent to which undergraduate education has developed an individual's verbal and quantitative skills in abstract thinking.
Unlike other standardized admissions tests
(such as the SAT, LSAT, and MCAT), the use and weighting of GRE scores varies considerably not only school by school, but department by department and program by program. Programs in liberal arts topics may only consider the applicant's verbal score to be of interest, while math and science programs may only consider quantitative ability. However, since most applicants to math, science, or engineering graduate programs all have high quantitative scores, the verbal score can become a deciding factor in even these programs. Some schools use the GRE in admissions decisions, but not in funding decisions; others use the GRE for the selection of scholarship and fellowship candidates, but not
for admissions. In some cases, the GRE may be a general requirement for graduate admissions imposed by the university, while particular departments may not consider the scores at all. Most graduate schools provide information to potential applicants about how the GRE is considered in admissions and funding decisions, and about the average scores of previously admitted students.
In general, schools do not place a great deal of weight on the analytical writing section. Most programs that involve significant expository writing require the submission of a prepared writing sample that is considered more useful in determining writing ability. However, the writing scores of foreign
students are sometimes given more scrutiny and are used as an indicator of overall comfort with and mastery of conversational English.
GRE Subject Tests
In addition to the General Test, there are also eight GRE Subject Tests testing knowledge in the specific areas of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. At one point there was also a GRE Engineering exam, but as most engineering graduate schools did not require the exam (many felt it was far too broad) it was discontinued as of April 1st 2001.  Subject tests typically have
70-100 multiple-choice questions that must be answered in 170 minutes. When an applicable subject test exists for an area of study, scores for that particular test are typically given greater weight than those for the General Test.
While the subject tests are held at many undergraduate institutions, the general test is only held at test centers (due to the computer-based format). Students in major cities in the US, or those attending large US universities, will usually find a test center easily accessible, while those in more isolated areas may have to drive a few hours to an urban location. Many industrialized
countries also have test centers, but not all do and at times test-takers must cross country borders (see GRE website for details).
There has been wide speculation on whether GRE scores constitute a meaningful measure of a potential graduate student's knowledge or capability for success. Many schools and universities have eschewed Subject Test requirements, and the GRE General Test has been considered at times irrelevant. Recent reports and questionnaires may show that the GRE General Test is not as significant in determining graduate admissions as once believed.
While the verbal section tests vocabulary and verbal
reasoning, the vocabulary employed is not specifically relevant to any particular area of study, and (in the case of analogies and antonyms) is presented without context. The quantitative portion of the test covers topics that are far too elementary for any program in the fields of math or science, as well as being irrelevant for the study of most liberal arts topics. The Analytic Writing section (derived from ETS' unpopular Writing Assessment Test) is generally considered to be less useful in assessing writing ability than a prepared writing sample (generally known as a 'Personal Statement' or 'Statement of Purpose') relevant to the appropriate field (which is also required for
admissions by many programs). Finally, because of the way the computer adaptive test is scored, individual scores may vary considerably, not only in response to the choice of the material selected for those particular questions, but also in response to the ordering of that material (early questions are given greater weight in determining final score than later questions).
The New GRE General Test
The GRE is currently undergoing significant changes. Due to security concerns, the new GRE will no longer be offered in computer adaptive format, and will be readjusted to a scale ranging from approximately 120 to 179 points. This
revamped version of the GRE will premiere in fall 2007.
GRE prior to October 2002
Prior to October 2002, the GRE had a separate Analytical Ability section which tested candidates on logical and analytical reasoning abilities. This section has now been replaced by the Analytical Writing portion.
Resources (External Links)
Source: Dmoz ( Open Directory Project)
GRE Vocabulary - Lists of words commonly found on the GRE.
GRE Vocabulary Builder - Offers for download a freeware program with a customizable wordlist.
GRE Vocabulary Sound Files - Offers a large vocabulary list in a sound file in mp3 format.
Guru's Home - Offers a freeware program for vocabulary review including a customizable and sortable wordlist. Also sells a CD of the program to students in India.
OnLine ETS - The official site by Educational Testing Services (ETS). Test registration, information for policymakers and teachers, and sample questions.
Soundkeepers: GRE Vocabulary Builder - Personalizable word lists, flashcards, and multiple choice questions to help with vocabulary learning.
Vyom Educational Resources - Large and small vocabulary lists for the GREs and TOEFL as well as over 1000 practice antonym questions.
Entry from Open Directory Project
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