How does the GRE test work

GRE test

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standard test for college graduates wishing to apply for graduate schools in the United States.


The exam is designed to measure the applicant's basic academic skills regardless of the subject. Above all, the verbal and quantitative abilities of abstract thinking are in the foreground, which should have optimally developed in undergraduate studies.

Structure of the test

The GRE is a computer test that is divided into three assessed multiple choice questions:
  • Oral section: This is where the applicant's verbal skills are required. The focus is on the applicant's vocabulary.
  • Quantitative section: Mathematics and comparative problems at high school level are to be worked on.
  • Analytical section: The applicant has to write two short essays in which he has to comment on a specific question on the one hand and on errors in a given argument on the other.

In addition to the general part, the existing specific knowledge can be proven for different subject areas in a GRE subject test. This supplementary test is not computer-based, but offered in paper form.


The multiple choice part of the GRE is graded on a scale from 200 to 800 points in intervals of ten, the essay part from 0 to 6 in intervals of 0.5.


The GRE is required by numerous universities in English-speaking countries, especially the USA, as part of the application process for graduate studies. At the same time, however, the test is also criticized because, in the opinion of many experts, it cannot make any really reliable statement about the academic abilities of the test subjects. The weighting of the GRE therefore varies greatly from university to university.

Implementation of GRE tests

Especially before starting an internationally oriented master’s degree or doctoral degree, the highly standardized GRE tests provide an opportunity to compare previous qualifications acquired in different countries.

The majority of GRE tests are computer-based or internet-based. Calculation aids are permitted for the quantitative test complex. The preparation of all three test complexes is recommended because the questions are formulated very precisely in many cases and the wording of the details is important.


The evaluation of the test results can take up to two weeks. With the switch from the conventional to the modified GRE procedure, a new rating scale was introduced, so that the comparability of older and new GRE tests is currently only given as an approximate comparison.

To prepare for the GRE test, it is possible to obtain training material from the test organizations for a low fee and to take a fee-based test test that shows potential weaknesses at an early stage.