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Get to Know the GRE Exam

Education, for some, can be an extensive and long-term journey. When a student considers the time and money that must be invested to reach their goals, it makes sense to always put their best foot forward when applying to the next school and program within that school. This is where the Graduate Record Exam or GRE exam comes in.

What is the GRE Exam and Who Takes it?

The GRE exam is for students who wish to pursue an education at a graduate school level – past a bachelor’s degree – such as earning a graduate degree (MA, MS or PhD) or a professional degree (MBA, MPH, JD or others). Not all schools require students to take a GRE exam, it depends upon the school and program you are applying to. Some programs from some education institutions will also require prospective students to take GRE Subject tests to prove knowledge in a particular field (biology, mathematics, physics, etc.). It’s best to check with the schools you’re considering to see what is required.

Whether it is a mandatory requirement or not, the GRE exam is an excellent tool for students to gauge their critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning – all of which are required for advanced academics. By taking the exam at a qualified GRE exam centre and submitting your best scores to your chosen school, even when they aren’t required, you’ll show that prospective school your ability to excel in the program you’re applying for while also proving your dedication to your education.

The exam is available in a computer-based format from most testing centres around the world. Some of those offering computer-based testing, also offer paper-based testing and some testing centres only offer paper-based.

The exam is broken into three main sections: analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning and the test reflects the type of thinking required in graduate or business school. The analytical writing section is the first portion of the exam. Here, you will read a passage of information then address the topic in ways that support the views you are presenting with sound reasoning and examples. The second essay in this section is similar in that you will read, then critique an essay. This section is scored by people, not computers.

The verbal section of the exam gives the student incomplete information and requires them to draw conclusions from it. This section stresses complex verbal reasoning skills as you form conclusions, identify relationships between concepts and words and parts of sentences. There are 30 computer-based questions in this 30-minute section. The test is structured differently when delivered on paper.

For the quantitative reasoning section, students must solve problems and apply basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis. This section is 45 minutes long with 28 computer-based questions. Again the format is different if taken on paper at your GRE exam centre.

Preparing for Your GRE Exam Date

One of the first steps will be to determine the best timing for your GRE exam. Most GRE exam centres require you to establish an account in order to register for the test. However, even before registering, one test provider (ETS) allows you to see the GRE exam dates by looking at test centres, test dates and see if there are still seats available by using their website.

Many of the ETS GRE exam centres are Prometric test centres which offer year-round computer testing. At other testing centres, dates are more sporadic. In all cases GRE exam dates are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it’s important to reserve your preferred test date in advance.

When choosing your GRE exam date, be sure to check when scores will be reported as you want them available prior to your school application deadlines. With computerized GRE testing, score reports will be sent approximately 10 to 15 days after the exam.

The fee to take the GRE General test in Canada is $205 US, there is also a $50 US rescheduling fee and a $50 US fee to change test centre if this options are necessary. Included in your fees, you can designate up to four score recipients, so determine the graduate or other schools you will apply to before registering.

Also on the fee page you’ll find a comprehensive list of GRE test preparation tools. Many of these tools are free for you to download and get ready for your exam. There are also a number of tools available for purchase. While you may not need special tools to practice prior to the exam, reviewing some of the materials is beneficial in that you will have exposure to how the exam will look and will be better prepared on exam day. You’ll also find a number of helpful preparation links here.

When you create your account with your test provider and register for your exam with your preferred test centre, be sure that your name and other information are identical to what is on your ID as you will need to show ID when you arrive at the test centre on your exam day.

What to Expect on Test Day

Be sure to arrive to your test centre at least 30 minutes before your exam. There are a wide range of items that aren’t permitted in the exam room, so once you have registered, be sure to check the list of what is allowed and what isn’t. The test session is monitored by test centre employees to ensure compliance to testing rules.

Like a lot of test takers, you may feel like the exam didn’t go as you had hoped. This is where the Score Select option of the GRE test is helpful. After the exam, you will view your scores at the test centre and can decide to send the scores or not.

You are also able to retake the test once every 21 days up to five times in a 365 day period. This option to retake the test no only gives you more confidence going into it, but it also works with Score Select in that you have the option to select the best test date’s scores to send to your score recipients. But, take note of what your preferred school’s policy is for scores as some programs require all scores from all tests you’ve taken.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you’re planning to attend school for a graduate or professional degree, you may need – or want – to take a GRE exam. Get to know what the test involves, how to prepare and where to take the test so you know what to expect.


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