The GRE is short for Graduate Record Examination. This exam is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), one of the world’s largest private educational testing and measurement organization. The ETS develops standardized examinations in the US and also conducts the TOEFL test in around 110 countries. The GRE is a computer-based test divided into three major sections. The test measures the student’s verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a period of time. The test is necessary for students who plan to pursue there Masters in the US, UK, Australia or Canada. The GRE test scores are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement undergraduate records and other qualifications that are required for graduate study. The scores provide a common measure for comparing the qualifications of applicants and also serve as a measure to evaluate grades and recommendations. 

The three major sections of the GRE include Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. In the Verbal Reasoning section — The skills measured include the test taker’s ability to:

  • Analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it
  • Analyze relationships among component parts of sentences
  • Recognize relationships between words and concepts.

In the Quantitative Reasoning section — The skills measured include the test taker’s ability to:

  • Understand basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis
  • Reason quantitatively
  • Solve problems in a quantitative setting.

In the Analytical Writing section — The skills measured include the test taker’s ability to:

  • Articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively
  • Examine claims and accompanying evidence
  • Support ideas with relevant reasons and examples
  • Sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
  • Control the elements of standard written English.

The GRE test is structured in a unique manner. The number of questions in any given section is fixed, but the difficulty level and the score value of those questions varies according to the responses provided by the test-taker. Therefore, the questions that appear on the computer screen are largely determined by the responses that students provide. The test algorithm is to use questions of varied difficulty in order to ‘zero in’ on the level of question that represents the upper bound of the test-taker’s ability. Due to intelligence that seems to be wired into the test algorithm, the score value changes over the course of the test.

Students are therefore well advised to concentrate on the early questions as they are much more important in determining the final score than those that appear near the end of a section. The questions also cannot be skipped or returned to, which adds to the level of difficulty.