Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) FAQ

Most commonly asked question regarding the GRE

Q: Will the GRE test tell how well I will do in grad school or how ready I am for it?

A: The short answer is NO. The GRE’s predictive and measuring ability is vastly overestimated by some admissions committees, the ETS Company (its creator), university administrators and the general applying student. The FairTest non-profit investigates the validity of testing around the US and has published reports that reveal the many limitations of the GRE in its predictions and assessments. (http://fairtest.org/) For more information, click the Blog link and find the article “The GRE Test — A Seriously Blunt Instrument!”

Q: What does GRE stand for?

A: It’s called the Graduate Record Examination and its sole purpose is to predict to an admissions committee of a graduate program in a university what might be a candidate’s graduate school performance. Ironically, its contents don’t reflect the skills an actual graduate student uses and its record of predicting graduate school success is fairly low. Some grad schools know this while others some prefer to ignore this critical evidence and use the GRE as a quick, economical (and inaccurate) way of separating the “wheat from the chaff.” As a preparer, despite test flaws you still want to crack the GRE test and show a great score. This online GRE course even shows you how to use the tests flaws against it!

Q: Will the GRE score work out about the same as my SAT score did?

A: If you do just a bit of review then take the test there could be some resemblance between your SAT performance (whether good or bad) and your GRE testing. However, skillful test preparation can make sure that your performance on the GRE will outshine your SAT performance.

Q: I’m no good at testing? What are my chances?

A: Click “Blog” at the top of the home page and find the discussion “Beat Pre-Test Stress” for relieving test anxiety. Thatg can be one factor in poor testing.  Also the Test prep course pays attention to this factor; its content has a definite anxiety-lowering effect because it makes you more savvy to test weaknesses you can take advantage of, more strategies for approaching a variety of questions, and, ironically, more aware of why your GRE test performance may not be as critical a factor in your application as you thought.

Q: What is a passing score on the GRE?

A: There is no “pass” or “fail” on the GRE. It all depends on what your admission committee and its particular department is looking for for. Is the department highly competitive? Then higher scores MAY be looked for (if the department really believes that a GRE score can tell them a candidate is ideal for their program, which it can’t). Do the skills used in the department lean more toward verbal tasks (writing essays, research in humanities, etc.)? Then perhaps a verbal score or writing score may be more influential. Are the activities more logic, statistics, programming, engineering? Then the high quantitative may be expected. But even deeper — does the department even believe in the forecasting power of the GRE? See “Shortcomings of the GRE Test” Blog entry as well as the entry “GRE Scores: What They Tell and Why They Are a Bit Kookie.”The course helps you weigh all of the score factors and decide on what score to strive for in your test practice.

Q: What range of scores can you get on the GRE?

A: The scores on the Revised GRE don’t look like the old 200-800 scale of yore. Now the scores in math and verbal range from 130-170, innocuous numbers that were chosen perhaps to avoid all previous associations with any grade scores anywhere! A 150 in math and in verbal can be thought of as the national average, or the 50th percentile. A few points up or down can drastically change the percentile: For instance, 155 in math is the 61st %-ile and the and a 155 in Verbal is the 68th %-ile. A 164 in math is the 91st %-ile while in Verbal 164 is the 94th %-ile. See ets.org/gre/concordance for tables of comparison. Meanwhile, the Critical Writing score is simply a 1-6 with .5 point increments. A “4” is just below national average (48th %-ile) while a 4.5 is the 72nd %-ile and a 5 is the 87th %-ile. Generally a 4 writing score will, for a wide array of college admission committees, not trigger any “reject” reflexes, in that your admission essay and other course grades will indicate your writing ability sufficiently to assure them you can write in grad school. The math and verbal scores often prove more critical in admissions. See the Blog entry “GRE Scores: What They Tell and Why They Are a Bit Kookie.”