Basics: GRE® Test Day Info

Registering to Take the Test

You can register online, over the phone, or through the mail. Registration for the general exam costs $205, and the subject tests $150. Be sure to use the full legal name on your primary form of ID--the names have to match for you to enter the testing center. Sign up early, in order to send your scores with your application and get your desired test date and location. It's also a good idea to allow yourself to retake the test, should you choose to do so. You can only take the general exam once per every 21 days and 5 times in a single year, so plan accordingly.

At the Testing Center

Arrive at least 30 minutes early and plan to be at the testing center at least 5 hours. In order to get in, you'll need a current ID with your name, signature, and photograph. The name on the ID has to match the name you registered under. The GRE® is extremely strict about this, and if you don't produce the required identification, you won't be allowed into the exam and your registration fees won't be refunded. Passports, state-issued drivers’ licenses, and national and military IDs are all accepted. Other than your ID, personal items like cell phones, purses, and cameras aren't allowed in testing room, and you won't have access to them during the test. Follow the individual center's rules for storing these items. Food and drinks are also prohibited.

The proctors will provide scratch paper--students aren't allowed to bring their own or leave with any from the testing center. Because of extra security surrounding the section adaptive format, you'll have to sign a confidentiality agreement, as well.

Students get one optional 10 minute break after the analytical writing section, and one-minute breaks between the following sections.

Reporting your Score

Your GRE® scores are valid for 5 years. Before the test begins, you can choose up to four grad programs or fellowship sponsors to send your scores to. If you don't select any recipients or want to send your results to additional schools, it costs $20 per report.

The Test's Importance

The GRE®'s weight in admissions decisions varies across universities and among graduate programs within a single school. It's important to contact the admissions office for each school you're considering and investigate what they value most in a potential student. Generally speaking, a smaller program, such as a comparative literature program admitting 4 students out of 20 applicants each year, might value recommendations and previous academic work more highly. A clinical psychology program taking 100 out of 500 applicants would likely use the GRE® more aggressively, as a way to compare potential students from a variety of backgrounds. Professional programs often place more weight on the GRE®, while those leading to an academic career look more at research interests and background.

That said, even if you're applying to a program that looks first at other aspects of the application, it's still important to take the exam seriously. Many universities have a central graduate studies office that must approve applicants to the different departments, and a low GRE® score could be a problem. Test scores are also one determining factor in who gets grants, fellowships, and teaching assistantships. Don't jeopardize a potential source of funding by underestimating the exam’s importance.

As for what score you’ll need, that depends on the specific programs where you’re applying. Be sure to research your top choice schools for what they require. Some schools have minimum score cut-offs, while others only require the exam as a formality. Humanities programs likely skew toward higher verbal results, while a math-heavy discipline like accounting probably requires higher quantitative results. Aim for whichever score will get you where you want to be.

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