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All About the GRE and GRE Preparation

About the GRE and GRE Preparation

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is an admissions examination used around the world to screen graduate school applicants in a variety of disciplines in the arts and sciences. The GRE is accepted at thousands of graduate and business schools worldwide. The GRE is intended to test verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing ability. The GRE presumes fluency in English, but its verbal reasoning sections emphasize efficient reading and understanding words in context rather than memorization. The relative weight of the GRE in comparison to undergraduate GPA and letters of recommendation varies by program. According to research conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS), the administrator of the GRE, the majority of graduate departments consider GRE scores less important than undergraduate grades, equally important as letters of recommendation, and more important than other evaluation criteria. High GRE scores are of the utmost significance when applicants have limitations in their other credentials.

GRE Sections

The GRE is broken into six sections: a 60-minute writing section consisting of two writing tasks (Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument), two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections, two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections, and one 30- or 35-minute experimental section that can be either Quantitative or Verbal (there may also be an optional research section at the end of the test). It’s important to remember that the writing section is always first, but the remaining five sections can come in any order. There are optional 1-minute breaks after every section and a 10-minute break after the third section. The computer test lasts about 3 hours and 45 minutes in total; the paper test lasts 3 hours 30 minutes. You can familiarize yourself with the exam by taking a few GRE practice questions for free on the Manhattan Review website. You can also take a full GRE practice test.

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing portion is always the first section of the GRE, and it consists of two separately timed essay-writing tasks: Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. The ETS website has a comprehensive list of all the essay prompts for both tasks that may possibly be used for your GRE test; these lists are the best resource for students who are trying to learn about the sort of writing prompts that they will be required to answer during their exam. ETS also provides detailed information about how your essays will be scored, with a rationale provided for each scoring level, as well as numerous sample essays of differing quality. The essays are judged holistically, so it is important to write a lengthy essay and to structure it well in order to clearly and efficiently convey the multifaceted interpretations of the provided material.

Verbal Reasoning

After the Analytical Writing section, two or three of the remaining sections will test verbal reasoning abilities. The Verbal Reasoning sections have three question types: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence. Reading Comprehension questions present an excerpt of text and then ask several analytical questions about it. The complexity of this reading material is designed to mimic the level of texts that you will be exposed to as a graduate student. The Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions are distinct methods of evaluating vocabulary expertise. Text Completion passages are 1-5 sentences long with 1-3 blanks and either three or five answer choices (five if there is only one blank). Students must select the correct answer for every blank or get the entire question wrong; there is no partial credit. Sentence Equivalence questions present a sentence with a single blank and a list of vocabulary words. Students must select the two vocabulary words that complete the sentence in an equivalent way. These questions demand more understanding than merely memorizing vocabulary lists – you must also be able to comprehend sentence structure and think creatively.

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE are generally regarded as less difficult than those of the GMAT, because they test less specific professional knowledge and allow for more personal time management in addition to the use of an onscreen calculator. The Quantitative Reasoning sections have four question types: Quantitative Comparison, Multiple Choice (select one answer), Multiple Choice (select one or more answers), and Numeric Entry. For quantitative comparisons, students must evaluate which of two quantities is greater (or whether they are equal, or whether it is impossible to determine their relationship). These questions are somewhat akin to “data sufficiency” questions on the GMAT, except that in addition to deciding whether the data are sufficient you must also indicate the relationship between the magnitudes of the two quantities. Numeric Entry questions present a text box, into which you must enter the specific value of the correct answer.

GRE Administration

The GRE is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research, and related services.” In addition to the GRE, ETS also participates in development of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the SAT, and other standardized tests. ETS has a wide scope of informational and preparatory materials on their website, which can be beneficial to students preparing for the GRE.

2011 GRE Changes

As of August 1, 2011, the GRE underwent some changes. In addition to the ability to return to past questions and change answers, an onscreen calculator became available for the Quant section, along with some other interface features. The content of the exam was revised as well, including the eradication of all antonyms and analogies in the Verbal section and a greater emphasis on data interpretation and real-life scenarios in the Quantitative Reasoning portion. The scoring rubric was also changed to the scale currently in use.

GRE Scoring

In 2011, the scoring system was changed from a scale of 200-800 to a “scaled score” of 130-170 each for Verbal and Quantitative, in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is currently scored on a scale of 0.0-6.0 in half-point increments. Part of the reasoning behind this change was to make it easier to interpret discrepancies between scores. Increments of one point are less difficult to understand and easier to convert to percentiles than the old system of 10-point increments.

The scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are combined before calculation, so your final score will be broken into three section scores: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. You will have the opportunity to see your unofficial scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections right after you complete your test, if you choose to report your scores. The Analytical Writing section takes longer to grade because it uses a combination of human and computer evaluation.

GRE History

The GRE was created by ETS in 1949 to measure quantitative, verbal, and writing skills. ETS is an organization composed of researchers and statisticians, test developers, and educational policy specialists committed to social responsibility, equity, opportunity, and quality. The GRE is the graduate test with the most diverse student base, and it is used by applicants to a great variety of schools and programs.

ETS has modified the GRE to accommodate the changing needs of learners, educational institutions, and education policy. The goals of ETS are to raise awareness of educational issues, develop assessments that are valid and fair, and conduct research that drives innovation and informs education policy. The 2011 test revision and the continued use of the experimental and research sections have allowed ETS to continuously update its material to meet the changing needs of stakeholders, including students taking the test.

Computer Adaptation

The computer-delivered GRE is adaptive by section for the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning portions, and students who perform well on their first section will therefore “level up” to a more difficult second section. The difficulty of your test is taken into account during the computation of your “scaled score” of 130-170. The writing assessment, however, is not adaptive. Experimental and research sections are used to evaluate and measure the difficulty level of future test questions, but they do not contribute to the adaptation of your test or to your scaled score.

Experimental and Research Sections

After the Analytical Writing section, one of the remaining five sections will be an unscored experimental test section. The five sections can be presented in any order and the experimental section may be either Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning. There is no reason for you to attempt to determine which portion is experimental, because doing so will be a distraction from energy best spent on the test. The experimental sections are used to make continuing updates to the test, to gauge the difficulty of test questions, and as a data collection tool for ETS. At the end of your test, there may also be a research section, which will be identified and optional.

Test Centers in the Philippines

As of the time of this posting, there are two test centers that administer the paper-delivered GRE in the Philippines. One is the Training, Education and Development Center in Cebu City, located at 308-Centro Maximo D on Jakosalem Street. The other is the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati City, located at 130 HV Dela Costa Street.

The closest test center to offer the computer version of the GRE is in Malaysia, at the Prometric Technology Center in Kuala Lumpur. You can reach them via phone at 60-3-7628-3333.

Please note that test centers and test dates can change on short notice. Therefore, please consult the website of exam administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS) for the latest test-taking option in your geographical area.

GRE Strategy

Studying for the GRE is an investment of time, energy, and determination. While there is nothing more exciting than attending the school of your dreams, proper preparation for the exam can’t be disregarded and must be considered carefully. Get ready by becoming familiar with the exam and knowing your weaknesses, so you can turn them into strengths. To find out about the GRE preparation options with Manhattan Review in the Philippines, please check out this website or directly fill out this form to receive further information.


A growing number of MBA programs now accept GRE General Test scores in addition to or instead of the GMAT. While most business schools require the GMAT, this test is not eligible for use in admissions to other types of graduate schools. Only about 250,000 students take the GMAT every year, while over 650,000 take the GRE, of whom nearly 30,000 are applying to business school. The best test for you—the GRE or the GMAT—should be judged by you, depending on your strengths and aspirations. If you are uncertain, take a couple of practice tests for each and then decide. Manhattan Review offers full-length computer-adaptive diagnostic tests for both examinations. Although GRE and GMAT scores are incomparable as both tests are unique, the respective test administrators (ETS and GMAC) have devised comparison metrics to put scores in perspective, and a comparison calculator to estimate GMAT scores from GRE scores is available on the ETS website. To find out which test you personally prefer, you can compare them by taking a few practice questions of each test here and here.



About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review is an international test prep firm that mainly offers preparation for admissions tests needed to apply to US-based universities and schools, including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and TOEFL. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, the company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review offers GRE Prep in the Philippines and many cities in Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.