Taking the GRE® General Test for prospective master’s students

The GRE® General Test is the most widely used test for graduate school admissions. Matthew Bashi-Kadlubowski, Associate Director for Product and Sales Training at ETS, told MASTERGRADSCHOOLS about the benefits of taking the GRE General Test, the differences between at-home vs. testing in a test center, and how to prepare for the test.

In short

What is the GRE General Test?

“The GRE General Test is the most widely used test for graduate school admissions,” Matthew explains. “It measures a student’s verbal reasoning skills, quantitative reasoning skills, analytical writing ability, and critical thinking skills. It’s the most widely accepted test. It’s not only used for admissions, but also for fellowships and possibly scholarship purposes as well.” (00:46)

The test covers three sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

The GRE test takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete, plus a 10-minute break. You can take the GRE test at home, as well as in a physical test center (see below). The standard cost is $205.

Benefits of taking the GRE General Test

The GRE test is for prospective master’s, specialized business master’s, MBA, JD, or doctoral degree students. Every year, hundreds of thousands of students take the GRE General Test.

As Matthew puts it, “It’s open to anybody in the world. We are a worldwide test. The nice thing about the GRE General Test is it is available to all majors. Additionally, if students are applying to multiple programs, they have the option of using one test to satisfy all admissions requirements, which is a huge benefit for using the GRE General Test.” (01:13)

GRE scores also serve as the only objective component of an admissions application. Application components like letters of recommendation, personal essays, and even transcripts (as different schools rate students differently) can offer a biased view of the applicant. “Standardized testing, in general, is the only measure that is not biased,” Matthew states. “Providing [GRE scores] is good because it levels the playing field and provides the institutions with a really clear picture of that particular applicant and possibly how they’re going to perform in graduate school,” says Matthew.” (01:48)

As always, it’s important for prospective students to find out whether their desired program requires GRE scores.

At-home testing vs. testing in a test center

In March 2020, ETS introduced at-home testing for the GRE General Test.

“What is great about it is it’s the same test, it’s the same structure and content and format, [the same] on-screen experience,” Matthew says. “The major difference with the at-home test versus a test taken in a physical test center is actually the equipment that the student is utilizing, which is, of course, their own, and how the test is proctored.” (07:11)

At a test center, there are human proctors who monitor the test. In the at-home test, there are human proctors who virtually monitor test-takers in conjunction with artificial intelligence technology.

ETS is proud to offer students the flexibility to choose which option suits them best. “During the pandemic, it’s really a personal choice. It’s whatever they feel the safest and most comfortable with,” Matthew assures. “But it’s nice to know that both tests are identical. It’s just a different environment in terms of where the test is taken.” (08:07)

How to prepare for the GRE General Test (for native AND non-native English speakers)

“Whether the student takes the at-home test or tests in a physical test center, there’s no difference in their test preparation,” Matthew tells us. (08:23) ETS suggests that the amount of time needed for test preparation is really a personal decision. Some students spend several months preparing, while others spend 30-60 days preparing.

When it comes to test prep, Matthew suggests taking advantage of ETS’ free test prep resources. “ETS has excellent resources and I always encourage students to start with our materials because they’re not only from the [organization] that administers the test, but it’s also from the organization that creates the exam and writes the test questions, so it’s really authentic material.” (08:45)

From practice tests to test prep videos, you can find free and paid test prep resources on the ETS website.

For non-native English speakers, Matthew recommends preparing the same way an English-speaking test-taker would. “However, we do encourage them to look at specific journals and publications that maybe will help them enhance their performance,” he adds. “A good place to start is the New York Times, The Economist, Scientific America, and the London Review of Books, for example. Normal periodicals are probably not going to contain the level of reading comprehension that a student needs to prepare for the exam.” (11:11)

ETS continues to offer additional information and resources for students. Most recently, ETS launched a free webinar series. The webinars cover everything from basic tips about the GRE test to deep dives into each of the three measures. Whether you’re considering graduate, business, or law school – or still deciding what to do – the GRE General Test can increase your opportunities for success and help you stand out from the crowd.

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