How the GRE Works

GRE Background

The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, was first administered in the fall of 1939 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It was the first large-scale attempt to use standardized assessment in higher education [source: McNutt].

While many things have changed over the past 60 years, the GRE, now administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), continues to be a measure of readiness for general graduate level study. Recently, however, business schools began to accept GRE scores in an effort to diversify and broaden their applicant pool. This is good news for prospective business students as the GRE is both less expensive than the GMAT and it's offered in more locations around the world.

The GRE, like any standardized test, attempts to level the playing field for applicants who come from a variety of backgrounds and who are considering graduate schools across the globe. In fact, each year, more than 670,000 people from 230 countries take the GRE. Americans account for the greatest number of GRE test takers. And in 2009, ETS saw its biggest increase ever in the number of people who sat for the exam, reporting a 13 percent increase among U.S. citizens and a 12 percent increase among Europeans [source: McNutt].

ETS attributes the overall increase in the number of people taking the GRE to three main things:

  1. A broader awareness of the options
  2. The trend for business schools to accept the GRE
  3. The tendency for graduate school admissions go up in a down economy

Yet, the increase is not only in who is taking the test. ETS has also seen a trend in terms of where the scores are submitted. Additionally, they've found U.S. students are applying to European graduate schools, which are generally less expensive than those in the states and where nearly 70 percent of all programs are taught in English [source: McNutt].

Now that you know who's taking the test, let's look at what the test measures and how the 2011 version will differ from the current exam.