GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. This is an exam taken by students applying to graduate school or a fellowship program, similar to how a high school student might take the ACT or SAT before applying to an undergraduate program. This exam gauges one's proficiency in a variety of subjects. The student's GRE score is an important factor in his or her application package.

General and Subject Tests

There are two GRE examinations a student can take: the General Test and the Subject Test.

The General Test consists of three sections. The Analytical Writing section asks the test taker to write two essays: an issue-based essay and an argumentative essay. The Verbal Reasoning section requires the taker to analyze sentence structure, the relationship between words and concepts, as well as the information contained in a written piece. The Quantitative Reasoning section deals with mathematics, reasoning and problem solving.

The Subject Test may also be required of some graduate school applicants. This measures aptitude in a specific subject. Subject tests offered include Psychology, Physics, Math, English Literature, Computer Science, Chemistry, Biology and Biochemistry.

Taking the Test

Test takers can register for the test online, over the phone or through the mail. A fee is charged depending on the test and the country where it will be taken. Students can then study for the GRE by taking preparation courses and at home using software and books.

The GRE is offered both as a computer-based test or as a paper-based test in areas where computer test taking may not be possible. Both must be taken at a GRE testing center. They cannot be completed at home.

Scores and Validity

Both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections on the General Test are scored on scale from 200 to 800, and the Analytical Writing portion is scored from 0 to 6. Subject Test total scores are scored on a scale from 200 to 990.

Score reports for both General and Subject Tests can be sent to up to four institutions listed during registration for free. Computer GRE Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores can be viewed directly after taking the test. Scores for the Analytical Writing portion and scores on paper tests are mailed to the test taker.

Both the GRE General and Subject Test scores are valid and kept on record for five years. If after five years the test taker wishes to submit GRE scores, he or she must take a new test. It is also important to note that some institutions may only accept scores dated within a narrower time frame.