Graduate Record Exam
(GRE Revised General Test)
As part of the application process, many graduate-level programs require that you take the GRE revised General Test (you might also hear it referred to as the "New" GRE), including most physical therapy and physician assistant programs, and many occupational therapy programs.
The format of the GRE General Test changed dramatically in August 2011, so be sure that any preparation you do, and any prep materials you use, are geared toward the GRE revised General Test. Refer to the link above for important information about the GRE, including its overall layout, sample questions, the pool of topics on which the writing section is based, and so on.
Note that when you report your GRE scores, your professional programs receive a report that includes all scores from each time you have taken the exam in the past five years. (Hence, GRE scores are valid for five years.) Refer also to Should I Retake The GRE?.
Important: Programs that require the GRE take scores into consideration in different ways. Some programs place more emphasis on the GRE than others, or more emphasis on one section of the exam. You will need to research your programs of interest and try to learn what a competitive score tends to be for those programs (i.e., what are the lowest and average scores that tend to be admitted).
That said, you can find score interpretation information on the ETS website (ETS is the company that designs and scores the GRE), including charts explaining which percentile a given GRE score falls within. (At the above link, see, for example, the document entitled Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Interpretive Data Used on Score Reports.)
Aim for a score above the 50th or 55th percentile; but, again, what kind of score you need to be competitive will depend on the program.
Be aware that some programs may have earlier application deadlines than the IU programs. ETS, the company that designs and scores the GRE, recommends that you take the exam at least four to six weeks before you actually need the scores. For those applying to programs which require GRE scores, it is most common to take the test in May or June of the year applying; but again, the timing of your GRE depends on the application cycles of the programs to which you are applying, and upon your own circumstances.
Therefore, in the year leading up to your application, and as part of your program research, confirm the time by when each program needs your GRE scores. (The HPPLC PT, PA, and OT pages each have a section with extensive resources pertaining to program research, including complete lists of accredited professional programs.) Learn which of your programs have rolling admission deadlines - i.e., programs which begin filling spots as soon as their application cycle opens - and plan accordingly. To maximize your competitiveness, report your scores to programs with rolling admissions sooner rather than later. We recommend you take the GRE at least four weeks prior to the opening of your earliest rolling admission cycle.
Note: Most people begin preparing for the GRE in the winter and spring prior to taking the exam. If you are a freshman or a sophomore, we do not recommend that you spend time directly preparing for the GRE. Focus instead on your transition to college, and on developing excellent study and time management skills. In addition, you will likely perform better on the GRE if you take the time to develop excellent reading comprehension, writing, and vocabulary skills in the years leading up to the exam. In this way, you are actually preparing for the GRE simply by virtue of being a diligent, assiduous student!
- The GRE is an investment of both your time and money. Even though you can retake it if necessary, plan on taking the exam only once, and prepare as though you only have one shot at it. Do not take the actual GRE and treat it like a practice exam, as this is a waste of your time and money!
- Different programs take GRE scores into consideration in different ways, and some place more emphasis on the GRE than others. Some programs even weigh one portion of the GRE more heavily than another, or even take one portion into consideration, but not another. Once you have researched this information, you may be able to fashion your preparation in a more specific manner. In any case, the bottom line will be the same: you simply need to earn the best scores you can.
- It is not likely that any of the programs you will be considering will require that you take a GRE Subject Test. If a program were to require a Subject Test, the program's website would explicitly state the requirement. If a program's website only refers to "the GRE," then they only require that you take the standard GRE revised General Test.
- Allow months and not mere weeks to prepare for the GRE.
Refer to ETS's GRE revised General Test information, which includes important details about the GRE, including its overall layout, sample questions, the pool of topics on which the writing section is based, and so on.
- ETS also provides some free test prep materials, including simulated computer based testing. See the Prepare For Success link on their homepage. See also, ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare (being sure to use the resources linked from the content links on the left of that page), and the ETS Strategies and Tips sheet.
- GRE verbal skill components:
- Form the habit of truly engaging your course readings, and whatever you read on your own. Continuously work on reading efficiency - working through readings with relative speed, while still understanding main ideas and retaining information. The Student Academic Center offers free workshops to help you develop these skills.
- Throughout the years and semesters leading up to the exam, as you undertake readings from classes, and in your own personal reading, form the habit of looking up words you don't know. Guessing the general meaning of a word from its context within the reading is usually not enough to truly expand your working vocabulary. Even if you retain only a portion of the words you look up, there is a good chance it will benefit you on the GRE.
- Most prep books include lists of hundreds of words they suggest you memorize to expand your vocabulary. However, trying to expand vocab over a short period of time in this manner sometimes results in people spending an inordinate amount of time doing this at the expense of crucial prep such as taking practice exams and practicing exam strategies. An alternative is to instead study roots, prefixes, and suffixes, which can help you identify a greater number of words, meanings, and word relationships. Here are some resources, courtesy of Texas State University:
- Some people take a GRE prep course, most do not; each person needs to make his or her own decision based upon their circumstances. Those who do consider a prep course are often those who have had substantial difficulty with standardized exams, or feel they need a third party to enforce a more structured preparation process for them. Some people also prefer to take practice exams in a more formal setting. Most people purchase and utilize a prep book, and take practice exams on their own (more information about preparation materials below).
- If you are considering a prep course, IU Bloomington Lifelong Learning offers one that is far less expensive than others, though it can fill up quickly and has not in the past included proctored practice exams.
- Be cautious of commercial GRE prep courses, which are very expensive. Student feedback indicates that commercial GRE prep courses may have only limited value, especially relative to the cost involved. Also be cautious of the "free GRE practice exams" offered by commercial prep course companies. These practice exams may be of some limited value to certain people, but remember that the companies do not offer them out of generosity, or simply as a public service! "Free GRE practice exams" are marketing devices, offered in hopes that you will then pay for a commercial prep course. In other words, there is a clear commercial agenda, and you should be aware of this as you make decisions about your own GRE preparation process. See below. (Freshmen and sophomores, be sure also to read the important note, above.)
- Most people purchase and utilize a prep book, and take practice exams on their own.
- Princeton Review and Kaplan are the two most well known producers of prep materials, but there are others. Before purchasing, you might visit a local bookstore and look through different prep books to see which one suits you.
- If you do purchase a prep book get one that includes a disc or code for accessing practice exams at no additional expense.
- One of the most common mistake we see during GRE prep is not taking enough timed practice exams, a critically important part of preparation. The GRE itself is an electronic exam (unless you have special accommodation needs), so electronic practice exams resemble the real thing more than paper practice exams. Of course, there are differences between practice exams and the actual exam, but practice exams help you become very familiar with the actual exam (which reduces anxiety), target areas that need the most improvement, learn to manage the finite amount of time you have to take the exam, and develop exam stamina, among other benefits.
- ETS provides some free test prep materials, including simulated computer based testing. See the Prepare For Success link on their homepage. As noted above, many prep books come with DVDs that include practice exams.
- To locate national and international GRE testing centers, including the IU Bloomington testing center, or to register for the GRE directly through ETS, visit the ETS GRE site. (To contact IUB Evaluation Services & Testing (BEST) directly, call them at 812.856.0684. Leave a message with your contact information if you get voice mail.)
If you are contemplating a GRE retake, first research the programs to which you plan to apply and find out how much each one weighs the exam, which sections they emphasize, as well as what the lowest and average admitted GRE score tends to be for your programs. Remember that different programs take GRE scores into consideration in different ways, and that some place more emphasis on the GRE than others. Some programs even weigh one portion of the GRE more heavily than another, or even take one portion into consideration, but not another. Once you have researched this information, if you do decide to retake the exam, you may be able to fashion your re-preparation in a more specific manner.
The GRE is an investment of both your time and money. Plan on taking the exam only once, and prepare as though you only have one shot at it. Do not take the actual GRE and treat it like a practice exam, as this is a waste of your time and money! As noted above, your preparation should include practice exams. Then, after taking the actual exam, if you believe your score could substantially negatively impact your prospects of admission, are confident you can raise your score, and have the time, then you could consider retaking it.
Again, whether a given score could substantially negatively impact your prospects of admission depends entirely on how, and how heavily, your programs weigh the exam, and on what the average and lowest admitted GRE scores are for your programs.
ETS has instituted new score reporting options, called SelectScore, which allow test-takers to selectively report only their best scores if they have taken the exam more than once. Do not take this option to imply that you should repeatedly take the GRE! Again, you are better off preparing to take it one time. If you strongly feel you can do better in the section(s) that your programs emphasize, then you could consider taking it a second time.
By gathering the kind information explained above, and taking each factor into consideration, you can make an informed decision about the potential costs and benefits of retaking the GRE.
This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.