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The GRE is an aptitude test. Like all aptitude tests, it must choose a medium in which to measure intellectual ability. The GRE has chosen math and English.
The question is--does it measure aptitude for graduate school? The GRE's ability to predict performance in school is as poor as the SAT's. This is to be expected since the tests are written by the same company (ETS) and are very similar. In fact, the verbal and math portions of the two tests are nearly identical. Though, the GRE's verbal section is significantly harder (bigger words), and surprisingly the GRE's math section is slightly easier. The GRE also includes a writing section that the SAT does not.
No test can measure all aspects of intelligence. Thus any admission test, no matter how well written, is inherently inadequate. Nevertheless, some form of admission testing is necessary. It would be unfair to base acceptance to graduate school solely on grades; they can be misleading. For instance, would it be fair to admit a student with an A average earned in easy classes over a student with a B average earned in difficult classes? A school's reputation is too broad a measure to use as admission criteria: many students seek out easy classes and generous instructors, in hopes of inflating their GPA. Furthermore, a system that would monitor the academic standards of every class would be cost prohibitive and stifling. So until a better system is proposed, the admission test is here to stay.


The GRE CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) is approximately three hours long. Only two-hours-and-thirty-minutes of the test count toward your score--the experimental section is not scored. There are four sections in the CAT: Verbal (30 minutes); Math (45 minutes); Writing (75 minutes); Experimental, which can be Verbal, Math.
The verbal section contains 6 Sentence Completions, 7 Analogies, 8 Reading Comprehension, and 9 Antonyms. The math section contains 14 Quantitative Comparisons, 9 Multiple Choice, and 5 Graphs. The writing section contains 2 writing tasks.
The experimental section can be a verbal section or a math section. You won't know which section is experimental. You will know which type of section it is, though, since there will be an extra one of that type.
Because the "bugs" have not been worked out of the experimental section--or, to put it more directly, because you are being used as a guinea pig to work out the "bugs"--this portion of the test is often more difficult and confusing than the other parts.
Knowing that the experimental section can be disproportionately difficult, if you do poorly on a particular section you can take some solace in the hope that it may have been the experimental section. In other words, do not allow one difficult section to discourage your performance on the rest of the test.


The three major parts of the test are scored independently. You will receive a verbal score, a math score, and a writing score. The verbal and math scores range from 200 to 800. The writing score is on a scale from 0 to 6. In addition to the scaled score, you will be assigned a percentile ranking, which gives the percentage of students with scores below yours.


The computerized GRE uses the same type of questions as the paper-and-pencil test. The only difference is the medium, that is the way the questions are presented.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the CAT. Probably the biggest advantages are that you can take the CAT just about any time and you can take it in a small room with just a few other people--instead of in a large auditorium with hundreds of other stressed people. On the other hand, you cannot return to previously answered questions, it is easier to misread a computer screen than it is to misread printed material, and it can be distracting looking back and forth from the computer screen to your scratch paper.

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