With a few exceptions, graduate programs will require applicants to take the Graduate Records Exam, referred to as the GRE. Students seeking admission to professional schools such as law, medicine, or business will be required to take the LSAT, MCAT or GMAT, respectively. Visit the websites of the programs to which you seek admission to determine if any standardized tests are required.
Augsburg College offers an eight week GRE prep course each summer for students and alumni at a cost well below those found at private test centers. This course is taught by Augsburg faculty and staff and walks students through each section of the general test. Throughout the course students complete sample test questions and receive in-depth feedback and instruction.
GRE General Test
Visit the official GRE website to learn about test format, registration, and preparation. This website is user-friendly and a must view for anyone taking the GRE. After downloading the free PowerPrep software available at the site you can take full-length practice exams that are EXACTLY like the actual test and get your score immediately. Other test prep companies and booklets advertise that they have practice exams; however, the only true test (the others can closely approximate it) is at the GRE website—and it’s free! The PowerPrep software is also automatically mailed to all GRE registrants, and is available on the PCs located in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) as well.
GRE Subject Test
In addition to the General GRE, some graduate programs require applicants to take a GRE Subject Test. Subject tests are administered (but not always required) in the following areas: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. Unlike the general test, subject tests are only available in October, November, and April. Visit the GRE Subject Test website for test dates and details. Test registrants receive a free sample test by mail or can access one via the website.
Nearly all graduate programs require official GRE scores, sent directly from the testing company. When you sit for the exam, you can list up to four schools/programs you want your scores sent to at no additional cost. It costs $15.00 per additional school beyond four, or for any not listed at exam time. If you are thinking of applying to a school, list them at the time of the test. The scores will be there, then, in the event that you do decide to apply. It takes about ten business days to receive GRE scores following the General Test; four to six weeks following a Subject Test. Additional score reports take approximately five days. Note: The actual essays you write during the exam are sent electronically to the graduate program. Schools are able to download your essays and add them to your application file.
GRE Preparation Resources
In addition to the on-campus prep course, there are many at-home study guides and websites that can be of use. URGO recommends the website Magoosh for GRE general test prep. This site not only offers practice tests, but also provides videos explaining the answer for each question. Membership is $99 for Augsburg students so be sure to let them know of your student status if you decide to use this resource. Magoosh houses a blog that provides study tips and advice that is available to non-members as well.
Also check out our 15 Steps for GRE Prep.
GRE Frequently Asked Questions
Does the GRE matter?
It’s probably safe to say that the GRE, if required, always matters. Stellar GRE results can bump you into the “admit” pile and translate into fellowship and assistantship dollars; sub-par scores can plunge you into the “admission denied” pile or decrease your chances for funding.
What weight is given to GRE scores in the admission decision?
It depends on the program. More competitive programs receive applications from many highly qualified candidates and can afford to deny admission on the basis of low GRE scores. For less competitive programs—the majority of programs—the GRE is just one of many pieces influencing the admission decision.
When in my undergraduate career should I take the GRE?
Ideally, no later than August of the fall application cycle. Graduate school deadlines are as early as December 1. Preserve your time in fall semester for finalizing graduate school choices, completing applications and keeping up your grades, not studying GRE vocab. In the event that you under-perform, you will have a cushion of time to retake to exam.
Can I retake the exam?
Test takers are allowed to retake the GRE one month following the last exam.
Do I have the option of sending only my best scores to graduate programs?
Yes. If you take the test more than once, you can choose which scores to send after the fact. However, keep in mind that you need to wait one month between tests.
Which section of the GRE (verbal, quantitative or analytical writing) is most important to the graduate admissions committee?
It depends on your major and the program’s competitiveness. Never assume one section is more or less important until a graduate school tells you as much. Unfortunately, graduate schools don’t publish this information on their websites; however, many graduate faculty or graduate advisors will tell you if asked. Also, some students after taking a practice exam automatically–and often incorrectly–conclude that they should devote the bulk of their preparation time to bringing up the lowest section score. This may not be a wise study plan as you could be spending the majority of your time on the least important section.
What is the minimum score I need to be admitted into graduate school?
There is no magic number that holds true for all graduate programs. In fact, few programs will publish this number anywhere on their websites or admissions literature, but you can usually find this information by directly asking a staff member at the programs you are considering. What you will find on many websites is the average score of the students admitted to the program in the past. If your scores are lower than that average, then you want to counterbalance them with a higher than average GPA, an exceptional personal statement, and/or outstanding letters of recommendation. Note: Every year in graduate programs across the country students get admitted to graduate programs with GRE scores lower than the average or required minimum.
Do I need to take a subject test?
Visit the website of several graduate programs to see if a subject test is required.
If a school says that a subject test is merely preferred should I take it?
It depends. If your score is strong, or you know it will be strong, then send it. The reverse is true if your score is low. Keep in mind that you can always take the subject test but choose not to have your scores sent. Within some departments the subject test has minimal impact on the admission decision but serves as a diagnostic tool, revealing to graduate programs what coursework incoming students have mastered.
What if I can’t afford to take the test?
There are fee waivers available to students who meet very strict financial criteria outlined by GRE on their website. If you meet the criteria, you need to obtain verification of eligibility through Augsburg ’s Financial Aid Office in the Enrollment Center.