For graduate school applicants, the GRE looms as large as the SAT does for high school students, but each institution (and grad school program) has its own criteria for comparing results. Some institutions look for an overall good score while others put more weight on one specific section of the exam. Some programs will accept just about any GRE score; other programs do not require the test at all (though those programs are in the minority).
With such a wide range of GRE requirements out there, just how important is GRE prep?
GRE prep, and the great score it can help achieve, is very important to the chances of gaining acceptance to the graduate program of your choice. Other than law schools, medical schools, and business schools, which require the LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT, respectively, most graduate programs do require some sort of standardized test. Taking the GRE is simply part of the admissions process, a box to check, and a way to demonstrate your ability to attain academic success at the graduate level. Here are some great GRE practice tests that can help in your preparation. Many graduate programs use the GRE as a validator of undergraduate grades – they care what grades you received, but they are also wary of what those grades mean. Good grades and a good GRE score confirm the quality of the undergraduate education received by the applicant. Good grades and a poor GRE score hint at inflated undergraduate grades, as the GRE is, more or less, a test of overall intellectual ability. Here are some great tips on how to improve your GRE score.
Typically, programs will give an average GRE score of previous classes, or a range of scores generally accepted. These scores offer a helpful perspective as you do your GRE prep, and can help you find the appropriate graduate program for you. Elite grad programs – the top 5 in their respective areas of study – usually require very high GRE scores, as well as an application packet showing success in all areas of undergraduate performance. This is some great information on how the GRE is scored.
Institutions may base financial aid awards, in part, on GRE scores. These scores can be used to differentiate between two equally qualified applicants, and receiving financial aid (in the form of scholarships and graduate assistantships) is an important consideration in this time of rising education costs. In regards to financial aid, applicants are usually evaluated based on undergraduate transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation. High test scores help applicants stand out from their peers and show their ability to be a leader in a graduate program.
In summary, the GRE is one part of your application to graduate school, but it is an extremely important part. It pays off to take the time to study wisely and make sure you are prepared for the graduate school admissions process. Investing in GRE prep is a terrific way to ensure that you reach the impressive score you need to further your academic and professional career.