Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD

Careers in Psych

De-Mystifying the GRE: Part I

There is a lot to know about the GRE before you take it.

Posted Apr 11, 2016

When I (Jonathan) talk to an individual about going to graduate school for a Masters, PhD, or PsyD in Psychology, there is almost always a point in our conversation when the person's enthusiasm for a career path seems to come to an abrupt stop. This is when I mention that the person needs to start thinking about taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Although most people know about this exam, I think they would rather not think about taking another standardized exam. Moreover, they are aware that like most standardized tests, the GRE may be weighted heavily when looking at application materials for graduate schools. I hope to use our blog to de-mystify the GRE. It will not make taking the exam any easier, but after reading this blog I hope you will have a better understanding of what the GRE is all about. If you want to read more about the GRE, there are various sites on the Internet, including the official GRE site at

Deb Stgo/Flickr
Source: Deb Stgo/Flickr

What is the GRE?

To begin, the GRE is the standardized exam that almost everyone who applies to graduate school in Psychology must take. It can be viewed as the “graduate SAT or ACT”. Because it is a standardized exam that means everyone who takes it (primarily on computer) takes the same exam in the same way. There are a chosen few graduate programs that do not require the GRE (, but in general almost all Psychology graduate programs require this test, especially the most competitive programs.

You need to be aware that most schools will want you to take the “regular” GRE that includes a verbal component, a quantitative component, and an analytical component. Some schools may want you to take a subject GRE exam in Psychology. Because of this, it is probably a good idea to keep your textbooks from your Psychology courses to help with your studying.

Signing up for the GRE

The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). You sign up for the GRE online and in most cases you will take the exam online at a testing center. Keep in mind that to register to take the GRE you need to create or have a My GRE Account. You will pay the $205 fee with a credit/debit card or a voucher number. Note that ETS will reduce fee under certain circumstances—you must contact ETS about this. These include financial need, unemployed, and under-represented groups (e.g., Gates Millennium Scholars Program). Also, I learned that online registration is not available if you have a disability or health-related need—you will need to go to a link on the GRE application webpage.

Source: MCPearson/WikimediaCommons

How is the GRE structured?

In thinking about actually taking the GRE, you need to know that the GRE has three specific parts. The Princeton Review website does a nice job describing these parts. First, the verbal section tests vocabulary (primarily in context) as well as reading comprehension. Questions include Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence and Reading Comprehension. It is a multiple-choice test. Second, for math you are tested on basic math concepts including basic algebra, geometry, averages, ratios, number properties, exponents and square roots, and numeric problem solving.

Finally, there is an analytic section that includes two essays (answered on the computer): (a) ability to formulate a convincing argument about an issue topic you select from two choices and (b) evaluating an argument by addressing the logical flaws of the argument and not providing a personal opinion on the topic. You can access the pool of topics for both issue topics and argument issues on the GRE site.

In Part 2 of this post I will discuss how best to prepare for the GRE. Thank you for reading this week's post. We hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to comment or ask questions below.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding, Dr. Lippert and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

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