The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Standardized tests such as the GRE are application requirements determined by each department. That is why a prospective applicant should be familiar with the requirements on departmental websites. Also, from year to year a department may change its requirements. If there is one requirement that students dread, it is taking the GRE. For this reason, it is a good idea to get it over with as soon as possible, if it is required. You may also be required to take a subject test: for example, the English subject test. Consider the following suggestions regarding the GRE:

  • If required, many departments consider the GRE the least important component of the total application. However, that said, there is still a bottom-line score that is expected. Review the information on the departmental website or speak with the graduate student affairs officer about expected competitive GRE scores.
  • Keep in mind that certain parts of the general GRE scores are considered more important than others, depending on the discipline. For example, many humanities disciplines are primarily concerned with your verbal score and care little about your quantitative and analytic scores. In contrast, if one was an economics applicant, the quantitative and analytic scores would be very significant, while the verbal score would be less important. Be sure to ask the graduate student affairs officer in your department which component(s) is weighed more heavily in the admission process.
  • Visit the GRE website to learn about upcoming test dates, test sites, etc. In other words, become knowledgeable about the GRE rather than avoiding it.
  • Sign up for the GRE early. Get it out of the way by August before the fall you will be applying. If you sign up early, you will also have access to practice materials offered by ETS. Do not wait until November or December to take the exam, if you can help it, because you will have too many other tasks to accomplish related to completing your application.
  • If you receive a decent score on the GRE, move on and concentrate on the parts of your application that are more important, such as your Statement of Purpose or your writing sample. Too much stress is placed on GRE scores by students, rather than focusing in the other components of the application.
  • Test scores are often downloaded electronically to UC Berkeley from tests taken in December, but you should not count on test scores reaching your designated department in time to be considered for admission if you take the GRE in late December or January. You should plan to take your tests earlier when possible.
  • For applicants who have taken the GRE more than one time, you should be aware of how this situation may affect you. Usually, your highest score is acknowledged in each of the three components, but often all of your scores are also identified. Don't worry too much about this. Admission committee members appear to take these situations in stride and understand the situations under which students are placed in test conditions.