The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a commercially run standardized test that is an admission requirement for many graduate schools in the United States and in other English-speaking countries. Created and administered by Educational Testing Service (or ETS) in 1949, the exam measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study. In the United States, Canada, and many other countries, the GRE General Test is offered as a computer-based exam administered by select qualified testing centers; however, paper-based exams are offered in areas of the world where computer-based testing is not available.
In the graduate school admissions process, the level of emphasis that is placed upon GRE scores varies widely between schools and between departments within schools. The importance of a GRE score can range from being a mere admission formality to an important selection factor.
Critics of the GRE have argued that the exam format is so rigid that it effectively tests only how well a student can conform to a standardized test taking procedure. ETS responded by announcing plans in 2006 to radically redesign the test structure starting in the fall of 2007; however, the company has since announced, "Plans for launching an entirely new test all at once were dropped, and ETS decided to introduce new question types and improvements gradually over time." The new questions have been gradually introduced since November 2007.
In the United States and Canada, the cost of the general test is US$160 as of March 2010, although ETS will reduce the fee under certain circumstances. They are promoting financial aid to those GRE applicants who prove economic hardship. ETS erases all test records that are older than 5 years, although graduate program policies on the admittance of scores older than 5 years will vary.