The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized exam required for admission to some graduate programs within the country. Many physician assistant programs require students to take the GRE. The test is comprised of three different sections:
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): The AWA measures your ability to think about and communicate ideas in an essay format. You will have 2 separate writing prompts (analyze an issue and analyze an argument) and will be allotted 30 minutes of writing time for each prompt.
Verbal Reasoning: The Verbal Reasoning section includes questions that assess your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from a sentence, understand the meaning of complex words in a sentence or paragraph, understand the perspective of the author, summarize the text and understand its structure.
There are three types of questions on the Verbal Section:
- Reading Comprehension: These questions require you to read passages of varying lengths. Subsequent questions test your ability to interpret, apply, and infer information from the texts. Specifically, you will be asked to define words and phrases in context, determine the strong and weak parts of an argument, and draw inferences.
- Sentence Equivalence: These questions are based on very short (two-to-three sentence) arguments. To do well, you must recognize the structure of an argument, including assumptions, evidence, and conclusion; recognize parallels between similar arguments; determine factors that would strengthen or weaken an argument; determine flaws in an argument; and recognize the effectiveness of a plan of action given in an argument.
- Text Completions: These questions contain a short section of text (between 1-5 sentences) with 1-3 blanks. Sentences with one-blank will have five answer choices and two-bank or three-bank questions will have three choices per blank and you are required to choose the right words that fit into the blanks based on the context of the sentence(s).
Quantitative Section: The Quantitative section contains questions which measure basic math skills, understanding of elementary concepts, and the ability to reason quantitatively. The questions cover three basic areas: Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry. You will have two 35-minute sections that consist of 20 questions each.
- There are three types of questions on the Quantitative Section:
- Quantitative comparisons: These questions will give you two choices and you are required to determine which answer is bigger or smaller, if the two answers are equal or if there is not enough information in the question given to provide an answer.
- Multiple-choice: Multiple choice questions may include story problems or simply tell you to solve for x with a given mathematic equation.
- Numeric-Entry: These questions will require you to solve the given problem and enter in your own answer, meaning you are not provided any possible answers.
- The GRE is a computer-based adaptive test and may be taken at GRE testing centers found around the world, upon appointment. Go to https://www.ets.org/to register for a test date.
- GRE scores are good for five years. Thus, it may make sense to take the GRE when your test taking skills are still sharp. Many students take the GRE 1-3 months prior to applying to PA school.
- While the GRE is not the most important part of the PA application, your test score still has weight in the admission process. Many students study for the exam on average of 4-12 weeks. Students have taken GRE prep courses, used test prep books, and have used online test materials.
- Repeat test-takers often score slightly higher. Schools will have access to your complete record and will see every test score and cancelled test. While you may take the GRE up to five times in twelve months, most schools frown upon an applicant taking it multiple times without improvement.
- PA schools typically like to see students score in at least the 50th percentile. Several schools have commented that if you have a lower GPA, a competitive GRE score can be helpful. If possible, students should aim for a 300 or higher on the GRE. Our BYU students, on average, score between a 310-314.
- The GRE is a computer-based adaptive test. This means that unlike a paper-and-pencil test, the next question is determined on the spot, pulled from a large bank of questions inside the computer. Based on your previous answers, you will receive either more or less difficult questions, which will have an impact on your score.
- Overall GRE scores range between 130 and 170. The final score is determined by your performance on the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and is accompanied by a percentile rank. The average score is 150-152.
- An Analytical Writing Assessment score is provided separately. Either two independent readers, or one reader and a computerized essay-scoring software, will score each essay. A third reader is used if the first two scores are too far apart. Each essay is assigned a score between 0 and 6, with 6 being “Outstanding”.