The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized exam that is designed to help a college or university determine if an individual has the reading, writing, and math skills that he or she needs to succeed in a graduate program. The exam, which is designed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), is divided into three main sections, and each section tests a different area of knowledge. These three sections include an analytical writing section, a quantitative reasoning section, and a verbal reasoning section. The analytical writing section requires you to write two essays, including an essay in which you will have to analyze an issue and an essay in which you will have to analyze an argument (the exam will offer two choices for the issue essay, but only one question for the argument analysis essay). The quantitative section requires you to answer 28 multiple-choice questions (and fill-in questions if you take the exam after August 2011) in which you must solve a mathematical problem, compare numbers and formulas, and use graphs and tables to find the correct answer. The verbal reasoning section is comprised of 30 multiple-choice questions that require you to choose the word (or set of words) that correctly completes the sentence, identify the antonym of a word, identify the pair of words that shares the same relationship as the other words in an analogy, and read and analyze passages.
In most cases, you will be required to take the GRE before you apply to a graduate program at an accounting school because graduate programs (both in and outside the accounting field) require you to submit your scores from the GRE or another similar exam before you apply. It is important to note that the GRE is not the only exam that you may be required to take and that there are some colleges and universities that prefer the GMAT or other similar examinations over the GRE. In other words, you may be required to take the GRE to enter a graduate program, but there are some universities that prefer applicants to take the GMAT or another similar examination instead of or in addition to the GRE. In fact, there are some graduate programs that will not require an individual to take any tests at all if he or she meets certain requirements. It is also important to note that the GRE is more difficult than most of the standardized exams that are currently in use; the average person taking the exam will choose the correct answer only around 45% to 60% of the time.
The GRE is scored on a scale, and you will receive a score on a scale of 0-6 for the analytical writing section, a score on a scale of 200-800 (or 130-170 if you take the exam after August 2011) for the quantitative reasoning section, and a score on a scale of 200-800 (or 130-170 if you take the exam after August 2011) for the verbal reasoning section. The GRE score that an individual must achieve in order to get into a particular school varies considerably from school to school, but the average GRE score for a student entering a graduate accounting program is typically between 680 and 780 for the quantitative reasoning section and 500 and 650 for the verbal reasoning section. The writing section is usually not a major component of the admissions decision for an accounting program.