The Graduate Records Examination is one of the most important tests that you will ever take. A high score on the test can almost guarantee you a spot in the graduate school of your choosing, while a lower score can limit your options. The test consists of different questions that test your knowledge and skills in writing and other areas. Once you complete the test, you can request that the center mail your scores to you or send those scores to the graduate schools that interest you. The scores are valid for up to five years, which is helpful if you decide to apply for graduate school at a later date.

What Does the GRE Test?

The GRE consists of three separate sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. During the verbal reasoning stage of the test, you will read short articles and answer questions that test how well you understood the information presented. This section of the test will also ask you some fill in the blank and other questions that test your vocabulary. The quantitative reasoning portion of the test focuses on mathematical equations. In the last section of the test, you’ll receive several questions, and you must write essays relating to those questions.

Where Can I Take the Test?

According to the Educational Testing Service, you can take either a computer-based test or a paper test. Where you can take the test depends on which option you choose. Unlike the SAT and similar tests, you won’t take the GRE with a group of other students. You schedule the time when you want to take the test, select the location where you want to take it and pay the total cost of the test.

How Long do the Results Take?

The amount of time it takes to receive your score varies depending on whether you took the paper or computer test. Your results will arrive within 15 days after taking the computer test, but if you take the paper test, it can take up to six weeks for the results to arrive in the mail. If you choose to mail your results to one or more graduate schools, those schools should receive your results within the same time frame. Many students request their scores before sending the information to those schools, which gives them a chance to decide if they want to retake the test.

Why are the Scores Valid for so Long?

ETS keeps your scores on file for a period of five years following the date you took the test. If you take the GRE on August 1, 2012, you can request a copy of your score up until 2017. According to US News, the scores on your GRE are one of the six factors that graduate schools look at in regards to applicants. ETS retains test scores because it knows that not everyone immediately applies to graduate school after taking the test.

Your GRE score, combined with your letters of recommendation and transcripts, can help you secure a spot in a good graduate program. ETS, which administers the test, keeps scores on file for five years, giving you the chance to take some time off after college before applying to grad school.