Prep for the Psychology GRE | All Psychology Schools (2023)

Prep for the Psychology GRE | All Psychology Schools (1)

If you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree and plan for a career in psychology, entering a graduate program is the logical next step. Along with admission requirements such as transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation, many schools require you to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

There are two different tests you might take—the GRE General Test and the GRE Psychology Subject Test. A school might ask for scores on one, none, or maybe even both. If you can, it’s a good idea to take both exams to ensure you can meet the admission requirements of as many possible schools. Read on to find the information you need on fees, test formats, subject matter, scoring, and more.

In This Article

GRE General Test

GRE Psychology Subject Test

How to Prepare

Additional Tips for Test Day

GRE General Test Overview

The GRE General Test is the most widely used exam for graduate school admission, regardless of the concentration of the program. Administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and given to students all over the world, the test is designed to measure the critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills you’ll need to be successful in grad school.

Registration and fees

The GRE General Test is available at more than 1,000 testing centers worldwide. To take the computer-delivered test, you’ll need to register with the ETS online and select a time and date at a testing center near you. These exams are offered year-round and seats are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

In a few areas around the world, the computer-delivered test might not be available. If that’s the case, you’ll need to register online or by mail to take the paper-delivered test. These are only offered up to three times per year.

No matter which test you take, you’ll need to submit a fee along with your application. In most locations, the GRE General Test costs $205, though this fee is slightly more in China, Australia, Nigeria, and Turkey. Additional fees might be assessed for:

  • Late registration
  • Changing your test center
  • Rescheduling your exam date

Subject matter, format, and length

The GRE General Test is administered over a period of about 4 hours, with a 10-minute break in the middle. The exam is broken into three main subject areas, each with two separately timed sections:

Prep for the Psychology GRE | All Psychology Schools (2)

Verbal Reasoning: This section consists of two parts with 20 questions each. They’re designed to measure your ability to draw conclusions from text and analyze an author’s intent. The questions will be a mix of multiple choice, select-in-passage, and fill-in-the-blank.

Prep for the Psychology GRE | All Psychology Schools (3)

Quantitative Reasoning: This section also has two parts with 20 questions each. These measure your ability to analyze mathematical data and solve problems using skills in arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. Questions will be multiple choice and numeric entry.

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Prep for the Psychology GRE | All Psychology Schools (4)

Analytical Writing: There are two writing tasks in this section—one will ask you to analyze an issue and the other will ask you to analyze an argument. This section measures your ability to articulate complex thoughts and support your ideas with strong reasoning and evidence.


The scoring of the test varies depending on the subject area. The tasks are scored by ETS professionals as well as specialized scoring software. The scores of the ETS professional and the computer software are averaged together to give a final score.

Verbal Reasoning

130–170, in 1-point increments

Quantitative Reasoning

130–170, in 1-point increments

Analytical Writing

0–6, in half-point increments

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An important thing to remember when taking the test is that you can’t lose points for answering incorrectly in the sections of Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning. For that reason, it’s in your best interest to answer every question even if you’re guessing.

Receiving your scores

If you took the computer-based exam, you’ll be able to view your unofficial Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores as


as you complete the test. At this point, you’ll have the option to select up to four institutions that you want to receive your scores for free. Any additional score reports will cost you $27 each. If you feel you didn’t do well on the exam, you can choose not to have your scores sent to any school.

In about 10–15 days after the exam, you’ll be notified of your score for Analytical Writing and your official scores on the other sections. You’ll also receive verification that your scores have been sent to any schools that you selected.

If you had to take the paper exam, you’ll be able to view your scores online roughly a month after your test, with scores being sent to your schools in about 6 weeks.

What’s considered a good score?

Your scores will be compared to the average scores of other test takers. According to ETS data, average results for 2022 were:


Average Score

Verbal Reasoning


Analytical Writing

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Quantitative Reasoning


Any scores above the average will help your application but scores that land in the top 25% of test takers will give you a significant advantage. For your score to be considered part of this top tier, you’ll generally need:


Scores in the Top 25%

Verbal Reasoning

158 or above

Quantitative Reasoning

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159 or above

Analytical Writing

4.5 or above

Can I retake the test?

Yes. You can retake the computer-delivered GRE up to five times in a single 12-month period. Your retake attempts will need to be 21 days apart. If you need to retake the paper exam, you’ll have to wait until the next available testing period.

How long are test results valid?

Scores are valid for 5 years from the exact date that you take your exam. With the ETS ScoreSelect option, you can choose to have the results of any exam that you took within the last 5 years sent to your potential schools. This allows you to select the scores that show you at your best, but keep in mind that exam scores must be sent in their entirety. You can’t mix and match scores from different sections on multiple exams.

GRE Psychology Subject Test Overview

The GRE Subject Tests are used to measure how well you know a particular field of study. They’re designed for students who have extensive knowledge, either from an undergraduate degree or professional experience. These tests might not be required by a graduate program but submitting these scores can give you an edge when applying to highly competitive psychology programs.

Registration and fees

You’ll need to take the GRE Psychology Subject Test at a paper testing center, though you’ll be able to register online with your ETS account. You’ll be given your choice of testing centers worldwide, however the subject exams are only offered three times a year, in April, September, and October.

Along with your registration, you’ll need to submit a $150 testing fee. Additional fees are assessed for late registration, changing your test center, or rescheduling your exam.

Test format and length

The psychology exam consists of 205 multiple-choice questions. You’re given 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete the exam, but no section is timed so you can work at your own pace.

Prior to 2017, the subsections and subscores did not fall in these six categories. Some information online still lists the old categories, but the ETS website lists these new sections.

Subject test subject matter

The GRE Psychology Subject Test examines your knowledge of core psychological principles. Questions will cover material normally taught in undergraduate-level psychology courses. There are six primary areas covered by the test:


  • Sensation and perception
  • Physiological/behavioral neuroscience


  • Learning
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Thinking


  • Social perception, cognition, attribution, beliefs
  • Attitudes and behavior
  • Social comparison, self
  • Emotion, affect, and motivation
  • Conformity, influence, and persuasion
  • Interpersonal attraction and close relationships
  • Group and intergroup processes
  • Cultural or gender influences
  • Evolutionary psychology, altruism, and aggression
  • Theories, applications, and issues


  • Nature-nurture
  • Physical and motor
  • Perception and cognition
  • Language
  • Learning, intelligence
  • Social, personality
  • Emotion
  • Socialization, family, and cultural
  • Theories, applications, and issues


  • Personality
  • Clinical and abnormal


  • Research theories
  • Methods and protocol
  • Reliability and validity of testing methods


Scores on the psychology subject test range from 200–990 and are assigned in 10-point increments. Subscores in the six primary subject areas also given in a range from 20–99 in one-point increments. As with the General GRE, there’s no penalty for answering incorrectly. To maximize your score, it’s better to guess than not answer at all.

For psychology students, average scores on the test are around 600, but graduate schools will generally want to see at least a 650 for your application to stand out.

Roughly 5 weeks after taking the exam, you’ll receive an email letting you know that your scores can be viewed online and that your score reports have been sent to any schools you selected.

Can I retake the test?

Yes. You can retake the test as often as it’s offered throughout the year.

How long are test results valid?

All GRE Subject Test scores are valid for 5 years from the exact testing date. As with the General GRE, you can choose to send schools the results of any exam that you took within the last 5 years. Taking the test multiples times before applying can give you the opportunity to choose which exam shows you at your best.

How to Prepare for the GRE

The ETS offers free study guides and resources for all of its tests. You can use these resources to get a feel for the type of questions you’ll be asked on the GRE and even take practice exams. Numerous other resources are available both online and in print, for free and for a fee. If you’re currently an undergraduate student, there might even be study groups or preparation material offered at your school.

Additional Tips for Test Day

Taking the GRE can be an important step on your path to fulfilling your career goals, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible on test day. Follow these tips to make sure you’re as ready, confident, and comfortable as can be:

  • Arrive 30 minutes prior to testing time.
  • Double check that you have your ID. You won’t be able to take the test without it.
  • Get a good night sleep and eat a healthy meal beforehand.
  • Bring a snack or beverage to have in case you need it during the break.
  • Dress in layers so you can adapt to any room temperature.
  • Leave jewelry at home except for wedding or engagement rings.
  • If you’re taking a paper exam, bring at least three No. 2 pencils and a good eraser. These won’t be supplied at the testing center. Pens and mechanical pencils aren’t allowed.

If for any reason, you have health-related needs that require you to take extended breaks, bring a prohibited item into the testing room, or otherwise go against the testing regulations, you’ll need to follow the procedures for submitting an accommodation request.

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Prep for the Psychology GRE | All Psychology Schools? ›

The test can be challenging, but there are plenty of things you can do to prepare for the test and get the scores you need to get admitted to a good psychology program. Get the information you need to know about the GRE Psychology Subject Test.

How do I prepare for the GRE psychology exam? ›

4 steps to prepare for the GRE Psychology test
  1. Do well in your undergraduate psychology classes. According to ETS: ...
  2. Get comprehensive, reputable study resources. ...
  3. Take at least one full-length practice test under test conditions. ...
  4. Use test-taking strategies.

Is the GRE Psychology test hard? ›

The test can be challenging, but there are plenty of things you can do to prepare for the test and get the scores you need to get admitted to a good psychology program. Get the information you need to know about the GRE Psychology Subject Test.

Is the GRE Psychology test worth it? ›

Taking a GRE psychology subject test may improve your chances of admittance into a graduate psychology program. High GRE scores also make it easier for students to receive merit-based scholarships and assistantships.

What is the average GRE score for psychology programs? ›

For psychology students, average scores on the test are around 600, but graduate schools will generally want to see at least a 650 for your application to stand out.

How many months is sufficient to prepare for GRE? ›

Keeping all the points that we have mentioned in mind; the GRE preparation will take around 4 weeks to 20 weeks. If you include the mock tests that you would need to take, the preparation time can go from a minimum of 6 weeks to a maximum of 24 weeks.

Is it easy to get a 170 in GRE? ›

Scoring a perfect 170 in GRE quantitative is not easy, but it is definitely achievable with the right preparation and strategies. In this blog, we will provide you with some tips and tricks to help you get a perfect score in the GRE quantitative section.

What is the hardest section of the GRE? ›

While each section of the GRE is difficult in its own way, the Quantitative Reasoning section poses a unique challenge for many students. A lot of this section's content covers high school mathematics principles, such as: Geometry. Arithmetic.

How hard is a 150 on the GRE? ›

GRE Score Percentiles

For example, a scaled Verbal score of 150 on the GRE translates to roughly the 47 th percentile, meaning that you scored better than 47 percent of other test takers—and worse than the other 53 percent of test takers.

Is it hard to get 165 on GRE? ›

A score of 165 is in the 95th percentile, meaning that if you score 165 in the Verbal or Quantitative Section, you will be in the top 5% of all test takers. If so, the GRE score will be a strong positive factor for your application.

Does GRE outweigh GPA? ›

A Level Playing Field

This make the GRE the single most important number on your application. It's even more important than your undergraduate GPA. In fact, some schools weigh your GRE several times more than your undergraduate GPA. This means that a test of only a few hours can outweigh four years of college.

What is the average GRE score for PhD in psychology? ›

For the GRE Psychology subject test, the mean is 633 for PhD programs and 577 for Master's programs. Please note that some programs, such as the one in this department, do not require the subject test.

Do grad schools really care about the GRE? ›

Why Does a GRE Score Matter? There are a couple of major reasons why GRE scores are important to graduate school admissions committees: The GRE provides a standardized metric for comparing applicants. The GRE provides a filtering mechanism.

Do you need GRE for Phd in psychology? ›

Do I Have to Take the GRE to Apply to a Graduate Psychology Program? The GRE remains the standardised test that graduate schools in psychology require for admission. The GRE General Test covers verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

Is GRE required for Phd in psychology? ›

While most of the admission requirements for psychology graduate programs remain unchanged between the 2020–21 and 2021–22 academic years, the percentage of programs requiring GRE scores plunged.

Do you need GRE for Masters in psychology? ›

While not all Master's in Psychology programs will require applicants to take the standardized exam, some will recommended or even require students to take the GRE Psychology test. Read on to learn about the GRE in Psychology to determine if this exam will enhance your application for a graduate program.

What is the best way to study for the GRE? ›

We suggest you devote between 4 and 12 weeks to GRE preparation.
  1. Find your baseline. ...
  2. Determine your target GRE score. ...
  3. Make a plan to close the gap. ...
  4. Practice for technique. ...
  5. Mimic real GRE conditions. ...
  6. Review your results. ...
  7. Build up your GRE vocabulary. ...
  8. Practice with and without a calculator.

How do I pass the GRE for the first time? ›

Strategies and Tips for the GRE General Test
  1. Familiarize yourself with test content. ...
  2. Use the mark and review feature. ...
  3. Answer every question. ...
  4. Pay attention to time. ...
  5. Familiarize yourself with the testing experience. ...
  6. Review what you write for errors.

What is the difference between GRE and GRE psychology? ›

The Takeaway

The GRE Psychology Test is a standardized, optional test which can be conducted in conjunction with the general GRE test. The multiple-choice test measures experimental, social, and general knowledge learned from undergraduate psychology courses.

Is GRE required for Masters in psychology? ›

Students take the GRE, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), in paper- or computer-delivered format. While some graduate schools no longer require the GRE or substitute other skills and qualifications for the test, most master's programs in psychology require it.


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