Saturday, October 28, 2006

GRE Scores: Kealey's Final Word

<--- "Creepy GRE Testing Monitor"

I'd say about a third of the questions that we receive for the blog are about GRE scores. How important are they? What if I get so-and-so score, will that get me in?

Long-time readers of the blog know that we've answered the first question a dozen times or more, and as for the second question: It will depend on that particular university. Bottom line: It's your writing sample that gets you into an MFA writing program. It's your GRE scores that qualify you for entrance into the university.

I am never, and I mean never, answering another GRE question on this blog. Below is the section straight out of the book. I feel like I've written much more on the blog, but then ended up saying the exact same thing. I hope it proves helpful to those of you with GRE concerns. I know this is a stressful time, but there are no definitive answers beyond: Sign up for it, study hard, take it. Rock on.


Thoughts on GRE scores?
The majority of creative writing programs will require GRE scores as part of your application. How much will they count in your selection? In most cases, hardly at all.

The GRE scores are used primarily by the Graduate School, as opposed to the creative writing program, for admittance to the university. The creative writing program chooses its candidates, then sends their applications on to the Graduate School (basically, a department in the university) for approval. Your GRE scores need to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the scores of other graduate students at that university.

That said, you do need to take the GRE, and you should take it seriously. The GRE is offered throughout the year in computer-based format. It’s not wise for me to list the procedures here. They seem to change every year.

My sense is that you need to register a month and a half ahead of time in order to find a date and location and to receive the preparation software. To receive definitive answers to these questions, go to

Study for the test. Use the software and the practice tests that the GRE provides. Buy one of those GRE help books if you like. Take the practice tests, figure out where your weaknesses are, then brush up in those areas. There are definitely examples of writers who were accepted to the creative writing program but who were rejected by the Graduate School. Don’t be one of those people.

Do keep in mind that some university-wide fellowships are granted on the merit of undergraduate transcripts and GRE scores, so if you’re applying for one of those, then yes, you should work hard to score well.

We sense that you want to clarify.
I actually want to emphasize: For the majority of schools, you do need to take the General GRE test, you do need to take it on time (so consider signing up now), and you need to prepare for it and do your best. But don’t expect the GRE scores to be a consideration of the creative writing committee. Just remember that you can’t get into the Graduate School without them.

What about GRE Subject Tests?

The Literature Subject Test is mainly for prospective Ph.D. and some M.A. students. Do check each program’s requirements. The reading list for the Subject Test is extensive, so you’ll likely need many months to prepare. Go to for sign-up and preparation information. I don’t know of any MFA programs that require the subject test.

The Literature Subject scores will count heavily for prospective Ph.D. and some M.A. students, right behind the two writing samples (creative and critical), especially for programs that lean heavily on the literature component.


Deborah Leiter Nyabuti said...

The Princeton Review book has good explanations for the math concepts. I bought the Barron's book and found it helpful (it has a ton of exercises and practice tests), but its explanations made me feel like a math dunce (it's been 12 years without math for me). Then a friend gave me The Princeton Review book, and I realized it wasn't me, it was the book... Of course, we'll see how well I do when I actually take the test next month.

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