What is GRE and What is TOEFL?

If you are a candidate seeking admission to a graduate level or business program abroad, it is imperative that you learn about the admission requirements of the schools you apply to and the common admission assessments like The Test of English as Foreign Language and Graduate Record Examination, well in advance. Most schools and universities in English-speaking countries rely on these standardized tests to measure and evaluate the seemingly diverse population of international applicants objectively.

So, what are these tests? What is measured through these tests? Are they similar? How do you know which test to take? Read on to find out more on them.

GRE - What Does It Test?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is an admission requirement for many graduate and business programs in the United States and around the globe. Most of the times, the term GRE refers to the GRE General Test, though there are subject specific tests that are administered regularly. Created and run by Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE General Test is a standardized exam to assess the reasoning abilities, critical thinking skills, and analytical writing abilities of prospective students who come from diverse backgrounds, with differing academic qualifications.

The GRE format includes three sections and types of questions that can accurately measure your abilities as a successful graduate-level student. The sections of the exam are:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Quantitative Reasoning
  3. Analytical Writing

For more details on this exam, such as the content, types of questions, and registration details, refer to the official ETS GRE website (

TOEFL - What Does It Test?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language intends to measure the English-communication skills of non-native English speaking candidates. The test is an admission requirement for many English-speaking universities, and institutes around the globe. It is generally conducted in two formats - the popular internet based test (TOEFL iBT) and the paper-based test (TOEFL PBT) in centers where internet access is not available.

Created and run by ETS again, this test measures your ability to understand, read, write, and speak the language in academic situations as might be required by graduate level programs. The internet-administered version (iBT) of the test has four sections, and includes questions that would require you to use all the four skills that are indicated by their names:

  1. Listening
  2. Reading
  3. Speaking
  4. Writing

For details of the test, refer to the official website (

Who Should Take these Tests?

Individual schools and universities in US and other English-speaking countries do have their own specific admission requirements for graduate and business programs. Common admission tests like GRE and GMAT are a part of the admission requirements in many schools, while international students are also expected to take up English proficiency tests like TOEFL and IELTS.

Depending on the specific requirements of the individual school or program, you need to register for each of these tests. However, it is important to understand that TOEFL and GRE are two different types of examinations designed to measure candidates abilities in entirely different areas. Therefore, both are not equivalent to each other. Here are a few pointers that can help you understand when to take them.

  • The GRE General Test is accepted by thousands of graduate schools and departments in the US, and across other countries. The official website has a list of institutes accepting the scores (

  • Admission committees consider the GRE General Test scores, along with your recommendation letters, undergraduate grades, and other relevant qualifications.

  • Though the GRE Subject Tests are not generally part of school admission requirements; in addition to TOEFL and GRE, many aspiring candidates also take up the  Subject Tests in relevant areas in an attempt to increase their chances of admission.

  • TOEFL is an English language proficiency test unlike GRE. The test is an admission requirement for most of the US universities and schools. Outside US, the test is accepted widely again, in more than 130 countries. You can search for TOEFL-accepting institutions online (

  • In addition to educational institutions, immigration departments and medical and licensing agencies also accept and use TOEFL scores.

  • Finally, it is important to check the requirements of the concerned individual institute before choosing these tests or any other assessment.