Format of the GRE

GRE Test Format

The GRE Test consists of three sections, the Verbal Reasoning section, the Quantitative Reasoning section and the Analytical Writing section, however it is divided into six parts. The first part is always the Analytical Writing section. The next five parts consist of two parts of Verbal Reasoning, two parts of Quantitative Reasoning, and one experimental part that can be Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning or Analytical Writing. The experimental part is not counted in the scoring but it can be anywhere in the order of the test sections and is often not identified. Paper-based versions of the test do not include experimental sections.

Overall, the test process takes approximately three hours and 45 minutes. The Analytical Writing section includes two essays, each with a 30-minute time limit. The two parts of the Verbal section each contain approximately 20 questions and each have 30 minute time limits. The two parts of the Quantitative section also each contain approximately 20 questions, but they each have 35 minute time limits. There is a one-minute break between sections and a 10-minute break after section three.

While the GRE Revised General Test is no longer computer adaptive, there still is some variation to allow advanced test-takers to access more difficult questions. The version of the test introduced in 2011 is section-adaptive. This means that test takers who do well on the first part or first section in the Verbal Reasoning category will get a harder set of questions for the second Verbal Reasoning part. The same happens for the two parts of the Quantitative Reasoning section. As a result, scoring will be based both on the number of questions answered correctly and the level of difficulty of the questions. The benefit of section-adaptive testing over testing that was adaptive question-by-question is that test takers can go back and change answers within a section of the test or leave a question blank and go back to answer it later. When the test was adaptive question-by-question, each time a question was answered the answer was irreversible. The section-adaptive testing is not available on paper versions of the test.

Click on the headlines for more detail on each of the GRE Revised General Test sections, but in brief the three sections are:

  • Analytical Writing

    The analytical writing section consists of two essays: an "Analyze an Issue" essay and an "Analyze an Argument" essay. Click on this heading for details on the differences between the two and how they should be approached.

  • Quantitative Reasoning

    The Quantitative Reasoning section tests basic math skills as well as the ability to reason quantitatively in connection with numerical data. Skills tested include arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.

  • Verbal Reasoning

    The Verbal Reasoning section tests the ability to analyze and evaluate written material as well as the ability to identify proper sentence construction. The three question types are Reading Comprehension, Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence.