GRE Prep Overview

The GRE consists of three main parts: the Analytical Writing section, the Verbal Reasoning section and the Quantitative Reasoning section. Each are designed to test your handle on skills that are integral to a successful graduate educational experience. The test lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes. Directions indicated at the start of each section lay out the number of questions in it and the time allotted.

Take the GRE - Key Facts

The GRE is one of two standardized achievement examinations for business school admissions in the United States, as well as for various graduate studies programs. It was first administered in 1949 by Educational Testing Service (ETS). In 2011, the test was revamped and extended in length. The Educational Testing Service (“ETS”), which administers the GRE, claims the changes are the “largest revisions” in the GRE history. Check with your graduate program or business school to find out whether you should take the GRE.

  • The GRE test takes 3 hours and 45 minutes and can be taken at one of many test centers in the United States at any time and around the world 5 or 6 times a year.
  • The GRE composite score ranges from 260 to 340 and is drawn from the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The writing section does not get factored into the composite score, but has its own, unrelated score from 0 to 6.
  • The GRE is a computer-adaptive test, and leaving questions blank is very detrimental to your score.
  • The GRE revised General Test can be taken once every 21 days and up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period. This applies even if you canceled your scores on a test taken previously. You may take the paper-based GRE revised General Test as often as it is offered.
  • GRE registration occurs on a first-come, first-served basis on  Do expect to register at least a week in advance of your test date.
  • The GRE registration fee in the US is $185 as of July 1, 2013, and ETS will reduce this fee in special circumstances. The fee is higher in China, Hong Kong, India and other non-US test locations. It has typically gone up $10 in price every year.

GRE Test Format

Over the years, the test has been redesigned to render it less intimidating and frustrating. Presently, you are allowed to amend your answers or skip questions and return to them later on within a given section, allowing you to utilize any personal strategies you have developed to approach standardized tests. Moreover, in order to reduce unnecessary, time-consuming arithmetic, a calculator is supplied for the Quantitative Reasoning section.

Though there are still a couple places in the world where the GRE is administered on paper, in the United States, Canada and most other international locations, the test is computer-based and formatted as such. It has six sections:

  • An Analytical Writing section composed of two questions
  • Two Verbal Reasoning sections
  • Two Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • One unscored section, often a Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section that may come up randomly at any point in the test.

GRE Section Comparisons

  Section Questions Section Time Section Topics Scoring  
  GRE Analytical Writing Assessment 2 separately timed writing tasks 30 min per task 1 30-minute essay: Analysis of an Argument; 1 30-minute essay: Analysis of an Issue; 2 Essays in total 0-6, half-point increments  
  GRE Verbal Reasoning About 20 questions per section 30 min per section Reading Comprehension; Text Completion; Sentence Equivalence; 2 Sections in total 130-170 score scale, 1-point increments  
  GRE Quantitative Reasoning About 20 questions per section 35 min per section Quantitative Comparisons; Multiple-choice questions (select 1 answer choice); Multiple-choice questions (select 1 or more answer choices); Numeric entry questions; 2 Sections in total 130-170 score scale, 1-point increments  
  Experimental (Unscored) About 20 questions 30-35 min section An unidentified verbal or quantitative pretest section may be included and appear in ANY order after the AWA section. Not counted as part of the score Not Counted  
  Research Varies Varies An unidentified section may be there at the end of the test. Not counted as part of the score Not Counted  
  Total Time   3 hours 45 minutes (including unscored section)   260 - 340 total; Analytical writing from 0-6.  

Revised GRE (after 2011-08): Major Changes

The changes between the new GRE (after 2011-08-01) and the old GRE are in 3 main aspect

  • Test content
  • Design (including length)
  • Scoring

Revised GRE: Test Content Changes

The content on the GRE revised General Test better mirrors the types of reasoning, critical thinking and analysis students will face in graduate and business schools, to more closely align with the skills your candidates need to succeed.

GRE Verbal:

The verbal section eliminates all questions on antonyms and analogies. It places more emphasis on higher-level cognitive skills making it a truer, deeper assessment of their ability to understand what they read and how they apply their reasoning skills. Test takers encounter more complex reasoning and no vocabulary out of context.

GRE Quantitative:

Emphasizes the data interpretation and real-life scenarios test takers will encounter to better gauge their skills. To reduce the emphasis on computation, calculators are available to test takers. Computer-based test takers have an on-screen calculator and paper-based test takers are provided calculators at the test center. More focus on coordinate geometry and statistics.

GRE Analytical Writing:

Did not change dramatically, but new topics were introduced that require more focused responses, reducing the possibility of reliance on memorized materials, so test takers can more accurately demonstrate their skill in directly responding to the task presented.

Revised GRE: Test Design & Technology Changes

The GRE is about 4 hours (the old GRE: 3 hours) and can be taken at any one of many test centers in the United States at any time and around the world 5 or 6 times a year.

New question types for Math:

  • Fill in blank/Numeric Entry
  • Multiple-choice, multiple-answer questions (out of 8 or fewer answers)
  • Quantitative comparison Questions

New question types for Verbal:

  • Sentence Equivalence - choose 2 out of 6 answers;
  • Text Completion – 2 blanks in a sentence, choose 1 out of 3 answers each
  • Reading Comprehension - Highlight relevant text - 10-15 questions are shown at a time

Additional Changes:

  • Tag for review option, which allows you to skip a difficult question and return to it later without affecting your score
  • Preview and review capacity that enables you may scan ahead in the section you are working on
  • Edit features so that you may change an answer after submitting it while working on the same section
  • On screen calculator for the math portion of the test

Revised GRE: Scoring Changes

The GRE composite score ranges from 260 to 340 with each section on a 130-170 score scale in 1-point increments. The two multiple-choice sections are Quantitative and Verbal. There are two sub-sections within Verbal or Quantitative section. The writing section does not get factored into the composite score, but has its own, unrelated score. The old GRE composite score ranges from 400 to 1600 with each section on a 200-800 score scale measured in 10-point increments. There is just one section, not two within Verbal or Quantitative section.

Why the score change? The new GRE scores will be more accurate to the abilities of the test taker and no longer overstate small differences between examinees.

If you have taken the GRE multiple times, all scores will be evaluated by the admissions officers for your chosen programs.  Some programs will put greater weight on the higher score and be more impressed by a significant increase in score than two similar scores.  Other programs will choose to judge applicants by the highest scores in each section.  Averaging scores is uncommon.

The national mean new GRE score is about 150 and the mean of new GRE writing assignment is 3.7

The regular score reporting date is 10-15 after the test. However, there is a 2-3 month delay for test takers in August and September of 2011.