GRE Test Basics, Scoring & Rules

The GRE consists of three main parts: the Analytical Writing section, the Verbal Reasoning section and the Quantitative Reasoning section. Each is designed to test your handle on skills that are integral to a successful graduate educational experience.

GRE Analytical Writing Section

In the Analytical Writing section, you are instructed to write concise responses to open-ended questions. High scores result from an answer that is well-organized, logical and strategic in the manner that the question is addressed. Scorers prefer responses that directly answer the question, and note carefully any wavering, deviating or rambling in the response.

GRE Verbal Reasoning Section

The Verbal Reasoning section tests your capacity to comprehend material laid out before you and your ability to use logic to arrive at conclusions not offered in the passage.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning Section

The Quantitative Reasoning section emphasizes basic mathematical concepts and your ability to analyze data by incorporating hypothetical situations. By using these scenarios, the Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to utilize these concepts in daily life.

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, an online-screen 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 pop up randomly at any point in the test.

The purpose of the unscored section is to evaluate new questions for future use and also to ensure continuity in scores from one version of the test to the next.

You may also find an identified research section at the end of the test. This section furthers the Educational Testing Service’s research and will not be included in your test score.

The Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and unscored sections may be presented in any order, and you are not made aware which section is the unscored one. You need to treat each section as if it is scored.

The GRE is an adaptive test. This means that the second part of each section reflects your score on the first. If you do well, you will receive harder questions and can receive a higher total score. If you do poorly in the first section, you will not get the tougher questions that bring high scores. However, unlike the GMAT, GRE is adaptive by the section only, not by the question. It means if you do well on the first Quantitative section, you will get a harder second Quantitative section.

The test lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes, including the unscored section. Directions indicated at the start of each section lay out the number of questions in it and the time allotted.

GRE Scoring Metrics

For the Analytical Writing section, each essay is reviewed by two readers, who grade them on a scale of 0-6. The readers will grade the essay as a whole, taking into account its organization, succinctness and the general quality of argument put forth by the writer. Then, the two readers’ scores are combined and averaged. The average is rounded up to the nearest half-point decimal and the result is the single score the test-taker receives.

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE are adaptive which makes the scoring process slightly different. Depending on your performance in the first part of either section, you will receive either easier or more difficult questions in the next. First, the raw score, that is, the number of questions answered correctly against the number of questions, will be computed. Then, this score will be recomputed in consideration of the level of difficulty of the questions you answered. The process also considers minor fluctuations from test to test. This scaled score is the final score the test-taker will receive and will fall within a score range of 130 to 170, in 1-point increments, for both the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections.

The GRE composite score ranges from 260 to 340.