GRE Test 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. 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 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 ETS.org. 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 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.

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.

GRE Verbal Section

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE lasts 30 minutes and has 30 questions. It 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.

This Section Tests:

•English usage/mechanics

•Rhetorical skills

•Analyze and make conclusions based on written material

•Compare and contrast the relationships between words and concepts

GRE Math Section

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE lasts 45 minutes and has 28 questions. It 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.

This Section Tests

  • Mathematical Concepts

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra

  • Geometry

  • Trigonometry

  • Data Interpretation

  • Graphs and Tables

GRE Writing Section

The writing section of the GRE, which is always administered at the very beginning of the test, is 75 minutes long. It consists of two writing topics. You are instructed to write concise responses to open-ended questions.

Two trained readers trained by ETS assign each essay a score between 1 and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are blank, off-topic, or non-English. 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.

High scores result from an answer that is well-organized, logical and strategic in the manner that the question is addressed. If the scores are within one point of one another, they are averaged to produce a final score from 0 to 6. If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, then a senior third reader decides. Scorers prefer responses that directly answer the question, and note carefully any wavering, deviating or rambling in the response.

This section tests:

  • Grammar
  • Argument Formulation
  • Writing Ability
  • English Usage
  • Examples chosen to support an argument