The GRE revised General Test is a computer-adaptive standardized test that is designed to measure your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to determine your suitability for graduate level study. Traditionally, the GRE has been required for admission to graduate programs in the humanities and sciences, but it is increasingly accepted by business schools as an alternative to the GMAT.
The GRE revised General Test is adaptive at the section level (as opposed to adapting to each individual question you answer). So, the difficulty of the second Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section on your GRE will depend on how well you performed on the first section of that type. This means that you can skip or go back to questions and change your answers within the same section.
There are three parts to the GRE: A Verbal Reasoning section, a Quantitative Reasoning section, and an Analytical Writing section. (There is also an unscored section to test questions that may be used on future exams that is indistinguishable from the other sections).
Each Verbal Section of the GRE measures your ability to interpret and evaluate written material and understand the information contained within it, demands that you analyze relationships among the various parts of sentences, and requires you to identify relationships among words and concepts.
Preparing for the Verbal Sections requires strong vocabulary skills. Many commercial test preparation companies have specific tips and strategies to improve GRE Vocabulary. GRE Word Lists can be memorized and practiced with games and flash cards.
Three types of questions are found in each Verbal Section: Sentence Equivalence, Text Completion, and Reading Comprehension. In Sentence Equivalence questions, you must select two answers that complete a sentence that simultaneously fit the meaning as a whole and produce a sentence that is similar in meaning. Text Completion questions involve filling in the blanks in sentences (you are given various options for each blank.) For the GRE Reading Comprehension questions, you must read the passage and answer the questions that follow, or click on a sentence in the passage that meets a certain description.
GRE Reading Comprehension practice involves a lot of reading. A great strategy to increase both your reading comprehension and vocabulary skills is to read a wide range of reputable newspapers and journals, such as The New York Times, The Economist, Business Week, The Atlantic, and National Geographic. You will also want to practice as many reading comprehension practice questions as you can. These are available on the ETS website (don’t forget to take the free practice tests!), in GRE test prep books, and as part of GRE review programs.
The Quantitative Section of the GRE measures your ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems by using mathematical models, and apply basic mathematical concepts and skills based on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The revised GRE now includes an on-screen calculator for test-takers.
Your GRE math prep should include practice with the three different types of questions that appear on the exam. Quantitative Comparisons (QC) ask you to compare two quantities and determine the relationship between them. You will also see Problem Solving (PS) questions, which involve basic math skills and concepts. Some PS questions are based on information provided in a set of charts or graphs. These are called Data Interpretation Questions.
Not all Quant questions will be straightforward multiple choice. Each GRE Quant section contains a combination of problems that require you to select one answer from a list of multiple-choice options, select one or more answers from a list of options, and numeric entry problems (i.e. you must type in the answer).
You should plan to solve as many GRE math practice questions as you can until you are familiar with the range of different types of questions. Many quantitative practice questions are available on the ETS website, on free practice exams, in commercially available GRE preparation books, and in GRE prep courses. Business schools, Engineering schools, and many graduate level programs in the sciences will carefully consider your performance on the Quantitative section of the GRE, so you should try to do well on this part of the exam.
GRE Analytical Writing
In the Analytical Writing section, you are provided with two essay topics, including an “Analyze an Issue” task, and an “Analyze an Argument” task. The GRE Issue essay task evaluates your ability to think critically about claims made about a general topic and requires that you write a clear response according to specific instructions. You are typically asked to agree or disagree with the claim and explain why.
The GRE Argument essay task measures your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate an argument or line of reasoning and express your evaluation in writing. You must analyze and discuss the logical soundness of the argument that is given and determine if there is enough evidence in the text to support that argument.
On the day of the exam, you will have slightly less than 4 hours (plus a 10 minute break) to complete the exam. The sections are timed as follows:
- 2 Analytic Writing essay questions, 30 minutes for each essay
- 2 Verbal Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each, 30 minutes for each section
- 2 Quantitative Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each, 35 minutes for each section
- 1 Unscored Experimental section: either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative
The GRE is a long exam that will require concentration for several hours, so we recommend that you take several full-length practice exams under test-like conditions to prepare yourself.
How Long Should I Study for the GRE?
The number of hours you need to study to get a great score on the GRE will depend in part on how well you take tests and whether you have already honed some of the skills that appear on the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the exam. Non-native speakers of English may need to study much longer than native speakers of English to perform well on the Verbal sections.
Most prep course companies recommend that you set aside a minimum of several weeks to a few months to familiarize yourself with the different sections of the exam and prepare yourself adequately. If you haven’t been out of school for a long time and you are pretty good at math, you may only need a few weeks of practice. If you struggle with the Verbal or Math sections in a free GRE practice test, you will want to dedicate up to a few months of studying to achieve your best score.
In addition to quantity, the quality of your study hours will matter. Studying consistently for a set time each day over several weeks or months with a careful plan and quality materials will likely yield better results than trying to cram for the GRE at the last minute.
The best advice for getting a great GRE score is to solve as many GRE practice problems and take as many GRE online practice tests as you can. GRE Sample Questions can be found on the ETS website, in GRE practice books available from booksellers and online, and in the course material of many commercial GRE prep courses. You should set up a regular GRE study schedule at least several weeks before you take the exam, but preferably a few months in advance.
Many websites and courses provide a “GRE question of the day” for you to get in the habit of daily practice. You can often sign up to receive the question of the day by email, or simply check the site each day.
Taking at least one GRE Mock Test under conditions that are similar to those of the actual test is an excellent idea. Learning how to pace yourself and remain focused in surroundings that contain some distractions and noise will serve you well on the day of the exam. Many prep courses offer a GRE diagnostic exam (often, this is included in a free trial) to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can focus your study on those areas that need it most.
GRE Forums are a great place to ask questions related to the GRE exam, the best GRE prep course, and advice on applying to graduate schools. Of course, determining the best GRE prep course for you will depend on the kind of learner you are. There are many options: in-person classes, live online courses, and self-paced online courses will appeal to different students for different reasons.
Check out our comparison of the best GRE prep courses to determine which one will work best for you.
How Long Does The GRE Exam Take?
|2 Analytic Writing essay questions||30 minutes for each essay|
|2 Verbal Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each||30 minutes for each section|
|2 Quantitative Reasoning sections, approximately 20 questions in each||35 minutes for each section|
|1 Unscored Experimental section||Either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative|