What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools worldwide. The GRE measures students’ verbal reasoning, problem solving, critical reading, and analytical writing ability.

GRE Format

The overall testing time for the Computer-based GRE® revised General Test is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. There are 6 sections with a 10-minute break following the second section.

GRE Test Section # of Questions Content Timing

Verbal Reasoning
(Two sections)

20 questions per section Reading Comprehension
Text Completion
Sentence Equivalence
30 minutes per section

Quantitative Reasoning
(Two sections)

20 questions per section Quantitative Comparison Questions
Multiple-choice Questions
(Select One Answer Choice)
Multiple-choice Questions
(Select One or More Answer Choices)
Numeric Entry Questions
35 minutes per section

Analytical Writing

2 topics An Analyze an Issue task
An Analyze an Argument task
30 minutes per section

The revised computer-based test has some unique characteristics. You will begin with the Analytical Writing section, in which you have thirty minutes per essay to type responses to two essay prompts, respectively. Next, you will work through 2-3 Verbal and 2-3 Quantitative sections, though the order will vary. One out of the five multiple-choice sections will be experimental, meaning it won’t count towards your score, but you will not find out which one.

While many of the Verbal and Quantitative questions are traditional multiple-choice questions, where only one answer is correct, the revised GRE also includes questions with non-traditional formats. These include multiple choice questions with more than one correct answer, fill-in-the-blanks, and questions that require you to select text from within a passage. (The test was significantly revised in August 2011, so test preparation materials—and advice from friends—from before that will be out-of-date.)

The New GRE is adaptive between sections but not within them. For all test takers, the first section will consist of questions ranked as easy, medium, and difficult. You may answer questions in any order, skip questions, and mark questions to return to later within that one section. Test takers can use a Review Screen to navigate between questions and view which questions they have answered, marked, and/or skipped. Once the section is complete, however, you may not return to that section. The second Verbal and Quantitative sections, respectively, will be adjusted for difficulty based on how you did on the first section. If you got most of the questions correct, you will get more difficult questions in the second section. If you got several questions incorrect, you will get easier questions. If you get more difficult questions, your scaled score will be adjusted to be higher than someone who got easier questions. Within the second section, however, you may still skip questions and answer the questions in any order. Once the section is presented to you, each question counts equally towards your final score, so it is best to skip especially difficult or time-consuming questions and come back to them after answering the simpler questions. There is no guessing penalty, so you should answer every question.

GRE Scoring

The Math and Verbal sections of the GRE are scored on a 130-170 point scale, divided into one point increments. An average score for each section is 150, and scores are scaled by comparing your performance to that of all test takers from the past few years. The Analytical Writing section is scored from 0-6, divided into half-point increments. Along with your scaled score, you will get a percentile rank, which is arguably more important than your scaled score. A percentile rank of 50% means that you scored exactly average among test-takers. Scores are good for five years.

GRE Test Dates

Computer-based GRE® revised General Test

The GRE® exam is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and offered year-round and on demand at test centers around the world. For more information and to schedule an appointment to take the exam, visit http://www.ets.org/gre.

Paper-based GRE® revised General Test

Paper-based GRE® revised General Test is offered up to three times a year in February, October, and November in areas of the world where computer-based testing is not available. You can register for a paper-based administration online or by mail. For more information, visit http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register/pbt/.