GRE Exam Pattern

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GRE Exam Pattern

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is one such entrance exam that thoroughly evaluates the indispensable skills needed for anyone aiming to pursue postgraduate study in any field or discipline from the reputed schools and universities across the globe. While preparing for this imperative exam, you must familiarize yourself with the GRE eligibility criteria, the content of the test, and the structure it incorporates. Read on to know about the GRE Exam Pattern through this detailed blog.

What is GRE?

Considered amongst the toughest exams in the world, the conducting authority of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is the Educational Testing Service (ETS) which organizes this exam in both online and offline modes, i.e. Computer-based and paper-based format that marginally varies in the structure in terms of the GRE exam pattern. However, the GRE syllabus remains totally unchanged. Moreover, there are two types of GRE tests, i.e. GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test, in which the former is used for all academic programs while the latter for specific subjects.

GRE Exam Pattern

Now that you know about what the exam entails, let’s explore the GRE exam pattern in further detail. The GRE test assesses candidates on three major sections, i.e.

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

In addition to these three sections, there are two variable sections that are also included and are referred to as:

  • Unscored
  • Research

GRE Covid – 19 Update

Considering the Covid – 19 situations globally. GRE has initiated GRE Tests at home. This is started to ensure the safety of all applicants & stop the spread of the virus. This is just temporary until the situation is under control. All applicants have to follow protocols & rules stated by ETS. The syllabus & exam structure will be the same for GRE at home.

GRE General Test Exam Pattern

There are two formats available for the GRE General Exam: computer-based and paper-based. Despite many similarities, the GRE exam format differs between the two editions. Also, not everyone can take the test that is presented on paper. It’s available in places where the computer-delivered GRE isn’t. Consequently, you cannot simply choose a paper test versus a computer-based test. The location of the exam will determine this.

GRE General Test Syllabus and Question Types

Section name Number of Sections Number of questions Sub-areas Types of questions
GRE quantitative reasoning 2 20+20=40 questions Ratio and proportionProfit and lossSimple and compound interestSpeed, distance and timePermutation & combinationLinear equationsQuadratic equationsSets TheoryStatisticsPowers and rootsProbabilityPipes, cisterns, work, timeLines and anglesTrianglesPolygonQuadrilateralCirclesCoordinate geometryOrder of operationsVolume and surface areaPercentageNumber properties Quantitative Comparison QuestionsNumeric Entry Questions
GRE verbal reasoning 2 20+20=40 questions Reading ComprehensionText CompletionSentence Equivalence
GRE analytical writing assessment 2 1+1=2 questions Analyzing an IssueAnalyzing an Argument

GRE Test Duration

GRE Section name Duration
GRE quantitative reasoning 1 hour and 10 minutes (35 minutes for each section)
GRE verbal reasoning 1 hour (30 minutes for each section)
GRE analytical writing assessment 1 hour (30 minutes for each section)
Total 3 hours and 10 minutes

GRE General Test Score Range

GRE section name Score range
GRE quantitative reasoning 130-170 with 1 point increment
GRE verbal reasoning 130-170 with 1 point increment
GRE analytical writing assessment 0-6 with 0.5 point increment
Total 260-340

GRE Subject Test Exam Pattern

The only format available for administering the GRE subject test is on paper. The overall testing period is 2 hours and 50 minutes, and there are no sections that are timed independently. Four academic fields—Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Psychology—offer topic exams.

GRE Subject Test Syllabus and Question Types

Subjects Number of Questions Sub-sections
Biology 190 Cellular and Molecular Biology
Organismal Biology
Ecology and Evolution
Chemistry 130 Analytical Chemistry
Inorganic Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
Physical Chemistry
English 230 Literary Analysis
Cultural and Historical Contexts
History and Theory of Literary Criticism
Mathematics 66 Calculus
Algebra (Linear algebra, abstract algebra, elementary algebra, and number theory)
Discrete Mathematics
Real Analysis
Probability and Statistics
Additional Mathematics
Physics 100 Classical Mechanics
Optics and Wave Phenomena
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
Quantum Mechanics
Atomic Physics
Special Relativity
Laboratory Methods
Specialized Topics like Nuclear and Particle Physics etc.
Psychology 205 Biological

GRE Subject Test Duration

The duration of GRE subject tests is 2 hours and 50 minutes. It doesn’t break like the GRE general test does.

GRE Subject Test Score Range

Scores on GRE subjects range from 200 to 990. A system with increments of 10 points is used. The score range for each sub-area on the GRE subject test is 20–99 with 1 point increments.

GRE Computer Based Paper Exam

There are just some minor differences between the GRE computer-based & paper-based exam pattern. Here are all the differences

  • The duration of both is different. The duration of the GRE computer-based exam is 3 hours 45 minutes whereas the duration of the GRE paper-based exam is 3 hours 30 minutes.
  • The GRE paper-based exam does not include reading comprehension questions.
  • Quant and Verbal questions in GRE paper-based are 25 & in computer-based are only 20. 

GRE Paper-based Exam Pattern

GRE Sections Duration Tasks/Questions Sections
Analytical Writing 60 minutes 2 2
Verbal Reasoning 70 minutes 50 2
Quantitive Reasoning 80 minutes 50 2

GRE Computer-based Exam Pattern

GRE Sections Duration Tasks/Questions Sections
Analytical Writing 60 minutes 2 1
Verbal Reasoning 60 minutes 40 2
Quantitive Reasoning 70 minutes 40 2

GRE Exam Pattern and Total Marks

Take a look at the following table elucidating the GRE exam pattern comprising of the bifurcations of sub-sections for each section as well as the number of questions and other features as per the two different modes. 

Section Paper-Based GRE Computer-Based GRE Score Scale Increments
Analytical Writing 2 Sections, 2 tasks
[60 minutes]
1 Section, 2 tasks
[60 minutes]
0-6 In Half-Points
Verbal Reasoning 2 Sections, 50 questions
[70 minutes]
2 Sections, 40 questions
[60 minutes]
130-170 In 1-Point
Quantitative Reasoning 2 Sections, 50 questions
[80 minutes]
2 Sections 40 questions
[70 minutes]
130-170 In 1-Point
Unscored Uncertain & Unmarked Uncertain & Unmarked
Research Uncertain & Unmarked Uncertain & Unmarked

Analytical Writing

Aimed at evaluating the critical thinking and analytical writing skills of the test-takers, this section of the GRE exam pattern comprises of 2 essays popularly termed as “Analyze an Issue” and “Analyse an Argument”. You have 30 minutes for each of these essays in which analysis an issue commonly includes a statement on an issue of general interest while analysis of an argument requires you to assess a paragraph-length argument of an author and provide a logically sound evaluation of it.

Type Sections Total Tasks Time
Computer-Based 1 2 30 Minutes (per task)
Paper-Based 2 1 Task in Each 30 Minutes (per section)

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning Questions are framed based on reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence which aim to analyze your vocabulary and verbal skills. Furthermore, the GRE exam pattern of this section also focuses on how good the candidate is in determining the right sentence structure as well as their familiarity with words and concepts.

Type Sections Total Questions Time
Computer-Based 2 20 in each section 30 Minutes (per section)
Paper-Based 2 25 in each section 35 Minutes (per section)

Quantitative Reasoning

Regarded as the trickiest section of the GRE exam pattern, Quantitative Reasoning contains intensive mathematical problems ranging from Algebra to Data Analysis. It evaluates the basic mathematical aptitude of the candidate as well as their familiarization of elementary mathematical concepts and how effectively one can solve problems using quantitative methods.

Type Sections Total Questions Time
Computer-Based 2 20 in each section 35 Minutes (per section)
Paper-Based 2 25 in each section 40 Minutes (per section)

Unscored & Research Section

The Unscored and Research sections are often called as the GRE experimental sections. As the two variable sections in the GRE exam pattern, both of these comprise an extra section of the Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning (3 instead of 2 of which 1 would be experimental).

  • The unscored section is commonly assumed to appear randomly at any part of the test, either at the beginning or middle. It is uncertain to understand whether it is not marked or indicated and hence it cannot be avoided.
  • The main purpose of the unscored aspect is to help the ETS assess the level of difficulty of the exam for future tests.
  • On the other hand, the Research section is always marked and appears at the concluding part of the test. The attempt of the section completely depends on the test taker and is completely optional.

GRE Subject Test Pattern

GRE Subject Test Pattern

GRE Test Material

Here are some study material & practice books that will help you understand the GRE exam pattern better. It will give you insight into the pattern & marking scheme of the examination. It will help you to understand the format, types of questions in the GRE Examination. It will also help you to manage your time & evaluate your strong & weak points.

GRE General Test GRE Subject Test
PBT GRE Biology
Analytical Writing Chemistry
Verbal Reasoning Literature in English
Quantitative Reasoning Mathematics

GRE Books

There are plenty of books available in the market but it is essential that applicants refer to the right books. With the help of the right books, students can prepare better & ace their exams. With the number of books available, it becomes difficult to select the right one. Here are the books suggested by toppers for preparation & revision of the GRE examination. Here is the list of books.

The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test, 3rd Edition Click Here to buy
Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions & Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions Click Here to buy
Barron’s 6 GRE Practice Tests Click Here to buy
GRE Analytical Writing: Solutions to Real Essay Topics Click Here to buy

GRE Preparation Tips from Toppers

GRE preparation is not a piece of cake but with the right books, study material & hard work you can even score a perfect. To inspire you & for some useful tips here are videos from GRE toppers. It is always a good idea to take help from toppers, they can motivate you, guide you in the right direction & share some useful exam & preparation tips as well. Here are some of the interview videos of GRE toppers sharing their success mantra, tips:

Credit: Btechguru BodhBridge ESPL
Credit: Parth Vijayvergiya

Sample Questions

For understanding the GRE exam pattern, here are some sample questions from different sections.

Reading Comprehension (Verbal Reasoning)

Reviving the practice of using elements of popular music in classical composition, an approach that had been in hibernation in the United States during the 1960s, composer Philip Glass (born 1937) embraced the ethos of popular music in his compositions. Glass based two symphonies on music by rock musicians David Bowie and Brian Eno, but the symphonies’ sound is distinctively his. Popular elements do not appear out of place in Glass’s classical music, which from its early days has shared certain harmonies and rhythms with rock music. Yet this use of popular elements has not made Glass a composer of popular music. His music is not a version of popular music packaged to attract classical listeners; it is high art for listeners steeped in rock rather than the classics.

Select only one answer choice.

  1. The passage addresses which of the following issues related to Glass’s use of popular elements in his classical compositions?
    1. How it is regarded by listeners who prefer rock to the classics
    2. How it has affected the commercial success of Glass’s music
    3. Whether it has contributed to a revival of interest among other composers in using popular elements in their compositions
    4. Whether it has had a detrimental effect on Glass’s reputation as a composer of classical music
    5. Whether it has caused certain of Glass’s works to be derivative in quality

Answer – E

Text Completion (Verbal Reasoning)

It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be (i)__________ by politics: well aware of the political disputes about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, this author does not permit them to (ii)__________ his comprehensive description of what we know about our biosphere. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the (iii)__________, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.

(i) (ii) (iii)
(A) overshadowed (D) enhance (G) plausibility of our hypotheses
(B) invalidated (E) obscure (H) certainty of our entitlement
(C) illuminated (F) underscore (I) the superficiality of our theories

Answer – (i) Overshadowed (ii) obscure (iii) superficiality of our theories

Sentence Equivalence (Verbal Reasoning)

Although it does contain some pioneering ideas, one would hardly characterize the work as __________.

  1. orthodox
  2. eccentric
  3. original
  4. trifling
  5. conventional
  6. innovative

Answer – C

Quantitive Comparison (Quantitative Reasoning)

Quantity A Quantity B
The least prime number greater than 24 The greatest prime number less than 28
  1. Quantity A is greater.
  2. Quantity B is greater.
  3. The two quantities are equal.
  4. The relationship cannot be determined from the information given

Answer – Quantity A is greater

Numeric Entry (Quantitative Reasoning)

Rectangle R has length 30 and width 10, and square S has length 5. The perimeter of S is what fraction of the perimeter of R?

Answer –  20/80 (or any equivalent fraction)


How many marks is GRE for?

The scoring range for GRE is quite a complicated one. There are three sections in the GRE exam pattern in which the score range of both the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning is 130-170 each while the Analytical Writing is scored at 0-6 in half-point increments, thus making the total score of GRE at 340+6 [scored on half-point increments].

Is the GRE difficult?

GRE is usually considered as a difficult exam as compared to ACT and SAT as the questions are based on higher-level vocabulary, reading comprehension and stronger mathematical ability from the candidates.

Is GRE tougher than CAT?

Both GRE and CAT are quite different exams but when compared in terms of difficulty level and sections, GRE can be considered as tougher in comparison to CAT. While there is no analytical writing section in CAT as it is there in GRE, the latter comprises of a difficult verbal reasoning as well as quantitative aptitude section

Is there negative marking for GRE?

No. There is no negative marking for GRE and test-takers can easily skip those questions which they find difficult and time-consuming.

Thus, we hope that through this blog you have got an explicit view of the GRE Exam Pattern. Needless to say, a meticulous preparation strategy, as well as expert guidance, can effectively help you in acing the GRE exam with flying colours. Book a free online demo session with our Leverage Edu experts and we will guide you in devising the right preparation strategy as well as equipping you with quality study materials and exam tips to help you gear up for the final exam day and successfully crack the test with a higher score!

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