What Is on the GRE?

September 15, 2023
By AdmissionSight

What Is on the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test that is widely used for admission into graduate programs in the United States and many other countries. The exam assesses a student’s readiness for graduate-level study by evaluating their verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills.

Understanding the GRE Exam

The GRE serves multiple purposes, including providing admissions committees with a common measure to compare applicants from different educational backgrounds. It also helps graduate schools assess an applicant’s potential for success in their chosen field of study.

When it comes to graduate school admissions, the GRE plays a crucial role. It is a standardized test that evaluates an individual’s aptitude and readiness for graduate-level academic work. This comprehensive exam assesses various cognitive abilities that are considered important for success in graduate school, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical writing skills.

Row of students taking an exam

One of the primary purposes of the GRE is to provide a fair and objective measure of an applicant’s abilities. It allows admissions committees to compare candidates from diverse educational backgrounds on a level playing field. By using a standardized test like the GRE, graduate schools can ensure that they are selecting applicants who have the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their programs.

Purpose of the GRE Exam

The primary purpose of the GRE is to measure an individual’s readiness for graduate-level academic work. It assesses cognitive abilities that are considered important for success in graduate school, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical writing skills.

Graduate schools value these skills because they are essential for advanced study and research. Critical thinking allows students to analyze complex concepts and make informed decisions. Problem-solving skills enable students to tackle challenging problems and find innovative solutions. Analytical writing skills are crucial for effectively communicating ideas and arguments clearly and concisely.

By evaluating these abilities, the GRE helps graduate schools identify applicants who have the potential to thrive in their academic programs. It provides a standardized measure that allows admissions committees to compare candidates objectively, regardless of their educational background or previous achievements.

Who Should Take the GRE Exam?

The GRE is typically taken by individuals who are considering applying to graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral programs, across a wide range of disciplines. Some professional schools, such as business schools, law schools, and certain specialized programs, also require or accept scores from the GRE.

Whether you are interested in pursuing a degree in psychology, engineering, or any other field, the GRE can be an important step in your graduate school journey. It is a common requirement for admission to many graduate programs, and achieving a competitive score can significantly enhance your chances of being accepted.

Furthermore, the GRE is not limited to recent college graduates. It is also taken by individuals who have been out of school for some time and are looking to further their education or make a career change. The exam provides an opportunity for these individuals to demonstrate their readiness for graduate-level work and showcase their skills and abilities.

Overall, the GRE is a valuable tool for both applicants and graduate schools. It helps applicants showcase their academic potential and readiness for advanced study, while also providing graduate schools with a standardized measure to evaluate and compare candidates. Whether you are a recent college graduate or someone with professional experience, taking the GRE can open doors to exciting opportunities and pave the way for a successful graduate school journey.

Structure of the GRE Exam

The GRE consists of different sections that evaluate a range of skills necessary for success in graduate study. Understanding the structure and format of the exam is essential for effective preparation.

When it comes to the GRE, it’s important to have a clear understanding of its structure and what each section entails. Let’s take a closer look at the different sections that make up the GRE and what they assess.

a student taking a test

Overview of the GRE Sections

The GRE is composed of three primary sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. Each section is designed to assess specific skills and knowledge.

The Analytical Writing section measures your ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively. It consists of two writing tasks: an Issue task and an Argument task. In the Issue task, you are presented with a statement and asked to provide your perspective on the issue. In the Argument task, you are given an argument and asked to analyze its reasoning.

The Verbal Reasoning section evaluates your ability to understand and analyze written material. It assesses your comprehension skills, as well as your ability to draw conclusions and make inferences. This section includes reading comprehension questions, text completion questions, and sentence equivalence questions.

The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to understand, interpret, and analyze quantitative information. It assesses your mathematical skills, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. This section includes multiple-choice questions, as well as numeric entry questions where you have to provide the answer.

Timing and Format of the GRE

The GRE is a computer-based exam that is administered year-round at designated test centers. The total test duration is approximately three hours and 45 minutes, including breaks. The exam is adaptive, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions adapts to the test-taker’s performance.

During the exam, you will have the opportunity to take a 10-minute break after the third section. This break allows you to recharge and gather your thoughts before continuing with the remaining sections. It’s important to use this break wisely and make the most of the time provided.

When it comes to the format of the exam, the Analytical Writing section consists of two tasks that you need to complete within 30 minutes each. The Verbal Reasoning section consists of two 30-minute sections, with approximately 20 questions in each section. The Quantitative Reasoning section also consists of two 35-minute sections, with approximately 20 questions in each section.

It’s worth noting that the GRE also includes an unscored section, known as the Research section, which can appear at any point in the test. This section is used for research purposes and does not contribute to your overall score. However, since you won’t know which section is unscored, it’s important to give your best effort on every part of the exam.

Now that you have a better understanding of the structure and format of the GRE, you can begin your preparation with confidence. Remember to allocate time for studying each section and practice as much as possible to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you’ll encounter. Good luck!

Detailed Breakdown of GRE Sections

Each section of the GRE assesses different skills and abilities. Familiarizing yourself with the content and expectations of each section can help you prepare more effectively.

a male student studying intently

Analytical Writing Section

The Analytical Writing section evaluates your ability to articulate complex ideas effectively and support them with reasoned arguments. It consists of two tasks: analyzing an issue and analyzing an argument. You will be asked to write essays in response to these prompts.

Verbal Reasoning Section

The Verbal Reasoning section focuses on your ability to understand and analyze written material. It includes questions that test your comprehension, evaluate your ability to draw inferences, and assess your vocabulary and understanding of sentence structures.

Quantitative Reasoning Section

The Quantitative Reasoning section evaluates your ability to reason mathematically, solve problems, and interpret data. It assesses your understanding of basic mathematical concepts and your capacity to apply quantitative methods to real-world scenarios.

Scoring on the GRE Exam

Understanding how the GRE is scored can help you interpret and make sense of your test results.

How GRE Scoring Works

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE are scored on a scale of 130 to 170, in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments. The scores are based on the number of correct answers and the difficulty level of the questions answered correctly.

Understanding Your GRE Score

Your GRE score is an essential component of your graduate school application. Admissions committees use these scores, along with other application materials, to assess your academic abilities and potential for success in their program.

Preparing for the GRE Exam

Effective preparation is key to performing well on the GRE. With the right strategies and resources, you can maximize your chances of achieving a high score.

Effective Study Tips and Strategies for the GRE Exam

  • Understand the Test Format: Begin your preparation by thoroughly understanding the GRE’s format. Familiarize yourself with the number of sections, the types of questions, and the timing for each section. This will help you allocate your study time effectively.
  • Create a Study Schedule: Develop a structured study schedule that includes specific days and times dedicated to GRE preparation. Consider your daily commitments and create a realistic plan. Consistency is key.
  • Set Clear Goals: Establish clear and achievable score goals for each GRE section. Having specific targets will motivate you to focus on areas that need improvement and track your progress.
  • Practice Regularly: Consistent practice is essential for GRE success. Use official GRE practice materials, such as the GRE Official Guide, to work through sample questions and full-length practice tests. These materials are valuable for simulating test conditions.
  • Review Mistakes: Pay close attention to questions you answer incorrectly during practice. Understand why you made errors and learn from them. This targeted approach will help you improve your weaknesses.
  • Use Flashcards for Vocabulary: GRE Verbal Reasoning includes challenging vocabulary words. Create flashcards with unfamiliar words and their meanings to expand your vocabulary. 
  • Enhance Reading Comprehension: Practice reading complex texts, summarizing main ideas, and identifying supporting details. This will improve your reading comprehension skills, which are crucial for the GRE.
  • Master Time Management: Practice time management during practice tests to ensure you complete each section within the allocated time. Strategies like skipping difficult questions and returning to them later can be effective.
  • Simulate Test Conditions: Take full-length practice tests under actual test conditions. This includes adhering to time limits and avoiding distractions. Doing so will help you build endurance and reduce test-day anxiety.
  • Seek Feedback: Consider joining study groups or seeking feedback from peers or GRE tutors. Discussing questions, strategies, and challenges with others can provide valuable insights and motivation.
  • Analyze Your Progress: Periodically assess your progress by reviewing your practice test scores. Identify trends in your performance and adjust your study plan accordingly.

View of a student taking an exam.

Resources for GRE Preparation

  • Official GRE Materials: The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, offers official GRE prep materials, including The Official Guide to the GRE General Test. These resources provide authentic practice questions and are highly recommended.
  • Prep Books: There are numerous GRE prep books available. These books offer comprehensive content reviews, practice tests, and strategies.
  • Online Courses: Consider enrolling in online GRE courses offered by reputable providers. These courses often include video lessons, practice questions, and interactive quizzes.
  • Practice Tests: Take advantage of official ETS GRE practice tests, including the PowerPrep software. In addition, many GRE prep books and online courses include practice tests to assess your progress.
  • Vocabulary Apps: Specific apps like “Vocab Builder” or “Magoosh GRE Vocabulary Builder” focus on GRE-related vocabulary words and their definitions.
  • Forums and Communities: Join online GRE forums and communities, such as GRE Prep Club or Reddit’s GRE subreddit. These platforms are excellent for discussing GRE strategies, sharing experiences, and getting answers to questions.
  • GRE Tutors: Consider working with a GRE tutor if you need personalized guidance and assistance in specific areas. Tutors can help you identify weaknesses and tailor your study plan accordingly.
  • Study Groups: Form or join study groups with fellow GRE test-takers. Collaborating with others can provide diverse perspectives and motivation.
  • Mobile Apps: Download GRE mobile apps that offer practice questions, flashcards, and study tools. These apps are convenient for on-the-go studying.
  • Educational YouTube Channels: Explore YouTube channels dedicated to GRE preparation. They often feature video lessons, strategy tips, and explanations of GRE concepts.
  • GRE Prep Courses at Educational Institutions: Some universities and colleges offer GRE prep courses as part of their continuing education programs. These courses are usually taught by experienced instructors.

By utilizing these study tips and making the most of the available resources, you can create a well-rounded GRE preparation plan tailored to your needs. Remember that consistency, practice, and continuous improvement are key to achieving a high GRE score and increasing your chances of admission to your desired graduate program.

A student taking an exam

In conclusion, the GRE assesses a wide range of skills and abilities necessary for success in graduate school. Understanding the purpose, structure, and content of the exam is essential for effective preparation. By developing a study plan, utilizing resources, and employing effective strategies, you can enhance your chances of achieving a high score on the GRE and gaining admission to your desired graduate program.

Having all the necessary information is important before choosing any course of action. AdmissionSight is always here to assist you with any questions or concerns. We have more than ten years of expertise assisting students in successfully navigating the challenging admissions process.

Consult with AdmissionSight and find out what we can do to help you get into the school of your choice by ensuring that you are sufficiently aware and well-prepared for the application process.


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