The GRE Test Structure
Get comfortable with the structure of the GRE and you'll have a big leg up on the test. This lesson will give you all the basics, including an overview of the sections and question types.
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About the GRE
In a lot of ways, the GRE is a test of how well you take the GRE. Knowing the test is just as important as knowing the concepts that you’re being tested on - otherwise, the structure is so confusing that it’s easy to get lost and lose points just because you aren’t familiar with all the weird question types and directions.
In this lesson, you’ll learn what you need to know about the test structure on the GRE, including what you can expect from all the different sections.
The GRE has three subject areas: Analytical Writing , Verbal Reasoning , and Quantitative Reasoning . These are fancy names for writing, reading, and math, respectively.
In total, the GRE lasts around 3 hours and 45 minutes, and the test has six sections. There’s only one Analytical Writing section, and on the test, you’ll get it right off the bat. Then you’ll move on to the remaining sections of the test: two Verbal Reasoning sections and two Quantitative Reasoning sections, which may be in any order.
You’ll also get one unscored or one research section. Regardless of which one you get, your score for this section will not count towards your official score. If it’s an unscored section, then it won’t be marked - it’ll just look like an extra Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning section, and it’ll be thrown into the mix in a random place. Unscored sections are used to test out new questions; to make sure they’re the same level of difficulty as the rest of the test. If it’s a research section, it’ll be the last section, and it’ll be marked.
Sections & Questions
Now, let’s go a little deeper into the sections and questions. We’ll start with the Analytical Writing, since that section is always first on the test. The Analytical Writing section is where you’ll write your essays. This part of the test has two tasks:
Analyze an Issue - You’ll have to write an essay in response to a prompt about some general topic.
Analyze an Argument - You’ll have to read a passage and then discuss the argument that the author gives and whether or not you find it convincing.
Each essay lasts for 30 minutes, so the total time for this section is one hour.
The Verbal Reasoning sections are a little bit like the Reading sections on the SAT or ACT. The name of the game here is vocabulary and reading comprehension. There are three kinds of questions:
Reading Comprehension - questions about reading passages provided on the test
Text Completion - questions that ask you to fill one or more blank words in a given text
Sentence Equivalence - questions ask you to choose two potential words that could go in a given blank in a sentence
Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions are similar to the fill-in-the-blank vocab questions on the SAT, except for the GRE the obscure vocab words are ramped up to 11 and the rules are even weirder. The Reading Comprehension section is exactly what it says on the tin: read some passages and answer questions about them. Each of the two Verbal Reasoning sections is 30 minutes long, with 20 questions per section.
On the Quantitative Reasoning section, you’ll be tested on basic math concepts - mostly algebra, geometry, basic calculation, and data analysis. There isn’t any high-level calculus or extreme statistical stuff on the test, and you don’t have to know a huge amount of college-level math to score well. The actual concepts don’t go above a high school level; it’s the logic of the questions that makes the test hard.
The Quantitative Reasoning section has four different types of questions:
Quantitative Comparison - questions where you get two quantities and have to state which is bigger
Multiple-choice with one answer
Multiple-choice with multiple answers
Numeric Entry - questions where you input your own answer instead of choosing from a list
Each of the two Quantitative Reasoning sections is 35 minutes long, with 20 questions per section.
In this lesson, you learned about the structure of the GRE. The GRE has three subject areas: Analytical Writing , Verbal Reasoning , and Quantitative Reasoning .
On the test, you’ll get six sections in a total testing time of around 3 hours and 45 minutes:
One Analytical Writing section
Two Verbal Reasoning sections
Two Quantitative Reasoning sections
One unscored or one research section
Each subject area involves a few different question types. It’s good to get familiar with all the different questions because the format of the test can be confusing and knowing what to expect is a big leg up. Test your knowledge on the quiz questions and then try moving on to some of the practice lessons in this course.
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