As a graduate student applying to a university abroad, the application procedure can bring a lot of stress. For students who need to submit their GRE scores to prospective universities, the test is perhaps one of the biggest causes of stress. This doesn’t have to be the case, if you’ve allotted enough time to prepare for the exam. Performing well on your GRE test could give you the much needed competitive edge in earning you a spot at a great university. While the hard work needs to come from you, here is some useful information to get you started.

Why do universities require students to write the GRE test?

GRE tests help universities assess the suitability of prospective students who wish to pursue their master’s degree at the university by providing a common measure to compare candidates’ qualifications. While there are GRE subject tests, most universities require students to send in their GRE general test scores.


What is the structure of the GRE general test?

The GRE general test comprises 5 sections, of which, one section is for analytical writing, two sections for verbal reasoning and two sections for quantitative reasoning. The analytical writing section involves analyzing and writing about an issue as well as an argument. In the computer-delivered test, there is an additional section, which contains questions pertaining to either verbal or quantitative reasoning. This section is experimental in nature and is neither timed nor scored.


How long is the GRE general test?

The length of the GRE general test varies depending on whether you have opted for the paper-delivered test or the computer-delivered test. The computer-delivered test lasts for 3 hours and 45 minutes. You will be allotted specific time slots to complete each section. In the analytical writing section, you will be given 30 minutes to analyze and write about an issue and 30 minutes to analyze an argument and write about it. For the 2 verbal reasoning sections, you will be given 30 minutes to complete each. For the quantitative reasoning sections, you will have 35 minutes to complete each. The remaining time can be used to attempt the experimental section. The paper-delivered test lasts for 3 hours and 30 minutes. As was the case with computer-delivered tests, you will be given 30 minutes each for the two parts of the analytical writing section. However, for the verbal reasoning section and the quantitative reasoning section, you will be given an additional five minutes for each part. Hence, you will be given 35 minutes each, to answer the two verbal reasoning questions and 40 minutes each, to answer the quantitative reasoning questions.


What is the verbal reasoning section all about?

This section basically tests your comfort level in terms of understanding text and grammar. It tests your ability to analyse and evaluate information, and distinguish between concepts and words. It also assesses your ability to analyse the relationship between different parts of sentences. Questions in this section are of three types – reading comprehension, text completion and sentence equivalence. Reading comprehension will focus not only on your ability to understand paragraphs, but your ability to hone in on the important points, infer information from the paragraphs that can either be found in the body or those that aren’t written but implied. When you finish reading the passage, you should have figured out the author’s position in the piece as well as his or her opinion on the topic. These passages can be drawn from a vast field of subjects that range from the humanities to the sciences to business topics. In terms of text completion, there will be incomplete sentences and you will need to fill in the necessary words according to the context. For sentence equivalence, you will be required to fill in the blanks with the most appropriate option from the six choices provided to you. In addition to figuring out which word best suits the context, you will also have to select the two top options among all the choices provided.


What is the quantitative reasoning section all about?

This section basically assesses your ability to understand quantitative information and apply your mathematical skills and the concepts of arithmetic, geometry, algebra and data interpretation to solve problems. As was the case with verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning has different types of questions. Two of these are multiple choice questions – multiple choice questions with more than one correct answer and multiple choice questions with only one correct answer. Some multiple choice questions will test your quantitative comparison skills. You will also have to work on computational problems, where you enter a numeric answer after solving the problem. If you take the paper-delivered test, you will receive a handheld calculator, and if you opt for the computer-delivered test instead, you will have an on-screen calculator.


What is the analytical writing section all about?

This section measures your ability to critically analyse an argument as well as in issue. In addition to your ability to analyse the passage, this section is also designed to test your ability to represent your ideas in a logical and clear manner. If you choose to take the computer-delivered test, you will receive no advantages over a paper-delivered test taker. This is because you will have access to only a basic word processor with no spell-check.


How is the GRE general test scored?

Verbal reasoning: 130-170 in 1-point increments

Quantitative reasoning: 130-170 in 1-point increments

Analytical writing: 0-6 in half-point increments


Can you help me prepare for GRE?

Yes! Check-out the following articles on GRE with practice questions, word lists and tips to score higher.

GRE made easy: free practice, on test day and other tips

Practice Questions – Reading Comprehension

Practice Questions – Text Completions

The Ubiquitous 400

Practice Questions – Sentence Equivalence