Overview of GRE

by Vibrant Publishers

According to ets.org, the GRE General Test is taken by approx 6,75,000 people from 230 countries each year. If you are planning to take the GRE, keep reading this blog to become familiar with the format, components, and scoring procedure of the test.



What is the GRE General Test?

The Graduate Record Examination or the GRE General Test is a test taken by people aspiring to get admission to graduate programs or graduate business programs. It is a computer-delivered and multiple-choice test administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service) at a test center. Post-Covid, ETS has allowed test-takers to take the test from home too. However, the format of the test remains the same for everyone.


The GRE General Test is designed to measure your ability to comprehend complex written material, interpret data, apply basic concepts of mathematics, and test your capacity for logical reasoning and critical thinking.



Who takes the GRE?


Aspirants seeking admission to MBA and Ph.D. programs, law school, or those wanting to acquire any Master’s degree are the ones who appear for the GRE. Although there is no age restriction for appearing for the GRE, the average age of a test-taker is 24 years.  

Source https://www.studentprogress.org/gre/test-takers/



What is the format of the GRE?

The test is divided into 3 sections - Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning and is 3 hours and 45 minutes long. An experimental unscored section may appear during the test (either Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning). The score of the extra section won’t be counted in your final score. You may also have to appear for an extra Research section that allows the ETS to test the efficacy of new questions.



An overview of the GRE General Test

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing section is made up of two tasks - Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. In the first task namely Analyze an Issue, you will be given a prompt on any issue of general interest with some specific instructions and will be asked to write a short essay on it. Your essay should be clear, persuasive, logically sound, and written in correct English. The purpose of this task is to test your ability to defend your position and opinions on a particular topic, your skill in organizing your thoughts and presenting them in correct English.


In the Analyze an Argument Task, you will be provided with a passage containing an argument on a particular topic. You will be expected to write an essay by critically evaluating the argument and checking the logical validity and the evidence provided. You will be assessed on your ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the given argument and the organization of your thoughts in correct English.


The Analytical Writing section tests your ability to assess an issue, formulate opinions, and pen them down in an organized manner using the correct vocabulary. You will be given 30 minutes to complete each of the two tasks.



Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section is divided into two sections with 20 questions each (a total of 40 questions). You will be given 30 minutes to complete each section. The types of questions in these sections will vary between Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence.


For Reading Comprehension questions, you will be given a passage on any topic to read and understand and will have to answer questions based on it. These types of questions test your comprehension abilities and your skill in drawing inferences.


For Text Completion questions, a short passage with 1-3 blanks will be given. You will have to fill in the blanks from the multiple answer choices provided.


The Sentence Equivalence questions will ask you to fill in a blank with two answer choices in such a way that their meanings are as similar as possible. These questions focus on testing your vocabulary.



Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section tests your ability to solve basic mathematical problems, understand and interpret data and apply the interpretation skills to solve real-world problems.  It is divided into two sections consisting of 20 questions (a total of 40 questions) to be solved in 35 minutes each. This section consists of four types of questions - multiple-choice, numeric entry, quantitative comparison, and data interpretation.


  • For multiple-choice questions, you will have to choose the correct answer from multiple options.
  • Numeric entry questions will require you to enter a number from your own calculations.  
  • In quantitative comparison, you will have to compare two values to check if one is greater than the other, if they are equal or if their relationship cannot be determined.
  • You will have to interpret a given data set and choose an answer from multiple options or enter a number from your own calculations for Data Interpretation questions.


For getting a focused practice of the Quantitative section, the upcoming GRE Quantitative Reasoning Supreme with 500+ math questions is the perfect resource. The book includes detailed solutions for each question too!



How is the GRE scored?

As the GRE General Test is a computerized test, the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are ‘section-level adaptive.’ This means that as the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are divided into two sections, the difficulty of the second section depends on your performance in the first one.


The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections have a score scale of 130-170 with 1-point increments and the Analytical Writing section has a score range of 0-6 with increments of 0.5. You get a point for each question that you answer correctly (points are not deducted for wrong answers).


The number of questions that you get right is your raw score. This raw score is then scaled between 130-170 (for Verbal and Quant) but the exact scaling process is not revealed by ETS. The scoring process for the Analytical Writing section is comparatively simple but tricky! The two essays are first checked by a trained (and human) grader. This grader gives a score between 0-6. Next, the essay is checked by an e-rater (a computer program developed by ETS to check the essays across different areas) and given a score between 0-6. If the human and e-rater’s scores closely agree, then the average of the two scores is treated as the final score. In case the two scores do not agree, then a second human grader checks the essay, and gives a score and the average of both the human grader’s scores is the final score.



Tips for taking the GRE

  • Practice till you are thoroughly familiar with the format of the test and the questions. The 6 Practice Tests for the GRE is a great resource for practice as it includes 6 simulated and full-length tests that will make you test-ready!


  • Read the questions thoroughly. In an attempt to solve the test, students may misread the questions and therefore, lose marks.


  • Do not waste time on questions that are too difficult. Since all questions carry the same weightage, you can move on to other questions and leave the difficult ones for later.


  • Manage your time properly. As there will be different types of questions to answer, you will have to manage your time properly. Leave enough time to answer sentence-based questions and essays as they are time-consuming.


  • Use the elimination process while answering multiple-choice questions. This will help you to evaluate your answer choice and recognize the correct answer.


  • For mathematics questions, use the reverse equation method to verify your answer. Work your way up from your answer to the question to check whether your calculation is correct.

All the best for GRE!