GRE Format (Structure or Pattern)

All questions in the GRE general test are multiple-choice or multiple response questions. As you study the exam structure, keep in mind the following pattern:
  • The Analytical Writing section always comes first (before all other test sections).
  • The five Quantitative and Verbal sections, including the unscored section, can appear in any sequence.
  • A 10-minute rest break is provided after the third section (about two hours into the timed exam). One-minute breaks are provided between remaining sections. All breaks are optional; you may terminate any break early and proceed immediately to the next test section.
  • The aggregate time allowed for all timed portions of the exam is about 3 hrs. 45 min. This aggregate time does not account for rest breaks, the Research section, or pre-test and post-test procedures.
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Section Sequence on the Test

Pre Test TutorialUntimed
Analytical Writing60 minutes, two 30-minute writing tasks
Quantitative Reasoning35 minutes, approx. 20 questions
Verbal Reasoning30 minutes, approx. 20 questions
Quantitative Reasoning35 minutes, approx. 20 questions
Verbal Reasoning30 minutes, approx. 20 questions
Unscored Verbal or Quantitative section30 or 35 minutes, approx. 20 questions
Unscored Research sectionTime and number of questions vary
Post-test procedures

The Pre-Test Computer Tutorial

Before you begin the timed test, you'll step through a computer tutorial, during which you'll learn all you need to know about:
  • using the mouse
  • scrolling the screen display vertically
  • selecting and changing your responses to questions
  • marking questions for possible later review
  • moving from one question to the next
  • using the built-in word-processor for the Analytical Writing section
  • accessing and using the calculator during the Quantitative sections
  • accessing the directions for the current test section and question format
During the tutorial you can also practice using the system by responding to sample questions, at your option. Also, you'll be required to demonstrate competence in performing each of the tasks listed above before the testing system will allow you to move on to the timed exam.

Analytical Writing

This exam section consists of two separately timed 30-minute writing tasks: Analyze an Issue and Analyze and Argument. The testing system will select each writing prompt randomly from a large pool; you won't be able to choose either prompt from a list. To record your responses you'll use the word processor built into the testing system. (Handwritten responses are not allowed.)

Quantitative Reasoning

Each Quantitative Reasoning section provides questions in four different formats (questions are intermingled rather than grouped separately by format):
  • Multiple choice—select one of five answer choices
  • Multiple choice—select one or more answer choices
  • Numeric Entry (you enter a number as your answer rather than select among choices)
  • Quantitative Comparison (you determine which of two quantitative expressions, if either, is greater in value; the four answer choices are the same for every question in this format)
The first and last formats listed above account for more exam questions than the other two formats.

Verbal Reasoning

Each Verbal Reasoning section provides questions in three different formats (questions are intermingled rather than grouped separately by format):
  • Text Completion (you complete a passage of text by selecting one of several fill-in choices for each of 1-3 blanks)
  • Sentence Equivalence (you select two of six choices for filling the blank in a sentence)
  • (3-4 passages, each accompanied by one or more questions)
Reading Comprehension accounts for more exam questions than either of the other two formats.

The Unscored Verbal or Quantitative Section

Your exam will include one unidentified, unscored Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section. In all likelihood, you won't be able to identify which section is unscored. (In any event, you should approach each and every test section under the assumption that it is scored.)

The Research Section

At the end of the test you might be presented with an identified Research section, which will contain unconventional question types. The Research section will not be scored, and it may or may not be timed.

Post-Test Procedures

Cancel your test or view your scores. After all exam sections, the computerized testing system will prompt you to either cancel the test or view your preliminary (unofficial) scores for Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. You'll be given 5 minutes to decide, after which time if you have not chosen either option the system will automatically show your scores to you. By agreeing to see your preliminary scores, you forfeit your right to cancel any of your scores (including your Analytical Writing score). If you choose instead to cancel the test, responses and scores for all exam sections will be canceled. Designation of score-report recipients. Unless you designated at least four institutions as score-report recipients when you registered to take the exam, you can designate them at the testing center by completing the appropriate form. A complete list of institution codes will be provided for this purpose. You'll give the completed form to the exam supervisor before leaving the testing center. The first four score reports are free, but ETS charges a fee for each additional report.
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