The GRE Test Structure

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

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.

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.

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  • 0:00 About the GRE
  • 0:37 Test Structure
  • 1:54 Sections & Questions
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Test Structure

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

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