The Graduate Record Examination, popularly known as GRE, is a standardised entrance test that is required for admissions to the master’s programs and PhD globally. The exam, conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS), measures your preparedness for taking up graduate studies in various disciplines. Hence, if you are planning to appear for the GRE, the first step of your preparation should be understanding the GRE exam pattern.

The GRE exam is offered all year round at Prometric test centers, and you can take the exam any time by selecting a slot 45 days prior. The test has two formats – GRE General and GRE Subject Test. While the general test measures your knowledge of general topics like verbal reasoning, analytical writing and quantitative aptitude, the subject test is more content-specific, and tests your knowledge in a particular field of studies such as psychology, physics, mathematics or chemistry. Whether you take the general test, or the subject test, knowing the exam pattern is essential to familiarize yourself with the question types.

To begin with, let’s take a look at the GRE general test question paper pattern and syllabus.

GRE Test Pattern

The GRE general exam paper consists of six sections— one Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) with two tasks, two Quantitative Aptitude sections, two Verbal Reasoning sections and an unidentified/unscored section. GRE is more user-friendly than other competitive tests like GMAT. The test allows you to choose the questions within a section you want to answer first. Besides, GRE lets you skip the questions within a section, go back and change the answers later. 

Here’s a detailed overview of the GRE paper pattern and GRE question pattern.

1. Analytical Writing – GRE Analytical Writing consists of two separately timed writing tasks, of 30 minutes each, that are designed to measure your critical and analytical thinking skills. Each task tests your ability to express and support complex ideas, create and analyze arguments and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. The two tasks are:

  • Analyze an Issue – The task presents an opinion about any issue of general interest, followed by specific instructions on how to address it. You must analyze the issue according to the instructions, write your thoughts on the issue, and provide examples or reasons to support your response. The ‘Analyze an Issue’ task measures your ability to think critically about a topic of general interest and how well you express your thoughts about it in writing. 
  • Analyze an Argument – This task provides a brief passage in which the author presents an argument regarding some course of action or interprets any event by producing claims supported by reasons and evidence. You must write whether the author’s claim is logically correct by critically examining the reasons and evidence presented to support the claim. The task assesses your ability to understand, examine and evaluate arguments based on specific instructions and express your thoughts clearly in writing.

The Analytical Assessment section of GRE is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 point increments. While the first task asks you to create an argument and provide evidence to support your views, the other task requires you to evaluate someone else’s argument by examining and evaluating the claims and evidence presented to support their claim.

2. Quantitative Reasoning – The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section assesses your understanding of basic mathematical concepts and your ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems. Quantitative Reasoning has two sections with four types of questions. The 4 types of questions asked could be from a real-life setting or based on pure mathematics. You’ll get 35 minutes to complete 20 questions from each section.

  • Quantitative Comparison Questions – These types of questions present two quantities sometimes followed by information centring around the quantities. With the help of this information, you need to carefully compare the two quantities and select one of four possible answer choices.
  • Multiple-choice Questions (Select One Answer ) – A question (word problems, equations and more) followed by five answer choices will be given. You have to solve the question and select one correct answer from the answer choices. These are the classic MCQ questions that can be seen in all types of competitive exams. 
  • Multiple-choice Questions ( Select One or More Answer) – This section is complex and different from the basic MCQ questions. In this type of question, you have to select more than one answer from the choices given. Though some questions specify the number of answers to pick, others leave that up to you. You will get the credit only if all your selected answers are correct. 
  • Numeric Entry Questions – GRE Numeric Entry questions require you to solve a given problem and type the correct answer in the box given. You have to type the answer in a single box if your answer is an integer or a decimal, and if it is a fraction, you’ll be given two separate boxes — one for the numerator and one for the denominator. This question type has no answer choices. 

Each Quantitative section of GRE also includes a set of questions called the Data Interpretation. These questions present data in tables, graphs or any other data representation accompanied with some questions and answer choices. These questions could be Multiple-choice (both types) or Numeric Entries. You must interpret and analyse the given data to choose the best possible answers from the choices. 

3.Verbal Reasoning – The questions from this section assess your skills to evaluate written passages and synthesise the information obtained from it. The Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale of 130-170, in 1-point increments. Verbal Reasoning also measures your ability to recognize connections between the parts of a sentence and relationships between words and concepts. There are two sections with 3 types of questions, and you’ll get 30 minutes to solve 20 questions from each section. The question types are:

  • Reading Comprehension – Reading Comprehension questions test your reading and comprehensive abilities such as — understanding the meaning of words and sentences, identifying the author’s assumptions and perspective or summarizing a passage. The questions from this section are based on short passages on the topics of general interest. 
  • Text Completion – Text Completion questions assess your ability to create an impression by evaluating the data given and continually revise it as you get more information. The question type also measures skills to analyze a text, evaluate it and reason from what you have read so far. Each question presents a short passage with crucial words eliminated. You must fill in the blanks by selecting the answer choice that aligns with the sentence and create a coherent, meaningful whole.
  • Sentence Equivalence – Sentence equivalence questions measure your ability to fill in the blank based on the partial information given. Each question presents a single sentence with one blank and six answer choices. You have to choose the two best answer choices that lead to a complete, coherent sentence of equivalent meaning.

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Aptitude of GRE are section-level adaptive. This means the computer selects the second section of each part based on your performance in the first section. Besides, the GRE exam paper pattern consists of an additional unscored section or a research section that might appear at any part of the exam. This section will not count towards your GRE score and is used for ETS research purposes.

We hope this article helped you gain a basic understanding of the GRE exam pattern 2021. A good GRE score is achievable, but with proper planning and preparation. The first step towards the preparation is familiarizing yourself with the GRE exam pattern and syllabus. Now that you are aware of both the pattern of GRE exam and GRE syllabus, you can easily ace the GRE! Hence, use the above information on GRE pattern and syllabus to draft an efficient study plan.

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GRE Exam Pattern: Practice Quiz

Here is a practice quiz for you to attempt!

1 / 3

On Monday, a tank was half empty and it was filled by a pipe. On Thursday, the tank was 3/4th empty and it was filled by the same pipe. If a total of 24 litres was dispensed by the pipe, then what is the capacity of the tank?

2 / 3

His neighbours found his __________ manner bossy and irritating and they stopped inviting him to backyard barbeques.

3 / 3

Though consumption of salicylic acid pills has been promoted as a treatment for skin acnes, research has revealed no reliable effect. Recently, however, a salicylic gel applied externally has been shown to greatly reduce the spread of acne. Since the gel contains salicylic acid in the same form and concentration as the pills, the greater effectiveness of the gel must be due to the fact that acne-causing compounds tend to concentrate externally, not internally. 

Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

Your score is

The average score is 26%



1.When can I take the GRE?

The GRE is available to you all through the year, this means you can choose an exam date at your convenience.

2.What are the different question types in the GRE Verbal Reasoning section?

The different question types in the Verbal Reasoning section are Reading Comprehension, Sentence Equivalence, and Text Completion.

3.What is the duration of the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section?

The duration of the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section is 35 minutes.

Good Luck!


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