Is the GRE test difficult like the GMAT? If this is a question that has occurred to you, then let’s tell you the answer is yes. The GRE is an equally challenging exam, however, it is not impossible to get a good score if prepared well enough. In this guide, we answer your question – how difficult is GRE? Furthermore, we also provide steps you should follow to ace it. But before that, let’s give you an overview of the exam.

What is the GRE Exam?

The GRE or Graduate Record Examination is an advanced test used for business school programs and graduate school programs. It is a computer-based, multiple-choice, standardized exam and is a requirement for admission to graduate business programs (MBA) and graduate programs globally. 

If you plan to take the exam, then your first step is the GRE test registration, which can be done on the ETS website. Once you have registered, you are free to choose from the available GRE test dates. The exam is available throughout the year, however, from the month of October to December there might be limited slots available. So, plan wisely. 

Once you have managed to register then begins the main part, your GRE test preparation. Having said that, you can always start your preparation before registering as well. There is no hard and fast rule as such. Moreover, there are many coaching institutes that you can enrol into to help you with the preparation. Also, you can also choose an online GRE test prep considering the current pandemic situation, especially when safety is a major concern for all. You will equally benefit from it;  in fact, online preparations are convenient, flexible and even cost-effective. Not to mention, the abundance of study material that you get for your GRE test prep.  

What Makes the GRE Test Difficult?

Simply put, the GRE is difficult as it requires you to think differently. But what are the things that make the exam difficult specifically? This can be narrowed down to five reasons as mentioned below:

1) The Vocabulary is Challenging

One of the toughest parts of the GRE is the vocabulary. Here, vocabulary building is a special challenge. This is because you can’t be sure that the words you learn will appear on the test day. Even if you did well with vocab in the ACT or SAT, the GRE has more challenging vocabulary. Hence, developing a habit of reading is essential here. 

2) Thorough Mathematics Knowledge is Required

The maths tested in the GRE is easier and of a much lower level than the maths tested in the ACT and SAT. However, the GRE maths problems have trickier wording. Also, for some of you it might have been years since you attended a maths class or took a maths test, hence, chances are you might have forgotten a lot of the basics. This is where it gets challenging. 

3) Tricky Wording Of Questions

The questions are worded in a very tricky manner, thus, making GRE even more challenging.  These questions need to be logically analyzed to find the correct answer. This mostly applies to the Quantitative Reasoning section of GRE. Even if the maths section isn’t as challenging, the wording makes it tougher.

4) Coping with Time Pressure

Like in most tests, you don’t get a lot of time to answer each question. For each essay you get 30 minutes. Each verbal question takes roughly one minute and 30 seconds. While each math question takes one minute and 45 seconds. So, you need to have good time-management skills to complete the test on time.

5) The Exam is Computerized and  has an Adaptive Test Format

Almost everyone takes the GRE on a computer. If you haven’t practised any GRE test papers on a screen, then this can put some in a tight spot. The GRE is also section-level adaptive. There are two sections each for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning. How well you do in the first section, determines how difficult the questions will be in the second section.  The better you do in the first section, the more difficult the questions get on the second section. 

GRE Test Prep Tips: 

As you can see from the above-mentioned points that there are no shortcuts to making GRE less difficult, but here are five things you can do to overcome the issues:

1) Build Your Vocabulary 

In the GRE, the Verbal section tests how good your vocabulary is. Memorizing words and their meanings are important. In addition to your flashcards that you use for your prep, prioritize learning words that GRE tests frequently. Make a list of the most commonly-tested words on the GRE vocab section. Moreover, if you are looking up a dictionary, don’t just read it randomly. Sit down and really look up words. Besides, the first definition isn’t the only one that you should look up, the GRE also tests secondary definitions. So skim through all of them.

2) Brush Up on Maths

Brushing up on maths can help alleviate your maths anxiety. With a combination of a positive mindset and lots of practice, you can get one step closer to the GRE math score that you want to achieve. 

3) Improve Time Management Skills

The GRE is also about managing time. So you should spend less time on simple questions. This way, you can spend more time on the difficult questions. Also, when you recognize questions that you have solved before, it increases your speed.

4) Get a Baseline Score

A baseline score is a score you’d get if you took the GRE right away. Your baseline score helps determine where you stand before you begin your prep. This is before you make a study plan or take a full-length GRE practice test with the same testing environment as the actual exam. Getting a baseline score can help you guide your prep. 

5) Practice on the Computer

Familiarize yourself with how the computer-based GRE works. This way, you know what to expect on the actual test. Take a GRE practice test adhering to the test conditions as best as you can. It gives you an idea of your baseline score and a target score to aim at. This can also show you which areas in the exam you need to focus on the most.

We hope we have answered your question — is the GRE test difficult? We also hope that the tips provided will help you in your preparation. Moreover, consistently practice as it’s not impossible to achieve a good score, if you do so.


1.What does GRE stand for?

The GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination and is conducted by ETS, a private non-profit educational testing and assessment organization.

2.How much is the GRE cost for registration?

The GRE fee depends on the country you plan to take your test in. If you’re registering for the test in India, the GRE registration fee is $213. 

3.Can the GRE score be used to apply for an MBA?

Yes, business schools provide applicants the option to apply to MBA programmes using GRE or GMAT scores. If you are applying using GRE scores, you can convert your GRE score to GMAT by using the free GRE to GMAT score conversion tool available on ETS’ official website.

Good Luck! 


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