GRE Sections in Brief

GRE Sections
Question Count
Time
Analyze an Issue Essay
1
30 minutes
Analyze an Argument Essay
1
30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning (x2 sections)
20
30 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning (x2 sections)
20
35 minutes
Unscored Section
20
30-35 minutes


Intro to the GRE Sections

Here’s what to expect when you sit down at the testing center’s computer to take the GRE. 

Analyze an Issue Essay

30 minutes 

This section asks you to write a response to a broad, philosophical question. We think of essays as low priority GRE sections. 

Analyze an Argument Essay

30 minutes 

This section asks you to write a critique of the quality of the reasoning in a short passage. Again, we want to be aware that the Verbal and Quantitative GRE sections are a higher priority for many programs than are the essays.

Verbal Reasoning 

2 sections, 30 minutes each 

This section tests reading, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills with the following question types: 

  • Sentence Completion 
    • Fill in the blank vocabulary questions with one, two, or three spaces.  
  • Sentence Equivalence 
    • Synonym vocabulary questions 
  • Reading Comprehension Passages 
    • Most questions are multiple choice. Others are answered by highlighting a specific sentence on the screen. 
  • Logical Reasoning Passages 
    • Multiple choice questions with 1 or more correct answers 

Quantitative Reasoning 

2 sections, 35 minutes each 

This section tests your math and data interpretation skills with the following question types: 

  • Quantitative Comparisons 
  • Multiple Choice Problem Solving Questions may have 1 correct answer or several. 
  • Problem Solving: Non-Multiple Choice Answered by typing in your own answer. 

Unscored Section 

30-35 minutes 

This extra, unscored section may be either a Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning GRE section. It may appear at any time after the essays and will not be identified as an unscored section. 

Research Section 

Time Varies 

This is an extra, unscored section that the test writers administer to gather demographic data on testers. Not all testers get a research section. If you do, it will always appear at the end. Total testing time: about 4 hours.

Computer-Based Testing 

If taking a test on the computer is new for you, don’t worry: you’re in the same boat as most other testers. The good news is that with a little practice, computer-based testing isn’t necessarily any more difficult than testing with paper and pencil. It’s just different. It’s important to understand that the GRE is section-adaptive. That means that the difficulty level of future sections is adjusted according to your performance on earlier ones. For example, if you do very well on your first math section, the second math section will be harder (and thus earn you the opportunity for a higher score). The difficulty does not adjust from one question to the next within a section. You’re free to move around the section as much as you like and to answer questions in whatever order you see fit. Early in the process of your test prep, it is helpful to take one of the two official ETS practice tests. The information below provides more detail about how each of the gre sections works. 

Computer Layout for GRE Sections

Essays (Analytic Writing)
Here, the screen will be divided into two parts. You’ll see the prompt on the left side and a word processing window on the right where you’ll type your response. The word processing software is adequate but limited: you’ll be able to cut, copy, and paste, but there’s no spell check.

Quantitative Reasoning

For the multiple choice questions, you’ll simply click your answer choice(s); for others, you’ll type in your answer. There is a very simple on-screen calculator that can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and take a square root. There is no exponent button, much less any advanced capabilities like graphing.
Verbal Reasoning

These questions are answered by clicking on answer choices or, occasionally, clicking a specific sentence in a passage. The software does not provide a way for you to underline or highlight a passage as you read it, but you’ll be able to use scrap paper for all sections, so you can take notes as you read.

Scoring for GRE Sections

Verbal Section and Quantitative Section Scoring

Your scores on the multiple-choice sections are converted into two “scaled scores,” one for verbal and one for quantitative. The scale is 130 to 170 for each. Keep in mind that the percentiles are of those fairly competitive students contemplating graduate school. 

GRE Scaled Score
Verbal Reasoning Percentile
Quantitative Reasoning Percentile
170
99
98
169
99
97
168
98
95
167
97
94
166
96
92
165
95
90
164
93
88
163
92
86
162
89
83
161
87
80
160
84
78
159
81
74
158
78
71
157
76
68
156
71
64
155
67
60
154
63
56
153
59
52
152
54
48
151
50
44
150
45
40
149
41
37
148
36
32
147
33
28
146
29
25
145
25
21
144
22
18
143
18
15
142
16
13
141
13
10
140
10
8
139
8
6
138
7
4
137
5
3


Essay Scoring 

In case you're curious, here are the percentages for the GRE Essays (Analytic Writing)

6.0
99
5.5
98
5.0
93
4.5
80
4.0
56
3.5
38
3.0
15
2.5
7
2.0
2
1.5
1