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GRE Exam Pattern:

Updated On - April 21st 2018 by SHIVANSHI RATHAUR

GRE General Test measures a candidates on three parameters Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. The exam is conducted in two formats – computer delivered and paper delivered. The computer delivered test is of 3 hours and 45 minutes while paper delivered test is of 3 hours and 30 minutes. GRE is avaliable throughout the year in the online mode and three times a year in the paper delivered format.

GRE Subjects Test is a paper delivered exam which tests a candidate’s knowledge in a particular field of study. There are six different subjects of GRE Subjects Test – Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychologyl. Each exam is of 2 hours and 50 minutes and tests candidates on major topics learnt at the undergraduation level of each subject.

Content of GRE Exam

GRE General Test: The GRE General Exam tests candidate’s ability to think and find the solution to the questions in the three sections. These abilities are the ones developed over a long period of time and are assessed as mentioned below:

  • Verbal Reasoning assesses reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and vocabulary usage in two sections.
  • Quantitative Reasoning assesses basic high school level mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills in two sections.
  • Analytical Writing is intend to test how well you can work with your words. The section consists of two tasks each of essay writing. 

GRE Subjects Tests: This exam is intended to test what a candidate learned in his/her field of education at the undergraduate level. The subjects are tested in the following way:

  • Biology tests candidates knowledge in three major areas: cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology and evolution.
  • Chemistry is made up of the four fields into which chemistry has been traditionally divided and some interrelationships among the fields.
  • Literature in English comprises questions on poetry, drama, biography, the essay, the short story, the novel, criticism, literary theory and the history of English language.
  • Mathematics is intended to test what your learned from the courses at the undergraduate level.
  • Physics is aimed at assessing a candidate’s clarity of fundamental principles of physics and their ability to apply such principles.
  • Psychology is all about the core of knowledge of the courses offered at the undergraduate level in the field of psychology

GRE Exam Pattern Highlights

GRE Exam Pattern Highlights
Types of GRE2 – GRE General Test & GRE Subjects Test
Mode of ExamOnline & Offline
Medium of ExamEnglish
Duration of examVaries 
Number of questionsVaries 
Type of QuestionSubjective & Objective

GRE Exam Pattern

The exam pattern of the two types of GRE – GRE General Test and GRE Subjects Test is as follows:

GRE General Test

Computer delivered Test Pattern

  • The test is divided into six sections with a 10 minutes break after the third section.
  • The entire duration of test is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Given below is structure followed by the GRE General Test:
MeasureNumber of QuestionsAllotted Time
Analytical Writing (One section with two separately timed tasks)One "Analyze an Issue" task and one "Analyze an Argument" task30 minutes per task
Verbal Reasoning (Two sections)20 questions per section30 minutes per section
Quantitative Reasoning (Two sections)20 questions per section35 minutes per section
Unidentified Unscored SectionVariesVaries
Identified Research SectionVariesVaries
  1. Unidentified unscored section: This section is not counted in the GRE final score. The purpose of this section is to test questions prepared for future GRE General Test. There is no way of identifying which section this is, so skipping this section is not an option for the candidates.
  2. Identified Research Section: It not included in the GRE final score. The section might be included in place of the unscored section. Research section would appear in the end of test. The questions in this section are included for ETS Research Purposes.

Paper delivered Test Pattern

  • The paper is divided into six sections – two sections each of Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoing.
  • The duration of test is 3 hours 30 minutes with a 10 minutes break after the second section.
  • ETS provides a calculator to candidates to solve QR questions. Candidates are not allowed to bring their own calculators.
  • Candidates can attempted the VR and QR sectons in any order they wish while taking GRE paper delivered test.
  • Analytical writing sections will be first in the sequence of sections while the order of remaining sections is not fixed.
MeasureNumber of QuestionsAllotted Time
Analytical Writing (Two sections)Section 1: "Analyze an Issue" task30 minutes per section
Section 2: "Analyze an Argument" task
Verbal Reasoning (Two sections)25 questions per section35 minutes per section
Quantitative Reasoning (Two sections)25 questions per section40 minutes per section

GRE Subject Test

  • GRE Subject Test is conducetd only in the paper delivered format.
  • The exam for each subject is conducted three times a year in April, September and October.
  • The duration of each subject test is 2 hours and 50 minutes.
  • Number of Questions on each test is given in the table below:
SubjectNumber of Questions
Biology190 five-choice questions
Chemistry130 multiple choice questions 
Literature in English230 questions 
Mathematics66 multiple choice questions
Physics100 five-choice questions
Psychology205 multiple type questions

GRE Scoring System

  • GRE General Test:
    • The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a range of 130-170, in 1 point increments.
    • Analytical Resoning is scored in a range of  0–6, in half point increments.
    • If a candidate does not answer any questions of any/all measures, then a No Score (NS) is stated for that measure.
  • GRE Subject Test:
    • All the subject tests are scored on a range of 200-990 with 10 point increments.
    • The Biology and Psychology Tests also have subscore range on a 20–99 score scale, in one-point increments

GRE Syllabus 

The syllabus of GRE varies depending upon the type and subject of the test. There is no set syllabus for GRE General Test as it is an aptitude exam and tests candidates on intelluctual ability acquired overtime. Topics for GRE Subjects Test, however, are mentioned with their weightage in the exam on the official website of GRE.

GRE General Test Syllabus

There are three major components of GRE General Test and do not have a specified syllabus. The content of each section is as follows:

Verbal Reasoning: This section requires a candidate to:

  • analyze and draw conclusions from discourse; reason from incomplete data; identify author's assumptions and/or perspective; understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author's intent
  • select important points; distinguish major from minor or relevant points; summarize text; understand the structure of a text
  • understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts; understand relationships among words and among concepts

Click here to Check Sample Verbal Reasoning Questions

Quantitative Resoning: It intends to test if a candidate can:

  • understand, interpret and analyze quantitative problems
  • solve problems using mathematical formulae and techniques
  • apply elementary concepts and basic skills of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis

Click here to Check Sample Quantitative Reasoning Questions

Analytical Writing: The sections aims at assessing the following abilities in a candidate:

  • articulate complex ideas effectively and with clarity
  • support ideas with appropriate reasons and examples
  • examine claims and accompanying evidence
  • sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
  • control the elements of standard written English

Click here to Check Sample Analytical Writing Tasks

GRE Subjects Test Syllabus

The syllabus for each subject of GRE Subjects Test is as follows:

Biology: Biology test is made up of questions on the following topics:

  • Cellular and Molecular Biology 
  • Organismal Biology
  • Ecology and Evolution

Click here for Biology Test Practice Book

Chemistry: The knowlledge of the following topics which are covered in the UG level of education are tested in GRE Chemistry Test:

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry

Click here for Chemistry Test Practice Book

Literature in English: The following categories of the literary works throughout the history till the present times are tested in the GRE English Test:

  • Literary Analysis
  • Identification
  • Cultural and Historical Contexts
  • History and Theory of Literary Criticism

Click here for English Literature Test Practice Book

Mathematics: The following areas of Mathematics are explored and tested by the GRE Mathematics Test:

  • Calculus
  • Algebra
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Real Analysis
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Additional Mathematics

Click here for Mathematics Test Practice Book

Physics: Candidates’ knowledge of following topics of Physics learned at the undergraduate level is tested in GRE Physics Test:

  • Classical Mechanics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Optics and Wave Phenomena
  • Thermodyamics and Statistical Mechanics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Atomic Physics
  • Special Relativity
  • Laboratory Methods
  • Specialised Topics like Nuclear and Particle Physics etc.

Click here for Physics Test Practice Book

Psychology: The GRE Psychology Test measures candidates knowledge in the following areas of psychology:

  • Biological
  • Cognitive
  • Social
  • Developmental
  • Clinical
  • Measurement/Methodology/Other

Click here for Psychology Test Practice Book


*The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College


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