GRE 2020: Exam Pattern, Syllabus and Books

    Bhavya Rawal Bhavya Rawal
    Study Abroad Expert

    The GRE Exam has a unique pattern which assesses candidates’ overall ability required to successfully pursue a graduate course. The GRE General Test, which is conducted both online and on paper, comprises three sections. The first component of the GRE General Test is Analytical Writing. Interestingly, this section is scaled between 0-6 and is scored separately. Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE General Test are scored between 130-170.

    • Scaling of Verbal and Quantitative reasoning is done on a scale of 130-170 score individually making a total score of 340 marks.
    • The Analytical writing section is scaled between 0 – 6. 
    • Duration for the GRE General Test on computer is about three hours and 45 minutes
    • The test is divided into six sections
    • A 10-minute break is provided after third section of the test

    Candidates who will choose computer-delivered test can take the test maximum five times in a year while a paper-delivered test is only conducted on fixed dates during the year. Check GRE Exam Dates

    The GRE Subject Test is meant to assess candidates’ knowledge in a particular field such as Biology, Chemistry, English Literature, etc. A total of six subject tests are available. Meant for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any of the six disciplines, GRE Subject Test Scores are used by graduate schools to assess the candidates’ performance in a particular field of study.

    GRE Exam Pattern

    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

    Continue reading to know more details about GRE exam pattern, syllabus and recommended books.  

    GRE 2020 Exam Pattern

    As discussed above, the GRE General Exam is held in two modes- computer based and online. Test pattern for both is more or less the same, details for which are mentioned below.

    GRE’s Computer-delivered test has three sections:

    • Analytical Writing
    • Verbal Reasoning
    • Quantitative Reasoning

    The Analytical Writing section of the GRE General Test has two separate tasks with 30 minutes allowed for completion of each task. The section assesses your writing skills and ability to clearly present ideas.

    Verbal Reasoning includes two 30 minute sections with 20 questions in each section. It determines how accurately you can draw conclusions, distinguish between the important and trivial, understand the relationship between words and concepts, etc.

    Quantitative Reasoning has 40 questions evenly divided into two sections with 35 minutes per section. It assesses your ability to solve problems using mathematical formulas, analyze quantitative information, and know elementary level arithmetic, geometry, and data analysis.

    Click to Check GRE General Test Syllabus

    Computer – Delivered Test Pattern

    • The test is divided into six sections with a 10 minutes break after the third section.
    • The entire duration of the test is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Given below is structure followed by the GRE General Test:
    Measure*Type of QuestionsScoring Range
    Analytical Writing (one section)Writing tasks on: Analyzing an Issue; Analyzing an Argument0-6
    Verbal Reasoning (two sections)Reading Comprehension (MCQ’s); Text Completion; Sentence Equivalence130-170
    Quantitative Reasoning (two sections)MCQ’s; Quantitative Comparison Questions; Numeric Entry Questions130-170

    *Note: Apart from the above mentioned sections, the GRE computer-based exam may also include the following sections:

    Unidentified- This section may appear anywhere after the Analytical Writing. It is an unidentified section which has no effect on your total score.

    Research- A research question may replace the unscored section in the GRE exam pattern. This section is identified and always placed at the end. Again, the research question will have no impact on candidates’ overall score, its purpose is to assist ETS’s research.

    The GRE exam pattern incorporates a fluid sequencing of questions. The Analytical Writing section always appears first. Other sections (Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Unidentified) may be placed in any manner after the first section

    GRE Sample Papers

    Paper – Delivered Test Pattern

    • The paper is divided into six sections – two sections each of Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning.
    • The duration of the test is 3 hours 30 minutes with a 10 minutes break after the second section.
    • ETS provides a calculator for candidates to solve QR questions. Candidates are not allowed to bring their own calculators.
    • Candidates can attempt the VR and QR sections 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.

    The paper-based GRE General Test follows a similar pattern as the online GRE. Basic difference between the two is outlined below:

    GRE computer V/S Paper

    GRE 2020 Exam Pattern – Subject Test

    GRE Subject Tests assesses a candidate’s knowledge in a particular field of study. GRE Subject Test is conducted 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. 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 you 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
    Click Here to Check GRE Subjects Test Syllabus

    The total number of questions in each test is given below:

    GRE subject Test Pattern

    GRE Syllabus and Recommended Books

    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 intellectual 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 and Books

    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

    Three types of questions are asked in this section and they are: 

    1. Reading Comprehension
    2. Text Completion
    3. Sentence Equivalence

    Books for Verbal Reasoning 

    Best books that can help in the verbal reasoning section of GRE exam is given below. 

    1. ETS Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions
    2. GRE Verbal Grail – Aristotle Prep (Good for Reading Comprehension)
    3. Kaplan GRE Verbal Workbook
    4. Manhattan 5LB Book of Practice Problems (Questions harder than the actual GRE)
    GRE Verbal Reasoning Books

    Click to Download Sample Verbal Reasoning Questions

    Quantitative Reasoning

     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

    List of the topics that are asked in the quant section is:

    Ratio and proportionProfit and loss
    Simple and compound interestSpeed, distance and time
    Permutation & combinationLinear equations
    Quadratic equationsSets Theory
    StatisticsPowers and roots
    ProbabilityPipes, cisterns, work, time
    Lines and anglesTriangles
    CirclesCoordinate geometry
    Order of operationsVolume and surface area
    PercentageNumber properties

    Books for Quantitative Reasoning

    Candidates can follow the books given below to ace quantitative reasoning section of GRE exam:

    1. Manhattan  5LB Book of Practice Problems
    2. ETS Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions
    3. GRE Math Prep Course (Nova’s GRE Prep Course)
    4. Kaplan GRE Math Workbook
    GRE Quatitative Reasoning Books

    Click to Download Sample Quantitative Reasoning Questions

    Analytical Writing

    The sections aim 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

    Books for Analytical Writing

    1. Vibrant Publishers GRE Analytical Writing – Solutions to Real Essay Topics ( Books 1 and 2)
    2. ETS Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test
    GRE Analytical Writing Books

    Click to Download Sample Analytical Writing Tasks

    GRE Subjects Test Syllabus and Books

    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 knowledge 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 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
    • Thermodynamics 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

    GRE Scoring System

    GRE General Test:

    For the computer-based general test, verbal and quantitative section will be section-level adaptive. This means the computer will choose the second section depending upon a candidate’s performance in the first section. Questions asked in all the sections will contribute to the final raw score calculation. The raw score will be converted into a scaled score. 

    • The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a range of 130-170, in 1 point increments.
    • Analytical Reasoning 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:

    Candidates are assigned a raw score for only correct responses. Wrong answer, multiple answers and leaving any question unanswered will be considered as incorrect but there is no negative marking for incorrect answers. Raw scores will be then converted into a scaled score through the process called equating. The process helps in calculating a normalised score keeping in mind the difficulty level of the paper. 

    • 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 Exam Pattern FAQs

    Ques. Is GRE same for all the branches or it varies depending upon the branch?

    Ans. GRE consists of only three sections i.e. Quantitative Analysis, Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing. There is no specific technical subject added in GRE exam. Therefore, the exam is the same for all the branches. 

    Ques. What is the test duration of the computer-based GRE Test?

    Ans. The overall test duration for GRE computer-based test is three hours 45 minutes. There is a total of 6 sections with ten minutes break following the third section. 

    Ques. On what time interval GRE test can be taken?

    Ans. GRE Test can be taken throughout the year on an interval of 21 days. Candidates can take GRE test maximum 5 times over a period of 12 months.

    Ques. How can I prepare for GRE test?

    Ans.GRE is a gateway to many topmost B-schools all across the globe and therefore, the exam is a hard nut to crack. ETS being aware of the difficulty level of the paper offers a variety of low-cost tools available for the preparation of the test. Click Here to know more about GRE Preparation Tools

    Ques. Which are the MBA institutes accept GRE score? 

    Ans.GRE is a standard test that is accepted by the management institutes all across the country. Click to check the list of top management colleges accepting GRE score

    Ques. How many times a year can a candidate take GRE paper-based test?

    Ans.GRE paper-based test for the general and subject test can be taken three times in a year. It is to be noted that the paper-based general test is offered to only those areas of the world where the computer-delivering test is unavailable.

    Ques. What is the subject test in GRE?

    Ans. Subject test in GRE is taken to evaluate the proficiency in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology.

    *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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