The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test widely used for graduate school admissions in the United States and other countries. To achieve the best possible score, it is crucial to understand the structure and content of the GRE. The test is designed to assess a wide range of skills and knowledge and is divided into three sections - Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive breakdown of the GRE structure and each of the GRE parts, enabling you to approach the exam with confidence and clarity.

GRE Sections Breakdown Overview

Exam Section Time Limit / Number of Questions Question Types Score Range
Analytical Writing  30 minutes per essay 2 essays 1 Argument essay, 1 Issue essay 0-6 (in 0.5-point increments)
Verbal Reasoning (Verbal) 2 x 30 minutes 20 questions 6 Text completion, 4 Sentence equivalence, 10 Reading comprehension 130 to 170 (in 1-point increments)
Quantitative Reasoning (Quant) 2 x 35 minutes 20 questions 7-8 Quantitative comparison, 12-13 Problem solving 130 to 170 (in 1-point increments)

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing section is the first of three GRE components you will need to complete. It’s designed to evaluate your ability to discuss difficult concepts clearly and effectively, think critically, and express complex ideas coherently.

Duration: 30 minutes per essay - 60 minutes total

Questions: 2 separate essays

  • Issue Task - In this task, you are presented with a statement or topic and asked to provide your perspective and to support your stance with relevant examples and reasoning.
  • Argument Task - This task requires you to critique an argument presented in a written passage. You must identify logical flaws, assumptions, and supporting evidence to strengthen or weaken the argument.

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE assesses your ability to understand written material. You will need to read, interpret, or complete text-related tasks successfully to get points.

Duration: 30 minutes per section - 60 minutes total

Questions: 2 sections - 20 questions

  • Reading Comprehension: You are presented with passages from various topics and asked to answer questions based on the information presented in the text.
  • Text Completion: This task involves filling in the blanks in a passage with appropriate vocabulary and wording to create a coherent text.
  • Sentence Equivalence: You are given a sentence with one blank space, and you must select two answer choices that produce sentences with equivalent meanings.

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section assesses your mathematical proficiency. You will be tested on your ability to do basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry, as well as problem-solving and data analysis skills. When answering Quantitative Reasoning questions, you will have access to an onscreen calculator.

Duration: 35 minutes per section - 70 minutes total

Questions: 2 sections - 20 questions per section

  • Problem-Solving: You are presented with quantitative problems and asked to choose the correct answer. The problems cover various topics, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
  • Quantitative Comparison: This task involves comparing two quantities and determining the relationship between them, such as greater than, equal to, or less than.

Unscored GRE Sections: Experimental and Research

Other than the three main sections of the GRE, there is another unscored section, which may either be referred to as an experimental section or the research section. They will, however, have no effect on your GRE score. The unscored section is used by the test-makers to pilot test new and different questions for future exams. While it does not impact your score, you will not necessarily know which section will be unscored, so it is essential that you approach all questions and sections with equal focus and effort.

The research section is a little different. It will come at the end of the test, or in some cases after the Analytical Writing section, and it will always be identified as an unscored section. The test maker may offer you an incentive for completing the section or for performing well on it. So, read the instructions and decide whether you want to take the section. Your score will not be affected either way, but we suggest you make your best effort in every section.

GRE Changes

As of September 22, 2023, the ETS (Educational Testing Service) will administer a new shorter GRE to all test-takers. The first major change is that the time will be reduced by half, from approximately 4 hours to just under 2 hours of test time. This is a significant change aimed at reducing test fatigue and improving focus for test-takers. The decision has been made to also remove the “Analyze an Argument” Task in the Analytical Writing Section. Quantitative and Verbal sections will have the number of questions per section decreased from 40 to 27, and the removal of the Unscored Section and all scheduled breaks will make the test much shorter. You can also expect faster results — within 8-10 calendar days compared to the previous 10-15 days.


Familiarizing yourself with the GRE sections is crucial for success in the exam. Each section assesses different skills and knowledge, so understanding the GRE format and components of the GRE can significantly impact your preparation and performance. By being aware of the sections' content and time constraints, you can develop effective study strategies and allocate your time wisely during the test. Remember, your GRE score is a significant factor in the graduate school application process, so investing time and effort to better understand and prepare for each section is essential. By preparing thoroughly and practicing with sample questions, you can more confidently approach the GRE, knowing you are well-informed about each section's demands. Good luck on your GRE journey!


GRE is divided into Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

You can expect the test to contain 82 questions, 2 essays on Analytical Writing, and 40 questions for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning.

When taking GRE, you can do computer-based with a total of 3 hours 45 minutes or paper-based for 3 hours 30 minutes. The new GRE test section will last just under 2 hours.

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