The GRE General Test: Format and Question Types

Any candidate needs to have a clear understanding of the GRE test format. The duration of the test in itself is sufficient to tire your mind and body. You need to train yourself to maintain focus and to get used to this new exam format. Thus, knowing what to expect where is essential.

The GRE test format

The GRE comprises of 6 sections:

  • 1 Analytical Writing Assessment section
  • 2 Verbal Ability sections
  • 2 Quantitative Ability sections
  • 1 Experimental section (Verbal or Quant)

The section-wise time durations are as follows:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment- 60 minutes
  • Verbal Ability- 35 minutes/section
  • Quantitative Ability- 30 minutes/section

Candidates will be given a 10-minutes break after the completion of the third section of the test. They can choose to leave their seats and get some refreshments during this break.

Overall, the duration of the entire GRE test is about 4 hours.

Skip and Flag facility

The GRE exam format allows you to mark questions within sections as you go along. So you can keep and skip any questions and return to them later or mark a question to review later if needed. You can always change your answer within a section. However, you cannot return to questions after the allotted time for any particular section ends.

What are the question types?

  • Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing section measures your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. In this section, you will be required to answer two separately timed analytical writing tasks:

  1. “Analyze an Issue” task- 30-minute

You are required to evaluate an issue, consider its complexities and develop an argument with sufficient reasons and examples to support your views.

  • “Analyze an Argument” task- 30-minute

You are required to evaluate a given argument and consider its logical soundness

  • Verbal Ability

Both Verbal sections of the GRE will comprise of three types of questions:

  1. Text Completion: Single/double/triple blank questions.
  2. Sentence Equivalence: Questions with one blank and two answer choices to select from six possible options.
  3. Reading Comprehension: Short/Medium/Long passages along with critical reading questions.

The number of questions of different types that you can expect in a typical Verbal section is as follows:


Reading Comprehension 5-7 passages (Long/Medium/Short/Critical Reasoning) 1-2 short Passage questions 2-3 medium Passage questions 4 long Passage questions 1 critical Reasoning question

Sentence Equivalence 4-5 questions

Text Completions 1-2 single-blank questions 2-3 double-blank questions 1-2 triple-blank questions

  • Quantitative Ability

Both quant sections of the GRE will comprise of three types of questions:

  1. Quantitative Comparisons
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Interpretation

The number of questions of different types that you can expect in a typical Quant section is as follows:


Quantitative Comparison 8-9 questions

Problem Solving questions 8-9 questions

Data Interpretation questions 3-4 questions

You can expect to see both Multiple Choice Questions and Numeric Entry Questions in the Quant sections

  • Experimental Section

The real GRE test will include one experimental or research section that will not be scored. However, students will have to answer this additional section, and the practical section will not be labeled.

The experimental section can be either a Verbal (30 minutes) or a Quant (35 minutes).


You need to study the battlefield before going to war. To tackle the GRE successfully, it is imperative to know the ins and outs of the exam format until it becomes your second nature. This will allow you to understand your strengths and weaknesses within the GRE question paper, pace yourself accordingly, and know which questions to skip and, if necessary, come back later.

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