GRE Test Structure

by Trudie Longren, Demand Media

The GRE -- the standardized test used by colleges and universities for graduate and business school admissions -- measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. The test is structured into three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. Some forms of the GRE include unscored content that isn't disclosed to the test taker. In addition, some forms also include research questions not counted toward the final score.

Analytical Writing

Both the paper-based and computer-based GRE examinations have two sections, lasting 30 minutes each, devoted to analytical writing; the first section requires analysis of an issue, and the second, analysis of an argument. The Analytical Writing sections seek to measure your ability to provide focused responses by requiring test takers to carry out specific tasks. By an analysis of an issue, the ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively can be measured, while analysis of an argument demonstrates the ability to support ideas with reasons and examples.

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section measures several skills, including the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse, to reason from incomplete data and to understand literal and figurative language to interpret an author's intent. The paper-based test consists of two 35-minute sections of 25 questions. The computer-based test consists of two half-hour sections of only 20 questions.

Quantitative Reasoning

Emphasizing data interpretation and real-life scenarios, the GRE's quantitative reasoning section measures the ability to interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models and apply basic mathematical skills, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, probability and statistics. The paper-based examination consists of two sections of 25 questions, lasting 40 minutes. The computer-based examination consists of two sections of 20 questions, lasting 35 minutes.

Other Content

The paper-based test does not have additional content going beyond the three main sections of analytical writing and verbal and quantitative reasoning. The computer-based GRE includes an unscored section -- which can appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section -- consisting of questions that are tested for possible use on future tests or to ensure that scores on new editions of the test are comparable to scores from older editions of the test. In addition, the computer-based test can substitute the unscored section with a section that is included for research purposes that always appears at the end of the test, but does not count toward the final score.

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About the Author

Trudie Longren began writing in 2008 for legal publications, including the "American Journal of Criminal Law." She has served as a classroom teacher and legal writing professor. Longren holds a bachelor's degree in international politics, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in human rights. She also speaks Spanish and French.

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