Getting ready for a standardized test such as GRE includes hours upon hours of prep, all in efforts to get a high score and impress graduate school admissions.
But, how long is the test itself, and most importantly, how long is each section?
I’ve taken the GRE myself, and I’ve helped countless students prepare for it.
Today I’ll talk about what you can expect on the GRE and how long the test is when broken into sections.
Summary of the Key Findings
- GRE General Test has three sections: quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and verbal reasoning.
- GRE can include an experimental or a research section.
- Computer-based GRE is 3 hours and 45 minutes long, and paper-based GRE is 3 hours and 40 minutes long.
- Each GRE section contains a certain number of test questions, and it’s timed differently.
How Long is the GRE?
According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the institution behind the GRE, the test is 3 hours and 45 minutes long for the computer-based test, and 3 hours and 40 minutes long for the paper-based test .
However, expect that you’ll spend about four and a half hours at the testing centers.
GRE has six sections, and there’s a 10-minute break after the third one.
Keep in mind that it’s not possible to predict the length of the unscored section on the computer GRE, so you can’t know the exact length in advance.
Here’s a breakdown of what test-takers can expect on test day.
|Checking in at the testing center||Between 5 and 10 minutes|
|Filling out the information||5 to 15 minutes|
|Analytical Writing Section||60 minutes in total, 30 minutes per section|
|Verbal Reasoning Section||60 minutes in total, 30 minutes per section|
|Quantitative Reasoning Section||70 minutes in total, 30 minutes per section|
|Break||10 minutes, always after the third test section|
|Research section||Length varies, usually around 30 minutes|
|Selecting schools||5 minutes|
|Accepting scores||1 minute|
Checking in at the test center and filling out the biographical information usually takes around 20 minutes to half an hour, depending on how crowded it is and how fast you fill out your info.
Expect that you’ll need about 30 minutes before the official test starts.
Test centers usually recommend that test takers arrive 30 minutes earlier to register and set up for the test.
Note: Paper-based GRE has the same test sections, but the timing slightly differs.
You’ll spend 5-10 minutes less at the test center on the test day, as there are no experimental or research sections.
However, the quant section is 80 minutes long, and the verbal is 70 minutes long.
Here’s how each of the sections is structured on the GRE test.
Also Read: How Does the GRE Exam Format Look Like?
1. Analytical Writing Section
Analytical writing is the first section of the GRE. It lasts for 60 minutes, and it’s divided into two back-to-back essays. You’ll be asked to write an Issue Essay.
You’ll be given a statement or a claim, and you have to make a case for your position on it.
Next is the Argument Essay, where you have to analyze the soundness of another’s author's argument.
You’ll be given half an hour for each essay. For both essays, you should have clearly-articulated and well-presented ideas.
This means using advanced vocabulary and writing in the active voice.
If you can write fast, you may need less than an hour to complete both essays.
However, most students use the maximum time allotted for this section.
Also Read: 13 GRE Analytical Writing Tips
2. Verbal Reasoning Section
There are two verbal reasoning sections on the GRE. Each is 30 minutes long, and there are 20 questions per section, for a total of 60 minutes.
This section can happen either before or after the quantitative reasoning part.
Verbal reasoning includes three kinds of questions:
- Reading comprehension — You’re asked to read a passage and select a sentence in it that fits the description best.
- Sentence equivalence — You’re given a single sentence with one blank space to fill in with a word from a list.
- Text completion — You’re given a passage with blank space to fill out with words from a list.
You’ll have 90 seconds for each question in the verbal reasoning section.
3. Quantitative Reasoning Section
The Quant section on the GRE exam is essentially a math section, and it’s slightly longer than the verbal section.
There are two quantitative reasoning sections. Each one is 35 minutes long, for a total of 70 minutes.
The sections include questions about algebra, geometry, data analysis, and arithmetic.
You’ll have about a minute and 45 seconds per question in the quant section.
The questions in the quantitative section are also multiple-choice, or you may be asked to enter a numeric answer.
There’s an on-screen calculator you can use for this answer.
Both verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning scores are section-level adaptive, which means you’ll be given questions based on how well you did in the first section.
Also, in both of these, you can skip questions and come back to them later.
4. Experimental/Research Sections
You may also have a research or an experimental section.
The experimental section is unlabeled, so you won’t know which one it is when doing the test.
It normally has around 20 questions.
The identified research section is always at the end of the test, and it’s labeled.
You have the option to skip this section, and it won’t affect the GRE scores.
Both experimental and research sections are for ETS research purposes, and both are unscored.
The sections usually last for 30 to 35 minutes.
GRE Timing Tips
Here are some of the best tips on how to improve your GRE prep timing:
- Make a test preparation study plan — Do a practice test and make a study plan based on your result. Calculate how much time you should spend on preparing each test section.
- Take prep courses — The Internet is full of GRE prep courses, which can last from a couple of weeks to several months. Choose one that is based on your current knowledge level and has plenty of practice tests.
- Pace yourself — Don’t try to answer all questions on the actual exam if you don’t have time. If you try to work faster, you’ll likely make more mistakes and end up with a lower GRE score.
Mark a question and come back to it later — If you can’t think of a correct answer straight away, mark the question and come back to it later if you have enough time.
How Long Does the GRE at Home Test Take?
GRE at home takes 3 hours and 45 minutes.
How Much Does the GRE Cost?
The General GRE test fee is $205 .
How Long Will Your GRE Be?
To sum up, how long is the GRE depends on the test you’re taking.
If you're taking a computer-based test, expect it to last 3 hours and 45 minutes, and the paper GRE is 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Also, if you need additional score reports for extra score recipients, you may stay a little longer at the test center.
However, if you’re taking a GRE subject test, you’ll need around 2 hours and 50 minutes.
No matter which GRE you’re taking, make sure to follow the timing tips I’ve outlined above, as they can help improve your official scores.
To improve your GRE scores, check out our list of the best GRE prep programs.
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