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7 Reasons GRE Exam Pattern 2021 is going to be the key to success: Section Details, Score Range & more

The GRE is one of the most discussed tests that had all of us stressing about during our lives. Many international universities use the GRE exam scores to evaluate foreign students for admission in graduate programs. As a result, it is important to know about the gre exam pattern and do well on this exam in order to increase your chances of being accepted into a foreign school.

But before you go deep into the know-hows of the exam, it is crucial to understand the exam pattern of the exam to obtain a good score. Along with hard work and dedication, a bit of smart work can be the key to success. 

Keeping an eye on the GRE exam pattern and score (for 2021) will help build strategies to approach the exam. Further understanding of the sections, types of question, and time duration will help score higher marks. That is why it is essential to be familiar with the GRE Exam pattern at this point.

gre exam pattern

Here are seven key areas to concentrate on if you want to do well on the GRE exam in 2021.

1. GRE Exam Pattern for General Test 2021 and GRE Subject Test

The first thing to remember is that there are two forms of GRE exams. GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test are the two tests. The exams may seem familiar to any newcomer. However, the GRE exam and pattern are not the same, and they both serve different purposes.

GRE General Test measures a candidate’s verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. In contrast, the GRE Subject Test focuses on the candidate’s expertise in a specific subject area.

Some of the differences between the two tests

  • GRE General Test includes 3 different sections, while the GRE Subject Test consists of only one particular subject field and its related area
  • The duration for GRE General Test is 3 hours 45 minutes, while for Subject Test, the duration is 2 hours 50 minutes
  • General Tests are conducted throughout the year (computer-based), but the General Tests are conducted 3 times a year (April, September and October)
  • The General Tests have both MCQs and essay questions, while the General Tests have only MCQs.

GRE Exam Pattern and Syllabus for both the exams are different.
The differences in GRE exam pattern

GRE General Test GRE Subject Test
Computer-Based Paper Based
No. of Questions Duration No. of Questions Duration Subject Duration
Analytical Writing 2 sections 60 minutes 1 section 60 minutes Biology  2 hours and 50 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 2 sections 70 minutes 2 sections 60 minutes Chemistry  2 hours and 50 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 2 sections 80 minutes 2 sections 70 minutes English Literature 2 hours and 50 minutes
Unscored NA NA Mathematics  2 hours and 50 minutes
Research NA NA Physics  2 hours and 50 minutes
Physics  2 hours and 50 minutes

2. Difference between Computer vs Paper GRE Exam Pattern

gre computer test vs gre paper based test

Now from the above table, you might have noticed that GRE General Test is further divided into two different divisions. That is the Computer-based exam and Paper-based exam. Going by the definition, the computer-based exam is given on a computer, and the paper-based exam, well, does not involve computers (although a physical calculator is provided)
One thing to keep in mind is that GRE paper examinations are only available in regions where computer testing is not available. Hence, not everyone is qualified to appear for a Paper-based exam. GRE exam pattern and syllabus for both the exams are almost identical with the common purpose to evaluate a candidate’s skills on the Writing, Verbal and Quantitative front. 

Some notable differences between Computer and Paper GRE Exam pattern

  • The exam will last 3 hours 30 minutes (210 minutes) for paper-based exams and 3 hours 40 minutes (220 minutes) for computer-based exams.
  • Reading Comprehension is not included in the GRE paper-based exam.
  • Also, the two variable sections – Unscored and Research Sections are not included in the paper-based exam
  • The paper-based exam is held twice a year (in November and February), whereas the computer-based exam is available at any time throughout the year.

The table above shows the key differences in the GRE exam pattern and syllabus.

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3. GRE Exam Pattern 2021 – Analytical Writing, Verbal & Quantitative Reasoning

pattern of gre exam

General test

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a standardised test for getting admission into foreign universities for higher education. The test will evaluate the candidate’s quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Candidates can appear for the GRE general test on a computer or on paper. There are a total of 82 questions (80 MCQs and 2 descriptives). Candidates will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam.

The GRE question paper consists of 3 main sections, Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

Analytical Writing

Analytical Writing is the first section of the test and requires the test taker to write down 2 essays within an hour (30 minutes each). The analytical writing portion is designed to assess the test taker’s ability to express complex ideas effectively and back up ideas with relevant arguments and examples. An argument is presented, and the candidate must analyse statements and supporting facts while maintaining a well-focused discussion. 

In addition to writing skills, it is also critical to provide rational reasoning with a clear supporting example. The section tests your logic, reasoning and thought clarity.

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section tests the vocabulary and verbal ability. Sections including reading passage comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence will be assessed using multiple-choice questions. This section will assess a test taker’s ability to interpret and draw conclusions from a conversation and reason from incomplete data. Furthermore, you will be required to address the author’s point of view, differentiate major relevant points, summarise text, comprehend text structure, understand the meanings of terms, sentences, and whole paragraphs. There are two subsections under Verbal Reasoning, with 20 questions in each section.

Furthermore, these are the topics for verbal reasoning

  • Basic Sentence structure: Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives
  • Verb Tense
  • Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
  • Pronoun Agreement
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Modifiers
  • Parallelism 
Quantitative Reasoning

The quantitative section measures the ability to use mathematical concepts to solve problems. The GRE exam syllabus for Quantitative Reasoning will cover basic elementary mathematical concepts such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics. To understand, interpret, and analyse quantitative data and answer problems in this part, you’ll need basic arithmetic and reasoning skills. Candidates get 70 minutes to solve 40 questions divided into two sections (20 questions each section 35 minutes). 

Unscored Experimental section

The unscored or unidentified section is an additional experimental section in the GRE exam that is not graded. That is, there will be a section in the exam (3 verbal sections instead of 2) that is not marked or indicated during the exam. What’s interesting is that it is nearly impossible to distinguish an unscored section from a regular one. However, there is no score for performance in this section and it will not affect the overall score. The reason for including this section is to test the GRE exam’s difficulty and test the test taker’s ability. This will further help in improving the GRE pattern and score for the future. 

The Unscored section can either appear as Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section.

4. GRE Test Duration

GRE exams can be a lengthy affair. For starters, the exam can last for more than 3 and a half hour. Thus it is important to remain calm and patient while appearing for the test. 

  • The duration of a paper-based GRE exam is 3 hours and 30 minutes, whereas, for a computer-based GRE exam, the time allotted is 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • There will be a 10 minutes break midway through the exam
  • The duration of the GRE Subject test is 2 hours and 50 minutes
gre exam duration

5. GRE General Test Score Range

Under the GRE exam pattern 2021, a candidate can obtain a score between 260 to 340

Section-wise score range

a. GRE verbal reasoning: 130 – 170 points with 1 point increment

b. GRE quantitative reasoning: 130 – 170 points with 1 point increment

c. GRE analytical writing: 0 – 6 with half-point increment

The combined results of the GRE quant and verbal sections make up the overall GRE score. The GRE analytical writing test score is not factored into the final GRE score. There is no negative marking in the GRE general examination.

6. GRE Subject Test Pattern

Moving aside from the GRE General exam for a moment, let’s discuss the GRE Subject Test. This exam is more specific, and only students from different educational backgrounds can participate in the test. The exam will test the subject knowledge and expertise of a candidate in a specialised field. The GRE subject test will indicate the strengths and weaknesses of an individual in a particular area and help them stand out from other applicants. 

If a candidate applies for admission to a graduate program in a specific subject area, many universities will accept the GRE Subject Test scores to evaluate the applicant. Although the scores are not required for admission, admissions committees are likely to take them into account if they are submitted.

Currently, GRE Subject Exams are available in 6 different disciplines.

  • Biology
  • Literature in English
  • Physics 
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics 
  • Psychology 
gre subject test

GRE Subject test pattern is as follow

GRE Subject Test Number of Question
Biology  188
Literature in English 230
Physics  100
Chemistry 130
Mathematics  66
Psychology  205

The GRE subject test contains only multiple-choice questions (MCQs), and it lasts 2 hours and 50 minutes. The GRE Subject Tests are available in a paper-based format only

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7. Types of Questions with Example

Example 1

All students in a country should be required to study the same national curriculum until they enter college.

Write a response in which you discuss how much you agree or disagree with the recommendation and why you took the stance you did. Describe concrete scenarios in which accepting the recommendation would or would not help establish and support your view, and explain how these examples influence your perspective.


Example 2

“In the last year, our late-night news programme has spent more time covering national news and less time covering weather and local news. The majority of viewer complaints during this time period were related to our station’s weather and local news programming. Furthermore, local firms that used to advertise on our late-night news programme have just cancelled their contracts. As a result, we should restore the time devoted to weather and local news to its previous level in order to attract more viewers to the programme and prevent losing any additional advertising earnings.”

Write a response to explain how the evidence might weaken or strengthen the argument and what particular evidence is required to evaluate it.



The author’s (1)__________ style renders a fascinating subject, the role played by luck in everyday life, extraordinarily (2)__________.

Options for Blank(1)

Options for Blank(2)

Correct Answer: soporific and tedious

Example 1

Each employee of a corporation is assigned to either Department X or Department Y, with Department X having more than double the number of employees as Department Y. Employees in Department X earn an average (arithmetic mean) income of $25,000, while employees in Department Y get an average (arithmetic mean) income of $35,000.
Which of the following figures might be the company’s average salary for all employees?

  1. $26,000
  2. $28,000
  3. $29,000
  4. $30,000
  5. $31,000
  6. $32,000
  7. $34,000

Correct Answer: 1 and 2

Example 2

Business % change in inventory ( April – May) % change in inventory (May – June)
A 6 8


5 -5
C 2 12
D 8 -5
E 14 0
F 2 -10

Q.1 The value of Business B’s inventory in April was $30,000. What was the value of the inventory in June?

  1. $22,500
  2. $29,925
  3. $30,000
  4. $33,000
  5. $33,075

Correct Answer: 2

Q.2 From April to June, which of the six businesses had the highest percentage change in inventory?

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E

Correct Answer: 1

The following questions will help the user understand the types of questions to expect during the GRE exam. Also, check out ETS official website for more sample questions.


Q1. Is the GRE a difficult exam?
No. With good preparation, a candidate can easily pass the GRE exam. However, candidates should know that the exam is will assess their academic knowledge.

Q2. What is a good GRE score?
Candidates should know that there is no such thing as a good GRE score. However, higher GRE scores will immediately boost the chances of gaining admission to an institution. Lying in the top 75th percentile or above is competitive enough, but different universities will have different cut-offs.

Q3. Is GRE and GMAT syllabus the same?
Both the GRE and the GMAT feature sections that are similar. The Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing parts of the GRE are similar to the Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment components of the GMAT. The test difficulty varies depending on the sections for both tests.

Q4. How much time for each section of the GRE General Test?
During the GRE General Test, each task in the Analytical Writing section will be given 30 minutes; each section in Verbal Reasoning will be given 30 minutes, and each section in Quantitative Reasoning will be given 35 minutes.

Q5. What is the break period in between the GRE test?    
Both the computer-based and paper-based GRE tests will have a 10-minute break during the test.

Q6. Is the syllabus for the GRE and the CAT the same?
The syllabus for both examinations may appear to be comparable. However, the CAT’s Quants section is more intense than the GRE’s. Similarly, the GRE’s English vocabulary section is more difficult than the CAT’s.

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