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Cracking the Code: Understanding the GRE Exam Paper Pattern

Unlocking the GRE Exam Paper Pattern: Understanding Structure and Strategies

Are you an Indian student dreaming of pursuing higher education abroad? If so, you've likely heard of the GRE, a crucial step in the application process for many international universities. Understanding the GRE Exam Paper Pattern is the key to unlocking your potential and achieving your academic aspirations.

In this blog post, we'll delve into the intricacies of the GRE exam paper pattern format, guiding you through each section with clarity and insight. Whether you're just beginning your GRE journey or looking to fine-tune your preparation strategy, this comprehensive guide will empower you to navigate the exam with confidence and precision.

Get ready to decode the GRE Exam Paper Pattern and embark on your path to success!


GRE Exam Paper Pattern for General Test and GRE Subject Test

The first thing to remember is that there are two forms of GRE. GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test are the two tests. The exams may seem familiar to any newcomer. 

In contrast, the GRE Subject Test focuses on the candidate’s expertise in a specific subject area.However, the GRE Exam paper pattern is different, and they both serve different purposes.

  • 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 exams are different.

Here is the differences in GRE exam Paper 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

 Difference between Computer vs GRE Exam Paper Pattern

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. Look at the GRE test   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)

Some notable differences between Computer and Paper GRE Exam paper 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 anytime throughout the year.
  • The table above shows the key differences in the GRE exam paper pattern and syllabus.

GRE Exam Paper Pattern – Analytical Writing, Verbal & Quantitative Reasoning

1. 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.

2. Analytical Writing

  • The first section of the test requires the test taker to write two essays within an hour (30 minutes each).
  • The analytical writing portion assesses the test taker’s ability to express complex ideas effectively and back up ideas with relevant arguments and examples.
  •  In addition to writing skills, it is critical to provide rational reasoning with a clear supporting example. This section tests your logic, reasoning, and thought clarity.

3. 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 test takers' ability to interpret and draw conclusions from conversations and reason from incomplete data. There are two subsections under Verbal Reasoning, with 20 questions in each section. 
  • Furthermore, you will be required to address the author’s point of view, differentiate major relevant points, summarise text, comprehend text structure, and understand the meanings of terms, sentences, and whole paragraphs. 

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 

Unscored Experimental section

The unscored or unidentified section is an additional experimental section in the GRE 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. Interestingly, 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. 

GRE Test Duration

images/blogs/contentImages/GRE Exam.jpg

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. 

GRE Exam Type Duration Break
Paper-based GRE 3 hours and 30 mins 10 minutes midway
Computer-based GRE 3 hours and 45 mins 10 minutes midway
GRE Subject Test 2 hours and 50 mins No break

GRE General Test Score Range

Under the GRE exam paper pattern, The GRE General Test is a standardized exam used for graduate school admissions, assessing verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Understanding the score range for each section is crucial for setting realistic goals and evaluating your performance.

Section-wise score range:-

Section Score Range Time Allotted
Verbal Reasoning 130 - 170 35 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 130 - 170 35 minutes
Analytical Writing (each essay) 0 - 6 (in half-point increments) 30 minutes
Total (Verbal + Quantitative) 260 - 340 -


  • Total test time is typically around 3 hours and 45 minutes, including breaks.
  • An unscored research section may appear at the end of the test, adding an additional 30 to 35 minutes.

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.

 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. 

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.

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

  • Biology
  • Literature in English
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Psychology 

GRE Subject test pattern is as follow

images/blogs/contentImages/GRE General Test Score.jpg

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 

Types of Questions with Examples


Analytical Writing

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.

Verbal Reasoning 


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

Quantitative Reasoning

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
B 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?


Correct Answer: 2

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


Correct Answer: 1


In conclusion, mastering the GRE exam paper pattern is pivotal for success in this critical academic milestone. By understanding the structure, types of questions, and time management strategies, test-takers can significantly enhance their performance. 

Therefore, thorough preparation, consistent practice, and a strategic approach are essential. Stay informed with the latest updates and utilize reliable resources to guide your study plan. As you embark on this journey, maintaining a balanced and confident mindset will be your greatest asset. With dedication and perseverance, achieving a high score on the GRE is well within your reach.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Know Your Author
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Abhyank Srinet
Study Abroad Expert
Abhyank Srinet, the founder of, is a globally recognized expert in study abroad and admission consulting.His passion lies in helping students navigate the complex world of admissions and achieve their academic dreams. Having earned a Master's degree in Management from ESCP Europe, Abhyank's expertise in data-driven marketing strategies has driven growth for some of the most competitive industries. As the founder of, he has helped thousands of students get into top business schools with a strong emphasis on research, shortlisting, and applying to schools from a single platform. His dedication to education has also led him to create MentR-Me, a free-to-use social platform that simplifies the study abroad process for students, while providing universities with a powerful recruitment tool. As a leader in the field of admission consulting, he is constantly researching and implementing the latest strategies to ensure that his clients receive the best possible guidance. He leads the Business Development and Digital Marketing side of both companies, and has grown both ventures to 7 figure revenue.His unique insights, experience, and dedication to his clients make him a valuable resource for anyone seeking to advance their education or career.
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