What's on the GRE®?
Kaplan is here to make sure you know exactly what to expect from the GRE. Learn about the format, questions, and scoring system of the exam.
Find prep near you
Pick your course option
GRE Prep Course
GRE Prep Course includes:
- Taking a simulated GRE at an actual testing facility—a Kaplan exclusive.
- Dynamic, classroom sessions featuring comprehensive instruction by expert teachers
- 5,000+ practice questions, including Quiz Bank to create custom quizzes
- 7 full-length computer-based practice tests
- More than 180 hours of online instruction and practice
- Convenient class times and locations
- Free make-up sessions: live classroom sessions or self-paced
- The following books: GRE Premier: Course Book Edition, GRE Math Workbook, GRE Verbal Workbook, and GRE Pocket Reference
- An exclusive flashcard app for on-the-go study, available for iOS and Android™ devices*
GRE Prep PLUS Course
Everything in our GRE Prep Course, PLUS personal coaching and additional math help:
- 3 hours of one-on-one time, live online with a GRE expert (over $400 value): Personalized coaching, review and analysis of practice test results, assistance building a study plan, and guidance on the graduate school application process.
- GRE Math Foundations - Self-Paced ($299 value): A collection of online videos and practice questions designed to build a strong foundation in the basic math skills essential for success on the GRE (on demand lessons & online workshops, and 400+ practice questions).
- GRE Advanced Math - Self-Paced ($299 value): In-depth online course covering the most advanced math topics you’ll see on the GRE (Instructional videos that break down each topic to make the difficult math easy to understand, 200+ high-difficulty practice questions, and immediate feedback after practice quizzes and lessons).
If you are on the path to graduate school and expect to take the GRE in the future, it’s crucial that you be up-to-date on what exactly you’ll face on Test Day. It’s like an endurance sport that requires sustained energy and focus, and just like an endurance sport, you’ll need to train beforehand. Just like a cross-country skier needs ski poles and special boots, you’ll need a special set of skills to master the GRE.
At a high level, the GRE contains two essays, at least two quantitative and two verbal sections, and one experimental or research section. Testing lasts a total of four hours from beginning to end. Let’s explore each section in more detail.
The Quantitative Section
Each quantitative section has approximately 20 questions to complete in 35 minutes, giving you between 1.5 – 2 minutes per question. On the GRE, you will see all the QCs first, then PS questions. Near the end of the PS questions, you’ll encounter the Data Interpretation questions, presented as a set.
Quantitative Comparison (QC) questions ask you to compare two quantities – Quantity A and Quantity B – and to identify the relationship between the two. You’ll likely see about 7-8 of these in each quant section. To master these, be familiar with the answer choices and with shortcut methods that allow you to compare rather than calculate.
The most common Problem Solving questions are standard multiple choice questions, with five choices and one correct answer. Variants include questions that ask you to select one or more answer choices from a list of choices (multiple choice all-that-apply) and questions that ask you to enter your answer in a box (numeric entry.) To master PS questions, be familiar with the math foundations that are tested as well as strategies that allow you to approach calculations strategically.
There are also a handful of Problem Solving questions associated with a set of charts or graphs. These are Data Interpretation Questions. The questions—there will typically be three of them—work like other PS Qs, but it’s important to note that gleaning the information from the graphs is the key to answering these questions.
The Verbal Section
Each verbal section has approximately 20 questions to complete in 30 minutes, giving you between 1 – 4 minutes per question, depending on the type. Each Verbal section will start with Text Completions, then you’ll see a block of 4–5 Reading Comp questions, then the block of Sentence Equivalence questions, and you’ll finish up with a second block of RC.
Text Completion (TC) questions ask you to fill in the blank to complete sentences. Variations include 1-, 2-, and 3-Blank questions. You’ll encounter approximately six of these in each verbal section, and you should aim to complete each of them at an average of 1 – 1.5 minutes per question. To master these, you’ll need to work on building your vocabulary as well as using context clues from the sentence to make predictions for the blanks.
Sentence Equivalence (SE) questions require you to fill in a single blank with two choices that create a complete, coherent sentence while producing sentences that are logically similar in meaning. You will encounter approximately four SE questions in each verbal section, and should aim to complete each of them at an average of 1 minute per question. As with TC questions, you’ll need to work on building your vocabulary and pulling out context clues in order to master SE questions.
The Analytical Writing section tests both your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. You will be scored on your ability to articulate and support ideas as well as analyze and construct arguments.
The Analytical Writing section consists of two separately timed tasks.
A 30-minute Issue Essay
The Issue task presents an opinion on an issue followed by specific instructions on how to respond. You must evaluate the issue and develop an argument with support for your side of the issue.
A 30-minute Argument Essay
The Argument task requires you to analyze and critique an argument. You must evaluate the logical soundness of the argument rather than take a side.
Unscored Sections: Experimental or Research
The unscored, so-called “experimental” section and Research section have no effect on your score. You may see either, but not both, on your test. Let’s talk about them separately for a moment. The unscored section, if you have one on your test, will appear among the scored sections in any order. You will not be able to distinguish it from the scored sections. What does that mean for you as a test taker? You should do your best on all of the Quant and Verbal sections. The Research section is a little different. It will always come at the end of the test and it will always be identified as an unscored section. The test maker may offer you an incentive for completing the section or for performing well on it. So, read the instructions and decide whether you want to take the section. Your score will not be affected either way.
So, why does the GRE include unscored and/or Research sections? It’s because the test maker is testing out new questions. In unscored sections, they’re trying out new items in familiar formats (QC, PS, etc.). In Research sections, the GRE is actually trying out new question formats. A couple of years ago, for example, All-That-Apply Quant questions appeared only in Research sections. Now, they’re part of the test.
Make sure that as you study and prepare for Test Day, you develop an approach and are comfortable with every question type and content area you can master. If you’re comfortable with the content, have a strategic approach, and pace yourself carefully, you’ll meet or exceed your goals on Test Day.