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What Do I Need to Know for the GRE® Test?

By Melanie On Mar 13, 2019 In  General GRE Study Plans 


If you hope to attend graduate school in the United States, it is more than likely that the schools you are eyeing will require you to take the GRE® test. The GRE® test (or Graduate Record Examination) is a computer-based exam that measures general knowledge and skills in three main areas: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing. The exam takes a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes. Today we will take a brief look at the material each exam section covers and what you can expect on test day.

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing Assessment, or AWA, is the first section you will face on the GRE® test. The AWA is scored separately from the rest of the exam on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 increments. There are two essays required for the AWA: an issue statement and an argument criticism. For the issue statement, examinees must read a paragraph on a particular issue and then logically address the topic with examples and sound reasoning. Likewise, the argument criticism begins with a reading portion. However, instead of crafting your own opinion, this section requires you to criticize a stated opinion. The ETS (Educational Testing Service), which crafts the GRE, has released a pool of possible topics for each essay, giving test takers the opportunity to prepare.


The verbal portion of the GRE® test is similar to many standardized exams you have taken. For example, practicing vocabulary is a large part of studying for the GRE® test. Understanding a broad range of words in context is essential for success. Additionally, you will need good reading comprehension, grammar skills, and a basic understanding of logic. The verbal portion of the computerized test includes 30 adaptive questions (meaning the difficulty and content is affected by your answers), and it must be completed in 30 minutes.


Unlike the verbal section, the quantitative portion of the GRE® test is different from other general knowledge exams. This is because it is designed to test reasoning skills rather than mathematical knowledge. Instead of simply working through difficult problems, test-takers are asked to use high school-level math concepts in two sections: problem-solving and comparative contexts. Each section contains 20 questions and allows 35 minutes for completion. While the questions are engineered to be a bit confusing at first glance, your role is to parse the available information and use reasoning to find an answer. Practicing mental math like estimation will help your speed and accuracy.

All in all, the GRE® test is not especially different from other entrance exams. With good preparation and a cool head, you can achieve your ideal score. If you are looking for ways to prepare for the GRE® test that will guarantee great results, consider EMPOWER Test Prep's course for the GRE® test. Visit our homepage for more information and a course tour.