GRE Exam – Paper Pattern, Syllabus, Preparation Tips

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GRE Exam Preparation Tips – The GRE tests a candidate’s ability to pursue Graduate, master and Doctoral studies in various fields like business management, engineering, law etc.,

Many colleges and universities worldwide, especially in the USA, The UK, Canada, Japan, Ireland, Hongkong, etc.,  accept GRE scores along with your GPA, letters of recommendation, and other qualifications as common grounds for admission.

The GRE general test assesses your analytical, verbal, quantitative, and writing skills, while the GRE subject test assesses your in-depth knowledge of each subject.

GRE general test is a commonly taken test, however, you can choose to register to take the test to assess and prove your knowledge of your chosen topic.

GRE Exam - Paper Pattern, Syllabus, Preparation Tips

The GRE (General Test Syllabus) and Paper Pattern

GRE General Test Syllabus

GRE general paper measures your skills that have been developing over a long period of time but are not tied to any specified course of study they are your quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, critical thinking skills and analytical writing skills. Let’s understand gre exam paper pattern in detail.

GRE exma syllabus has general test consists of 3 categories

  • Verbal Reasoning -the section assesses your ability to
    • Understand the sentence’s meaning beyond the words
    • Distinguish the relevant/ irrelevant and major/ minor important points
    • Analyse, reason and conclude
  • Quantitative reasoning- this section assesses your ability to
    • Analyse, interpret and derive conclusions from quantitative data
    • Apply basic mathematical principles
    • Use mathematical tools to solve problems.
  • Analytical writing – This section assesses your ability to
    • Articulate complex ideas and arguments effectively
    • Propose ideas and quote examples to support them
    • Communicate effectively using standard written English
Sections Verbal reasoning Quantitative Reasoning Analytical writing
Topics Reading comprehension Arithmetics Analysing an issue
text completion Algebra
Sentence Equivalence Geometry
Data analysis

GRE General Test pattern

This is a new pattern in use after 22 September 2023.

Section Number of questions Duration
Analytical writing 1 “Analyse an issue” task 30 Mins
Verbal reasoning

(2 sections)

Section 1: 12Ques

Section 2: 15Ques

Section 1: 18 Mins

Section 2: 23 Mins

Quantitative reasoning

(2 Sections)

Section 1: 12Ques

Section 2: 15Ques

Section 1: 21 Mins

Section 2: 26 Mins

Duration of the test is 1 hour 58 minutes, excluding the breaks

  • You get a 1-minute break after each section and a 10-minute break after the Analytical Writing (AW) section
  • The first section is always AW. Each of the 4 sections of Verbal Reasoning (VR) and Quantitative Reasoning (QR) will appear alternatively. For example, if the second section is VR, the third section will be QR and go on alternatively.
  • Sometimes, there are chances that an extra section of either VR or QR with additional time to answer it may appear. For example, the sections might be as follows:
    • Section2: VR
    • Section3: QR
    • Section4: VR
    • Section5: QR
    • Section6: VR
    • Since you’ll be attempting 3 Sections of VR, one will be considered an unscoring section, and its score will not be considered for your overall score.
  • You cannot identify the unscoring section, so you must attend all the sections.

Difficulty level of the sections.

The difficulty level of VR and QR is section-level adaptive, which means the difficulty level of the first section of each topic(VR and QR) is the average difficulty, and the difficulty level of the second section of each topic increases considering the total number of right answers given and its difficulty level in the previous section.

To ace the exam, it is very important to understand the gre exam paper pattern.

GRE Subject Paper Pattern and Syllabus

The GRE Subject test has no separate sections like the General test case. Hence, the duration of each test is fixed for the entire test without any scheduled breaks.


  • The GRE mathematics test has approximately 66 multiple-choice questions predominantly from undergraduate-level courses.
  • Almost half of the questions will be taken from calculus, as it is considered common for all the majors in mathematics
  • The duration of this test is 2 hours 50 minutes, which is approximately 2.5 minutes per question
Calculus 50%
Algebra 25%
Additional Topics 25%


  • The GRE Physics test consists of approximately 70 5-choice questions to be answered based on diagrams, charts, data tables or such other materials
  • The purpose of this test is to assess your knowledge of fundamental concepts in physics that you study in the first three years of your undergraduate degree.
  • Knowing a few mathematical concepts and their applications in physics is essential if you wish to take this exam.
  • The duration of the test is 2 hours, which is approximately 1.7 minutes per question
  • The questions in the paper mostly have a diversification of topics in the following percentage
Classical Mechanics 20%
Electromagnetism 18%
Optics and Wave Phenomena 8%
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 10%
Quantum Mechanics 13%
Atomic Physics 10%
Special Relativity 6%
Laboratory Methods 6%
Specialised Topics 9%


  • This test contains around 144 five-choice questions
  • Some questions may be based on the excerpts, charts or descriptions of experiments that serve as stimulus materials
  • The questions are taken from the core topics of psychology taught in undergraduate-level courses.
  • The duration of this test is 2 hours, which is approximately 1.2 minutes per question.
Biological 30 questions
Cognitive 29 questions
Social 19 questions
Developmental 18 questions
Clinical 23 questions
Measurement/Methodology/Other 25 questions

Preparation and Testing Tips for the GRE

Practice using Official preparation tools:

The ETS has its own official preparation materials in different formats to help the candidates with or without disabilities and health-related requirements for each of the categories and subjects. Using the right books you can understand the Gre exam syllabus and get good grades.

It also provides practice tests with sample questions and answers with explanations, free of cost (Paid practice tests are also available).

Make the best use of these and, to the maximum extent possible, try to mimic the real exam scenario so that it’s easier to concentrate during the actual exam.

Know your strengths and weaknesses in subjects

It is smart to know the area that you are strong in over the other. When you run short on time, you can choose the questions on topics you are strong in and attempt them instead of losing time on questions you are not very confident in.

Are different weightage given to different topics in each subject or category; strategically use it in practising topics with a higher number of questions drawn from.

Be familiar with the test pattern and duration

Knowing the test pattern and gre exam syllabus is like mapping your timetable and to-do list. This helps you to plan and prepare in advance. Allocate the right amount of time per question or compensate for the extra time spent on one question by spending less on an easier one.

No individual question weighs higher than another, so don’t waste time trying harder for the questions you find very difficult. Remember that you only have approximately 1.5 minutes to answer each question.

Try to attempt every question

This point might sound counterintuitive to the previous one, but it isn’t. The scoring pattern of the GRE does not include negative marking hence, there is no harm in just choosing an option that seems right, at least remotely.

Never leave a question unanswered.

Use the mark-and-review feature

The computer-based GRE test allows you to skip a difficult question for now and return to it later using this mark-and-review feature. here is what you can use this testing software for

  • Mark the questions that need to be revisited later.
  • View the entire list of questions to see a summary of the number of questions answered and the ones to be reviewed.
  • Review the questions you have already answered, and change the answers if necessary at the end of the test if time permits.

Take only the scheduled breaks

It might be tempting to take unscheduled breaks in between if you have not taken your practice test, mimicking the actual test environment.

You get a scheduled break of one minute after each section and an optional break of ten minutes after the third section. However, you cannot leave your seat during this break.

You can not take unscheduled breaks as the time does not stop if you take any other breaks during the test, so you lose the limited time to interruptions.

Cracking an entrance test is the first step to studying abroad. While there are a few colleges that accept students without a GRE score, there are a huge number of colleges that consider a GRE score.

Never miss out on the opportunity by skipping the test. Prepare well in advance, practice, and give your best effort to score the maximum score. All the best!

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Jaipreet Kaur

I've had the opportunity to learn more about the educational systems of many various countries thanks to my 13 years of experience in this subject. This involves coordinating applicants, keeping in touch with students, answering their inquiries, and counselling them about studying abroad.

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