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What's on the GRE?

Chris Lele
Lesson by Chris Lele
Magoosh Expert
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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: In what order do the sections come on the actual test?

A: From ETS: "The Analytical Writing section will always be first. The Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and unidentified/unscored sections may appear in any order; therefore, you should treat each section as if it counts toward your score." (source: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/content/cbt)

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In this video, we are going to talk about the GRE format, what to expect in terms of the sections that are on the test, and the length of those sections. So first off, there is something called the AWA section. That stands for Analytical Writing Assessment. You don't really have to know that, what you should know is, when you see AWA, think, the essay section.

Next, you're gonna have a quantitative section, and that consists of two sections. Just as the AWA consists of two essays, a quantitative section consists of two sections. Next, we have the verbal, which also consists of two sections. A lot of 2, 2 and 2 going on here, note that consistency.

But then, we have this crazy section, called the experimental section. The experimental section is just going to be one section, just one section. Now, what is the experimental section? I think that's the question that a lot of people have. It's a strange section, because it's not actually graded. Secondly, there is no way for you to determine whether a section you're getting is an experimental section.

Next, you don't know if that experimental section's gonna be quantitative or verbal. So if you get a test, and that test has three quantitative sections, that is at the end of the test you finish up, and there are three, not two. That you can at least infer that one of those sections was the experimental section. Again, there's really no way of telling, so always do your best, and always expect this experimental section.

Now, you're probably wondering how much time does all of this take? Well, let's start with the essays. We have here the issue essay, which takes 30 minutes. Now, you may be tempted to ask, tell me more. What do you mean by the issue essay? For now, or at least in this video, we're dealing more with high level, big picture, what are the names of the sections, and how long do they give you.

But if you're really tempted, you can navigate on the lessons page down to where it says the essay section, the AWA section. And you can click on the video entitled Issue. And you can learn more about the issue, and you can also learn more about the argument. But for now, this video, we want to remember there are two essay, Issue and Argument, and you get 30 minutes for both essays.

So basically, you'll be writing for one hour. Next, there is, as we mentioned, quantitative or math section. So those are used interchangeably, quantitative means math, math means quantitative. And in this case, we have 20 questions, and you have 35 minutes for the entire section.

Now, you'll note that that works out to not quite two minutes, but actually, a minute and 45 seconds per question. So that's something to keep in mind when we go into the pacing video, which comes later. As for the verbal section, same number of questions, but actually five fewer minutes, which works down to a minute and a half per question.

Again, good thing to keep in mind when it comes to pacing. What does this all mean though? Well, in terms of total hours, four hours. Now you may wonder, well, how does that actually work? 4+ is an awfully long time, I'm spending an hour here of top on the essays. Then, the three plus hours with these sections.

But remember, you're gonna have multiple math sections and multiple verbal sections. And you throw the experimental section, next thing, you are clocking in at over four hours. And of course, there's always checking, and sitting down and answering a few questions, determining whether or not you wanna keep your score at the end.

All of that feeds into this four plus hour mark. Now, while I'm at this screen, I think something is important, is the flow of the sections. Some people want think, well, you get a math section. It's followed by another math section followed by a verbal section, and it's something very orderly.

But remember, there's an experimental section here, so they really wanna randomize things as much as possible. What that means is, that the math section may be the very first section you see, or maybe you'll see the verbal section. Maybe you'll get back to back verbal sections, or maybe there'll be a math section in between.

Or maybe the very first section you see is an experimental verbal section, maybe an experimental math section. So again, a lot of randomness. Try not to get thrown off test day, just expect anything. Once you're done with these two essays, which, by the way, are always in this order, you will start off with the issue followed by the argument.

But after that, it could be math, verbal, it could be an experimental section, you don't know, just keep yourself prepared. And again, when you finish that first section, the next section you get, well, it could be a math section, or that is it could be the same section as you got in the first section. You don't really know, so again, be agile as possible.

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Intro to the GRE