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About the GRE Exam

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) measures a student’s ability to understand and process elements of Verbal reasoning, Mathematical reasoning, and Writing skills associated with critical thinking and analysis. The GRE is used by graduate schools, in the application process, to assess skills in these non-specific areas of abstract thinking. Whether the GRE holds much weight with admitting a potential graduate student depends upon the school. 

The exam may be administered on the computer or on paper, though in the United States it is much more likely that the exam will be taken on the computer. Proceeding sections will assume the exam will be administered on a computer. 

The GRE consists of five, or six, sections: 

  • Analytical Writing:

    • One 45 minute Issue task 

    • One 30 minute Argument task 

  • Verbal: one 30 minute section (30 questions) 

  • Mathematics: one 45 minute section (28 questions)

  • Unscored: one Writing, Verbal or Mathematics section 

  • Research: One section, which will be identified as a Research section, may be included. This is an unscored section, and will always be placed at the end of the exam. 


Analytical Writing Section: 
The Analytical Writing section will always be the first section on the GRE, and includes two separate writing prompts. One prompt will present an issue task – two topics will be presented at the beginning of the section, and the test-taker is to write on one topic. The other prompt will present an argument task – one topic (an argument on some concept) will be presented. The assignment is to both critique the argument and present improvements on logic and support of the stated argument. 

Verbal Section: 
The Verbal section of the GRE consists of 30 questions on concepts centered about what a student would learn throughout their college career. Specific questions break down into four types: 6-10 reading comprehension questions, 5-7 sentence completion questions, 6-8 analogy questions, and 8-10 antonym questions. The test-taker has 30 minutes to complete the multiple-choice section, where question types follow no specific pattern. 

Mathematics Section: 
The Mathematics, or Quantitative, section consists of 28 questions on concepts that all college students are exposed to by the time they graduate. Topics include: arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis. This 45-minute section is composed of three question types: 10 discrete quantitative questions (standard multiple-choice questions), four data interpretation questions (questions accompany charts or graphs), and 14 quantitative comparison questions (the test-taker is to compare quantities in two columns & indicate which column’s quantity is greater). Question types in this section also follow no specific pattern. 

Unscored Section: 
The unscored, or experimental, section of the GRE is an additional Analytical Writing, Verbal, or Mathematics section. Thus, the length of the section can vary, depending on the type. The section contains potential questions, or prompt, to be administered on a future GRE exam. Note that this section is mixed in with the exam, and thus it is unknown whether any particular section on the exam is unscored. 

Research Section (possible): 
The Research section of the GRE may or may not be on the exam. If it is, it will be at the end of the exam, and will be identified. There is no indicated time length, or specification of types of questions in the section. This section is unscored. 

GRE Scoring: 
The Analytical Writing section of the GRE is holistically scored by two, or more, readers. As for the multiple-choice sections, subsequent questions in each scored section are based on whether current questions are answered correctly. If any given question is answered correctly, then the next question will increase in difficulty. If that question is answered correctly, then the next question will increase in difficulty. If it is answered incorrectly, then the next question will decrease in difficulty. Section scores are based on both the number of correctly answered questions and the difficulty level of such correctly answered questions. The composite score of the multiple-choice sections will range from 200 – 800. Upon completion of the computer-based GRE the test taker will instantly receive 
Verbal and Mathematics section scores, with scores ranging from 200 – 800.

Most Commonly Asked Questions

  • When can I take the GRE? The GRE exam can be administered throughout the year at qualified computer-based testing centers. The next page features the three closest testing centers to the Monterey Peninsula. To register for the GRE, call: 1-800-GRE-CALL (1-800-473-2255). You can also register online at:

  • What kind of calculator can I bring on exam day? No calculators are allowed for any portion of the GRE. 

  • What is the average GRE score? To have a good sense of an appropriate GRE score, a potential graduate student should check average scores per their universities of choice. But, in general, a Verbal section score of 550 and a Mathematics section score of 700 are considered acceptable.

  • How long does the ACT exam take? The exam takes about three-and-a-half hours to complete.

  • When I submit scores to colleges, can I send scores of specific sections only? No, when scores are submitted to colleges or universities, the entire composite score must be sent. 

GRE Computer - Based Testing Centers 

  • Prometric Testing Center 
    4030 Moorpark Avenue, Suite 280 
    San Jose, CA 95117 
    Phone: (408) 246-0072 

  • Prometric Testing Center 
    48860 Milmont Drive, Suite 103C 
    Fremont, CA 94538 
    Phone: (510) 249-9179 

  • Prometric Testing Center 
    400 Oyster Point Blvd, Suite 101 
    South San Francisco, CA 94080 
    Phone: (650) 244-9558 

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