How Long Is the GRE? Tips to Manage Your Time Wisely

The GRE is often required for graduate school applications. A good score can open doors. Learn the test structure and time management tips to succeed.

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by Alison Plaut

Published on June 20, 2022 · Updated on June 21, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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How Long Is the GRE? Tips to Manage Your Time Wisely
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Many graduate programs, including an increasing number of business schools, require the GRE for admission. One of the most widely accepted graduate admission exams, the GRE tests your writing, critical thinking, math, and verbal skills — but its length can intimidate some test-takers.

Read on for key time management tips to help you earn a good GRE score on test day.

How Long Is the GRE Test?

The total GRE test length is about three hours and 45 minutes. The test consists of:

The AW section, which entails two 30-minute essays, always comes first. After that, you'll get a mix of Verbal and Quant sections (and either an unscored or research section).

You'll get a 10-minute break after the third section. You'll also get a short one-minute break between each section.

Test-takers should plan to arrive early to sign in and get settled before the GRE begins.

How Many Questions Are on the GRE?

The GRE starts with two 30-minute AW tasks. Each task involves a single essay topic. Two Verbal sections and two Quant sections appear afterward in any order.

You may also get an unidentified unscored section, which presents questions that are being tried out for future tests. Your performance on the unscored section does not impact your overall GRE score. Like the Verbal and Quant sections, this section can appear anywhere after AW.

Instead of an unscored section, you may receive an identified research section. If you do, this section will appear last and include a clear indication that it is a research section. Like the unscored section, the research section does not impact your GRE score. The number of questions on the unscored and research sections varies.

Each Verbal and Quant section contains 20 questions, making the overall test (excluding the unscored or research section) 82 questions long, including the two AW tasks.

GRE Sections, Questions, and Time
Section Number of Questions Time Time per Question
Analytical Writing: Analyze an Issue 1 essay prompt 30 minutes
Analytical Writing: Analyze an Argument 1 essay prompt 30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 20 30 minutes 90 seconds
Verbal Reasoning 20 30 minutes 90 seconds
Quantitative Reasoning 20 35 minutes 105 seconds
Quantitative Reasoning 20 35 minutes 105 seconds
Unscored or Research Varies Varies (about 30 min)
Total 82 scored questions About 225 minutes

Source: ETS

5 GRE Time Management Tips and Strategies

A key component of GRE prep is learning time management tips and strategies you can use on test day. Practicing these simple strategies can help improve your GRE performance.

1. Memorize the Format and Directions

Memorizing the format and directions can save valuable time. Each GRE section has the same instructions. You can maximize the time you have to spend on answering questions by becoming familiar with the test format and directions ahead of time.

Memorizing the format and directions can also raise your confidence on test day. Test-takers comfortable with the format are less likely to make mistakes due to misreading the directions.

2. Answer the Easiest Questions First

Aim to answer the easiest questions first. Doing this ensures you have ample time to answer questions that are more complex or tricky.

The GRE allows test-takers to go back to previous questions. After answering the easy questions, tackle the remaining questions. Just be sure not to spend too long on any one question! If necessary, make an educated guess — there's no penalty for wrong answers, so it's best to put something down.

3. Use the Process of Elimination

Most GRE questions follow a multiple-choice format. You can use the process of elimination to narrow down your answers. By eliminating a few obvious wrong answers, it's easier to see the correct choice(s).

You can also use this strategy if you run out of time and need to answer quickly or make a logical guess.

4. Leave Yourself Time to Return to Questions You Skipped

It's often better to pass on any questions that seem too difficult the first time through. To do this effectively, test-takers need to leave enough time at the end to review all the questions. On challenging questions, the process of elimination is a good strategy you can use to help narrow down answers.

It's better to make educated guesses on the remaining questions than to leave them blank. Consider using the same answer choice on each guessed question to increase the chance of correct answers.

5. Check for Mistakes and Formatting Errors (Time Permitting)

If time permits, go back and check for mistakes or formatting errors. A quick pass through to check answers after each section can help you catch errors or incorrect answer formats. Plan to use all the time available, even if you finish early. Never stop working until time is up!

How to Manage Your Time for Each GRE Section

Each GRE section requires a slightly different test-taking strategy. Be sure to practice ahead of time to see how you perform on each section and so you can come prepared with a plan.

Analytical Writing Tasks

The two AW tasks are each 30 minutes long and ask you to write on a set essay topic. This section is designed to test your ability to articulate and support complex ideas and construct arguments. To succeed here, you need to allow enough time to write your essay with clear logic.

Quantitative Reasoning Sections

Quant covers arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

You'll have about one minute and 45 seconds per math question; however, you'll want to move faster on the easier questions to give yourself more time to tackle harder questions. Easy questions can usually be answered in under a minute, while difficult questions could take up to three minutes.

Plugging in numbers and using close estimation to eliminate clearly wrong answers can save you time. If a question is taking too long, make an educated guess and come back to it at the end.

Verbal Reasoning Sections

You'll get an average of 90 seconds per question on Verbal. Questions are divided into three categories: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence.

For Text Completion questions, using word tone and eliminating outlier words can save you time selecting the correct answer. Be sure to read questions carefully, as the GRE can phrase them in a way that easily misleads test-takers who are rushing.

Figuring Out the Right Pace for You

The best way to figure out the right pace is to practice with timed GRE practice tests. Practice tests can help you figure out a pace that works for you and a strategy for each section. They can also help you pinpoint your biggest strengths and weaknesses, including which sections typically take you longer.

Prioritize official GRE practice tests available on the ETS website, as these will be most similar to what you'll see on test day. You can also find high-quality practice tests in GRE prep books and GRE prep courses.

Even test-takers who are confident with the material tested on the GRE can benefit from practicing with full-length tests. Many questions require you to think deeply and understand convoluted wording. Practicing ahead of time can be your ticket to getting the GRE score you need to get into grad school.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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