GRE Exam – Full form, Types, Syllabus, Cost, Scores, and Validity



GRE, or the Graduate Record Examinations, is a standardized computer-based exam that Educational Testing Services (ETS) conducts. There are two types of GRE tests – General and Subject Tests. If you are planning to go to graduate school to pursue MBA, doctoral degree, or JD, take the GRE General Test. However, take the GRE Subject Test if you want to showcase your knowledge about a particular field. The format and syllabus for the two types of GRE are different. 


This article will cover all you need to know about the GRE. Learn about what GRE is, how it is scored, what topics are tested, how are the GRE scores calculated, and its validity. 

GRE Exam – An Overview

The full form of GRE is Graduate Record Examinations, a multiple-choice standardized test. GRE General Test is a computer-based exam; however, you can take the paper-based exam, which is offered twice a year in November and February. But, it is only available in areas where computer-delivered testing is unavailable. Most countries can take the computer-based GRE General Test throughout the year. 

The GRE Subject Test is a paper-based exam that can be taken three times a year – April, September, and October. 

Here is an overview of the GRE exam 2022:

GRE Full Form Graduate Record Examinations 
Developer Educational Testing Service (ETS)
GRE Format Computer and Paper 
Type of GRE General and Subject Test 
GRE General Test sections Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Verbal Reasoning 
GRE Subject Test sections No sections
GRE General Test duration 3 hours 45 minutes 
GRE Subject Test duration 2 hours 50 minutes 
GRE General Test fees $213 in India
GRE Subject Test fees $ 150
GRE Validity 5 Years 
GRE General Test score range 260 to 340 
GRE Subject Test score range 200 to 990
Skipping the question Yes
Rescheduling and Cancellation servicesYes 

GRE General Test 

The GRE General Test assesses your quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and verbal reasoning skills. Prospective graduates and business school applicants who are interested in pursuing a master’s, law degree, doctoral, MBA, or specialized master’s in business take the GRE General Test. 

Around 467,277 candidates took the GRE between July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020. The majority of the candidates who took the GRE were undergraduates from Life Sciences (19%), Social and Behavioural Science (13%), and Engineering/Physical Science (12%).

Of the candidates who took GRE, the majority of them intended to pursue Life Science (22%), followed by Physical Science (16%), Engineering (12%), Social/Behavioural Science (12%), and Business (9%). 

GRE Subject Test 

GRE Subject Test assesses your knowledge of a particular field of study. It is designed for students who have an extensive background or an undergraduate degree in one of these four disciplines:

  1. Mathematics 
  2. Chemistry 
  3. Physics 
  4. Psychology 

Around 53,853 candidates took the GRE Subject Test, with 7,815 candidates taking Chemistry, 14,666 Mathematics, 19,955 Physics, and 11,417 Psychology between July 2017 to June 30, 2020. 

GRE exam syllabus, pattern, type of questions  

This section will look into the General and Subject Test patterns. GRE General Test is available in two formats – paper and computer-based, whereas GRE subject test is available only in paper-based form. 

GRE General Test 

GRE General Test – Computer-based Test 

The GRE General test syllabus is divided into three sections:

  1. Analytical Writing – 1 section 
  2. Quantitative Reasoning – 2 sections 
  3. Verbal Reasoning – 2 sections 

The above sections measure your quantitative, verbal, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. The test features questions that reflect your skills to succeed in graduate and business schools.

Here is a brief overview of the three-section under the GRE General Test:

GRE General Test No. of questions Time Measures Type of question
Analytical Writing 2 question 60 minutes Test your analytical wiring and critical thinking skills Analyze an Issue and Analyse an Argument 
Quantitative Reasoning 40 questions 70 minutes Algebra, arithmetic, geometry, and data analysis Quantitative Comparison, Multiple-choice (Select one answer), Multiple-choice (Select one/more answer), and Numeric Entry questions 
Verbal Reasoning 40 questions 60 minutes Test your ability to understand the meaning of the entire text, words, and sentencesSentence Equivalence Questions, Text Completion, and Reading comprehension
Unscored or Research Question Varies Varies – – 
Analytical Writing 

The GRE Analytical Writing section measures your ability to articulate complex ideas effectively, examine and support claims with relevant reasoning, and sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion. There are two timed questions under this section for which you get 1 hour to answer (30 minutes for each question). 

The GRE Analytical Writing section consists of two separately timed tasks: 

  • Analyze an Issue task assesses your ability to think critically about a topic of general interest and comprehensively express your thoughts in writing. There will be a problem statement that makes a claim. You need to discuss the claim from various perspectives and apply them to many different conditions and situations. 
  • Analyze an Argument task assesses your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments and convey your evaluation in writing. There will be a brief passage where the author makes a case for some course of action backed by evidence. You need to discuss and analyze the logical soundness of the author’s claim.
Quantitative Reasoning

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to understand, interpret, and analyse quantitative information and solve problems using mathematical models. There are two sub-sections under Quantitative Reasoning with 20 questions per section. The total time to complete this section is 70 minutes (35 minutes per section). 

This section tests your introductory algebra, geometry, arithmetic, and data analysis skills:

  • Arithmetic: include topics like types and properties of integers, arithmetic operations, and exponents and roots. It also includes concepts such as ratio, percentage, sequences of numbers, absolute value, rate, and decimal representation. 
  • Algebra: include topics like factoring, relations, exponents, equations, inequalities, linear equations, inequalities, word problems, and quadratic equations. 
  • Geometry: include topics like circles, triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, area, perimeter, volume, and perpendicular lines. 
  • Data Analysis includes topics like basic descriptive statistics,  interpretation of data in graphs and tables, elementary probability, conditional probability, and counting methods such as permutation, combinations, and Venn diagram. 
Verbal Reasoning 

The GRE Verbal Reasoning section measures your ability to analyze, reason, and draw conclusions from incomplete data. You need to identify the author’s perception and assumptions to understand the multiple levels of meaning of the author’s intent. 

This section tests your ability to analyze parts of sentences and recognize relationships among concepts and words. This section includes three types of questions:

  • Text completion questions: You get a passage composed of one to five sentences with one to three blanks. You need to find the correct answer from three or five answer choices. 
  • Reading Comprehension questions: You will get multiple choice questions where you need to select one or more than one answer choice. There is another type of question under reading comprehension where you are asked to choose the sentence in the passage that meets a specific description. 
  • Sentence Equivalence questions: You will get questions that consist of a single sentence, one blank, and six answer choices. You need to select two of the answer choices. 

GRE General Test – Paper-based Test

The paper-based GRE General Test has 6 sections, and it takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the test. The types of questions in each section for both computer and paper-delivered exams remain the same, except for reading comprehension, where the select-in-passage questions are not included in the paper-based test. Take a look at the number of questions asked for the GRE paper-based test:

GRE General Test SectionsNo. of questions Time 
Analytical Writing 22 questions 60 minutes 
Quantitative Reasoning 250 questions 80 minutes 
Verbal Reasoning 250 questions 70 minutes 
Total 6102 questions 210 minutes 

GRE Subject Test

The GRE Subject Test evaluates your knowledge about a particular field. There are four types of subject tests you can take:

  1. Chemistry
  2. Mathematics
  3. Physics 
  4. Psychology 

The total testing time for GRE Subject Tests is 2 hours 50 minutes, and there are no separately timed sections. Here is a brief overview of the GRE Subject Test: 

GRE Subject Test No. Of questions Type of questions Topics 
Chemistry 130Multiple-choice Analytical Chemistry (15%), Inorganic Chemistry (25%), Organic Chemistry (30%), and Physical Chemistry (30%)
Mathematics66Multiple-choice Calculus (50%), Algebra (25%), and Additional Topics (25%)
Psychology 205Multiple-choice Biological (17-21%), Cognitive (17-24%), Social (12-14%), Developmental (12-14%), Clinical (15-19%), and Measurement/Methodology/Other (15-19%)
Physics 100Five-choice questions Classical Mechanics (20%), Electromagnetism (18%), Optics and wave Phenomena (9%), Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (10%), Quantum Mechanics (12%), Atomic Physics (10%), Special Relativity (6%), Laboratory Methods (6%), and Specialized Topics (9%)

Chemistry Test

There are approx. 130 multiple-choice questions related to the four fields of chemistry – analytical chemistry (15%), inorganic chemistry (25%), organic chemistry (30%), and physical chemistry (30%). The Chemistry test questions are instructed to simplify mathematical manipulations; thus, neither calculators nor tables of logarithms are needed. If any question requires using logarithms, the necessary values will be provided in the question. 

Mathematics Test 

There are approx. 66 multiple-choice questions from which approx. 50% involve calculus and its applications. About 25% of the questions are related to linear algebra, abstract algebra, elementary algebra, and number theory. The remaining questions involve topics related to other areas of mathematics that you would have studied during your undergraduate. 

Physics Test 

There are approx. 100 five-choice questions. Some questions will be grouped in sets and based on materials such as graphs, diagrams, experimental data, and descriptions of physical situations. The test aims to evaluate your grasp of the fundamental principles and your ability to apply those principles to solve the question. 

Psychology Test 

There are approx. 205 multiple-choice questions drawn from what you may have studied while pursuing your undergraduate degree. To solve a question, you will need to recall factual information, analyze relationships, apply principles, and draw conclusions from data. Some stimulus materials, such as a graph or description of an experiment, may serve as the basis for several questions.

GRE section order 

The GRE general exam starts with Analytical Writing always. Post completing the Analytical Writing section,  the Verbal, Quant, and un/scored sections can appear in any order. Thus, you should treat each section as if it counts toward your score. 

The GRE subject test does not have sections. 

GRE score and percentile 

In this section, we will look at the GRE General and Subject Test scores and associated percentile ranking. 

GRE General Test 

To calculate the total GRE General Test scores, only the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are considered. The lowest possible score that you can get is 260 (130 for each section), and the highest score that you can get is 340 (170 for each section). So, the total GRE General Test score ranges from 260 to 340. 

Here is how your GRE General Test score ranges for each section:

GRE General test Score Range Average GRE score (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020)
Verbal Reasoning 130 to 170, in 1 point increment 150.37
Quantitative Reasoning 130 to 170, in 1 point increment 153.66
Analytical Writing 0 to 6, in half-point increment 3.60

The average GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning score are 150.37 and 153.66, respectively. The average GRE Analytical Writing score is 3.60. 

Remember that each section of the GRE General Test is measured differently. Thus, you should not compare your section scores directly. For instance, a score of 150 on Verbal is not equivalent to 150 on the Quant section. Instead, to measure your relative performance, you can look at the percentile rank associated with your score. For example, the scaled score of 150 on the verbal section equals 44%ile, whereas it is 35%ile on the Quant side. 

GRE General Test Percentile Ranking 

Take a look at the percentile ranking based on the performance of test-takers between July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2020:

GRE Scaled Score Quantitative Reasoning percentile Verbal Reasoning percentile  Analytical Writing score scale Analytical Writing percentile 
16174881.5 to 00

GRE Subject Test 

The total GRE Subject Test score range from 200 to 900 in 10 points increment. Your scores are based on the number of questions you answer correctly. The average Chemistry test score is 692, Mathematics is 669, Physics is 717, and Psychology is 622. Here is how your GRE Subject tests score ranges for each test:

GRE Subject Test Score Range Average Score (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020)Sub scores 
Mathematics 200 to 990 score scale,  in 10-points increment 669Nil 
Chemistry 200 to 990 score scale,  in 10-points increment 692Nil 
Physics 200 to 990 score scale,  in 10-points increment 71720-99 score scale, in 1-point increment 
Psychology 200 to 990 score scale,  in 10-points increment 62220-99 score scale, in 1-point increment 

Each test score is calculated independently, and you can only compare the same subject score with each other. For instance,  A score of 670 in Chemistry is not equivalent to a 670 in Mathematics. To evaluate your relative performance, you must look at the percentile ranking associated with your test scores. 

GRE Subject test Percentile ranking 

Take a look at the GRE subject percentile ranking based on the performance of test-takers between July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2020:

GRE Subject Test Scaled score Psychology Physics Mathematics Chemistry 
320 – 200 0000

GRE Cost 

The GRE General Test fee in India is $213. However, the total cost of taking the GRE test is more than $400, including other services. Take a look at the total cost of the GRE General Test in India: 

GRE General TestFee 
Registration Fee $ 213
Rescheduling fee $ 50
Changing your test center $ 50
Additional score report $ 27
Score review for Analytical Writing measure $ 60
Score reinstatement fee $ 50
Total $ 450

Your GRE cost changes depending on your location. For instance, the registration fee in China is $231, whereas, for the rest of the world, except India, it is $205. Moreover, if you take GRE preparation courses, your cost will increase. Head over to the official GRE exam website to evaluate your cost. 

The GRE Subject Test registration fee is $150 worldwide. Additional charges are applied for requesting special services. Take a look at the total cost of GRE Subject Tests worldwide:

GRE Subject TestFee
Registration fee $ 150
Late registration fee $ 25
Rescheduling fee $ 50
Changing your test center $ 50
Changing your subject test $ 50
Additional score report $ 27
Score review$ 50
Score reinstatement fee $ 50
Total $ 452

GRE Exam – FAQs

Is the GRE diagnostic service free? 

Yes. The GRE diagnostic service is free for the GRE General Test. 

Can I change my test center for the GRE General Test?

Yes. You can change your test center, but with a fee. The fee for changing your test center is $50 for the GRE General and Subject Test. 

What is ScoreSelect? 

ScoreSelect is a feature that allows you the option to send scores from any exam date. So, if you have taken the GRE multiple times, you can select the best score you want to send out with this service. 

Can I retake the GRE Exam?

Yes. You can take the GRE General test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous 12-month period. However, you can take a subject test as often as you like. 

How long are my GRE scores valid?

Your GRE General and Subject test scores are valid for 5 years. 

How long is the GRE exam?

The GRE General Test is for 3 hours 45 minutes, whereas the GRE Subject test is for 2 hours 50 minutes. 

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