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Summary of GRE Sections

GRE Analytical Writing

The analytical writing section of the computerized GRE is always the first section of the test. Test-takers complete two separately timed writing tasks, for which they are given 30 minutes each for a total section timing of 60 minutes. The first is called an "Analyze an Issue" task, on which students write an essay expressing their opinion on some issue of broad general relevance. The second essay is called the "Analyze an Argument" task, on which test-takers must evaluate the strength or weakness of a position described in the essay prompt. To put it simply, the "issue" task is about articulating the test-taker's views, while the "argument" task is concerned with assessing the views of someone else. Scoring criteria for the essays include organization, clarity and coherence of expression, and effective use of standard written English.

GRE Verbal Reasoning

Students taking the computerized GRE can expect to see two verbal reasoning sections, each of which includes 20 questions in 30 minutes. ETS lists three types of questions on this section: reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence. Reading comprehension questions are based on reading passages, and question formats may be either multiple choice with a single correct answer, multiple choice with one or more correct answers, or select-in-passage (choose the sentence from the passage that best answers the question). For text completion questions, students fill in the blanks in reading passages with the most optimal multiple-choice words or phrases. Sentence equivalence questions feature a sentence with a single blank and six answer choices, from which students must select the best two options. All questions count equally toward the section score, and there is no penalty for guessing.

GRE Quantitative Reasoning

The quantitative assessment of the computer GRE includes two sections of 20 questions each, and test-takers are allowed 35 minutes per section. The major topics covered are arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis, and question types include multiple choice with one or more than one correct answer, numeric entry, and quantitative comparison. Multiple choice questions may ask students to solve algebraic equations, word problems, or graphs. Numeric entry questions require students to solve a variety of math problems by typing in a number rather than choosing the correct multiple-choice answer. On quantitative comparison questions, students must decide if the two indicated quantities are equal, which one is greater, or if the relationship cannot be determined from the information included. All questions are of equal value in terms of the section score, and points are not deducted for incorrect answers.

Unscored Sections

Most GRE administrations include unscored content, which may appear either for the purpose of experimenting with questions for inclusion on future GREs or for ETS research. Experimental sections are either verbal reasoning or quantitative reasoning, but never analytical writing. Test-takers will not be told which of their verbal or quantitative sections are experimental. Research content, on the other hand, is clearly identified and always appears at the end of the test.

GRE Scoring

Scoring for the verbal and quantitative sections begins with calculation of raw scores, or the number of correct answers. These scores are then "equated" to scaled final verbal and quantitative scores of 130-170 each. According to ETS, "the equating process accounts for minor variations in difficulty from test to test as well as the differences introduced by section-level adaptation." Analytical writing scores (0 to 6 for the entire section) are based on the opinions of graders recruited and trained by ETS. All essays are scored by two readers, and a third is brought in if there is a significant difference between scores.