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Pattern of GRE

What does the GRE assess and how?

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The GRE is a global competitive exam conducted as an entrance test to many universities across different parts of the world like the US, Canada, UK, Australia etc. Understanding the pattern of an exam of such importance and preparing in accordance will matter the most for anyone’s success. The test pattern will be revised from the August of this year.

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The test comprises of three sections namely quantitative ability section, verbal section and analytical writing assessment section. The three sections together target the applicant’s skill in reasoning, problem solving and English language proficiency (both vocabulary and writing skills). The quantitative section aims at testing your high school mathematics fundamentals. The verbal section tests your vocabulary and language efficiency. The analytical writing section tests your writing skills in terms of grammar and punctuation. It also tests your evaluation quotient.

Quantitative Ability

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The Quantitative ability section consists of multiple choice questions which are mostly problem solving type covering questions from quantitative comparisons, basic high school mathematics which broadly include Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra and Data analysis. This is as in the existing pattern of GRE. The revised pattern also consists of multiple choice questions but of more than just one choice selection questions may be included. In the old test pattern, the scores are evaluated on a 200-800 scale with 10 point increments.


To help build up your confidence and perform well in the examination, it requires you to clearly understand how the GRE puts different aspects of an applicant’s abilities to test. Through the quantitative section, your ability to solve reasoning and problem solving questions is tested. On the whole this section tests your speed, accuracy and consistency. You must be fast enough in attempting the questions accurately and must remain consistent throughout the paper. So, it is a test of your time management skills also. The existing test pattern consists of 28 questions in this section for which you are allotted 45 minutes. The revised pattern is expected to come with a total of 40 questions divided into two sections of which each is allotted 35 minutes. This makes it clear that the revised pattern is going to concentrate more on your speed. In the revised pattern, the evaluation of scores is done on a 130-170 scale with 1 point increments. This section is all about scoring high in the allotted time.

Though the existing test pattern is being revised, the syllabus remains the same. Hence, understanding all the concepts and then increasing your test taking capabilities ensures that you shall achieve a good score.

Verbal Ability Section

The verbal section of the existing test pattern consists of multiple choice questions related to antonyms, analogies, reading comprehension and sentence completion. The revised pattern is expected to have questions related to text completion and sentence equivalence type. The analogies and antonyms have been deleted. The scoring in this section is analogous to the quantitative section. In the old pattern, 30 questions were given which were to be attempted in 30 minutes.


The main aspects of the applicant’s skill targeted here are his language proficiency in English. You have a good command over vocabulary and must possess good reading skills. For betterment in this section, a dictionary will be the most reliable tool. You may get to read many a book which might help you with vocabulary but a dictionary provides you with the most precise meaning and correct usage. Reading articles, newspaper editorials will help improve your language skills. The revised test pattern is expected to have 40 questions in total divided into two sections each allotted 30 minutes. The revised pattern concentrates not more on your memorized words but on their contextual usage. The type of questions likely to be asked suggests this. Text completion and sentence equivalence questions can be answered correctly only if you are sound in both spoken and written English. Merely by hearting the words from some test guide wouldn’t help you. You have to know its apt and correct grammatical usage.

So, this section would have major changes from that of the existing test pattern because there is a change in the types of questions to be asked. Follow a good dictionary of your choice and concentrate both on word memorizing and their usages to successfully clear this section.

Analytical Writing Section

The analytical writing section has two tasks namely an ‘Issue Task’ and an ‘Argument Task’. The former is allotted 45 minutes and the latter 30 minutes. These tasks are to be answered in the essay format with specifications as mentioned. In the existing pattern, there will be provided two issue tasks out of which you will have to select one. The scores for these sections are awarded on a 0-6 scale with 0.5 point increments. The revised pattern allots 30 minutes for each of the sections and there is no choice given in case of the ‘Issue Task’. The scoring in the revised pattern too remains the same.


These tasks most probably might be related to any topic of public interest on which you will have to describe your own perspective. You might support or you might deny the issue or argument but it must not be vague and unclear. Your discussion must reveal strong knowledge or fine understanding of the given topic. Stating strong and genuine reasons or sharing your experiences that precisely support your discussion will help improve your score in this section. This section aims at judging your writing skills as well as your general outlook. Your essay must not be verbose. It must be clear, trimmed yet explanatory. The most important aspect which needs to be taken care of is the grammar and punctuation. Frame your sentences with good English. This will matter the most.

In the revised pattern, since you are not given any choice and are robbed of 15 minutes for the ‘Issue Task’, you must be very careful and be fast in analyzing the task. Reading different materials, topics, news articles, reviews and assessing them will help you gain knowledge so as to tackle this section with confidence. Anything you discuss must be backed by strong and acceptable reasons. This will certainly fetch you a good score in this section.

The revised pattern also comes with some test taker friendly features like an on-screen calculator for the quantitative section, a highlighter for the verbal section, a ‘Mark and Review’ feature. Though, there have been major changes to the test pattern, its core assessment criteria for a test taker remains the same. Thus, your preparation strategies don’t have to be changed diametrically. You have to be very cautious and prepare well to come out with flying colours.

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