How Long Is The GRE?

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How long is the GRE Computer-Delivered Test?

Personally, my response to this question is “too long!” With that said, perhaps you might feel differently. The computer-delivered GRE General Test takes 3 hours and 45 minutes (not including breaks). As a San Diegan, I think of time in terms of driving to Los Angeles: the length of the GRE would be a round trip!

How long are the GRE Computer-Delivered sections?

You will start off with the Analytical Writing (AW) section that is composed of two essays–an Issue Essay (30 minutes) and an Argument Essay (30 minutes). The rest of the exam will consist of Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections. Each Verbal Reasoning section will give you 30 minutes to answer 20 questions. Each Quantitative Reasoning section will give you 35 minutes to answer 20 questions.

You might be thinking, “okay two Verbal sections and two Math sections–got it!” I wish it were that simple. The GRE has six sections. You will either get three Verbal sections and two Math sections OR three Math sections and two Verbal sections. One of the extra sections will be the “Experimental section.” This part of the exam is unscored.

The ETS uses the Experimental section to test the difficulty level of questions they created for future exams. The GRE Online-delivered test is computer adaptive. The difficulty level of your second Verbal and Math sections are decided by how well you performed on the first ones. Without implementing the Experimental section, ETS would not have enough data to determine where questions should appear on future exams.

How long is the GRE?

Now, you might be thinking “great, I will save my mental energy and just skim through the Experimental section.” Once again, I wish it were so! The Experimental section is unmarked and you will not know which one it is. After the Analytical Writing essays, if you go straight into a Verbal section you know that you will have three Verbal sections and one of them won’t count towards your score. Once again, you will not know which one it is (same goes for getting a Math section after the essays).

Therefore, you have to maintain focus on all 5 Verbal/Math sections that come your way. Even though the Experimental section is not computer adaptive, it will be very difficult to try and figure out which section is Experimental based on how hard you are finding the section to be. Please do not waste precious brain power trying to figure this out as you take the exam. Treat every section as if it will be scored.

In summary, here are the two possible outcomes:

Issue Essay30 Minutes
Argument Essay30 Minutes
Verbal Reasoning30 Minutes/20 Questions
Quantitative Reasoning35 Minutes/20 Questions
Verbal Reasoning30 Minutes/20 Questions
Quantitative Reasoning35 Minutes/20 Questions
Verbal Reasoning30 Minutes/20 Questions

Issue Essay30 Minutes
Argument Essay30 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning35 Minutes/20 Questions
Verbal Reasoning30 Minutes/20 Questions
Quantitative Reasoning35 Minutes/20 Questions
Verbal Reasoning30 Minutes/20 Questions
Quantitative Reasoning35 Minutes/20 Questions

Is there any way around the Experimental section?

Yes, but it will be up to ETS. For whatever reason, there are a few cases where a student will not get an Experimental section. However, most do (so be prepared). Also, instead of an Experimental section, you could be given a “Research section.” The Research section will clearly be marked as so and will appear at the end of the test. It could have questions with different formats or on other topics. The Research section does not go towards your GRE score.

Furthermore, the ETS POWERPREP exams do not have an Experimental section. If you are finding it hard to maintain focus for the duration of the POWERPREPS, you will need work on building this skill since the actual GRE will be even longer.

Will I be given a break?

After the Analytical Writing and first two multiple-choice sections, you will be given a ten-minute break. Hence, you will need to go two hours and five minutes before your break. During your break, you will be able to leave the room, use the restroom, and access your locker if you have a snack or drink in there. Due to the fact everyone starts the exam at different times, your break will not necessarily align with that of other test takers. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure you are back at your computer once the ten minutes are up.

How long is the GRE?

Also, before starting a section you are given one minute to read the directions before the clock begins. If you have taken practice POWERPREP exams, you should be familiar with the directions. Therefore, this can be a mini-reset moment for you to take a breath and prepare for what’s ahead. Considering how long the GRE is, it’s wise to take every opportunity to rest your brain.

How long is the GRE Paper-Delivered Test?

On the paper-delivered GRE, students are given one hour to complete the two essays that make up the Analytical Writing section (30-minutes each, the same as the computer-delivered GRE). However, the multiple choice Verbal and Quantitative sections are a bit longer. The Verbal sections will each be 35-minutes with a total of 25 questions. The Quantitative sections will each be 40-minutes and 25 questions. There will be no Experimental section on the paper-based GRE.

Another difference between the paper and computer-delivered GRE is that the paper-delivered exam does not adapt to difficulty level. Not everyone can take the paper-delivered GRE. It is administered at testing sites where the computer-delivered GRE is unavailable. Also, if you received approval for special testing conditions, you may be eligible to take the paper-based test.

How long will the entire GRE process take on test day?

You should arrive at your testing site at least 30 minutes early for both the paper and computer-based tests. If you are the type of person (like myself) who tends to get lost, you might want to plan to arrive even earlier. If you are late for your scheduled GRE, you will not be permitted to take the exam and ETS will not issue a refund.

The check-in process is a bit extensive. The test-administrator(s) must check everyone in separately. They verify your identification, take your photo, have you write and sign a confidentiality statement, check your pockets, assign you scratch paper, and take you to your seat. For these reasons, everyone starts their GRE exam at different times. Personally, I am not the kind of gal who likes to nervously wait, so I get there early enough to make sure I am one of the first students to go through the operations and start the test.

Hence, the entire process of checking-in, taking your exam with your 10-minute break, and reporting your scores will be around 4 hours and 30 minutes. I highly recommend trying to plan something fun afterward! Hopefully, it will be to celebrate your success rather than drown your sorrow. No matter the outcome, you were proactive enough to go through the process and that warrants at least an evening of Happy Hour.