GRE Preparation Guide: What Should I Expect from a GRE Test ?

Expecting to write the GRE test this year? This guide on GRE preparation has been written with you in mind. This is just what you need to excel in your test this year.

So do really take your time to read through to the end for all it promises to offer.

Meanwhile, find the table of contents below to have a peep into what you’ll find in this article.

What is GRE?

GRE is an acronym for “Graduate Record Examination”, it was established in 1936, designed and administered by the non-profit Educational Testing Service (ETS).

What is GRE test?

The GRE test is a standardized exam that measures or assesses your verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing and reading skills.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is the most widely accepted graduate test worldwide. The test offers universities a broad estimate of how qualified a student is to conduct the rigorous problem solving and critical thinking required in graduate school.

Universities in UK, Canada, France, and Germany have also started accepting GRE scores and the test is normally computer-based therefore, excelling on the GRE test significantly increases a student’s chances of being accepted into graduate school. GRE scores are valid for a period of five years, depending on when you took the test. 

According to Educational Testing Service (ETS) ‘’ We strive to provide innovative and meaningful measurement solutions that improve teaching and learning, expand educational opportunities, and inform policy’’.

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How hard is GRE?

One wouldn’t say outrightly that GRE tests are hard. One of the sections that make GRE hard is the verbal section. It has a more challenging vocabulary and reading passages with difficult writing section that requires you to write two essays.

Also, the math problems require a higher level of reasoning and most importantly is the time crunch. the test begins with one section of analytical writing, which consists of two 30-minute long tasks.

Generally, GRE is considered to be more challenging than entrance exams for an undergraduate program such as the SAT or ACT.

What is the Nature of GRE Exam?

The GRE exam is organized into three main sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing assessment.

Verbal Reasoning

The verbal reasoning section consists of two sub-sections with each section having 20 questions timed for 30 minutes each. So the total time allotted for verbal section is one hour. This is where you’ll have the chance to show how well you do with vocabulary and reading comprehension.

The question types in GRE verbal section include 4 Sentence Equivalence, 6 Text completion, and 10 Reading Comprehension.

According to the GRE’s study resources, sample questions include: Analyzing and drawing conclusions from the discourse, reason from incomplete data, identify author’s assumptions and/or perspective, understand multiple levels of meaning (literal, figurative, author’s intent), select important points, distinguish major from minor or relevant points, summarize text, understand the structure of a text, understand the meaning of words, sentences, and entire texts and understand relationships among words and among concepts.

The GRE verbal is scored on a scale from 130 to 170.

Quantitative Reasoning

The quantitative section gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your mathematical skills. The section consists of two sub-sections and each consists of 20 questions. The total allotted for GRE quart is 1 hour 10 minutes which means 35 minutes for each section.

Just like the GRE Verbal, Quantitative reasoning section is also scored on a scale range of 130 – 170.

The GRE study resources highlight the following types of questions: Understand, interpret, and analyze quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models and apply basic skills and elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing section is given on a separate scale that is different from the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The section includes your actual writing production and the average GRE score for analytical writing is around 3.5 but a good score is above 4.

But generally, the score on GRE analytical writing is on a scale of 0 to 6. The GRE recommends that writers should focus on; articulating complex ideas clearly and effectively, supporting ideas with relevant reasons and examples, examining claims and accompanying evidence, sustaining a well-focused, coherent discussion, and controlling the elements of standard written English.

How much time is sufficient for GRE preparation?

It is very important to note that GRE is a test of pattern and not fact. Therefore you can’t decide to cram for the test. GRE test requires sufficient time and proper devotion for its preparation.

Every student preparing to write a GRE test is expected to devote between 4 and 13 weeks of proper preparation and most study plans recommend approximately two hours per day, six days a week.

How long is the test?

The test will take you close to four hours. This includes checking into the testing center, answering a few background questions, and then diving into two 30-minute essays and five math/verbal sections (including the one experimental section).

The good news is that you will get one scheduled break of 10 minutes after the third section and one-minute breaks between the remaining sections.

While you are free to take a break at any other time, the clock will keep on running if you choose to do so. In other words, unless you are about to pass out—which could conceivably happen on GRE test day—don’t get out of your seat, except during a scheduled break.

Read our article on How Long You Should Study for the GRE.

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The Best Way to Prepare for GRE

Preparing for GRE test, there are some important books or resources you need to have for effective preparation such as a GRE book, Kaplan’s Prep Plus book includes a 500-question Quiz Bank, and the full Quiz Bank contains over 2,500 test-like questions for GRE practice.

It is said that practice makes perfect, so practicing all those test-like questions is one of the best ways to prepare for your GRE test because those questions enable you to know how or the pattern in which the main GRE exam will be.

The GRE exam consists of three major sections which are the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and the analytical writing assessment, so it’s advisable to prepare for the test based on the pattern or section in which the question comes.

How to Start Studying for GRE

Before you get started studying for the GRE exam, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then you can target your weaknesses while also building on your strengths.

It requires persistence, hard work, and full focus on your study. You will have to identify and gather all the required study books and materials that are essential for proper preparation like;

The full-length practice tests

Manhattan Prep has a free full-length GRE Practice Exam, Kaplan also has a free 4-hour GRE practice test that comes with a score analysis and answers and explanations for every question as well. It is always advisable to take a practice test for a proper GRE preparation.

ETS’ POWERPREP Online also provides two free practice tests that simulate the actual GRE. We also have the POWERPREP Test Preview Tool which is a free overview of the GRE, accessible through your ETS account. You’ll be given information about the structure of the GRE, question types you’ll see, and tools available to you on test day.

Preparation Books

For proper preparation, there are two important books to have in mind, Kaplan’s GRE Prep and Manhattan Prep.

Kaplan’s GRE Prep Plus 2023 includes content review, testing strategies, six practice tests, and individual performance summaries. 

Manhattan Prep offers Math and Verbal Strategy Guides as well as a 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems that offers over 2000 problems with easy-to-follow explanations.

Practice Questions

Practicing past questions enables you to know how the questions will be. For instance, Kaplan’s Adaptive GRE Qbank saves you time with targeted questions (over 2500) and adjusts to your skill level as you work. With in-depth explanations, you’ll learn from your mistakes and raise your score.

The best GRE prep books

The best GRE books are those books with practice tests, good quality, and quantity of questions with comprehensive answer explanations and test-taking strategies. These are the best preparation books for you.

  • ETS’ Official GRE superpower park
  • Kaplan’s GRE Prep plus 2023
  • Manhattan prep’s 5 Lb. book for GRE practice problems
  • Manhattan prep GRE strategy guides
  • Barron’s Essential word for the GRE
  • GRE Prep by Magoosh
  • McGraw-Hill Education’s Conquering GRE Math

See Also: 12 Best Gre Prep Books

How to Improve GRE Score in one Month

The only way to improve your GRE score is to improve your preparation in general. You have to spend more time studying for the test. There are a few tips that will help out in improving your GRE score.

1. Learn the GRE format

GRE test has three formats, the verbal reasoning section, the analytical writing section, and the quantitative reasoning section. So learning the format of the exam will make you feel more familiar and comfortable with the actual exam.

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2. Set a GRE Goal Score

It is always good to set a target or goal in everything we do because it gives us something specific to aim for, and also motivated us to study hard.

Therefore, setting a GRE goal score will let you know if your preparation paid off once you take the real test, and with that, you will surely improve your score.

3. Use realistic GRE practice

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) are the ones that designed and will also administer the test, therefore it’s advisable to practice with their materials, be more familiar with their materials because it’s more like the real GRE.

They have a lot of free practice materials.  Improve your verbal score by practicing vocab and read complex texts. Review and practice foundational math concepts for Quantitative score improvement

4. Practice with and without a calculator

When used correctly, a calculator can be a huge advantage. It can be a liability as well. A calculator is always provided for you on the GRE as part of the on-screen display. Practicing with and without a calculator enables you to know when the calculator makes you more accurate, and when you’re better off learning the rules of a key math concept. This will help you improve your GRE score.

5. Build Up Your GRE Vocabulary

The vocab is one of the most important part in the GRE verbal sections test. By reading some respected publications such as academic journals and magazines you will absorb many of the words that will show up on the GRE. If you want to improve your GRE score you have to add those new words to your list, whenever you come across them on practice tests or practice problems because since they have been used before they may also be used again.

GRE Application 2023 Full Guide

Below is a guide that will help you in your 2023 GRE exam. Take a look.

How to apply for the GRE exam (2023)

There are four important steps to follow for your GRE registration.

Creation of an account on ETS website

The creation of an account on the ETS website is the first step for your GRE registration. Only then can you apply for the GRE, view your GRE scores, and send the universities of your choice your report for admission.

Selection of test centers and GRE exam date

Here we have to carefully select the nearest or the best center. Block your date and time for the exam. Keep in mind that you’ll need to spend 4 hours at the test center so choose wisely.

 Fill your personal details and verify them

Before you pay the application fee you need to fill in all the mandatory details that are asked in the form with red asterisks. You can even buy official GRE study material during the application process.

Pay the GRE fee

This fee is to be paid using accepted forms of payment and after the completion of payment a confirmation mail with selected GRE exam date, time, test center address, and some other information regarding the application will be received. Once you’ve created your GRE login on the ETS website you can apply, view, or even cancel your application, get GRE Diagnostic services, buy materials, and get notifications about your test and scores.

GRE test Fee

The GRE is an inexpensive exam thus the exam fee is cheap and varies depending on the country but you can pay anywhere between USD$200 and USD$240. Take a look at the GRE exam fee for different countries.

Turkey at $255, Nigeria at $220, China at $231.30, and Australia at $230. And all other countries worldwide come with a fee of $205. For GRE test takers in the US, the price is a bit lower now.

How to prepare for GRE: Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to prepare for GRE?

Every student preparing to write a GRE test is expected to devote between 4 and 13 weeks of proper preparation. Most study plans recommend approximately two hours per day, six days a week.

How do I start preparing for the GRE?

Sincerely, GRE is considered to be more challenging than entrance exams for an undergraduate program such as the SAT or ACT. But if you start on time to study, you won’t have a hard time at all.


We hope this article has answered most of the questions boggling your mind. Ensure to follow the steps and tips given carefully, and you’ll marvel at how much you can do. Good luck!

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