How Much Time One Should Take to Prepare for the GRE?


How long is the GRE exam? The GRE is a 1 hour 58 minutes long test. That’s a pretty long time indeed! How many sections? What’s the duration of each section? Let’s take a look.

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): This GRE section takes 30 minutes, includes one task.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: You will get a minimum of two Quant sections, each 21 ans 26 minutes long, with 12 and 15 questions per section.
  • Verbal Reasoning: You will also get at least two Verbal sections, each 18 and 23 minutes long, with 12 and 15 questions per section.

The test doesn’t automatically start as soon as you sit down. You first have to answer some questions and input some personal information. As the test starts you will get the GRE AWA section first and then two quant sections and two verbal sections of the GRE exam.

The quantitative and verbal sections will be given in a random order.

In the end you will get five minutes to decide whether you want to accept your GRE score or not. You should have a good sense of how long it takes you to work through each section.

The GRE General Test is a computer-based exam. Its user-friendly design allows you to skip questions within a section, go back and change answers, and choose which questions within a section to answer first.


Section Wise Time Duration on the GRE

How many hours is the GRE exam? The total time duration of the GRE exam is approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. How long is each GRE section? There are six sections, with a 10-minute break after the third.

Section Questions Duration
GRE Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) 1 section

(1 essay)

30 minutes
GRE Quantitative Reasoning 2 sections

Section 1 : 12 Minutes

Section 2 : 15 Minutes

46 minutes

Section 1 : 21 Minutes

Section 2 : 26 Minutes

GRE Verbal Reasoning 2 sections

Section 1 : 12 Minutes

Section 2 : 15 Minutes

41 minutes

Section 1 : 18 Minutes

Section 2 : 23 Minutes


GRE Timing Tips

Any timed test will cause some level of anxiety. To stay confident on test day, try these GRE timing tips.


Accuracy is Preferable to Speed in the GRE Exam

Slow down and concentrate on racking up as many points as possible. Trying to work faster, results in careless errors and lower grades. Don’t let the clock force you to make blunders!

Answer the questions you know you can answer correctly. This means that you must allow yourself to see every question. After all, question 20 may be the simplest on the test for you.


Use Your GRE Time Wisely

Though the total GRE test duration is long, you actually don’t get a lot of time to answer each question. That is why it’s so important to decide beforehand how you will handle the GRE time duration. Below are a few general tips for using the GRE test time wisely.


Skip Difficult Questions and Return to Those Later

On the GRE, it may be tempting to attack each and every question right away, but hard ones can take up more time than they need to. Do not spend too much time on the hard questions. It is wiser to skip the harder questions and come back to answer them after you have solved the easier ones.

This tactic keeps you from spending too much time trying to solve a single question and lets you switch your focus to other questions that you can solve more easily and more quickly. If you are skipping any question, make sure you mark the question before you proceed to the next one.

Once you get to the end of a section, use the remaining time to go through the questions you have marked and either attempt to solve them if you have sufficient time or take a guess if you run out of time, but do not leave any question unanswered.


Use Process of Elimination in the GRE Exam

If you can’t solve a multiple-choice question, use the process of elimination in the GRE exam before making a guess. This will increase the chances of your getting the question right.

Even if two answer choices are synonyms, eliminate them if they would not make sense in the sentence. Also, if a word makes sense but no other option would give the sentence the same meaning, remove it from consideration.


Keep Your Marker Moving

Do not believe that you must continue working on a problem simply because you have already spent a significant amount of time on it. This will only waste your time and keep you from tackling other questions that can be answered more quickly and with less effort.

Though you should try to answer all GRE questions (there is no penalty for wrong answers!), you will likely get a higher GRE score if you use your time to get as many questions right as you can instead of wasting time on questions you have no idea how to solve.

If a strategy you are using doesn’t seem to work, try a different one. For example, if you are not able to solve a question using Algebra try plugging in the answers or plugging in numbers in place of variables.


Letter Of The Day

As mentioned above, you don’t lose any points for incorrect answers on the GRE. If you aren’t sure whether you’ll be able to answer all questions before GRE test time runs out, make sure you have a “guessing” letter. For instance, if your guessing letter was B, you would select B for all the unanswered questions you’re left with unless you have eliminated B while using the process of elimination.


How Long Should One Study for the GRE?

This requires a deeper understanding of multiple factors. 3 macro areas are mentioned below for detailed planning:


1. Litmus Test

  • What do I know about the GRE?
  • What exactly do I get tested for on the GRE?
  • Am I familiar with the English language requirement for the GRE?
  • How good is my vocabulary?
  • How are my reading skills?
  • How good am I with numbers?
  • What is the extent of Math skills needed to conquer the GRE Quant section?

To get answers to these questions, one has to take a GRE mock test.

Taking the mock test to evaluate your current subject knowledge is the first step in finding how much time you will require to master GRE.


2. Setting Goals

Having taken the GRE mock test, one has to be able to set expectations right from the start –

  • Which section of the GRE was I quite good at?
  • Which one was a fiasco? Were both Quant and Verbal abysmal?
  • What is the GRE score I want?
  • Which Schools am I applying to?

Goal setting is not possible without the above data. The aforesaid are interdependent. Since the GRE Verbal reasoning section is divided equally into testing on vocab and on reading skills, preparation must also be distributed nearly equally. Similarly in the Quant section too, the split is between Quantitative Comparison questions and Multiple Choice questions.

Apart from all this, was I able to complete the test? How was my pacing? How was my endurance level? To come across all these hurdles, I need strategies and techniques. Can I prepare myself or do I need to get coached? How long do such courses take?

The setting of goals depends on the following sub-factors –

Reading Abilities

Checking on the reading abilities is a must. Has one ever read books, articles, or even the paper? Does it really matter? Yes of course! Your fluent reading and quick grasping of vocabulary certainly are plus points for a great score on the verbal.

If I am one who is fond of reading, I don’t need to learn how to read at least. I need to concentrate on what to read and what not to read and strategize. But maybe for a non-native speaker, this is going to be a different ball game. He/ she needs to start from scratch. And therefore more time!


Am I only a beginner with GRE words or do I have a good number of words learned and familiar with? If it is yes for the former, I need time to build upon a respectable number of words whereas the latter just needs that I hone my contextual knowledge on the sentences to help me with solving the blank questions- less time!

Quant Reasoning Skills

Fundamental formulae and concepts of Math done in grades 6, 7 & 8 would be of immense help when it comes to the  GRE Quantitative section. You need not exactly become a Math wizard but recapitulating the basics of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry is a must. Certain other topics such as Probability and Statistics are also tested on the GRE.

Some students might have just severed themselves from Math after coming to college however, GRE is a standardized test and mandates that students apply both Verbal and Mathematical skills during the test. Based on what level of understanding of Math you are at present is what will judge the time requirement of studying for the GRE.

Related Blog Post: How to Score a Perfect 170 in GRE’s Quant Section?

Time Availability

The length of time one can devote towards preparation depends upon how much of the time one has per day/week towards prepping. One consciously has to distribute time for activities apart from studying for GRE alone to exactly gauge how much time he can give exclusively for GRE Prep. Once the number of hours is decided is when content to be completed while practicing can be determined.

The Proportional Divider of Time

Your strengths and weaknesses will decide on the proportional time to be invested in Verbal and Quant. You may have less time on weekdays than you do on weekends. Over and above all this, what is the concentration capacity one has is also significant to schedule the GRE exam hours accordingly. There has to be a balance of time allotted for Verbal and Math.

Are You Aiming for the Ivy Leagues or any State Colleges?

This is another determinant of the GRE test time length needed to prepare for the exam. Premium institutions obviously require premium time because admissions get more competitive. On the other hand, some colleges may not be very particular about great Math scores or great Verbal scores.

Some may already give a cut-off requirement on each. So time is again proportionate between your choice of universities and the various programs offered. You might sometimes even have to hasten the preparation because of deadlines to meet for admissions to various universities.


3. Test Day and Timelines

Now we‘ve come to the end of answering the question-how long? The minimum time that one will be able to do justice to performing well on the test is at least one month. Giving more than 6 months is a bit too much.

Once the Test day is planned, work backwards, and set your timeline. Chalk out all the daily chores, activities, assessments, projects, and other errands that you may need to take care of during the day (if you’re making a daily schedule) or during the week for a weekly planner.

You can’t for sure solely work on GRE and completely obviate other tasks. Multi-tasking actually helps to adhere to timelines better. You have to prioritize what’s more important among the tasks you have and work your way to meeting your set goals.

Your schedule will include intense study time if you have planned to take the GRE in a month. This schedule gets slightly more relaxed if it is 3 months that you have. You will have a more elaborately planned schedule. Your timeline needs to include study time distributed between Quant and Verbal and also of taking Mock tests intermittently.

After all, it is the number of practice tests that you take before your actual exam that paves the way for your success on the GRE!

Finally, “how long should one study to take the GRE” has so many parameters to take into consideration, yet the length of time ultimately to prepare for the GRE can probably be between a month and a maximum of six months.

Related Blog Post: How to Prepare for the GRE in 2 Months: A Complete Study Plan

So go ahead to get to your dream score!


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How long is the GRE exam?

The GRE is roughly 3 hours and 45 minutes long. The GRE AWA section is for 1 hour; the GRE verbal sections are for 30 minutes each and the math sections are 35 minutes each. The GRE experimental section can be for 30 or 35 minutes. Along with the breaks in between, the test is for nearly 3 hours and 45 minutes.

How long is GRE practice?

The GRE practice depends on the student’s ability and the score improvement he aims for. Ideally, two months of learning and another month for practice should be enough. Too little practice or too much gap between the GRE preparation and test-taking may affect the performance. 

How long does it take to prepare for the GRE?

The GRE is not an exam that can be crammed for. The exam is primarily a test of patterns, not facts, therefore you’ll need plenty of practice time if you want to improve your GRE score. We recommend that you study for 4 to 12 weeks for GRE preparation.

How long should I study for the GRE?

How long should one prepare for the GRE depends on many factors- where do you currently stand and what is your score expectations. Practically one may need two or three months of intensive preparation should work. You need to take regular tests to gauge your preparation. A study plan should help you manage time effectively.

How long will it take to cover the GRE General Test syllabus?

Covering the GRE General test may take nearly two to three months of learning and practising. The student should plan to spend two or three hours every day practicing.

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