The GRE is a 3 hours 40 minutes or a 3 hours 45 minutes long test excluding the break(s). 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 section takes one hour, split into two 30-minute tasks.
Quantitative Reasoning: You will get a minimum of two Quant sections, each 35 minutes long, with 20 questions per section.
Verbal Reasoning: You will also get at least two Verbal sections, each 30 minutes long, with 20 questions per section.
In most iterations of the Test, there is an additional unidentified unscored section (we call it the experimental section) that the GRE uses for its own purposes. This could be either a Verbal or a Quantitative Reasoning section and may appear in any order after the AWA section. The term “unidentified” means that you will not know which section is experimental. Definitely, do not try to guess! At times in place of the unidentified unscored section, there may be an identified research section, which is always at the end of the Test.
You will get a 10-minute break after the third section. You will receive quantitative and verbal sections in a random order, but, once you have completed three sections, you will get your 10-minute break.
Related Blog Post: What is on the GRE? All about the GRE test structure
So it is a very lengthy test. Four hours is a good estimate. ETS will tell you three hours and forty-five minutes (not counting the break). To add to it, the 4-hour estimate doesn’t even include the time you spend commuting or checking into the testing center. There will likely be people in front of you taking all kinds of different tests. They might not have the same sense of serious purpose that you do; nor will the people working at the testing center. When you finally get to sit down at the computer, don’t be surprised if 20 minutes have elapsed since you’ve walked into the testing center.
But 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 AWA section first and then two quant sections and two verbal sections and an experimental section (or a research section — of course at the end) in any order. You will also get an optional 10-minute break after the third section. Do avail yourself of the break. In the end you will get five minutes to decide whether you want to accept your score or not.
You should have a good sense of how long it takes you to work through each section.
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. Below are a few general tips for using the GRE test time wisely.
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.
Related Blog Post: Should I Retake the GRE?
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.
If you can’t solve a multiple-choice question, use the process of elimination before making a guess. This will increase the chances of your getting the question right.
This is what I mean: don’t think that you must keep working on a problem simply because you have already spent a lot of time on it. Doing this will only waste your time in the end and keep you away from attacking other questions you can answer 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 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.
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 time runs out, make sure you have a “guessing” letter. For instance, if my guessing letter were B, I would select B for all the unanswered questions I am left with unless I have eliminated B while using the process of elimination.
Finally, it’s not just enough to know how long is each section and how long is the GRE, learn to manage your time effectively on the GRE.
Learn top experienced tips to ace the GRE: Download our FREE, Complete Study Guide to the GRE!Book your Free Counselling Session now!