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GRE Exam Pattern 2020 – Test Format and Sample Questions

The GRE General Exam is offered in two formats: computer-based and paper-based. Although there are a lot of similarities, the GRE exam pattern for both the versions is different. Also, the paper-delivered test is not available for everyone. It is offered in locations where the computer-delivered GRE is unavailable. Thus, you can not just opt for a paper over a computer-based test. It depends on where you take the exam.

This article highlights the difference between the two GRE exam pattern. We also talk about the types and the number of questions in each section with examples.

GRE Exam Pattern 2020

Here is an outline of the article:

GRE Exam Pattern 2020

One of the significant differences between the two GRE exam pattern is that the computer-based GRE is section adaptive in nature. Your performance in the first section of verbal and quant determines the difficulty level of the second section. Thus, the computer-based exam format offers a better assessment of your capabilities than a paper-based.

Also, if you take the computer-based GRE, you will get your scores at the test center itself. For the paper-based test, you need to wait for approx. Six weeks.

Note: According to ETS from 2014-2019, approx. 99% of the test takers took the computer-delivered version, and only 1% took the paper-delivered version. Likely, you would also take a computer-based exam.

Computer vs. Paper GRE Exam Pattern

The computer-delivered GRE takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, whereas the Paper-delivered exam takes 3 hours 30 minutes to complete.

Both formats have similar Verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing section, with the same scoring scale. Also, the GRE syllabus for both versions is the same.

Although the types of questions asked for these three sections are similar, one significant difference is that the GRE paper test does not have Reading comprehension select-in-passage type questions.

Also, the number of questions in Verbal and Quantitative reasoning differs. The computer-based exam includes 20 questions, whereas a paper-based test consists of 25 questions per section.

GRE Exam Pattern – Comparision between the Two Formats

GRE Exam Pattern 2020
Computer-delivered Exam Pattern Paper-delivered Exam Pattern
Sections No. of questions per section Duration per section Sections No. of questions per section Duration per section
Verbal Reasoning (2 sections) 20 30 minutes Verbal Reasoning (2 sections) 25 35 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning (2 sections) 20 35 minutes Quantitative Reasoning (2 sections) 25 40 minutes
Analytical Writing Skills (1 section) 2 60 minutes Analytical Writing Skills (2 sections) 2 30 minutes
Unscored Varies Varies NA NA NA
Research Varies Varies NA NA NA
Break Approx. 10 mins
Total 82 3 hours 45 mins Total 102 3 hour 30 mins

Another difference that you can spot is that the computer-delivered exam pattern has one section of Analytical Writing with two separately timed tasks. On the other hand, the GRE paper-delivered exam pattern has two sections with one task each.

Also, the number of questions asked for each section differs. However, the total number of questions in Analytical writing remains the same for both the formats, i.e., 2.

Although there is a difference in the exam pattern, both have six sections with a 10 minutes break. Also, you can skip questions within a section, go back and change answers, and have the flexibility to choose which questions within a section to answer first.

In addition, for both the formats, you need to attempt the analytical writing section first, followed by Verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning and unscored/unidentified section in any order.

Note: Paper-delivered exam does not have unscored/research section

Also, an on-screen calculator for the quantitative reasoning section is provided for the computer-based GRE, whereas an ETS calculator is provided for the paper-based. At last, you may use a test booklet to take notes for paper GRE, whereas sheets are provided for the computer GRE.

Note that paper GRE is available up to three times a year in October, November, and February, whereas GRE Computer-based exam, is available multiple times a week year-round.

Now that you know the difference between the two GRE exam patterns let us have a look at the types of questions in each section with an example.

 

GRE Exam Pattern – Types of Questions with Example 

The types of questions in each section for both Computer and paper-delivered exams remain the same, except for reading comprehension Select-in-passage questions is not included in the paper-based test.

Here is a brief overview of the types of questions asked on the GRE Exam:

GRE Exam Pattern Types of Questions

 

For the computer-based exam, you need to answer the questions by selecting the correct answer choice presented on the screen. For the paper-based GRE, you will require to choose the answer within the workbook. Check out the ETS Paper-based workbook to have more information.

Thus, the types of questions remain the same for both the formats; however, how you answer the questions differs.

Let us look into the types of questions in each section with an example.

GRE Verbal Reasoning – Type of Questions

The verbal reasoning questions appear in several formats. Half of them requires you to read passages and answer questions on those passages. The other half requires you to read, interpret, and complete existing sentences, paragraphs, or groups of sentences.

The verbal reasoning section has three sub-sections: Reading Comprehension, Sentence Equivalence, and Text Completion.

Reading Comprehension

This section includes three types of questions –

  1. Traditional multiple-choice, where out of the five answer choices you must select one
  2. Multiple choice where you must choose all the correct answers
  3. Select-in-passage questions where you choose the sentence in the passage that meets a specific description.

Here is an example of the GRE reading comprehension question. The sample question is from the Official GRE site.

GRE Reading comprehension question example

Answer Key: Question 1- (E), Question 2- (A) and (C), and Question 3- (the last sentence of the passage)

Sentence Equivalence

The sentence equivalence questions consist of a single sentence, one blank, and six answer choices. You need to select two answer choices that fit the meaning of the sentence. No marks are given if only one of the two chosen answers is correct.

Here is an example of the GRE Sentence Equivalence question. The sample question is from the Official GRE site.

GRE Sentence Equivalence question pattern exampleAnswer Key: Choice D and F

Text Completion

The passage in this section will consist of one to five sentences, with one to three blanks and three answer choices per blank. Also, selecting one answer choice for one blank does not affect what answer choice you can choose for another blank.

Here is an example of the GRE Text completion question with three blanks and three answer choices to choose from. The sample question is from the Official GRE site.

GRE text completion sample questions formatAnswer Key: Option A (i), Option E (ii), and Option I (iii).

GRE Quantitative Reasoning – Types of Questions

The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section contains four types of questions:

  1. Quantitative Comparison Questions
  2. Multiple choice questions where you select one answer choice
  3. Multiple choice questions where you select one or more answer choices
  4. Numeric entry questions

The GRE questions mentioned above appear either independently or as a set of questions called data interpretation. The data interpretation questions are based on the same data presented in graphs, tables, or other forms.

Quantitative Comparison Questions

Here is an example of the GRE Quantitative Comparison question. The sample question is from the Official GRE site.

GRE Exam Pattern Quantitative ComparisonAnswer: Option D.

Multiple-choice questions

The multiple-choice questions are in two formats:

  • Select only one correct answer
  • Select Multiple Answer

Here is an example of the GRE Multiple choice questions. The sample question is from the Official GRE site.

GRE Quantitative reasoning exam format question typeAnswer: Option C ($30).

GRE quantitative reasoning format questionsAnswer: Option C, D, and F. The above question is taken from GRE Official site.

Numeric entry questions

In this type of question, you need to enter your answer in the given box. This pattern of answering the question is only applicable to the computer-based test. For paper GRE you will be asked to enter the number by filling the circle grid.

GRE Numeric Entry question type pattern

GRE Analytical Writing – Types of questions

The analytical writing section consists of two types of task

  1. An Analyse an Issue Task
  2. An Analyse an Argument Task

Analyze an Issue Task

In this type of question, you need to think critically about a topic and then clearly express your thoughts about it in writing.  The test taker will be given an issue statement followed by a set of specific instructions to answer.

The set of instructions can be in various forms. One of the examples is given below:

GRE Analytical Writing exam pattern question

Analyze an Argument

In this type of question, you will be presented with a brief passage in which the author makes a case or interpretation of events backed up by evidence. Your task is to discuss the logical soundness of the author’s claim based on specific instructions.

The set of instructions can be in various forms. One of the examples is given below:

GRE Ananlyze an argument question pattern

 

FAQs – GRE Exam Pattern

What is GRE?

GRE stands for graduate record examination and is conducted by ETS (Educational Testing Services). There are two types of GRE exam:
1. GRE General Test
2. GRE Subject Tests
Know more about the GRE Exam.

What is the order of the sections for GRE?

The GRE General exam starts with Analytical writing always, followed by Verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and un/scored sections in any order.

How many sections are there in the GRE Exam?

In total, the GRE General test consists of six sections. Check out the section-wise syllabus here.

What does the GRE verbal reasoning section tests?

The GRE verbal reasoning section tests your ability to understand the meaning of entire texts, sentences, and words. Some of the topics covered in this section are:
1. Verb tense
2. Pronoun agreement
3. Subject-verb agreement
4. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives

Can I give a paper-delivered GRE Exam?

Yes. However, it is only offered in locations where the computer-delivered test is not available.

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