Posted on
09
Nov 2022

GRE Structure, Scoring, and Strategy Tips

If you are at the beginning of your GRE prep journey, it’s important to understand the structure of the test and to be equipped with the right strategies for navigating each section. In this article, we’ll overview the delivery structure of the exam and provide powerful GRE tips to help you earn your best possible score on test day.

GRE Structure and Scoring

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) comprises six sections.

Analytical Writing

The first section, the Analytical Writing measure, has two tasks timed at thirty minutes each. The first task asks you to “analyze and issue” by taking a position on a brief statement. For this task, you will have to construct your own argument in support of your position. The second task asks you to “analyze an argument,” providing you with a short paragraph in which an author supports their own position on an issue. For this task, you will not construct your own argument but critique the argument in the prompt, identifying the assumptions and facts upon which it relies for strength and validity.

Each writing task will be scored on a range from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, both by a person and by a program, with the two scores being averaged. If the scores given by the person and by the program are significantly different, another person will take the place of the program, and the two human-generated scores will be averaged. (This person/program scoring approach is the same as on the GMAT). Once each of the two tasks has its averaged score, those two scores are in turn averaged into your final Analytical Writing score.

Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning

Sections two through six are the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning measures. Each section has twenty questions, but the Quant sections are timed at thirty-five minutes each, while the Verbal sections are timed at just thirty minutes each.

While ETS (Educational Testing Service, the administrators of the GRE) maintains that the sections can appear in any order, the official practice tests on their website and the experience of thousands of test-takers indicate that these sections will always alternate types (Q-V-Q-V-Q or V-Q-V-Q-V). Only two sections of each type (two Quant and two Verbal) count towards your score.

For whichever type has three sections, one of those sections is experimental and unscored. This section exists for ETS to check the validity of new content for future administrations of the GRE. There is no safe way to recognize or distinguish the experimental section from its scored counterparts; you need to treat every section as if it counts.

Like the GMAT, the GRE is adaptive, but on a much lower-resolution scale. While the GMAT adapts on a question-by-question basis, the GRE only adapts the difficulty of the second (scored) section of each type (Quant and Verbal) based on your performance on the first (scored) section of that type, which is always of medium difficulty. ETS has not released information on how many different degrees of difficulty exist for the second sections, but the official practice tests provided on the ETS website have three possibilities for each second section: an easier one, a medium one, and a harder one.

Both the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning measures are scored on a scale from 130 to 170. Unlike the GMAT, the GRE does not combine the Quant and Verbal scores into some overall score or report percentiles for test-takers’ combined scores out of 340 (the sum of the scores for the Quant and Verbal sections). Percentiles are only provided for the independent Quant and Verbal scores out of 170, as well as for the Analytical Writing measure.

GRE scoring percentiles:

Here are up-to-date GRE scoring percentiles:

GRE Score Percentiles for Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning

Scaled Score Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
170 99 96
169 99 93
168 98 90
167 98 87
166 97 84
165 95 81
164 94 78
163 92 76
162 90 73
161 87 70
160 85 67
159 81 64
158 78 61
157 74 57
156 66 54
155 67 51
154 58 47
153 58 43
152 52 40
151 48 37
150 43 33
149 38 30
148 34 27
147 30 23
146 27 20
145 24 17

GRE Score Percentiles for Analytical Writing

Score Percentile Rank
6.0 99
5.5 97
5.0 91
4.5 79
4.0 54
3.5 37
3.0 13
2.5 6
2.0 2
1.5 1
1.0
0.5
0.0

GRE Strategy Tips

A main structural difference between the GMAT and the GRE is the GRE’s feature of section navigation. While the GMAT does not allow test-takers to navigate a section or return to any previously-encountered questions on the section, the GRE has a navigation screen for each Quant and Verbal section, accessible via a “review” button in the top-right corner of the test.

This screen shows you the status of each question in the section. If you haven’t seen a question yet, it will be labeled “not encountered.” If you have seen a question but not answered it, it will be labeled “not answered.” As you can see on question 4 of this section (highlighted above), a question may also be labeled “incomplete” if it has multiple parts and only some of these parts are completed (this is possible on most of the vocabulary-based questions on Verbal sections).

You should never actually leave a question “incomplete” or altogether “unanswered” before moving on, even if you mark it for review. When you toggle the “mark” button (right next to the “review” button in the top right), always fully answer the question before moving on. Even a random answer is better than no answer at all.

[Note: the label “Section 2 of 5” indicates a total of five sections rather than six because the practice tests do not include an experimental section. Also, you can toggle between showing and hiding the time remaining for the section. This feature is on the real GRE as well.]

The navigation feature represents an exploitable opportunity for GRE-takers. Since both the Quant and Verbal sections have consistent internal structures, you can choose which questions to work through first and which questions to leave until the end. For more info on these “internal structures,” stay tuned for upcoming articles.

On the Verbal sections, you can choose whether to do reading comprehension questions or vocabulary questions first. In the Quant sections, you can begin with all the quantitative comparison questions or leave them until the end. You can also specifically target the data interpretation questions early on if that suits you.

Some test-takers will benefit from getting their least favorite questions out of the way and then speeding through the easy stuff. Other test-takers might like to knock out the easy questions first in order to know exactly how much time they’ll have to complete the harder ones. You can figure out what’s best for you personally on your way through the GRE prep process, and the insights of a private GRE tutor can be of great value here.

Thanks for reading our GRE tips regarding structure, scoring, and strategy. As this series of articles continues, we’ll break down the Quant and Verbal sections independently to help you understand the structure and content of each section type.

If you are interested in speaking with one of our GRE tutors, you can sign-up for a complimentary, 30-minute, consultation call. You can also learn more from our past clients who were able to achieve their cumulative 325+ score with us!

Contributor: Elijah Mize (Apex GRE Instructor)

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GRE Verbal Section
Posted on
14
Jan 2022

GRE Verbal Section – All You Need To Know

The business world is dominated by numbers, charts, and graphs. Thus, most business school hopefuls understandably focus on developing their analytical thinking and math skills when preparing for the GRE exam. But it’s a mistake to neglect the GRE verbal section. Effective GRE test prep requires a balanced, well-rounded approach.

Here’s what you need to know about the GRE verbal reasoning section. 

What is the GRE verbal section and what does it test for?

The verbal section of GRE primarily evaluates the test taker’s overall command of standard written English, their ability to analyze and evaluate arguments, and critical reading skills. As such, the verbal section is made up of three types of problems: reading comprehension, text correction, and sentence equivalence

The 3 sections have a total of 36 questions, with a time limit of 65 minutes. This leaves, on average, 1 minute and 50 seconds per question.

How Is GRE Verbal Section Scored?

The verbal section of GRE, like the quantitative section, is evaluated on a scale of 130 to 170 in one point increments. A 162 on Verbal and a 166 on Quant is considered an excellent score – it is a 90th percentile score that will be competitive for most graduate programs. 

“What are GRE percentiles?” you may ask. Basically, the GRE ranks test takers by percentile. The percentile system uses GRE scores from the previous three years to calculate how applicants performed compared to their peers. For example, if an applicant scores in the 80th percentile, it means he or she performed better than 80% of test takers over the last three years. 

Although the GRE scaled scores don’t change over time, the percentiles do. Graduate schools assess both the scaled and percentile scores to get an adequate understanding of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Language on the GRE Verbal Section

The language on the verbal section is more sophisticated and academic than what is used in everyday vocabulary. If you aren’t accustomed to reading formal English, your verbal prep might require some extra time and energy. 

It will be easier to identify errors, main points, and bias statements once you’ve trained your ear to formal English. Practice reading formal texts efficiently and effectively, and avoid vernacular texts. Instead, choose sources that are known for using elevated writing styles, such as The New Yorker or The New York Times. 

GRE Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension subsection of GRE evaluates not only the candidate’s understanding of words and statements, but more importantly, the underlying logic behind them.
In this subsection, you’ll find passages of texts followed by several questions about the text’s details and implications. Some passages draw from various disciplines, such as the physical, biological, or social sciences, while others refer to business-related fields. 

Here are some tips to make the process less tedious and more efficient:

  1. Read the whole passage without taking too much time to memorize details
  2. Analyze the logical structure of the passage
  3. Ask yourself:
  • What’s the main argument?
  • What does the author state explicitly? What is implied?
  • How would you describe the author’s tone and attitude?

Keep an eye out for opinionated words–for example, “clearly,” “obviously,” or “apparently”–these words hint at the author’s attitudes, and they’ll help you suss out the main point. 

GRE Text Completion

Text Completion is another subsection of GRE consisting of questions designed to test candidates’ abilities to build coherent and meaningful sentences. What test-takers should do is to read short passages that miss crucial words in them. Then, based on the remaining information, they need to choose the word or short phrase that would best fit the blank and thus, construct clear and logical texts.

Here are a few tips to nail the GRE Text Completion subsection: 

  • Don’t focus only on the sentence with the blank space, read through the whole passage to learn the context.
  • Don’t waste too much time on the first blank – if you can’t think of anything at the moment, continue filling the rest and then come back to it.
  • Keep an eye on words like although, therefore, as they are connective words setting the direction of the passages.

GRE Sentence Equivalence

Similarly, the sentence equivalence subsection of the GRE aims at assessing a candidate’s ability to formulate a meaningful “whole” by choosing the proper way to fill in the blank spaces. Test-takers will have to complete a sentence by choosing two of the six answer options to fit one blank. The two words must be synonyms and lead to the constructing of a sentence with, more or less, the same meaning. No credit is provided for partially correct answers. 

Here are some tips to consider while doing the GRE sentence equivalence subsection:

  • First and foremost, you need to equip yourself with rich vocabulary, as you need to identify perfect synonyms. 
  • As there may be more than one set of synonyms among the answers, make sure that the words chosen by you are appropriate for filling in the blank.
  • After you’ve made your choice, make sure to read the sentence again in order to ensure it is grammatically and logically coherent.

Conclusion

Taking the GRE quantitative section into account, there are a number of score combinations that will lead to the same overall score, which leaves plenty of room to maneuver. However, given the rise in GRE quantitative scores in recent years, total scores and percentile rankings have shifted. This gives candidates an opportunity to boost their overall scores by mastering the verbal section of the GRE.

 

Contributor: Bilhen Sali

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