The first thing you need to know before you start GRE test prep is that it is long and arduous. It takes a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes with a 10-minute break after the third section. The test consists of six sections of which four are related to language and two to math. Finally, the ETS GRE test truly aces in complexity and intrigue with the GRE experimental or research sections. You will soon find out how.
GRE analytical writing
The GRE test always starts with the analytical writing section which you need to complete before you move to the next section. There are two compulsory tasks to complete in this section. One of them is the "Analyze an Issue" task and the other "Analyze an Argument" task. There is a time limit of 30 mins per question. The Analytical Writing section tests your ability to articulate ideas effectively, to reason and argue logically with examples, and to carry out a focused discussion, demonstrating high proficiency in English. Treat this section like a warmup. After this, there are 5 more sections that can appear in any order.
You will be prompted with an "issue" and you must respond to the issue logically.
You will be given a set of facts and an argument and conclusions based on these. You are required to critique the argument and propose an alternative conclusion if any.
The entire pool of topics from which the "issue" and "argument" are selected are published by ETS GRE on their website. You should definitely exploit this resource to the fullest during your GRE test prep.
GRE verbal reasoning sections
You will get two sections of GRE verbal reasoning each with 20 multiple choice type questions. Each section has a 30-minute time cap. The GRE verbal reasoning section basically tests if you can correctly and completely understand what the author intends to convey. You will be assessed on whether you understand the meaning of words, what conclusions you draw from incomplete information, whether you're able to identify the author's assumptions and a variety of other aspects related to reading comprehension.
GRE Quantitative Reasoning
You get two sections of GRE math called Quantitative Reasoning. Each has 20 questions each with a 35-minute time cap. GRE math tests elementary math concepts like arithmetic, algebra, and geometry, data interpretation and logical reasoning skills. In terms of level, high school math is all you need to focus on your GRE math practice. Trigonometry, calculus or other higher-level mathematics are not part of the GRE math syllabus.
The GRE experimental section
This is the trick question element of the GRE exam. The GRE experimental section can be either verbal or quantitative. And it appears randomly, anywhere in the test after the analytical writing section. It contains questions that the organizer hasn't tried before. The catch is that the experimental section is not identified and does not count towards your score. So, you have no way of knowing for sure whether you're attempting a GRE experimental section. You must be wondering, if it doesn't count towards your score why it's there in the first place. It is meant to test people's responses to new types of questions with the intent of introducing them in future tests.
Should you skip the GRE Experimental Section?
The first question is whether the experimental section can be identified. We already know that there ought to be only two verbal and two quantitative sections. So, if there is a third section in either category you know that must be the GRE experimental section in that category. E.g., if there is a third GRE verbal section, then you know that the experimental section is verbal. So, one of the GRE verbal sections isn't going to count towards your score.
We would strongly recommend that you NOT try and guess which one is an experimental section. The difficulty level of this section varies widely from test to test. It is in your interest to attempt all the sections with equal seriousness. Just know that if you do badly in a difficult experimental section it won't count towards your score.
Students appearing for the ETS GRE test in paper form don't get experimental sections. Also, on some rare occasions, some random candidates don't get it either, shortening their exam timing by 30-35 minutes.
The GRE research section
The GRE research section appears right at the end of the GRE test and is clearly identified as one. You are not obliged to take it. The purpose is the same as above, i.e., to test out potential questions.
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