GRE Exam
Posted By Tyler York

How long is the GRE exam

The GRE is long and stressful, but you can beat it with smart strategies

Photo by on Unsplash

Preparing to take the GRE test goes beyond targeting scores and choosing between target schools. You need to prepare yourself to have discipline and focus during the actual exam. The best way to do this is to mimic real GRE conditions, which includes simulating the actual exam questions and timing. (Achievable GRE’s Practice Exam feature does this automatically).


How long is the GRE test

The GRE exam is 3 hours and 45 minutes long, and consists of six sections – five scored, one unscored. Exam takers will always start with the Analytical Writing section. This will then be followed, in random order, by the Verbal Reasoning section, the Quantitative Reasoning section, and the unscored experimental section.


Time allotted to each GRE section:


Number of Questions

Allotted Time

Analytical Writing

(One section with two separately timed tasks)

One “Analyze an Issue” task and one “Analyze an Argument” task

30 minutes per task

Verbal Reasoning

(Two sections)

20 questions per section

30 minutes per section

Quantitative Reasoning

(Two sections)

20 questions per section

35 minutes per section








In addition to the core test sections of the GRE, you will spend a bit of time getting started, taking a break, etc. Below is an example of how the above allotments could translate into an actual test day. 


Example of a typical GRE test day:



# of Questions

Biographical Information

+/- 10 minutes

Issue Essay

30 minutes


Argument Essay

30 minutes


Verbal Reasoning (2 sections)

30 minutes per section

20 each section

Quantitative Reasoning (2 sections)

30 minutes per section

20 each section

Experimental Section

30 to 35 minutes


1 Break

10 minutes

Possible Research section



Select Schools/Programs

5 minutes

Up to 4

Accept Scores

1 minute

Receive Scores

1 minute



You need a strategy for completing the GRE sections on time

Photo by on Unsplash

GRE timing strategy and skipping questions

Using an effective timing strategy will serve you well for the GRE, especially the Quantitative section. The key rule? If you decide to attempt a problem, and you don’t arrive at a solution within three minutes, you must force yourself to make an educated guess based on the work you’ve done thus far and move on.

Setting this 3-minute limit should help prevent you from spending (or wasting) too much time on a single question. You need to keep up a good pace over the course of the exam to ensure you’re not rushing through your last few questions and missing things you would have been able to answer with enough time.


Which GRE section do people typically struggle to complete on time?

While the Quantitative section definitely gets the most attention and therefore preparation from students, the Analytical Writing section is often the one where students run out of time. This is especially true for non-native English speakers.

The first essay will ask you to take a position on an issue and support that idea with evidence. The second essay will ask you to critique the weaknesses in a given argument. Your compositions should be relevant and concise, and you should use outlines to ensure that you and stay on task throughout the essay. Make a point of practicing building an outline with an intro, three supporting paragraphs, and conclusion within five minutes for each essay type – that will give you twenty five minutes to complete the essay.

Additionally, you can become more comfortable with topic prompts with the help of the published lists from ETS:

Practicing with those topics will give you the closest experience possible to the actual GRE exam.


What pace should I aim for in GRE practice exams?

Each section is 30 minutes and 20 questions, which means you need to average 90 seconds per question. 

The key to beating the GRE exam is proper pacing and a calm demeanor. To ensure you’re familiar with the pace and rhythm of the actual exam, you should mimic the same timing and structure when taking GRE practice tests. Familiarity will help loosen some of those nerves. This is why we time our practice exam feature at Achievable – it helps you be as prepared as possible for the exam.


Thanks for reading!

Subscribe to our blog to get the latest GRE Exam tips, career advice, and more.

Join 160 other subscribers

We also post more great content on our social channels:

About Achievable

Achievable’s GRE course is the most modern and effective on the market. We leverage data analytics and learning science to create a personalized study program for you, on your phone, tablet, or computer. Follow it, and reach your target GRE score.

Best of all, it’s free to try – visit to see why more students are switching to Achievable.

%d bloggers like this: