Standardized tests can be a slog. If you completed a traditional undergraduate program in college, you might remember sitting through hours of work for the SAT or ACT beforehand. Now, if you’re getting ready to take the GRE for graduate school admission, chances are you’re wondering: How long is the GRE?
To find out how long the GRE takes to complete, check out our guide. We examine every aspect of the GRE General Test and how long each section takes. By the time you’re done, you’ll be fully prepared for the exam.
How Long is the GRE?
The GRE is three hours and 45 minutes long with a 10-minute break. In total, you can expect to be at your GRE testing center for about four hours.
You should also account for 30 minutes before the official start of the test. Test center requirements vary, but some testing centers recommend you arrive up to 30 minutes early to register and set up for the test.
You also have to take other practical considerations into account. Is the testing center close by or far away from where you live? Either way, you will want to add commuting time to how much of the day the entire GRE process will take you.
Chances are the GRE process will take up your entire morning. You will be excited to treat yourself to lunch by the time it’s all over.
GRE Section Durations
The GRE is made up of four main test subjects and seven total sections. Below is a breakdown of the four main sections in regard to how long it will take you to complete the GRE. We’ll also discuss what to expect during your GRE break.
Analytical Writing Section
You will spend an hour on analytical writing during the exam, split into two 30-minute sections. One section asks test-takers to analyze an issue and the other asks them to analyze an argument. This is always the first section of the test. The section asks students to answer questions with clearly-articulated and well-supported ideas. This is the only writing task of the exam.
Verbal Reasoning Section
The verbal reasoning section is the reading comprehension part of the test. It is 60 minutes long and is split into two 30-minute sections with 20 questions per section. The order of this part of the test varies. In other words, it may come before or after the quantitative reasoning section of the test.
The verbal reasoning section includes questions including concepts like sentence equivalence, text completion, and understanding multiple levels of meaning.
Quantitative Reasoning Section
Quantitative reasoning is basically a euphemism for math. This part of the test is slightly longer than the others at 70 minutes. It is made up of two 35-minute sections, which include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
The sections test whether you can accurately interpret quantitative information and problem solve. If you are applying to business school with the GRE instead of the GMAT, your quantitative reasoning section will be particularly important. This is also true for many other quantitative-heavy graduate programs.
Every GRE exam will include an experimental or research section. ETS uses this section for research purposes to help develop future exams and gather data about test-takers. It’s essentially an unscored section that may be an identified or an unidentified unscored section.
Either way, you are responsible for completing it as if it were an actual scored element of the exam. It may be in quantitative reasoning or verbal, so it maybe 35 or 30 minutes long.
Your GRE Break
The 10-minute break is not built into the test, nor is it mandated. This means that you can take the break at any time and that you could split in two.
Most students take the break to use the restroom and recharge with a snack (you will have to bring your own snack). With such a long test, refueling can make a big difference to your sanity and how well you ultimately do on the test.
Now that you understand the general format and breakdown of the GRE, it’s important to understand how GRE scores are calculated.
Your verbal and quantitative reasoning scores are made up of the number of questions you answered correctly. You do not lose any points for any questions that you answered incorrectly.
This is why it is the best practice to answer every question, even if you don’t know the answer and are guessing. This way, you may even guess the correct answer and still gain points toward your total score. If you answered it incorrectly, you will not lose any points.
Getting Your Test Scores
When you complete the test, the testing center gives five minutes for test-takers to accept or reject their scores. In other words, if you feel that you did not do well, you can reject the scores before you see them.
This is risky, since you may have done better than you thought. That said, this is a way to give students some choice over which scores are submitted to the graduate schools where they apply.
How Long Should You Prepare for the GRE?
This is a very personal consideration for each graduate school applicant. Ideally, you will give yourself at least a month or two to prepare and take advantage of GRE prep materials.
As far as choosing test dates, it’s totally up to availability in your area and your own goals. Chances are you will find GRE test centers with test dates that work well for you. If you plan to take the test multiple, your odds of finding a testing facility increases.