The Graduate Record Examination -- usually just called the GRE -- is a prerequisite for many graduate-level educational programs. The test underwent a major revision in 2011, and the majority of test-takers now take it on a computer unless they are in a remote location, have a disability or have some special circumstance that makes computer testing impossible. The test is divided into timed sections, and the time it takes to do the test depends on how quickly you move through each section.
Total Time Allotment
The total test length for the GRE is about three hours and 45 minutes if you're taking the computer version of the test, and three hours and 30 minutes if you're taking the paper version. If you're on a tight time budget, however, you should plan to spend a little extra time at the test location. The allotted time for each section will not be increased; instead, administrative tasks, breaks and similar issues can increase your time. For example, you might start the test late, have computer trouble or experience some other delay that slightly increases the time you spend on the GRE.
The GRE has six standard sections. The analytical writing section is broken up into two separate tasks. You will be required to analyze an issue as well as an argument, and you're allotted 30 minutes for each task in both the computer and the paper version of the exam. This section is always first, but the order of other sections can vary. The verbal reasoning portion of the test is broken into two different segments, each with a time allotment of 30 minutes in the computer version and a time allotment of 35 minutes for each segment in the paper version. The quantitative reasoning section is also broken into two sections, each with an allotment of 35 minutes for the computer version and 40 minutes for the paper version. The computer version of the test usually has one unscored or one research section, and the time for these sections can vary. If your test includes an identified research section, it will always appear at the end of the test and will not count in your final score. If your test includes an unscored section, it may appear any time after the Analytical Writing section, but it will not be marked as unscored even though the scores for that section will not count toward your final score.
After the third test section, you'll be allowed a brief 10-minute break. If you have a registered disability, you might be offered additional breaks that can increase your time to take the test. If you need to use the bathroom, you may be allowed to do so and your test time will be paused during your break.
If you're taking the computer version of the test, you can move to the next section as soon as you finish a section. However, you can't go back to a previous section, so ensure you're completely done with a section before skipping ahead. If you work quickly, your test time can be greatly decreased.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.