The GRE General Test: A Stairway to Higher Study

GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. If you are planning on getting yourself in a graduate school (doing your master’s) in mostly USA, you may need a GRE score to apply. It is the most common entrance exam and the largest assessment program for your graduate admission and students from all over the globe fight to get a better score here.


The GRE examination is actually designed to help graduate schools of mostly USA to decide if you’ve got the right stuff for their program. This exam tests your skills and measure your ability to think, reason and analyse any problem. Statistically, there are more than thousands of graduate programs which require GRE score as a mandatory task as a part of their admission demands.

It is obvious that there is no way of comparing two students with GPA 3.2 in Botany and 3.4 in Political science respectively for admitting them in an institution except a generalized test. This selection gets more complicated if they are from two different countries with different educational experiences and backgrounds. To rescue the selectors from this havoc, the GRE test comes into play to provide an apple-to-apple comparison and make it easier for the academies to choose the best performers. However, the GRE doesn’t confirm your ability in your undergrad field. Not even the least.

Must you take the GRE for your master’s program in any university?

You must note that whether or not you need a GRE score is entirely dependent on the university and program that you are going to pursue. As mentioned before only a definite number of programmes from all over the globe require GRE and most of them are in USA. So before planning any more, please consider your wish-I-go universities and visit their websites and check if GRE score is needed.

Who designs GRE?

The GRE exam is designed by an institution based in New Jersey named ETS (Educational Testing Service). It is a big, tax-exempt company which also takes the tests like SAT, TOEFL etc.

What does GRE exam test?

  • Analytical writing skill
  • Verbal reasoning skill
  • Quantitative reasoning skill
  • Critical thinking

GRE section categories

  1. Analytical writing (30 minutes)
  2. Verbal reasoning (30 minutes)
  3. Quantitative reasoning (35 minutes)

It is to be noted that each section category has two sections. So in total you have 6 sections. And including the break of 10 minutes following third section, total time for GRE exam is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. This includes the 1 minute break between each section except the third one.

Measure  Number of questions Allotted time
Analytical Writing
(One section with two separately timed tasks)
Analyze an Issue 30 minutes
Analyze an Argument 30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning
(Two sections)
20 questions per section 30 minutes per section
Quantitative Reasoning
(Two sections)
20 questions per section 35 minutes per section
Unscored Varies Varies
Research Varies Varies


The Analytical Writing section will always be first. The Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and unidentified/unscored sections may appear in any order. Therefore, you should treat each section as if it counts as the unscored section is unidentified.


  • This section will be unidentified.
  • May appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section.
  • It will be unscored i.e you won’t get any mark answering these questions. But you must answer them if they are present as they are unidentified.

Purpose: Questions in the unscored section are being tried out either for possible use in future tests or to ensure that scores on new editions of the test are comparable to scores from earlier editions.


  • The research section will be identified.
  • The score is not counted.
  • It will be present in place of unscored section i.e if research section is present, there will be no unscored section.
  • Always appear at the end of the result.

Purpose: Questions in this section are included for ETS research purposes.

However, you can tell if your question includes an unscored section. If by the end of your exam you found in total 5 MCQ sections, your question had an unscored section as without unscored section, there should have been 4 MCQ sets. Two verbals and two mathematicals. So you can also determine whether your verbal or mathematical section has that extra unscored part.

Test Design Features

The advanced adaptive design of the GRE General Test allows you to freely move forward and backward throughout an entire section. Specific features include:

  • Preview and review capabilities within a section.
  • “Mark” and “Review” features to tag questions, so you can skip them and return later if you have time remaining in the section.
  • The ability to change/edit answers within a section.
  • An on-screen calculator for the Quantitative Reasoning section.

N.B: You won’t be able to migrate between sections but among questions within each section.


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GRE Verbal Section

The computer-based verbal sections assess

  • Reading comprehension
  • Critical reasoning
  • Vocabulary usage

Score: In a scale of 130–170 with 1 point increment.
Total questions: Each verbal section consists of 20 questions.
Time: Each verbal section to be completed in 30 minutes.

Each verbal section consists of about 6 text completion, 4 sentence equivalence, and 10 critical reading questions.

Quantitative section

The computer-based quantitative sections assess basic high school level mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills.

Score: On a scale of 130-170 with 1 point increment.
Total questions: Each quantitative section consists of 20 questions.
Time: Each quantitative section to be completed in 35 minutes.

Each quantitative section consists of about 8 quantitative comparisons, 9 problem solving items, and 3 data interpretation questions. The changes in 2011 (New GRE) include the addition of numeric entry items requiring the examinee to fill in the blank and multiple-choice items requiring the examinee to select multiple correct responses.

Analytical writing section

The analytical writing section consists of two different essays, an “issue task” and an “argument task”.

Score: On a scale of 0-6 with .5 point increment.

The writing section is graded on a scale of 0–6, in half-point increments. The essays are written on a computer using a word processing program specifically designed by ETS. The program allows only basic computer functions and does not contain a spell-checker or other advanced features. Each essay is scored by at least two readers on a six-point holist scale. If the two scores are within one point, the average of the scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than a point, a third reader examines the response.

  • Issue Task

The test taker is given 30 minutes to write an essay about a selected topic. Issue topics are selected from a pool of questions, which the GRE Program has published in its entirety. Individuals preparing for the GRE may access the pool of tasks on the ETS website.

  • Argument Task

The test taker will be given an argument (i.e. a series of facts and considerations leading to a conclusion) and asked to write an essay that critiques the argument. Test takers are asked to consider the argument’s logic and to make suggestions about how to improve the logic of the argument. Test takers are expected to address the logical flaws of the argument and not provide a personal opinion on the subject. The time allotted for this essay is 30 minutes.

The Arguments are selected from a pool of topics, which the GRE Program has published in its entirety. Individuals preparing for the GRE may access the pool of tasks on the ETS website.

Experimental section

The experimental section can be either verbal or quantitative It contains new questions ETS is considering for future use.

Remember that although the experimental section does not count towards the test-taker’s score, it is unidentified and appears identical to the scored sections. Because test takers have no definite way of knowing which section is experimental, it is typically advised that test takers try their best and be focused on every section.

Sometimes an identified research section at the end of the test is given instead of the experimental section. There is no experimental section on the paper-based GRE.

Seeing and sending your score?

At the end of your exam you may accept your score or if you wish you may deny to accept it. If you accept, there will be another option saying whether you want to send the scores to selected programs or not.

  • If you press ‘Yes’, both you and the program officials will see your scores.
  • If you press ‘No’, you and none will see your score.

You may choose to send your scores to up to four graduate programs on the day of the test. This service is included in your testing fees.

Point to be noted that the result you get on your test day is your score in verbal and math section. But your analytical writing score and percentile scores will be sent to you via email a few weeks later.

Register for GRE

When: Round the year
Where: Over 1000 available locations around the globe. Visit this site to prefer yours.
How: Make an account in ETS and follow the rules to register by your phone.
How much: USD 205.


There are many universities all over the planet which don’t require GRE. But most universities in USA require it as a precondition to do the masters. Here we are giving a very short list of some universities and some programmes under some world famous universities which waived GRE score in biotechnology. Your further research may include more (please notify us in the comment section).

Rank University  Programmes Admission requirements
16 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands MSc programme of Biotechnology 1. Academic Transcripts
42 McGill University Master of Science (Applied) in Biotechnology 1. Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences
2. CGPA of at least 3.2
3. Advanced knowledge in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology
55 University of Manchester United Kingdom MSc Biotechnology and Enterprise 1. Upper 2nd Class UK Honours degree or equivalent


Good to know:

(Editing to be continued)
(Will be followed by another article)

1. https://www.ets.org/gre
2. https://www.collegeatlas.org/concentration-tips.html
3. Cracking the new GRE 2012 by The Princeton Review

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