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GRE Question Types Breakdown

A key to pacing on the GRE is knowing exactly what the breakdown in questions are, and knowing how well you handle each question. Related to this is the numbering of each question. To illustrate: if you struggle with Text Completions, it is helpful to know that the first six questions of each verbal section are Text Completions.

Below is a helpful breakdown of the question type, the number of such questions, and, where applicable, the difficulty level of each question. Remember you’ll see the verbal and math sections twice!


Verbal Sections

Text Completions (TC): Questions 1-6

One-Blank TC (two questions)

Two-Blank TC (two questions)

Three-Blank TC (two questions)

Of note: the second of each type of TC (one-, two-blank, etc.) is usually more difficult.

Reading Comprehension

Medium Reading Passage: Questions 7-9/10

Paragraph Argument: Question 11

Short Reading Passage: Question 12-13

Or the Medium and Short passage will, on one of the verbal sections you see (assuming you don’t get the experimental verbal section) be condensed into a very long reading passage.

Sentence Equivalence
: Usually around questions 14-17

Questions do not become more difficult as the number increases.

Back to Reading Comprehension

Short Reading Passage: Questions 18-19

Remember, pacing your reading comprehension is very important.

Paragraph Argument: Question 20

The above is a rough approximation. For instance sometimes the first reading passage will be precede by a paragraph argument.


Math Sections

Quantitative Comparison: Questions 1-7

Questions get more difficult, i.e., question 1 is typically the easiest and question 7 the toughest.

Problem Solving: Questions 8-20

Questions 8-12 will be a mix of five answer multiple-choice questions, Numeric Entry question (usually one) and a short multiple answer question (usually three answer choices).

Questions 13-16 will be Data Interpretation

Question 17-20 contains a multiple answer question (usually with many possible choices). You may also see a second Numeric Entry question.



Knowing the “lay of the land” is key to pacing your verbal and pacing your math. Also knowing your strengths and weaknesses—so you can know which questions to skip and, if necessary, come back to later—is important.  Use the above to refer to before taking a practice test. After you become familiar with the format, your grasp of the type and ordering of questions should become second nature. Do you think knowledge is power here? Or is order of questions and quantity just a distraction? Let us know below. 🙂

And if you’re still wondering about specifics of the test, check out the Ultimate GRE Guide!


By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

5 Responses to GRE Question Types Breakdown

  1. Anitha May 25, 2016 at 2:58 am #

    Hi Sir,
    I wish to do Ph.D in pharmaceutical sciences related to nanotechnology. Should I need to attend GRE? If so, What should be my minimum GRE Score? Will I get funded Ph.d programs with my GRE Scores? What should be my target?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 25, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      Hi Anitha,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly as much expertise and experience in graduate school admissions as we do with GRE prep, so I’m afraid we can’t be of much help. Here are a few blog posts to help you evaluate your scores:

      What is a Good GRE Score?
      GRE Scores Infographic
      GRE Scores for Top Universities
      GRE Scores by Program Major

      Additionally, I’d recommend directly contacting the schools/programs you’re interested in to see if they can offer any insight, or check out the programs’ websites to see if they have any info! This website is also a great place to start your research:

      Best Grad Schools

      I hope that helps at least a little!

  2. Arnold December 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Hi Chris

    Great dissection, really great. I have a very concrete question for you, but I’m quite sure that you will be able to answer it

    When facing a Numeric Entry question, if there is no information above the box telling something like ‘write the number until it’s second decimal’ or something like this, can we assume than the answer is an Integer? Even with exact decimals I noticed that this kind of instructions appeared, that’s why it came to my mind the idea of this possible pattern

    I am quite sure of this, but not 100%

  3. aditya March 9, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    great article. this was one of my questions to Rachel as well but was answered lot more details here. My concern is with RC’s, especially the 18-19 q.

    I’m pretty bad with RC timing.Do you advise on my strategy of tackling 18& 19 q’s first ? In other words how many times out of 100 will 18 & 19 be a RC ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Aditya,

      That’s a tough question to answer. Sometimes 18&19 will be 17&18. I think the key point is that you will get two questions and a short passage, which you might want to do before tackling the giant passage (which, again, only has four questions).

      Hope that makes sense 🙂

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