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The Experimental Section on the GRE

The revised GRE is a test that can take almost four hours to complete. The last thing a test taker wants is another grueling math or verbal section, especially if that section does not count. Yet that is what the experimental section basically amounts to. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the experimental section that you’ll see on the GRE.


What is the experimental section?

The experimental section is a complete section, either verbal or math, administered during the test, that will not count towards your score. The section will not be identified as such, but if you got three math sections, then one of those math sections was the experimental section. The experimental section can come at the beginning, middle or end. The truth is – you will never know.


Do you have to take it?

Yes, and no. There is an experimental section given during the test. There is also a quasi-experimental section after the test that you can volunteer to take. Most, after having spent three-plus hours usually opt out.

To complicate matters even further, you many not necessarily receive an experimental section during the test. As to what this proportion is, I am unsure. So if you take the new GRE and you only sit for two math and two verbal sections, then you lucked out. Most likely, you will receive an experimental section so it is best to mentally prepare for it.


What should you do on the day of the exam?

Never attempt to guess which section is the experimental one. You should be in the mindset that every section counts. Even if you think you have gotten the experimental section (you see a strange looking geometrical shape or a frightening word that wasn’t on your vocab list) do not assume this is the case. In the heat of a moment, many things on the test may strike you as strange. And if you misidentify the experimental section, the effect on your score can be catastrophic.


Why must ETS torture students?

Another way of stating this question is, what’s the point? Well, to determine the difficulty of a question, ETS (the creators of the exam) must figure out what percentage of students miss a question. To arrive at this number, ETS needs a sample group that is as similar as possible to a future test taker. So there is no better guinea pig then the current test taker.



Never try to guess which section is the experimental. Aim to do your best on each question.



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