How Long is the GRE?

Clock to show how long is the GRE - image by Magoosh

How long is the GRE test, exactly? ETS estimates 3 hours and 45 minutes (not counting the break), but you should plan on spending up to four and a half hours at the test center. While the GRE may feel like a marathon (and take even longer than one), you can prepare by getting to know what happens on test day and how long each part will take. Keep reading to get our full GRE timing breakdown!

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How long is the GRE test? Breaking Down Each Section

The actual GRE exam (with the break) will take about four hours—below is the timing for each GRE section. Based on your experience taking practice tests and working on your speed, adjust accordingly to see: How long is the GRE for me?

Activity/MeasureTotal MinutesNotes
Checking in at test center5-20 minsDepending on the test center
Filling out information5-15 minsDepending on how quickly you work
Analytical Writing60 (30mins/section)This section is always first
Verbal Reasoning60 (30mins/section) (20 Qs/section)The order of this section changes
Quantitative Reasoning70 (35mins/section) (20 Qs/section)The order of this section changes
Break10 minsThis is always after the third section
Unidentified/Unscored section OR Identified/Unscored Research Section30-35 minsThe order of this section changes, but it is always unscored
Accepting your score5 minsBefore knowing your score, you can accept or reject it
TOTAL245-275 minsThe GRE experience will take you about 4-5 hours

All that said, you may breeze through each section, in which case the test may take less than three hours. Let’s break this down even more. First, let’s look at each section separately, then we’ll go into the variables that can change how long you spend at the test center.


 

Analytical Writing Section: 60 Minutes

If you are a fast writer, you may take less than the 60 minutes allotted for GRE Analytical Writing. However, I’m guessing 99% of test-takers will use the maximum time allotted for the essays. You can always find ways to cut down on your essay writing time. Still, one hour is a long time, so make sure that when you take a practice test at home, you also write two full essays. Don’t go in on test day never having written both an argument essay and an issue essay together under timed conditions.

Remember: this section is always first. You can count on it.
 
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Verbal Reasoning Sections: 60 Minutes

Each GRE Verbal section is 30 minutes and 20 questions, for a total of 60 minutes. The verbal sections are not back-to-back unless the experimental section is a verbal section. I’m lumping the two verbal sections together only to indicate the total time.

Many students struggle with pacing on Reading Comprehension. So even though the time is set, navigating through dense passages can make the verbal sections alone seem like they last for four hours.
 
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Quantitative Reasoning Sections: 70 Minutes

Each GRE Quant section is 35 minutes, for a total of 70 minutes. Of course, you’ll be happy hear that you have those precious extra five minutes. Here are some tips on saving time with GRE math. But remember: accuracy is always your number one goal, especially if there is still time on the clock. Unlike in a marathon, you don’t get bragging rights for finishing faster.
 
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Experimental Section: 30 or 35 Minutes

You may have noticed that each GRE math section is five minutes longer than the verbal section. So if you end up getting a Quant section for an experimental section, expect to spend another five minutes in the testing center. If you’re good at math, you might spend less time. Sometimes the experimental section is unidentified, and sometimes the test will tell you that this is an “identified research section.” Act as though all sections are scored, even though you know that one isn’t. Better to be safe than sorry.
 
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How long is the GRE from start to finish?

While the actual exam takes about four hours, you should plan on spending at least four and a half hours from the time you walk into the test center until the end of the test. Why? Because you’ll need to detail with administration related to the test.

1. Test Center Check-in: 5-20 Minutes

At a bare minimum, you have to sign in, the staff has to take your finger/palm print, and you have to figure out the locker experience. Sometimes you have to have your picture taken and be observed putting all your things in a locker. The minimum time before you sit down at the computer is five minutes.

You can also have the unenviable experience of getting stuck behind a line of people. In these extreme cases, you may have to wait as long as twenty minutes to actually sit down at the computer. I’ve gone to testing centers in which the palm print or fingerprint machine is malfunctioning. There can be any number of hiccups.

2. Filling in Your Information: 5-15 Minutes

If you are taking the GRE for the first time, you will have to enter quite a lot of personal information (don’t worry—this doesn’t figure into your score!). This process may take as long as 15 minutes. They will ask you your name, your level of education, the level of education of your parents, and a whole slew of other questions that they use for statistical purposes.

3. Timed Break: 10 Minutes

You do not need to take this 10-minute break, but for a better test score—and your sanity—I highly recommend you do. Also, if you don’t take advantage of the break because you are in the zone, remember that the callings of Mother Nature, which might pop up at any moment, have a way of derailing focus.

4. Score Accept Screen: 5 Minutes

Yes, the good news about GRE scores is that you do get your multiple-choice scores at the end of the test!

At the end of the test, you have five minutes to determine whether you want to accept or reject your GRE test scores based on the unofficial scores provided: your unofficial verbal and unofficial math scores. While you might be feeling the pressure here, at least you’re done! Breathe!

Note that these aren’t your official scores—those will come on official score reports 10-15 days after the tests. These will be available in your ETS account, and are the reports that score recipients (graduate school/s, MBA programs/business schools, or law schools in place of the LSAT) will want to see for admissions. Don’t worry, though; you can always send additional score reports later for an additional test fee of $27 per recipient.
 
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Top Tips on How to Handle GRE Timing

If you’re finding the idea of taking a 4+ hour test overwhelming, you’re not alone. However, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself for test day and master GRE timing.

  1. Take a practice test. Then, take more!
    Think of preparing for the GRE like preparing for a marathon. You wouldn’t expect to get to the finish line of a race without preparing (and if you did, you would be exhausted!). 4+ hours is a long time to test. The more you familiarize yourself with the time requirements and what they feel like, the better prepared you’ll be for the time requirements on test day.
     
  2. Don’t cut corners on your practice tests
    We get it: it’s super tempting to focus on Verbal and Quant to the detriment of the AWA during your practice tests. However, unless you work through the test requirements in one sitting, you won’t be building the endurance you’ll need to perform your best (yes, including on the computer-graded sections!) on the actual exam.
     
  3. Familiarize yourself with the GRE interface
    Working with a computer-based test format for the first time on test day can be unnecessarily stressful—and end up costing you precious minutes. By practicing with the on-screen calculator and other tools you’ll encounter on test day well before you set foot in the test center, you’ll set yourself up to show your true skills in mathematics topics like algebra and geometry by taking the full time on test day answering questions, instead of figuring out how the computer-based format work. The same applies for the word processing tool in AWA and other computer functions (using Magoosh GRE prep and official prep materials are a great way to master these before test day!).
     
  4. Maximize your points with a pacing strategy
    Sometimes, it really won’t be possible to answer all questions in a given GRE section. Prepare for this by watching Magoosh’s Skipping Questions and Pacing Lesson Video. Here, Magoosh’s experts will walk you through key timing strategies, such as doing the easier questions first.
     
  5. Understand how long you have for each question, then work toward that

    With the pacing strategies in the video above, work to get your time per question down to around 1:45 for Quant and 1:30 for Verbal.

    You may need to vary this slightly depending on the type of Verbal question you’re answering, as a long reading passage and a one-blank text completion are not equivalent in terms of how long they take! Here are some more detailed recommendations:

    • One-Blank Text Completions: 20 – 45 seconds
    • Sentence Equivalence: 20 – 60 seconds
    • Two-Blank Text Completions: 30 – 75 seconds
    • Three-Blank Text Completions: 45 sec – 2 min
    • Short Reading Passage (including time to read passage): 45 sec – 1:45 min
    • Long Reading Passage: 1:00 – 3:00 min

 
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Takeaway: GRE Timing

Checking in takes 10-35 minutes. Actually taking the GRE takes 4 hours. Therefore, from the time you walk into the testing center to the time you walk out, you are looking at close to four and a half hours.

Yikes! Because it’s obviously so exhausting to sit through the entire test, I really recommend taking at least a couple of practice tests that simulate the real thing before test day. That means no interruptions for four and a half hours! Can you do it? (You can do it. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to study for the GRE!)

Now that you know how long the GRE is, start your studying by learning a few GRE words related to time:

If you’ve still got questions about the GRE, check out our Ultimate GRE Guide!

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