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GRE Syllabus – Topics Covered, Exam Pattern & Strategy, Updates

by Anup chowdhury
GRE Syllabus

GRE Syllabus – Taking up a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a popular internationally acclaimed examination for students who aspire to pursue a postgraduate degree from a university abroad. It basically comprises two test formats namely GRE General and GRE Subject test.The GRE syllabus for each test is different. General Test is the standard exam that tests students verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. For more specific course, Subject Test might be required by the college, as Subject Test focuses on judging the candidates expertise in specific fields such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics etc.

In this article, we have answered the following questions – What is the GRE syllabus and exam pattern of General GRE (Computer or Paper Delivered) and Subject GRE? How much time duration is given to complete each section of the exam? What should be the strategy of students after obtaining GRE scores? Once you are aware of the GRE syllabus, you can head on to prepare for it.

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GRE Syllabus – What is the syllabus of GRE General Test?

Since the GRE test has two components, the GRE syllabus is also divided into General and Subject syllabus. General GRE syllabus consists of topics related to analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. Given below is detailed information on each section of the GRE General syllabus:

ETS GRE scores are accepted by most of the top graduate level schools for masters degree programs

You can take the computer-delivered GRE General Test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days)

Analytical Writing

This measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills of the students. It assesses the applicants ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct arguments and sustain focussed and coherent discussions.The analytical writing consists of two separately timed analytical writing tasks: “Analyse an Issue” (30 minutes) and “Analyse an Argument” (30 minutes). In the issue task, an opinion on the issue of general interest is tested.

Quantitative Reasoning

Thequantitative reasoningsection aims to measure the candidate’s ability to understand quantitative information. To interpret and analyse quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models, and apply basic mathematical skills and elementary mathematical concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics. What are the topics covered in quantitative reasoning? The answer to this question is mentioned in detail in the table below. It provides a comprehensive list of topics that are covered under the Quantitative Reasoning section.

List of topics covered in Quantitative Reasoning

Ratio and proportion Profit and loss
Simple and compound interest Speed, distance and time
Permutation & combination Linear equations
Quadratic equations Sets Theory
Statistics Powers and roots
Probability Pipes, cisterns, work, time
Lines and angles Triangles
Polygon Quadrilateral
Circles Co-ordinate geometry
Order of operations Volume and surface area
Percentage Number properties

Verbal Reasoning

The verbal reasoning section measures the ability of a studentto analyse and evaluate written material and extract information. It also analyses relationships among component parts of sentences and recognises relationship among words and concepts. The verbal reasoning section contains mainly three types of questions:

  1. Reading comprehensions
  2. Text completion
  3. Sentence equivalence

The topics covered in this section of GRE syllabus are:

  1. Basic Sentence structure: Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives
  2. Verb Tense, Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
  3. Pronoun Agreement and Subject-Verb Agreement
  4. Modifiers and ParallelismStudy Abroad College Admissions Login

GRE Syllabus – What is the syllabus for GRE subject test?

Subject Test Syllabus

GRE Subject Test is an achievement test that measures the knowledge of the students in a particular field of study. The students should have an undergraduate major in one of the six disciplines namely, Biology, Chemistry, Literature, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. This test score is used by colleges or fellowship panels to supplement undergraduate records, recommendation letters, and other qualifications. The test is a paper-delivered format which can be taken worldwide 3 times a year in the month of September, October, and April.

The GRE syllabus for Subject Test consists of the following subjects:

  1. Biology
  2. Chemistry
  3. Literature in English
  4. Mathematics
  5. Physics
  6. Psychology

Given below is a subject-wise description of GRE syllabus for the Subject Test.


  1. There are 190 questions with five answer choices.
  2. Out of the total questions, a number of questions are grouped in sets towards the end of the test and are based on descriptions of laboratory and field situations, diagrams or experimental results.
  3. The content of the test is organized into three major areas: cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology and evolution.

For full syllabus details on each section in Biology – CLICK HERE

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  1. The test consists of 130 multiple-choice questions. Topics will be asked from the following 4 sections: Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, and Physical Chemistry.
  2. Test questions are constructed to simplify mathematical manipulations. As a result, neither calculators nor tables of logarithms are needed to answer such questions.

For full details on syllabus on each section in Chemistry- CLICK HERE

Literature in English

  1. Each edition of this test consists of 230 questions on poetry, drama, biography, essay, short story, novel, criticism, literary theory and the history of the language.
  2. Some of the questions are based on short works reprinted in their entirety and some on excerpts from longer works.
  3. The test draws on literature in English from the British Isles, the United States and other parts of the world.
  4. It also contains a few questions on major works, including the Bible, translated from other languages.
  5. The test emphasizes authors, works, genres, and movements.
  6. The questions may be classified into two groups: factual and analytical.

The literary-historical scope of the test follows the distribution given below:

Literary-Historical Scope

S.No Literary Topic Percentage
1 Continental, Classical and Comparative Literature 5-10%
2 British Literature to 1660 25-30%
3 British Literature 1660-1925 25-35%
4 American Literature through 1925 15-25%
5 American, British and World Literature after 1925 20-30%


  1. The test consists around 66 multiple-choice questions drawn from courses commonly offered at the undergraduate level. The topic mostly includes calculus and algebra.
  2. 50% of the questions involve calculus and its applications.
  3. The subject matter is generally assumed to be common to the backgrounds of almost all mathematics majors.

For full syllabus details – CLICK HERE


  1. This test comprises 100 questions with five answer choices, some of which are grouped in sets and based on formats like diagrams, graphs, experimental data and descriptions of physical situations.
  2. The questions can be answered on the basis of knowledge gained in the first three years of undergraduate physics.
  3. The following topics will be asked in this section – Electromagnetism, Classical Mechanics, Optics and Wave Phenomenon, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Atomic Physics and Special Relativity.

For full syllabus details – CLICK HERE



  1. The test consists of 205 multiple-choice questions. Each question in the test has five options from which the examinee has to select the option that is correct.
  2. Some of the stimulus materials, such as a description of an experiment or a graph, may serve as the basis for several questions.
  3. The questions in the psychology test are drawn from the core of knowledge most commonly encountered in courses offered at the undergraduate level.

A free subject test practice book containing a full-length practice test for helping students to prepare for the exam is available for each Subject Test.Check out the practice book here.

GRE Syllabus – What is the GRE Exam Pattern?

Once you are aware of GRE syllabus, you must also have complete information about the exam pattern. When it comes to computer-delivered GRE General Test, there are six sections that come with a 10-minute break following the third section. The total duration of the exam is 3 hours 45 minutes. According to the GRE Test pattern, the unscored and the research section do not count towards the actual GRE score. The research section can be included in place of the unscored section.

The overall testing time for the paper-deliveredGREGeneral Test is about 3 hours and 30 minutes. There are six sections with a 10-minute break following the second section in the paper-delivered test. The tables given below provide full details about the test pattern of Computer-delivered and Paper-delivered General GRE:

Test Pattern for Computer-Delivered General GRE

GRE Exam Section

Number of Questions


Analytical Writing

One “Analyse an Issue” task and one “Analyse an Argument” task

30 minutes per task

Verbal Reasoning

(2 Sections)

20 questions per section

30 minutes per section

Quantitative Reasoning

(2 Sections)

20 questions per section

35 minutes per section


Questions vary

Time varies


Questions vary

Time varies

Test Pattern for Paper-Delivered General GRE

Sections Number of Questions Time Duration
Analytical Writing
(Two sections)
Section 1: “Analyze an Issue”task
Section 2: “Analyze an Argument” task
30 minutes each
Verbal Reasoning
(Two sections)
25 questions per section 35 minutes each
Quantitative Reasoning
(Two sections)
25 questions per section 40 minutes each

GRE Syllabus – How to prepare for GRE 2020?

  1. Create a baseline – Prepare the GRE practice test before attempting the exam.
  2. Keep a target GRE Score – Compare your practice test score against the average GRE scores of the most recent incoming class to each program you are targeting at universities abroad.
  3. Have a smart preparation plan to fill the gap in your practice scores.
  4. Focus on how you approach each question while taking practice tests and drills.
  5. Review your performance after taking GRE practice exams.
  6. Build your GRE vocabulary and practice the exam with and without calculator.

GRE Score and its ratings is given in the table:

GRE Score Range Score ratings (based on ETS & MBA crystal)
165-170 Excellent
155-164 Very good
150-154 Good
140-149 Needs improvement
130-139 Poor

GRE Syllabus – After GRE Strategy?

If you stick to the GRE syllabus specified and prepare accordingly, then you can achieve a good GRE score. What is to be done after you obtain the GRE score? How will you get admission to a foreign University of your choice? For how long is your GRE score valid? Get an answer to all these questions in this section. Here, you will get to know the strategy to follow after qualifying the examination.

  1. GRE score is valid for the next 5 years from the date of the test taken by the student.
  2. The first step to getting admission to the top colleges is, of course, the GRE score. But thats probably the only tangible factor that gives a head start in the application. Its vital to have a holistic view of the complete application.
  3. The intangible sections of the application come into play and can give an applicant the edge on obtaining good grades in the exam. From personal statements to letters of reference and resume, all of them can give admission officers a good idea of who the applicants are.
  4. As a rule of thumb, the applicants should save the recommendation letters for the end albeit giving enough time for them to come in. Once the application is completed the applicants can have a better idea of what they want the referees to stress upon.
  5. One must take account of extracurricular activities they have been involved in and how they can use them to their advantage. The applicants should put them together in their application based on what suits the program which they are applying for.
  6. It’s important to note that students should not waste much of their time in refining their resumes.
  7. The applicants can also make a list of colleges they want to apply to and try to narrow it down.
  8. Students often start looking at the financial aid application process in Jan or Feb. They need tax information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is taken into account when offering Federal loans.

To know every detail on graduate record examination (to go abroad for higher studies) read our GRE Exam article here.

GRE Syllabus – Countries accepting GRE

We have listed the countries (though it is accepted everywhere) that prefer GRE for graduate admission into their universities. A good score will give you a chance to pursue Masters or PhD in top universities in the below listed countries:

  1. USA
  2. UK
  3. Australia
  4. Canada
  5. New Zealand
  6. Singapore

There are a lot of searches on “GRE Syllabus for ECE, CSE or MS” and hence we would like to clarify this point. GRE tests quantitiave, verbal reasoning and analytical writing skills (English and Maths). There is nothing technical in the exam compared to exams like GATE in India. GRE is a must if you are applying for a MS abroad.

Average GRE scores for MS in USA (in courses and discipline wise) is discussed in the tables below:

We have listed top 5 universities in USA and the average GRE scores for verbal and quantitative reasoning sections.

MS Degree Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
Business 150 153
Social Science 153 151
Physical Science 151 158
Life Science 151 151
Arts and humanities 157 150

MS in Engineering GRE Scores (Average)

University Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
MIT 162 167
Harvard 160 167
Stanford 159 167
University of California Berkeley 155 166
University of Pennsylvania 155 166

MS in Physics GRE Scores (Average)

University Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
MIT 167 167
Harvard 167 167
Stanford 167 167
University of California Berkeley 167 167
University of Pennsylvania 162 164

MS in Chemistry GRE Scores (Average)

University Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
MIT 164 163
Harvard 164 163
Stanford 164 163
University of California Berkeley 164 163
University of Pennsylvania 159 160

MS in Mathematics GRE Scores (Average)

University Verbal Reasoning Quantitative Reasoning
MIT 165 167
Harvard 165 167
Stanford 165 167
University of California Berkeley 165 167
University of Pennsylvania 160 164

GRE Syllabus – FAQ

Q. Which countries accept GRE and TOEFL scores, apart from the USA?

A. GRE Scores are accepted by all the top universities offering MS/PhD courses. Universities in the US, UK, Europe Singapore, Australia accept GRE scores. Universities in Europe accept IELTS scores along with GRE but TOEFL is mostly accepted in US, UK, Canada etc.

Q. Who is eligible to appear for GRE General Test?

A. All prospective graduate and business school applicants can appear for the GRE General Test. Applicants from varying academic and cultural backgrounds can take the test.

Q. What is the difference between GRE General and Subject Test?

A. To pursue post-graduation abroad, one is likely to opt for the GRE General Test. Candidates should also take a GRE Subject Test along with the GRE General Test will depend on various factors. If the programme student is applying to actually requires a GRE Subject Test, then aspirants need to appear for the same.

Q. What is the GRE Exam fee?

A. The registration fee to take the GRE is USD 205. This is cheaper than the USD 250 fee that one has to pay for GMAT examination.

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