GRE and TOEFL: Rules of the Game



Updated June 8, 2022

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The GRE is an exhausting test that spans almost four hours and has six parts, with a ten-minute break after the third part. It’s made up of two verbal reasoning sections (30 minutes each), two quantitative reasoning sections (35 minutes each), and two analytical writing sections (30 minutes each). The verbal reasoning section has three sub-categories: reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, and text completion.* The quantitative reasoning section tests you on basic mathematical knowledge and your ability to reason with that.

Both the verbal and quant sections score you on a scale of 130 to 170, which is then added up at the end to give you a total score out of 340. Analytical Writing Assessment, or AWA, scores you on a scale of 1–6 with half-point increments.

danger Did you notice that the six sections only add up to three hours and ten minutes? If you did, you’re right to be confused. There is a seventh section in the GRE, which could either be verbal or quantitative reasoning, depending on your luck that day. This is known as the experimental section.

This unscored section is used by the examiners for research purposes. However, you would not know which of the sections is the dummy one. Did we mention it’s unscored? It’s frustrating, we know.


The TOEFL is slightly more merciful and caps at three hours with four sections that test your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, with a ten-minute break after the second part. Unlike the GRE, each section here takes up different times, with reading being the longest, taking up to 72 minutes.* Also, unlike the GRE, there are no unscored hidden agendas in TOEFL.

All four sections score you on a scale of 0–30, which is all added up at the end to give you a total score out of 120.

To help you get started, the table below contains a list of official and unofficial resources recommended by us based on experience and observation.

Official (and Unofficial) Resources

❖ = Official Resource

  • GRE (overall)

    • ❖ ETS Official POWERPREP Practice Tests

    • Manhattan Prep: 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems

    • Kaplan GRE Practice Tests*

    • Apps: Ready4GRE, ManhattanPrep

  • GRE Verbal

    • ❖ ETS GRE Verbal Reasoning

    • Kaplan’s GRE Verbal Workbook

    • Apps (Vocabulary Building Flashcards): Pixnary, Magoosh, Quizlet

    • Reading Comprehension: Scientific American (Science), The Economist (Business), Arts & Letters Daily (Op-ed)

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