How Hard is the GRE?

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How Hard is the GRE?

Are you planning on writing the GRE and you are worried as to how hard it is? With the right guidance, this should not be a problem for anyone who is about to take the GRE.

Many people have asked: how hard is the GRE? In this article, we will be breaking down what makes the GRE hard and possible solutions to help you overcome those difficulties.

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What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Records Examination) is a standardized test that is used to evaluate the knowledge and skill which is required by an individual to thrive in a graduate school. Most universities in the United States and some countries in Europe require the GRE when you apply for their graduate programs.

The GRE comprises of three parts which are:

  1. Analytical Writing: This section requires candidates to complete two essays in an hour. It is scored from 0-6
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: This section tests a candidate’s necessary math skills and is scored between 130-170.
  3. Verbal Reasoning: This section tests the candidate’s vocabulary and is scored between 130-170.

how hard is the GRE

What Makes the GRE Hard?

The GRE can prove to be difficult, mainly to candidates who have been away from school for a while. They will require thorough preparations for the test.

The GRE, when compared to other standardized exams such as the ACT or SAT, is more problematic as it poses a more challenging vocabulary test. However, the math problems on the GRE are less complicated compared to those on the ACT or SAT.

When compared with specialized exams like GMAT, LSAT or MCAT, the GRE is considered to be less complicated because the math problems are more challenging and require specific knowledge of certain fields. Below are vital areas a candidate might encounter hardship when taking the exam:

Tough Vocabulary

One of the areas that give test takers a hard time in the GRE is the Verbal Reasoning section which tests their vocabulary. In this section, all sitting candidates will be asked to fill in blanks, state the meaning of words or provide synonyms or antonyms to some words.

What makes this difficult is the use of sophisticated words that you do not come across in your everyday vocabulary and the people affected by this the most are the ESL (English as a Second Language) Students and those with low vocabulary.

Is There a Solution?

Yes. The GRE tends to repeat some of the vocabularies in its tests. For anyone with this problem, studying previous test questions will familiarize them with standard vocabularies. GRE Practice tests and practice books are available on many websites, most of which are given out by ETS- the body administering GRE. Candidates can also use flashcards and other reliable means to study.

Tricky Phrasing of Questions

Not only does the GRE test your knowledge in different areas, but it also makes it hard for you to easily pick an answer to a question because of the way the questions are phrased. It will require you to use more logic in finding the answer, and you might end up being fooled by the phrasing of the question and selecting a wrong answer because you do not understand what is being asked.

A clear example of this is in Quantitative Reasoning where the math problem is not challenging, but the words used make it harder. In the vocabulary section, instead of using plain words, GRE questions require that you use your skills of logical analysis to find the right answer. This slows you down and makes you use up different sections of your brain at once.

how hard is the gre

Is There a Solution?

Yes. Practice the previous GRE tests extensively so much that you will able to see through the tricks of the GRE. Once you become familiar with the GRE tricks, it will be easier to pick the right answer.

Limited time

The GRE does not allow you enough time to answer your test questions comfortably. Just like every standardized test, the GRE allows you very little time on each question, and if you end up spending more time than is necessary on a question, you end up with a low score.

When you know everything that is required to get high scores in your GRE, but you cannot manage the allotted time, you will still end up with low scores. According to ETS GRE, the time for the exam is as stated below:

  • Analytical Writing – 30 minutes per essay and you are to write two essays
  • Verbal Reasoning – 30 minutes per section and you are to answer two sections.
  • Quantitative Reasoning – 35 minutes per section and you are to answer two sections.

Is There a Solution?

This problem is faced predominantly by people who are very slow at reading. The rigorous practice is the key to overcoming this difficulty. The more you practice, the more familiar the questions become to you. Practising will help you answer questions faster and accurately when the time comes, and you are more confident of getting a higher score.

Two essays

The number of essays required under the Analytical Writing section is more than that of other standardized exams. You will be required to write two essays in one hour. 30 minutes to each essay, and it does not matter if you finish the first one before time. This might prove to be a challenge for people who are slow in writing and ESL students. You are not allowed to pick between two options instead, and you are required to compose two different essays within a stipulated time.

The first essay which is The “Analyze an issue” requires you to pick a position on a particular issue and support it with evidence while the second essay which is the “Analyze an argument” requires you to bring out the weakness in a given argument.

how hard is the gre

Is There a Solution?

Making yourself conversant with previous essay topics is one way to overcome this problem. ETS has lists of possible prompts for the Analytical Writing section. Practising these essay prompts makes you ready and gives you an insight into what to expect in the test.


Conclusively, for anyone preparing to take the GRE and still has the question; how hard is the GRE? In mind, this article has elaborated the challenging aspects of the test and will serve as an excellent guide to such person. Areas that might prove to be difficult have been explained above, and possible solutions to them have been suggested too.

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Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.