GRE Syllabus: Topics, Test Patterns and Updates

GRE syllabus

The Graduate Record Examination or GRE is the first step in planning your higher education abroad. The general test exam pattern has three sections – Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The score you earn after taking the 3 hours and 45 minutes exam is valid for the next five years. This article will try to cover all information regarding the GRE Syllabus. This will help you plan your preparation structure.

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Understanding the GRE exam pattern and syllabus

The GRE is an admission prerequisite at most universities in countries such as the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Singapore. You should have a clear knowledge of the magnitude of the syllabus for GRE along with its exam pattern before you commit your time, effort, and resources for preparation.

GRE exam syllabus 2021

The GRE Syllabus for 2021 can be broadly divided into two sets:  General Test Syllabus and GRE Subject Test Syllabus. The General Test Syllabus covers three areas of testing, namely, Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. These are individually scored, and the average is then considered by the universities as the final GRE score.

This test is standard for every student aspiring to pursue their post-graduation abroad. Now, some universities demand that the applicants appear for the GRE Subject Test, which examines the applicants on their knowledge about the specific subject they wish to specialize in. This test covers a wide range of subjects in the streams of language, analytics, and science.

GRE Exam Pattern

There are two ways a candidate can take the GRE:

1. Computer Delivered Test — The GRE is generally a computer-based test that one can take 5 times a year maintaining a gap of 21 days between two attempts.

2. Paper Delivered Test — In cases where a computer is not available, the GRE can also be a Paper-Delivered Test.

There are two formats for taking the GRE. The GRE General Test is the standard test that all aspirants need to appear for. Some universities need applicants to take the GRE Subject Test For specialized courses. It is focused on testing their knowledge of the specific subject.

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Syllabus for Each Exam Section of the GRE General Test

1. Analytical Writing

The analytical writing section challenges a student to articulately express complex ideas. The test measures the taker’s ability to fluently communicate ideas, support them with relevant reasoning, hold up an illuminating discussion, and the command over written English. The syllabus for the GRE Analytical Writing comprises two individually timed tasks allowing thirty minutes for each:

a) Issue Analysis

b) Argument Analysis

2. Verbal Reasoning

The verbal reasoning section is structured to test the taker’s proficiency of reasoning from incomplete data, interpret the author’s perspective, and draw conclusions from presented communication. The taker should be able to highlight major and minor points of relevance from the given body of text, summarize it, and establish relationships between the words and ideas. Following are the topics covered under the verbal syllabus:

a) Verb Tense

b) Modifiers

c) Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions

d) Pronoun Agreement

e) Parallelism

f) Subject-Verb Agreement

3. GRE Quantitative Reasoning

This segment is structured to measure the student’s strength in comprehending quantitative information, analysis & interpretation, using mathematical theories in problem-solving, and applying fundamental mathematical concepts of arithmetic, geometry, statistics, algebra, and probability.

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Syllabus for GRE Subject Test

Listed below are the subjects covered in the GRE Subject Test:


The test approximately has 190 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) related to Biology, including topics like:

1. Cellular and Molecular Biology

2. Organism Biology

3. Ecology and Evolution


You will find 130 multiple-choice questions related to the four conventional fields of Chemistry.

1. Analytical Chemistry

2. Inorganic Chemistry

3. Organic Chemistry

4. Physical Chemistry

English Literature

This subject test presents around 230 questions on various areas of English Literature like poetry, biography, essays, short stories, drama, novels, criticism, literary theory, and the language’s history. You have to cover topics like:

1. Literary Analysis

2. Identification

3. Cultural and Historical Contexts

4. History and Theory of Literary Criticism


The math subject test has around 66 multiple-choice questions based on the curriculum commonly taught in undergraduate programs. Some of the topics included are:

1. Algebra

2. Calculus

3. Discrete Mathematics

4. Geometry

5. Statistics


The Physics test comprises approximately 100 multiple-choice questions. You will find some of the questions grouped in sets based on different concepts of physics. Following are some of the topics you need to prepare for:

1. Classical Mechanics

2. Electromagnetism

3. Optics and Wave Phenomena

4. Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

5. Quantum Mechanics

6. Atomic Physics

7. Special Relativity

8. Laboratory Methods

9. Specialized Topics (Nuclear and Particle physics, crystal structure, astrophysics, etc.)


The psychology subject test has around 205 multiple choice questions based on the various branches of the subject like:

1. Biological

2. Cognitive

3. Developmental

4. Social

5. Clinical

6. Measurement/Methodology, etc.

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How to prepare for the GRE

The last thing that will get you through your GRE is cramming. This is an intense and extensive format of examination that requires candidates to invest a good amount of time and sincere effort. The suggested timeline for preparing for your GRE is at least four to twelve weeks depending on your speed and the daily commitment to studies. You can follow the tips below and plan your preparations accordingly:

1. Know your base score

Before beginning, take a full-length practice test available online and see where you stand if you were to take the actual test today. This will help you determine the topics you need to work on.

2. Set your target score

Mark out your prospective universities and note the score you need to apply with them. This way, you will know your goal and be able to work towards it. 

3. Plan your ascend

It’s going to take some research to arrive at the perfect plan that will help you rise from your base score to the target score. Look at online testimonials of successful students and follow what suits you best.

4. Focus on technique

Besides having a result-oriented approach, you should certainly pay attention to how you approach each question. Find out the techniques you use to solve the problems and work on bettering them.

5. Review your performance

Always analyze how you did in the practice tests, search for the patterns in your mistake, and the questions you consistently have problems with. You will see how useful that is.

6. Vocabulary is key

One way to enrich your vocabulary is by reading reputed academic journals and publications. The internet will help you do this easily. Having a strong vocabulary takes you a long way in your GRE journey.

A master’s degree from a reputed university abroad is an asset that helps you realize your career goals. A great GRE score is the first stage you need to cross to be able to achieve that goal. There are plenty of resources online, and you will find all you need to know about studying online on upGrad. So, get started!

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GRE Syllabus – FAQ

Q1. How many times can one appear for GRE?

You can appear for GRE a total of 5 times a year. The attempts need to be 21 days apart.

Q2. What is a good GRE score?

You are scored individually in the three segments of the GRE. A Verbal Reasoning score in the range of 158-162, a Quantitative Reasoning score in the range of 159-164, and an Analytical Writing score in the range of 4-6 are considered competitive.

Q3. What is the GRE fee?

The fee as of the 1st of July 2021 is $213 (Rs 16,000) in India. If a student needs to reschedule the test, there is a handling fee of $50 (Rs 4,000).

Q4. Can a student crack the GRE without coaching?

Coaching for the GRE comes at a huge expense, and it can be avoided. With proper time management and dedicated effort, it is possible to crack GRE without burning a hole in your pocket. You just need to investigate all the resources available online and prepare from the GRE study materials sold in the market.

Q5. Is there any similarity between the GRE syllabus and the GATE syllabus?

GATE and GRE are entirely different from each other and are taken for two different purposes. While the GRE is required for admission into master’s programs abroad, the GATE examination is conducted exclusively for admission to MTech and M.E Programs in India.

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