Unlike the SAT, the GRE is a computer-based test. It is a computer-adaptive test: while the number of questions in any given section is fixed, the difficulty and scoring value of those questions varies according to the previous responses provided by the test-taker. Rather than having a fixed point value, questions of varied difficulty are used in order to 'zero in' on the level of question that represents the upper bound of the test-taker's ability. Because of the way in which the score value changes over the course of the test, early questions are much more important in determining the final score than those that appear near the end of a section. Questions cannot be skipped or returned to.
The General Test consists of three graded sections and one research or experimental section that is not included in the reported score. Multiple-choice response sections are graded on a scale of 200-800, in 10 point increments. The writing section is graded on a scale of 0-6, in half- point increments. Sections may appear in any order on the test, with the exception of the Analytic Writing section, which always appears first.
One graded multiple-choice section is always a verbal section, consisting of analogies, antonyms, and reading comprehension passages. This section primarily tests vocabulary, and average scores in this section are substantially lower than those in the quantitative section.
The quantitative section, the other multiple-choice section, consists of problem solving and quantitative comparison questions that test high-school level math, including algebra and basic geometry. The problems in this section must be solved without a calculator. Average scores on the quantitative section are generally higher than those on the verbal section, though the material may present a challenge for students who have not studied mathematics since high school.
The analytical writing section requires the testee to write two short essays: one presenting their perspective on a statement, and the other analyzing and pointing out flaws in an argument. Each essay is scored by at least two readers on a six-point holistic scale. If the two scores are within one point, the average of the scores is taken. If the two scores differ by more than a point, a third reader examines the response.
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