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Know All About the GRE Experimental Section!
May 06 2024

The Graduate Record Examination or GRE is one of the most popular admission tests for graduate schools worldwide.  It is your pathway to Ivy League colleges like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and other reputed institutions.  You know the drill-  register for the GRE exam, enroll in GRE classes, do your GRE prep, give GRE mocks, ace the GRE examination, then apply to the colleges, go through the loan procedures, and tada! You are on a flight to reach your dream college.  And right now everything is going on track.

You are doing your GRE Prep in full swing and feel confident about doing well in your GRE exam when you suddenly hear the term- GRE Experimental Section!

Know All About the GRE Experimental Section!


Is it another GRE section?

Yes and No. The GRE experimental section is another section in the GRE exam, but it does not have a different syllabus. Sounds confusing? Let us explain.

Basically, the GRE experimental section is an unscored Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section that appears in the GRE exam. Please note, this is an extra section. You will have your usual two sections each of Verbal and Quant and a third section which can be either Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning.

Here are some features of the GRE Experimental Section:

  • As is obvious from the term unscored, this experimental section doesn’t count to your GRE exam total marks
  • There will be no indication for you to figure out if a particular section is a regular section or an experimental one
  • There is no particular order in which the GRE experimental section appears in the exam. It can appear randomly, right after the AWA section, in the middle of the exam or at the end of it

What is the objective of the GRE Experimental Section?

Considering the section is not adding any value to your total marks, you might wonder the reason behind putting this section in the GRE exam. Well, this section serves as a research palette for ETS, who designs the GRE paper. It helps them to try out new questions and experiment with the difficulty level of questions in a real test-taking scenario.  Using the feedback of how aspirants performed in this section, they will use the questions for future tests.

Why engage the current test-takers for this testing?

It is simply because ETS needs a large sample to test the veracity of the questions. To make sure they are not too easy/difficult or different from the existing GRE question paper format. If it is given to a control group in an artificially created environment, the reactions and thus the ability to answer those questions will be much different. Every day thousands of students attempt GRE.

Based on the experimental section questions which they attempted or skipped, got the correct answer, and the time they took for attempting, ETS decides whether to include the questions in future tests.

Is this section similar to the GRE Research Section?

The objective of both the GRE Experimental Section and the Research section is same. ETS gives Verbal or Quant questions in these sections to assess their potential usage for future tests. Again, both the sections are unscored.

However, the biggest difference is you would always know if you are attempting the research section. It is marked and by rule appears at the end of the test. However, the GRE experimental section is unmarked and can appear randomly. Besides, the GRE research section is optional, so you have a choice to either attempt it or not. Since you are not aware which of the section is experimental, you cannot really skip it.

Does every test-taker get the Experimental Section in GRE?

Well, not really. Most of the candidates either get the GRE Experimental Section or the GRE Research Section. The two sections will never appear together. So, if you are a little lucky, you might get the Research section and may choose not to attempt it. However, only at the end of the exam, you will come to know which one you got. So, attempt all the sections with equal sincerity.

Some very lucky students might not get either the Experimental Section or Research section in their GRE exam paper. That is instead of attempting six sections, they will have to attempt only five sections, all scored.

Is the Experimental Section harder than the other sections?

This can be a concern, considering the ETS tries out potential questions in order to gauge how students will perform in a real test. However, there is no specific difficulty level for the experimental section. It can vary from being easy in some papers to difficult and semi-difficult in other papers.

The good part is you do not have to worry about that as the score doesn’t count towards your final marks in the GRE exam. Also, ETS doesn’t make the section apparent to test-takers, so that they can capture the real-time data. Hence you won’t find a drastic change in the difficulty level.

Is this section computer-adaptive?

No, it is not. As this section is solely for ETS’s own benefit, your performance here doesn’t affect the question standards of other sections.

Is the GRE experimental section computer-adaptive? Fortunately, your performance on the GRE experimental section has no effect on the next section. The experimental section is not computer-adaptive and hence does not affect the difficulty levels of the upcoming sections.

Also Read: Top 10 Quick GRE Prep Tips.

How should you approach the Experimental Section?

Don’t Approach, Just Attempt. That is the best, and probably the only way to do it.

We are not joking. You see, there is no way for you to definitely know if you are attempting an experimental section. You will obviously know whether you got an experimental section in your GRE exam paper because you will attempt an extra section of Verbal/ Quantitative Reasoning. But it is impossible to know whether the section you are currently attempting or just attempted was a normal scored section or an experimental one.

Even if you are very certain you know which is the experimental section, you should not risk skipping it or taking it lightly. GRE is known for confusing aspirants through multiple methods, in the worst case, you might lose out on precious marks because of this guessing game.

So, never waste time trying to figure out which is the experimental section. If you have done your GRE prep well, it does not matter.  Consider every section will count for your total GRE marks, and take it in your stride. Even if the thought comes while attempting the GRE, push it away. It’s because the moment you become conscious, you will lose your natural flair and it will affect your performance.

So, after writing about the GRE Experimental Section in this whole article, all we want to say is, forget there is a GRE Experimental Section!

Just focus on your usual GRE prep and keep your patience for another 30-35 minutes, if you do get an extra section of Verbal/Quantitative Reasoning.

All the Best!

Related Article:

How Much Can You Expect Your GRE Score To Go Up Studying

6 Things You Can Do to Get Good GRE Scores.

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