GRE Experimental Section: What to Expect and How to Prepare

The GRE General Test is one of the many standardized tests developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). This test measures one’s ability in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking. It is usually taken by students who plan to pursue postgraduate studies. This test is usually one of the requirements asked by schools and universities. This test has 6 sections and additional experimental and research sections. The experimental section is an extra section in the GRE which is unscored and questions are verbal and quantitative related. In this article, this additional section is discussed.

What is the experimental section, and why is it included in the GRE?

The extra, unscored section in the GRE is known as the experimental section. It can either be an extra verbal reasoning section or an extra quantitative reasoning section. Thus, instead of two Verbal sections, you may receive three, one of which will be an experimental section that will not count toward your score. Due to the fact that the GRE experimental section is not marked or indicated on the exam, you will have no way of knowing whether you are on a regular Verbal or Quant section or the unscored experimental section.

Additionally, the GRE experimental section may appear at any time following the first section of the GRE which is the Analytical Writing (AW) section. This means that you may receive this GRE unscored section near the start, in the middle, or even at the very end of the test.

The GRE experimental section is used by ETS (the creators of the GRE) to evaluate the difficulty of questions that will be used on future tests. This section is left unmarked to allow ETS to more accurately predict how test-takers will perform on new questions; it also ensures that the difficulty level of new questions is comparable to that of current GRE questions.

What are the question types in the GRE experimental section?

Questions similar to the verbal and quantitative sections are the question types in the GRE experimental section.

Who takes the GRE experimental section?

The GRE experimental section or the GRE research section will be given to the vast majority of test takers, but never both. This means that the GRE will have six sections for the majority of test-takers:

  • 1 Analytical Writing section (two essay tasks)
  • 2 Verbal reasoning sections
  • 2 Quantitative reasoning sections
  • 1 unscored Verbal or Quant section (experimental or research)

Occasionally, some examinees may not receive an unscored GRE section (experimental or research), resulting in a total of five sections on the test, all of which count toward their final GRE score. This would result in a 30-35 minute reduction in their total GRE test time.

Why aren’t experimental sections included in all actual GREs?

The experimental section is actually given to random test takers. Some GREs include a research section in addition to the experimental section. This will always appear at the end of the test and will be labelled as unscored. Additionally, it is optional. If you skip it, it will have no effect on your score, though ETS may include a reason or incentive not to skip it. However, there is no way to predict whether your test will include an experimental or a research section in advance.

Can you skip the GRE experimental section?

No. It is not an optional section on the GRE, unlike the research section, which may or may not is taken by the examinee.

How difficult is the experimental section of the GRE?

The difficulty level of the GRE experimental section varies considerably, as ETS is experimenting with a variety of new GRE questions in order to gauge and track test-taker performance on them. Fortunately, because the experimental section does not contribute to your final score, how you perform on it is irrelevant in the end.

Is the Experimental section the same level, easier or more complicated than other sections?

There is no way of knowing whether it is easier or harder. ETS has not shared enough information to make a prediction on that. By and large, according to previous test-takers, the experimental section is likely to be complicated. However, that could be a subjective opinion based on personal experience.

How does the experimental section differ from the research section?

The GRE research section, like the GRE experimental section, is an unscored Verbal or Quant section used by ETS to evaluate potential questions in a real-world test-taking environment. Unlike the experimental section, which is unmarked and appears randomly, the GRE research section is marked and always appears at the end of the test. Besides that, the GRE research section is completely optional—you may choose to take it or not. In comparison, because you have no idea whether a section is experimental or not, you are unable to skip any of them.

How to answer the GRE experimental section?

Answering the GRE experimental section is just similar to answering the other sections of the GRE. But here are some exceptional tips you can apply in answering this unscored section.

  1. Refrain from attempting to guess which section is the experimental one.

It is strongly recommended that you treat the entire exam as if each and every section contributes to your final score. Do not skip any of the Verbal or Quant sections, even if you are almost certain that you know which one is the experimental one. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll see a significant drop in your GRE score as a result of skipping an entire scored section.

  1. Make sure you are prepared to spend a little more time on the test than you did on your practice tests.

This is due to the fact that most practice tests do not include an additional Verbal or Quant section to replicate the inclusion of the experimental section, which you might receive on test day. Instead, most practice tests consist of a single Verbal and Quant section.

How to prepare for the GRE experimental section?

You don’t. Simple as that. Since this section is an additional verbal or quantitative section, what you study or prepare for these two sections will be used in the experimental section as well. Below are detailed steps on how to do this.

  1. Answer GRE verbal practice questions, focusing on the subsections that present the greatest difficulty. For example, because vocabulary is one of the most difficult components of the GRE verbal section, the test taker may wish to brush up on their vocabulary through vocabulary practice tests or drills.
  2. Answer GRE quantitative practice questions, focusing on the sections you find most difficult. For example, data interpretation is one of the most challenging components of the GRE quantitative section, and you may wish to study data analysis practice questions.
  3. This has been repeatedly saying in this article. But this is really important. You should treat the exam as if every section affects the score, and shouldn’t try to assume that a particular section is the unscored one.

While we refer to this section as the ‘unscored section’ or the ‘experimental section,’ it is not as significant to students as ETS believes. There is nothing else you can do for this section, as it is simply an additional quant or verbal section.

What is the best prep program for the GRE experimental section?

Manhattan Prep is the best GRE course provider when preparing for the experimental section of the GRE. All of Manhattan Prep’s GRE practice tests now include unscored math or verbal section, in addition to the previously scored sections. This makes the tests as realistic as possible. It is extremely beneficial to practice under test conditions as the actual test is very long. From the first question to the last, you must remain focused and on top of your game, which is much easier said than done given the time constraints. Realistic practice will aid in the development of your endurance and the identification of any issues that should be addressed prior to the actual test.

Is the GRE experimental section adaptive?

No, this section is not computer adaptive in the same way that the other GRE sections are. This means that your performance in this additional section will have no bearing on or change the difficulty of questions in subsequent verbal or quantitative sections.