The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for admission to most graduate schools in the United States. On August 1 of 2011, the Educational Testing Service released a new format of the GRE called the GRE Revised General Test. Due to the revised structure of the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the exam, the reported scores on those sections are on a different scale than previous ones. The Analytical Writing scoring scale, however, is the same 0 to 6 point scale, measured in half point increments.
Revised Design and Structure
The GRE Revised General Test was implemented to improve the exam's assessment of the necessary skills for graduate school, as well as to improve the test-taking experience. The Verbal and Quantitative sections of the revised GRE are different from the previous GRE in content, structure and length. Whereas the old GRE was approximately three hours long, the revised format is now approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. One of the most important design changes to the exam is that now, students are able to change their answers within sections, use an on-screen calculator and mark their answers to revisit them. As with the previous exam, the Analytical Writing section will always appear first, but the other sections may appear in any order.
Prior to the revised format, the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE consisted of one section with 30 questions to be answered in 30 minutes. Question types included analogies, antonyms, sentence completion and reading comprehension. The Revised GRE now contains two sections of 25 questions each, with 35 minutes per section. While reading comprehension is still a part of the revised format, question types now include text completion and sentence equivalence instead. Antonyms and analogies have been omitted from this section. The scores for the revised test now range from 130 to 170 in one-point increments, whereas the old exam reported scores ranging from 200 to 800 in ten-point increments.
The previous Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE contained one section of 28 questions, taking 45 minutes to complete. The question types asked by this prior format were quantitative comparison and problem solving. Additionally, calculator use was forbidden. Now, this section consists of two sections of 20 questions each, with 35 minutes per section. An on-screen calculator may be used in this section. While the content remains the same, question types now include multiple choice questions with one answer, multiple choice questions with one or more answers, quantitative comparison and numeric entry. The numeric entry questions require you to enter an answer into the box provided, with no possible answers to choose from. The scores for this section now also range from 130 to 170 in one-point increments, whereas the earlier exam scores ranged from 200 to 800 in ten-point increments.
Comparison and Conversion
GRE scores, even those completed prior to the switch to the Revised GRE, are valid for five years. To assist test-takers during the transition period, until the Revised GRE has been available for a full five years, the ETS website has published concordance tables comparing the old and new scores, including their percentile rankings. Additionally, score reports for exams prior to August 1, 2011 now include both the old scores and estimated scores for the new score scale along with the percentile ranking. Because of the now smaller scale, single points carry more weight between scores. For example, the difference between a 150 and a 154 on the revised Verbal section compares to the difference between a 430 and a 500 on the old exam. However, these new scores were implemented to recalibrate the normal distribution, with 150 as the average for both math and verbal. Therefore, test-takers may be disappointed in their new scores, particularly in the Quantitative section. For this reason, many schools are tending to focus on the percentile rankings rather than scores for comparison.
Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.