Starting Aug. 1, all graduate school applicants will be required to take the new and revised version of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which test makers expect will more accurately assess candidates for graduate school.
“Come Aug. 1, the GRE is going to undergo the most dramatic changes in the history of the test,” said Lei Weiss, director of graduate programs at Kaplan testing services. “Every aspect of the test is changing – from the length of the test, to the questions, the scoring scale, the type of test, the user interface – it’s all going to change.”
Graduate programs have said that some of the current GRE questions don’t do the best job of testing students, Weiss said. Education Testing Services (ETS), who makes the test, is replacing those questions with higher level reasoning questions.
Maiesha Kiburi, academic success specialist and pre-grad adviser at UC Davis, said that another reason for the changes is to have a test that more closely resembles the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) – the admissions test widely used by business schools.
“The GMAT is a lot more about critical thinking,” she said. “The new GRE is now more in line with the GMAT style of testing, where the old version is testing limited skills. And critical thinking seems to be a better indicator of how well a student is going to do in graduate school.”
Currently, the GRE is used as an alternative to the GMAT by 450 business schools around the world, Weiss said.
While still taken on a computer in a testing center, the question format of the test will change, Weiss said. Currently, test takers are given a medium level question, and if they get the question right, they receive a harder question and their score will go up. If they get the question wrong, they will receive an easier question and their score will go down.
With the new test, test takers will be given a group of 20 questions of mixed difficulty. Their success with the initial set of questions will determine the difficulty of the next set of 20 and the highest score they will be eligible for. The scoring scale will also change.
With the current scoring scale, it is difficult to distinguish between those who are really good at a subject from those that are excellent, Weiss said. For example, test takers receiving between 730 and a perfect 800 on the verbal side could all place in the 99th percentile. The new scoring system should better help to distinguish between those scores.
Weiss also noted that the length of the test will be extended from three hours to four, with no break. The time given for the essay will be reduced from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, and the prompts are going to be more specific to discourage people from preparing their answers ahead of time.
“The verbal section is being changed the most,” Weiss said. “There have been short verbal questions like analogies, antonyms and sentence completions that will be gone … There’s also going to be more focus on reading comprehension in the new verbal section.”
Additionally, Weiss said that there will now be questions that ask test takers to select all of the correct answers. A test taker may select as few as one of the correct answers for a question but he or she will only receive credit for that question if they select every right answer. In the math section, there will be a new question type called “numeric entry”, as opposed to multiple choice.
Kiburi recommended that students who are planning on applying to graduate school within the next year try to take the old version of the GRE while it is available.
“When they start administrating the new test Aug. 1, the results for those tests will not be released until mid-November,” she said. “That means that students’ application processes could be pretty significantly delayed.”
The four-month delay for test results is not permanent, Kiburi said. After December, the scoring system will return back to normal, and test takers will receive their results in 10 to 15 days.
Karen Shein, junior psychology and linguistics double major, decided to prepare for the current version because there are not as many resources available yet to prepare for the new version.
“I’m prepping with Kaplan, and they don’t have practice tests available for the new one yet,” she said. “So I’m going to try to take the GRE before it changes.”
The last day to take the old version of the test is July 31.
MARTHA GEORGIS AND JEN LISTUG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.