GRE book

Beginning August 1 2011, the GRE, a graduate admissions testing tool, will reflect a vastly different and more difficult test.

For years, universities have used the GRE as a determinant to a student’s success and readiness for graduate-level coursework.  Aspiring graduate school students will be facing the decision to take a less difficult version now or wait for the newer, more difficult version. 

According to the creators of the GRE,  ETS (Educational Testing Services),  the newer version is designed to fit the demand of today’s skill requirements for graduate programs and to assist in making  a more precise and reliable result of students’ capabilities. 

One of the more evident changes will be in test scoring. Currently, the test is based on a 200-800 point scale in 10-point increments.  The new version will transition into 130-170 points, in one-point increments. The test will also be one hour longer, creating a four-hour exam that will test the endurance and testing abilities of all grad school prospects.

Changes in test content were made to relate more to the skills needed to succeed once a student is in a graduate program. 

Quantitative Reasoning: Included are more data interpretation questions using charts, graphs and tables. Some questions will require a numerical response without the selection of choices provided.  An on-screen calculator feature will be added; however, this charge could mean more difficult problems to solve.

Analytical Writing: Some graduate programs consider this section vital to interpreting a candidate’s skills while others disregard this section entirely.

The time given to complete this section will be reduced by 15 minutes. The essay prompts will have a stronger focus on detail, making a more accurate demonstration of a candidate’s ability to respond to the task given.

Verbal Reasoning: Analogies, antonyms and sentence completion will be removed entirely. There will be a greater focus on reading passages making a more accurate evaluation of candidates’ ability to understand what they read and how they apply their reasoning skills.

Strengthening/weakening questions have also been added, which will be familiar to students who have taken the GMAT. A stronger focus on vocabulary has also been added with text completion and sentence equivalence. The hope for this section is to provide a sense of validity in scores.

The new GRE will allow test takers to skip questions and go back later to change answers to previous questions. The flexibility of this option could be a plus. However, it can also initiate new challenges such as poor time management, or the risk of leaving questions unanswered, which are heavily penalized in the GRE; new or old. 

“If you can take the current version, do it. It may be less stressful,” said Jeffrey Ryans, PhD candidate at UTSA.

With the current version, candidates are able to retake the test once a month. With the new version candidates will be able to retest only every two months. Students should not assume that they will be able to make up for a bad GRE score in time, as in the first few months of initiation, it will take up to three months to get an official score.

Deadlines are important to consider when deciding which version to take. If a candidate needs an official score by November, it is recommended to take the current version. 

“I’m a little nervous about all the GRE revisions, but if it is something I have to do, of course I will,” said Linda Gonzalez, PhD candidate. “It just means I will study harder and devote more time into preparing for the test.”

If you are taking the new version, many practice tests before test date will be important to help familiarize you with the new features and format.

For this reason, the UTSA graduate school has been quick to make their adjustments to help graduate prospects transition to the new version of the GRE. In fact, Feb. 26, The graduate school will host a free practice test, with the newer version in place. 

Vivian Padilla, graduate school admissions Officer said, “We are doing everything we can to help the students adjust to the new test. The quicker we get started on practicing this version, the more beneficial it will be to the student.”

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