Admissions & Student Aid

Aspiring Graduate Students Will Face Revamped GRE in 2011

December 06, 2009

The Graduate Record Examinations, the test that serves as a gatekeeper to most American graduate programs, will undergo a host of significant changes, including dropping analogy questions and introducing a new scoring scale, the Educational Testing Service announced on Friday.

The changes in the GRE general test, which testing-service officials said were the most extensive in the test's 59-year history, will be offered starting in the fall of 2011. They were announced here at the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools.

The new GRE will adopt a narrower range of possible scores, from 130 to 170 points, in order to encourage more-accurate comparisons between test takers. The existing range, from 200 to 800 points, magnifies small differences in scores that have little statistical significance, testing-service officials said.

The verbal-reasoning section of the GRE will stop using two types of questions, antonyms and analogies, that are believed to encourage excessive rote learning of vocabulary, especially among international students. Those questions will be replaced with reading-comprehension exercises, said David G. Payne, executive director of the GRE program.

"Having a good command of English vocabulary will be necessary, but it won't be sufficient, to get a high score on the test," Mr. Payne said.

The new test will also allow computer-based test takers to revisit previous questions within the same section, a practice that is not allowed on the current test. The test will retain an adaptive format, meaning questions can get tougher if a test taker is doing well, or easier if the test taker is doing poorly. But question difficulty will only change at the beginning of a new section of the test, not with each new question.

The entire test will take four hours, about 30 minutes longer than now. Some of the changes were proposed several years ago, but they were delayed after test takers experienced a shortage of testing sites in Europe.