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The Revised GRE

The Basics:

ETS has released a new version of the GRE. The old GRE had been around for quite some time with very few changes, but it had a number of problems:

  1. The quantitative section was too easy - nearly 6% of all test takers getting a perfect score
  2. The verbal section was too hard - a scaled score anywhere between 730 and 800 was a 99th percentile score.

Admissions committees must have had a hard time sorting out who's perfect quant score was the best, and the verbal section must have seemed like a nearly impossible and somewhat random test of an applicant's vocabulary. On top of this there has always been doubt about the correlation between GRE scores and performance in graduate school.

The new version of the test is supposed to be a more well rounded measure of a student's critical reasoning ability. It's also supposed to be a good measure of academic potential for students entering any field, even an MBA program. While only a few MBA programs accepted the old version of the test, many are accepting the Revised GRE.

Test Content:


The writing portion of the exam remains unchanged


The verbal portion of the exam is almost completely different. With the exception of reading comprehension, the old question types are gone, and even in reading comprehension the changes are significant. The question types are as follows:

    • Text Completion - some text containing between one and three blanks is presented and the student is asked to choose words for the blanks that best complete the text. Examples

    • Sentence Equivalence - a sentence with a single blanks is presented and the student must choose two words that will complete the sentence and give it an equivalent meaning. Examples

    • Reading Comprehension - this section has several question types (1) Multiple Choice with one answer (2) Multiple Choice with one or more answers (the student must select ALL and ONLY the correct answers) (3) Select in passage (the student must indicate the portion of the passage that contains the answer to the question). Examples


At first glance the quantitative portion of the exam seems much the same as the old exam. However, there are a few important changes: two new question types, harder questions in general, and a CALCULATOR! This last change is huge, and it may be a way to attract many would-be GMAT test takers. The calculator is on screen and has most the basic functions along with a few GRE specific bells and whistles. The question types are as follows:

    • Quantitative Comparison - a hold-over from the old exam. The student is presented with two quantities labeled (A) and (B). If (A) is greater then the student must select choice A, if (B) is greater, the student must select choice B, if the two quantities are equal, the student must select choice C, if the relationship cannot be determined with the information provided, the student must select choice D. These are definitely the trickiest quantitative questions. Examples

    • Multiple Choice - also a hold-over from the old exam, but with a new twist. There are two distinct types of multiple choice questions: (1) Multiple Choice with one answer (2) Multiple Choice with one or more answers (the student must select ALL and ONLY the correct answers). The second type is rare, accounting for only about 8% of the quantitative section. Examples here and here

    • Numeric Entry - these types of questions require the student to enter an actual numerical value - fraction, decimal, integer, etc. Equivalent forms are correct - e.g. 1/5 and 0.2 will both receive the same evaluation. The on screen calculator will allow you to transfer a value to the numeric entry box. These questions are also rare, accounting for about 8% of the quantitative section. Examples 

    • Data Interpretation - a hold-over from the old exam. The student is presented with some data in graphical or tabular form and asked a series of multiple choice questions about the data. These questions can include both types of multiple choice as well as numeric entry. Examples


The score scale has also changed. Instead of a scale from 200 to 800 in ten point increments for quantitative and verbal along with a combined score, the scale now ranges from 130 to 170 in one point increments with no combined score. The scoring of the writing section is unchanged.

The new scale is a relatively superficial change, but data from the first batch of scores suggests that the new test creates a more normal distribution of students. The quantitative scores are more spread out and not so top-heavy, while the verbal scores don't make the exam look impossible hard. The verbal section remains the more difficult of the two for the average student.

MyGuru's Perspective:

I took the exam the first day it was offered and managed a 170 on the quantitative (99th percentile) and a 168 on the verbal (98th percentile) without too much work. I finished in plenty of time and overall I felt that the exam was quite a bit easier than the GMAT - I also managed a 99th percentile score on the GMAT, but not without breaking a sweat. Not all of our GRE specialists have taken the revised version, but those who have share my opinion and all of them scored extremely high. We believe that preparation is essentially the same and most of the changes are insignificant - solid fundamental skills, knowing what to expect, and a common sense approach along with a few tricks will still produce consistently good scores.