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GRE Introduction

Exam Format:

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue


The Format – An Overview – Something New

The new GRE will have:

Two 40 Minute Verbal Sections – approximately 28 questions per section

Two 40 Minute Quantitative Sections – approximately 25 questions per section

Two 30 Minute Writing Exercises – One requiring the analysis of an issue and the other requiring the analysis of a an argument

The Number Of Multiple Choice Answer Choices – Something New

Every section of the GRE has always had the same number of answer choices (either four or five). On the new GRE:

1. Different questions may have different numbers of answer choices;

2. There may be more than one acceptable answer choice for any question. (See the discussion of the question types below.)

The Scoring Scale – Something New Or Something Borrowed?

The GRE has always been scored on a scale of 200 – 800. The new GRE Verbal and Quantitative will be reported on a scale of 40 to 50 points ranging from approximately 120 – 179. (The exact scale will be announced closer to the implementation of the test). This is exactly like the LSAT which:

- began with a 200 – 800 scale
- changed to a 10 - 48 scale
- and then changed to a 120 – 180 scale.

The Writing exercises will continue to be scored on the current 6 point scale.

The Question Types – An Overview

The following comments are based on these questions. Obviously there is strong potential for more and better question types to be included in October 2006.

Note how all of these question types are aimed at testing “reading and reasoning in context”.

GRE - Verbal Question Types

The Verbal Section contains a minimum of:

Reading Comprehension – Something Old And Something New

These appear to be similar to the existing Reading Comprehension questions. GRE has indicated that they want “More text based materials, such as reading passages”, and “A broader section of reading passages”. “This is Something Old”.

Reading Comprehension will have a new twist. These include at least:

  • question types that require the selection of more than one choice
  • questions that require the identification of a specific part of the passage and then clicking on that part of the passage.

In these respects, the Reading Comprehension section is moving away from traditional one answer multiple choice.

Arguments – Something Old And Something Borrowed

The GRE used to have an analytical section that contained arguments. This section is currently part of the GMAT. By including arguments, GRE is reviving something old and possibly borrowing from the GMAT.

Sentence Completions – Something Old

These questions require the test taker to select the one choice that best completes the sentence or passage. It appears to be similar (if not the same as) a current GRE question type.

Sentence Completions – Something New

These questions require the test taker to select ALL the choices that complete the sentence or passage. In other words, more than one choice will answer the question. This is a new development which clearly moves the GRE away from single answer multiple choice.

GRE Quantitative Question Types

An Onscreen Calculator – Something New

This is an interesting development. Will this make much of a difference in the testing experience? I doubt it.

The Quantitative Section contains a minimum of:

Quantitative Comparisons – Something Old

This is a good question type and should be retained. It allows people to think comparatively and gives a slight advantage to those who have difficulty making calculations.

Multiple Choice Problem Solving :

Single Answer Multiple Choice – Something Old
Multiple Answer Multiple Choice – Something New

This has been part of the GRE since its inception. A question is followed by a number of answer choices (up until now it has been 5 choices, but 5 choices is not a requirement). The job of the test taker is to identify the choice or choices that is/are the answer. Single answer multiple choice is susceptible to approaches like:

- back solving
- answer elimination
- answer ranging.


Non-Multiple Choice Problem Solving – Something New

This makes use of the capability of computers to deliver different kinds of test questions on the same test. The idea is that a question is asked, the test taker must determine (as opposed to recognize) the answer and fill the answer into a designated space. I predict this will be harder than traditional multiple choice.

Graphs And Charts – Something Old With A Possible New Twist

Graphs and charts have always been part of the GRE. They provide excellent “real word stimulus”. As such they are very good for testing reading and reasoning skills in context.

I predict that these questions will combine all of:

- single answer multiple choice
- multiple answer multiple choice, and
- non-multiple choice based questions.

Analytical Writing Question Types

There will be two questions. One will require the analysis of an issue. The other will require an analysis of an argument. By changing this section to two 30 minute essays, GRE has adopted the same format as the GMAT AWA. In this sense it is something borrowed.

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