The New GRE

As of August 1st, 2011, the new GRE has been implemented and is now mandatory.

View a sample of 800score's simulation of new GRE.

Test Format Changes

The makers of the test have redesigned the test to better reflect the skills that one should have for success in graduate school.  For example, the test now allows the use of an online calculator, which lessens the focus on arithmetic calculation skills.  Another example is the deletion of antonym questions, which tests vocabulary memorization skills; vocabulary-in-context type questions have been substituted in their place. 

The structure of the exam has changed.  Formerly, there were three distinct parts to the test:  Writing, Verbal, and Quantitative; now there are five sections:  one Writing, two Verbal, and two Quantitative.  Note that there will still be one unidentified research section, which may be either verbal or math.  Test takers will also be asked if they wish to volunteer to take an additional section of questions after the test administration is over; this 7th section is purely optional.

The GRE is now a modified Computer Adaptive Test (CAT).  Rather than being required to answer each question before going on to the next, as would occur in a pure CAT, students taking this modified CAT may, in each of the 4 math and verbal sections, move around within a given section. They may answer some questions immediately, mark others for review, and skip some questions entirely.  Students have this freedom within each of the four sections, but once the allotted time is up and that section has been submitted, they may not return to it.  The submitted section will be immediately scored by the computer, an initial score will be calculated, and when the next section of that type (math or verbal) is presented, its difficulty level will be higher or lower, based on how well the student performed on the previous section of that type.

The timing of the test has changed.  Analytical Writing, formerly 75 minutes long, is now 60 minutes long.  Verbal Reasoning has been increased from one 30-minute section with 30 questions to two 30-minute sections with about 20 questions in each section.  Quantitative Reasoning (math) has been increased from one 45-minute section with 28 questions to two 35-minute sections with about 20 questions each.  Add to this the one unidentified research section, which is 30 minutes long, and the result is a test which is 3 hours and 40 minutes long, with one 10-minute break between sections 3 and 4, and a one-minute break between each of the other sections.

The question types have changed. The old GRE had six different question types, and the revised GRE has 12 types of questions.  Previously, there was only one correct answer to any question; now, you will be required to choose multiple correct answers for some questions. Sometimes you will be told how many answers to choose, but on other questions you will be required to decide how many answers are correct, and then to choose all of them.  There is no partial credit for these multiple-answer questions.

The scoring of the GRE has undergone a major overhaul.  Previously, scores ranged from 200 to 800 on each subscale (verbal and math) in 10-point increments.  The revised GRE scores will range from 130 to 170 on each subscale, in 1-point increments.  Score reporting during the initial implementation phase of the revised GRE (August to November 2011) will be delayed.  Students taking the GRE during the implementation period will not know their scores until November 2011, and graduate programs will not receive those scores until November.

There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the revised GRE; it is to your advantage to answer every question.

Analytical Writing
The Analytical Writing has been modified but not overhauled.  You will still write two essays (now called writing tasks), but you no longer will be presented with two options on the first writing task, called the “Issue” question; you will answer the one prompt given.  The “Issue” question is now 30 minutes long rather than 45 minutes.  Its name has been changed from “Present Your Perspective on an Issue” to “Analyze an Issue.”  Finally, the scoring of both writing tasks will be accomplished by one human and one computer grader in 2012.  The second writing task, called “Analyze an Argument” is unchanged.  Likewise, scoring still ranges from 0 to 6 in half-point increments.
Analytical Writing

First Essay
           Previous GRERevised GRE (August 1, 2011)
Essay #1
“Present Your Perspective on an Issue”
Two prompts from which to choose
45 minutes
(renamed):  Writing Task #1
“Analyze an Issue”
One mandatory prompt
30 minutes
Second EssayEssay #2
“Analyze an Argument”
One prompt
30 minutes
(renamed):  Writing Task #2
GradingTwo human gradersOne human, one computer grader (beginning in 2012)
Scoring0 – 6 in half-point incrementsunchanged
Word ProcessorLimited Functions (cut, paste, highlight, undo)unchanged

The Verbal Reasoning (formerly Verbal Ability) section has been changed dramatically; however, the underlying items it tests – reading comprehension and vocabulary – are still the focus of this part of the GRE.  The old GRE usually presented two long Reading Comprehension passages with several questions for each passage, but now there are more Reading Comprehension passages, and they are of varied lengths. The rote-memorization Antonym questions and Analogy questions have been deleted entirely, and Sentence Completion questions have been expanded to include four different types of fill-in-the-blank questions, summarized in the chart below.

A new feature of the fill-in-the-blank questions is the novel use of either ovals or boxes to precede answer choices.  If you are to chooseone answer only from the answer choices given, each of the choices will be preceded by an oval.  On the other hand, if a question requires that you choose multiple answers from the choices given, then each answer choice will be preceded by a box shape.  These geometric choice indicators will become very helpful to test takers, reminding them that not every answer is a traditional “choose one” selection. 

A unique feature of some the Reading Comprehension questions is the “highlight a sentence” question, in which you will be directed to answer a question by choosing a particular sentence in the passage.  You will use your computer mouse to highlight the sentence and then you will verify that the highlighted sentence is your answer to the question.

The Verbal Reasoning questions comprise two of the five scored sections of the revised GRE.  Each verbal section is 30 minutes long, with about 20 questions per section.  Formerly, there was only one 30-minute, 30-question section.
Verbal Reasoning

Reading Comprehension
Previous GRERevised GRE (August 1, 2011)
  • 2-4 passages, several paragraphs each
  • 6-10 questions  (about 1/3 of verbal questions)
  • All multiple choice questions
  • 5-7 passages, some as short as one sentence
  • 18-20 questions  (about 1/2 of all verbal questions)
  • A mix of question types:  multiple choice, “choose all that apply,” and “highlight a sentence in the passage” questions
Antonyms8-10 questionsNo longer a part of the GRE
Analogies6-8 questionsNo longer a part of the GRE
Sentence Completion5-7 questionsSentence Completion questions have been renamed "Text Completion," and their scope has been widened
Text CompletionOne blank
  • One blank with 5 answer choices.
  • 4-6 questions
Two blanks
  • Two blanks with three answer choices for each blank.
  • No partial credit for getting one choice right.
  • 4-6 questions out of 40
Three blanks
  • Three blanks with three answer choices for each blank.
  • .No partial credit. for getting one choice right.
  • 4-6 questions out of 40
Sentence Equivalence
  • One sentence with six answer choices.
  • Select 2 answer choices with no partial credit.
  • 4-6 questions out of 40

The Quantitative Reasoning part of the GRE has not changed as significantly as the Verbal Reasoning, but there are still notable modifications.  The basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis and interpretation are included.  Even though it has not officially been stated, there appears to be a reduced emphasis on Geometry and an increased emphasis on Data Analysis and Statistics.

Test takers may now use an online calculator for the two math sections.  This online calculator is very basic, but it eases the stress of tedious calculations.  One useful feature of the online calculator is that you can transfer an answer from the calculator display directly to the answer box of a numeric entry question. The online calculator is an “order of operations” type of calculator.

Rather than one 45-minute section consisting of 28 questions, the new Quantitative Reasoning part of the GRE is divided into two sections, each 35 minutes, with about 20 questions in each section.  Questions with only one correct answer will have oval shapes preceding the answer choices;  questions with (possibly) more than one correct answer will have square boxes preceding the answer choices.

The types of questions and their relative frequencies are shown in the table below.
Quantitative Reasoning 
Previous GRE
Revised GRE (August 1, 2011)
Not Available

Calculator Provided
Quantitative Comparison
  • 13-15 questions (out of 28)
  • Two quantities:  Column A and Column B
  • 4 answer choices
  • 16-18 questions (out of 40)
  • Renamed Quantity A and Quantity B
  • Unchanged
General Math

Traditional Multiple Choice

  • 5 answer choices
  • 13-15 questions (out of 28)

  • Unchanged
  • 15-18 questions (out of 40)
Choose ____ answers  (e.g. choose 2 answers)
  • Many answer choices
  • 1-2 questions (out of 40)
Select all that apply
  • 3 or more  answer choices
  • Choose 1 or more  answers
  • 2-4 questions (out of 40)
Numeric Entry
  • Type your answer in the box
  • 3-5 questions (out of 40)
Data Interpretation
  • 1 – 2 data sets
  • All multiple choice
  • 2 – 3 data sets
  • Variety of question types