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New GRE: Changes introduced from November
KB Sharma
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July 30, 2007

Early this year, Educational Testing Service, or ETS, announced changes to the Graduate Record Examination General Test (GRE General Test). The proposed alterations signalled a virtual transformation of the test's format and structure. These changes were to take effect from September 2007.

Later, after a little soul-searching on the part of ETS, the idea was dropped. This was done partly because the changes were considered to be too radical and abrupt, and partly because the new format had not been adequately tested under simulated conditions. The students heaved a sigh of relief, but not for long.

ETS has now decided to introduce the changes in a phased manner, and that too on a trial basis only. The trials are due to commence from November 2007. Initially, not more than one question each (as per the new format) will be introduced, in the Verbal Ability and the Quantitative Ability sections.

Students scheduled to appear for the GRE General Test from November 2007 may expect to get one question of this type or none at all. In the beginning, the question will not be scored and shall possibly form part of the trial / unscored section.

As soon as ETS has a sufficient database of the questions, and the experience of trial responses of students is available, the questions will pass over to the scored sections. Students will not know when these questions start getting scored.

 New Question Types





Verbal Reasoning

Short text with two / three blanks

Select one out of three options for each blank


Quantitative Reasoning

No change in Question type

Click on the answer box and type in your answer


++Click here to see sample questions on Verbal reasoning & Quantitative reasoning

Understanding the Changes in the Verbal Reasoning Section

Although the trial begins with only one question of the new type, the ultimate aim seems to be to have as many as five questions, as was hinted at by ETS when the change was first contemplated.

The logic behind the new question format could be a reduced emphasis on one-word answers, such as the definition of difficult or obscure words, and an increased emphasis on critical thinking and reasoning in context.

At least from the first appearance, the vocabulary used is much simpler, but the answer options are much closer in meaning, requiring the test taker to understand the context before selecting the answer. The relationship between words and ideas is more important than the dictionary meanings.

But the real difficulty lies elsewhere. Earlier the test takers were able to guess out the answer by simply working out the best fit. They could also proceed by trial and error. They could easily select the right answer even if they did not know all the meanings.

For example, in a question having three blanks, if two words in a particular option were good fits, the test takers could assume that the third will also be right unless the negative/positive direction of the word made it a glaring misfit. They cannot indulge in any such speculation any longer.

There will now be three options available for each blank and each set is independent of the others. What is worse, there is no partial credit even if the test taker is able to get the right fits for two blanks, but not for the third.

In effect this becomes a set of two or three inter-related questions, each of which has to be answered right if credit is to be received.

The reading text itself may run up to five sentences. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

It might be an advantage in that the test takers can better get the flow of the argument; conversely, it can be a disadvantage in that students may lose track unless they read with full concentration.

So what is the best strategy to answer such questions? The GRE web site gives some clues. But these are easier said than done.

The best strategy is to catch the flow of the text and then look for words that fit the flow. Once a tentative answer has been found, test it by filling up all the blanks choosing the words selected.

Changes in the Quantitative Reasoning Section

This is a minor change as compared to the one in Verbal section.

It's just that the format of the required answer has undergone a change. That is, instead of clicking on the right answer choice from the multiple choices, the test taker will type the answer in the box provided.

The implication is that the test taker has to be doubly sure of the answer because there will be no answer choices in the question. The things to remember here are:

Carefully look at the unit of measurement provided with the Answer-Box. Your answer must be in the same units.

In case of questions that have answers as decimal numbers, proper attention must be paid to the question in order to round off the answer to the required degree of accuracy.

Part II: GRE scheduling and registration

KB Sharma is a senior trainer with Top Careers and You. TCY is a leading test preparatory organisation preparing students for various national as well as international tests viz. GRE, GMAT, SAT, CAT and MCA entrance exams.

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