GRE 2011 Changes
In August 2011, the GRE underwent a substantial revision to its structure, scoring system, timing, and methodology. The revised General GRE test is no longer adaptive on a question-to-question basis, but instead is adaptive on a section-to-section basis. The first section for both Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning will be of an average difficulty level, with a mix of easy and difficult questions. Performance on the first section of each type is used to determine the selection of questions for the second section, with more difficult questions going to students who perform well. Proficient test takers will therefore "level up" to a more difficult test, which will also make it possible for them to achieve a higher score. The structure of the test also means that, if you are performing well, the material will get more difficult as you progress through the test.
Though the overhauled test maintained many of the question types from its old version, the scoring scale was revised to a new 130-170 scale from the old 200-800 scale. When you are considering your target score, think carefully about where you want to go to school and what you want to study, because there is tremendous variation from school to school and program to program, and the GRE General Test can be used to reach many different educational objectives. Regardless of where you go, however, learning to study effectively for the GRE will be useful to you as you prepare yourself for graduate study. In addition, a particularly high GRE score can be a lasting indication of achievement or aptitude, especially in areas where your resume is otherwise weak. The 90th percentile for the GRE is approximately 162 for Verbal and 164 for Quantitative Reasoning, and a 5 on Analytical Writing. Approximately two thirds of students score between a 145 and 159 on both the Verbal and Quantitative sections, or between a 3 and a 5 on the Analytical Writing. Getting a score above these ranges will allow you to distinguish yourself at even the most competitive of programs, but you should focus on getting a score that will make you competitive at the graduate program of your choice.
In addition to changing the scoring system and adaptive algorithm of the test, the 2011 changes also made it possible to skip questions or go back and review your answers, they also added a calculator to the Quantitative Reasoning sections of the test. The content was also revised, removing antonyms and anology questions in favor of text completion and sentence equivalent question, requiring test takers to "fill in the blank" in a way that reflects the sentences' meaning rather than specific grammar rules or vocabulary memorization. The Quantitative Reasoning sections were revised to emphasize "data interpretation and real-life scenarios". The Analytical Writing section was revised to provide only a single prompt per section, and the scoring was retooled to incentivize students to address the breadth of the topic clearly and concisely. All analytical writing prompts are available in advance, but only one per section will be available on test day. One of the most important elements of GRE-specific test preparation is to ensure that you know how to write GRE-style essays quickly and clearly, so that you can ensure that you will have enough time to present a detailed analytical perspective on test day.
Learn to Speak the Language of the GRE
The GRE is the most general of the graduate admissions tests, so the key to success is to leverage your years and studying, learn the "language of the test", and to stay focused and lucid on test day. Whereas other tests require you to memorize information and remember content, the GRE only expects you to be able to think clearly and efficiently for a long period of time. The content of the test is designed to challenge your thinking ability, not your knowledge. If you remember to consider each question and answer carefully, and you stay focused and work quickly on test day, then you will achieve a score that indicates your level of understanding of the topics tested. If you are getting a score that is substantially below your target, or if you lack understanding of specific subject areas, then a test-preparation course or private tutoring may be options that could help you close the gap between your target score and your actual score. You may also consider whether other admissions tests would be a better fit for your educational profile. For example, if you majored in business in college and love mathematical problem solving, the GMAT may be a better exam for you to take than the GRE, which is more language-based. If, on the other hand, you speak three languages fluently and have had a diverse intellectual background, then the GRE may be a perfect fit that will help you showcase your unique talents to graduate programs, including business schools. Admissions counselling may be useful to help you choose a graduate test that will showcase your ability, compensate for any weaknesses in your application, and allow you to make yourself as competitive as possible in your graduate applications.