The New Shorter GRE Exam: Everything You Need to Know

The GRE General Test is a standardized test that is used by graduate schools to assess the academic skills of applicants. In fact, it is the most widely used test in the world for applying to advanced educational programs, and it is an accepted part of applying to graduate and professional programs, including business and law schools. The test is divided into three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.

Beginning September 22, 2023, the GRE will look different from previous versions of the test. We will cover the changes in detail below, as there are a number of significant differences test-takers should be aware of. Here is a summary of the most important changes: 

  • The test will be shorter. The new shorter GRE will be 1 hour and 58 minutes long, compared to the old GRE's 3 hours and 45 minutes. This is a significant reduction in time, which means the new version of the GRE will only require half as long to complete as the previous version. This is intended to make both preparing for and taking the test less stressful and more manageable for test takers. At approximately two hours long, this test will be shorter than the GMAT Focus® and the LSAT®. According to Educational Testing Service (ETS), owner and administrator of the GRE, this change will make the GRE the "shortest and most efficient test for graduate, business and law school admissions." Those who take the shorter version of the GRE can be assured that it will continue to provide test-takers and academic institutions the same valid and reliable scores they have been accustomed to over the years. 
  • The number of questions will be reduced. The new version of the GRE will still consist of two Verbal Reasoning sections and two Quantitative Reasoning sections. The new GRE will have a total of 27 questions in each Verbal Reasoning section (two sections for 54 questions total) and 27 questions in each Quantitative Reasoning sections (two sections for 54 questions total). This is a significant change from 40 questions in each Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning section on the old GRE. In a nutshell, the new GRE will have a total of 54 Verbal Reasoning questions instead of 80 questions and 54 Quantitative Reasoning questions instead of 80 questions. The 54 questions in the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are intended to be completed within 88 minutes, while the previous version of the GRE required test-takers to answer 80 questions in 130 minutes.
  • "Analyze an Argument" task will be removed. The Analytical Writing Measure section will now have only one essay, the "Analyze an Issue" task. Previously the GRE had two writing tasks, the "Analyze an Argument" task and the "Analyze an Issue" task. This change will make the overall Analytical Writing section shorter by one section, although the time for the single writing task will remain the same as before—30 minutes.
  • The unscored section will be removed. The previous version of the GRE had an unscored section that was used to help ETS develop future questions. The new GRE will not have an unscored section, which means that test takers can be confident that every question they answer counts towards their score.
  • Scheduled break has been removed. Unlike the current GRE, the shorter GRE will not have a 10-minute break. When taking the current, longer version of the GRE, test-takers are offered a 10-minute break at the end of the second hour. Since the new, shorter GRE will now take just under two hours to complete, the scheduled break will no longer exist. However, if you take the new GRE in a test center, you can choose to take unscheduled breaks although the clock will continue to run. If a break has been approved as part of a test accommodation due to a disability or health-related requirement, then and only then will the clock be stopped for a break. Those who take the new version of the GRE at home will not be permitted to take unscheduled breaks during the course of the exam.
  • The delivery of scores will be faster. Scores for the new GRE will be available within 8-10 calendar days, compared to the old GRE's 10-15 calendar days. This will give test takers faster feedback on their performance, which ETS believes will allow them to make important decisions in a timely manner, giving them greater control over their academic and professional futures. The score scales themselves will not change, meaning scores on the shorter GRE will be directly comparable to scores on the previous version of the test.
  • In addition to these changes, the content of the new GRE will also be updated to reflect the latest research and advances in education and assessment. For example, the Verbal Reasoning section will focus more on critical thinking and analytical reasoning, while the Quantitative Reasoning section will focus more on problem-solving and data interpretation.
Analytical Writing1 task, Essay on Issue30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning2 sections, 27 questions total41 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning2 sections, 27 questions total47 minutes
Total Time1 hour, 58 minutes

Section-level adaptive

The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are section-level adaptive. The first section of each measure (i.e., Verbal and Quantitative) is of average difficulty. The difficulty level of the second section of each of the measures depends on your overall performance in the first section.

For example, if you do very well on the first Quantitative Reasoning section, the second quantitative reasoning section will be administered to you at a higher level of difficulty. If you do not perform well on the first Quantitative Reasoning section, the second Quantitative Reasoning section will be administered to you at a lower level of difficulty. The scoring for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures takes into consideration the total number of questions answered correctly across the two sections as well as the difficulty level of the sections.

Test design

The advanced adaptive design of the GRE General Test allows you to move forward and backward throughout an entire section. Specific features include:

  • preview and review capabilities within a section
  • "Mark" and "Review" features to tag questions, so you can skip them and return later if you have time remaining in the section
  • the ability to change or edit answers within a section
  • an on-screen calculator for the Quantitative Reasoning section

Key Takeaways

  • The shorter test time will make the new GRE less stressful and more manageable. It will have 46 fewer Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning questions.
  • The reduced number of questions will give test takers more time to focus, thereby resulting in less fatigue and improved concentration during testing.
  • The removal of the unscored section will give test takers more confidence in their scores, as every single question will count towards final sectional and overall scores.
  • The faster delivery of scores will give test takers faster feedback on their performance, providing them with useful information to make important academic and career decisions.
  • The updated content of the test will be more aligned with the latest research in education and assessment, focusing on the skills that are most applicable and important in today's graduate-level programs.

Overall, the new, shorter GRE represents a significant update from the old GRE. The shorter test time and reduced number of questions will make the test less stressful and more manageable, allowing students to pursue their dreams of higher education at graduate, business, and law programs. 

If you are planning to take the GRE, it is important to be aware of the changes that are being made. You should also start preparing early so that you have enough time to adjust to the new format of the test. When it comes to preparing for a standardized test such as the GRE, familiarity with the format of the test is critically important, as is knowledge of sections and questions and how they are presented. Set yourself up for test-taking success by treating the GRE as a high priority.

Some additional tips for preparing for the new GRE

  • Take a practice test to get a feel for the new format.
  • Focus on your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Develop a study plan that works for you.
  • Get plenty of practice with the types of questions that will be on the test.
  • Stay positive and motivated.

With careful preparation, you can do well on the new GRE and achieve your graduate school goals.

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