Mumbai: Educational Testing Service, also known as ETS, has announced that beginning September 22, 2023, it is introducing a set of changes to the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), one of the most popular standardised tests for graduate and professional programmes.
According to ETS, GRE will be reduced to two hours from the previous duration of 3 hours and 45 minutes. Moreover, the test will also see the removal of the “Analyse an Argument” task in the Analytical Writing section, reduced questions in the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections, and the deletion of the unscored section.
While Analytical Writing will have one essay for 30 minutes, Quants and Verbal Reasoning would have 27 questions each for a total of 47 and 41 minutes respectively. There will be no scheduled breaks compared to the 10-minute relief that students used to get earlier.
In addition to test changes, test takers can expect to receive their official scores much faster, in just 8-10 days.
“These changes mark the first of several planned future updates to the GRE General Test, all of which are intended to provide test takers with a better experience that values their time and reduces anxiety and fatigue.” said an official statement by the ETS.
GRE following GMAT's lead, say experts
Experts believe the move by GRE is significant in light of the changes in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) Focus Edition, which is set to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2023. The new version of GMAT will witness a shorter duration coupled with the removal of the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section and the introduction of Data Insights.
“With students often asking what they should take GMAT or GRE, the new changes in GRE are a response to what happened with GMAT in April 2023. GRE will now be even shorter than GMAT with no breaks for students. We will have to see how universities, b schools, colleges, etc react to the same and how they create a policy around it,” said Rishabh Gupta, Co-Founder, GyanOne, an MBA consultancy.
“The new changes have put the focus back on skills rather than stamina which will help students,” added Gupta, who added that GRE has become more flexible.
GRE simpler but removing 'analyse an argument' detrimental
With the GMAT witnessing some of the biggest changes since it was moved from paper to computer-based testing in 1997 as public filings show that the programme revenue in 2020 fell 33% to $60.4 million, down from $89.8 million in 2019, experts believe GRE being more simplified will only help in the long run.
“By reducing the duration and questions, GRE has been made simpler for students. But I believe removing ‘Analyse an argument’ was not necessary as it was good for students and made the test more challenging,” stated Shailesh Otari, Head of Academics, Study Abroad, at IMS Learning Resources.
To emphasise its commitment to students, Amit Sevak, ETS CEO, explained the two balancing things that have facilitated the changes.
“As we continue to introduce product innovations, we’re committed to balancing two things – maintaining rigour and validity, while improving the test-taker experience,” added Sevak in a statement.
But some like Manish Gupta, Chief Consulting Officer, MBA Crystal Ball, don't see merit in exams like GRE being more facile.
"Overall, things are likely to get relatively 'easier' for applicants. The AWA and Analytical writing pieces however would lead to dilution of standards. While there are those who say you can 'game' the system on these by using standardized templates, but even for that, one has to apply brain and think structurally/logically. We just hope that in this mad rush to compete, the two tests don't move towards becoming too easy at a time when even bschools are questioning the relevance of standardized tests," asserted Gupta.
Existing GRE prep materials applicable for students
Beginning in September, test takers can access official GRE test prep resources and practice tests designed for the newer streamlined test. Since the shorter test has the same question types (except for the removal of the Analytical Writing “Analyse an Argument” essay), test takers can continue to use the existing Official GRE Prep materials.