GRE changing in September: everything you need to know

Tyler York

If you’re planning to further your studies and get into a graduate or business school program, the first thing you need to do is to pass the Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE exam. This standardized test is used by graduate and business schools to gauge your qualifications via verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing skills. A high GRE score plus a good academic record can help your application immensely.

Educational Testing Service (ETS), the maker of the GRE, has revealed dramatic changes to the exam that will go live in a few short months. We outline the key changes below.

GRE changing shorter
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GRE changing – the new GRE is much shorter

On September 22, 2023, the ETS will introduce a shorter version of the GRE General Test, reducing the duration from a bit 4 hours to just under 2 hours. This change aims to evaluate the same skills as the longer test in a more efficient manner by leveraging its adaptive nature. ETS made these changes to combat test fatigue and enhance focus for test-takers.

Here’s a breakdown of the key changes in the revised GRE:

  • The overall test length has been reduced from 3 hours and 45 minutes to just under 2 hours.
  • The “Analyze an Argument” task, one of two essays in the Analytical Writing section, has been removed.
  • The number of questions has decreased from 100 to 54, which is equivalent to the reduction in test time. This means test-takers will have a similar amount of time per question.
  • The unscored section, previously used for test development purposes, has been removed.
  • Scheduled breaks are no longer provided during the shorter GRE test, demanding sustained focus throughout the entire duration.
  • Test scores are now accessible within 10-15 days after taking the exam, marking a significant improvement over the previous wait time of 15-20 days.

Below is a table of the sections and time allotted for each:

SectionStructureEstimated Timing
Analytical Writing1 section, 1 essay30 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning2 sections, 27 questions total47 minutes total
Verbal Reasoning2 sections, 27 questions total41 minutes total
Total5 sections1 hour, 58 minutes

When do the GRE test changes come into effect?

The shorter GRE only affects test-takers planning to take the exam after September 22, 2023. The new exam may be easier or harder than the old exam – we do not know. When considering whether to take the current, longer GRE or wait for the new, shorter GRE, consider these factors:

  • If you feel ready and have been studying, go for the current GRE.
  • If you tend to make anxiety mistakes, the shorter test may be better. The shorter test may make you less anxious because it is less of a burden.
  • If you get fatigued or lose focus after more than two hours of testing, the shorter test may be a good option.
  • If you have application deadlines before October 1, take the test this summer before the GRE changes, as results may not arrive in time if you take the shorter test.
Photo by monkeybusiness

Why is ETS making these changes to the GRE?

Making the GRE test shorter is meant to make it easier for students taking the test. According to ETS CEO Amit Sevak, “As we continue to introduce product innovations, we’re committed to balancing two things — maintaining rigor and validity, while improving the test-taker experience.” A shorter test that has the same validity would satisfy both of those goals.

What will NOT change with the new GRE?

Despite the transition to a shorter GRE General Test, several important elements will remain consistent. Here are the key aspects that will not change:

Test Structure: The GRE will still have the same fundamental structure, with sections focusing on Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

Scoring and Score Report: The scoring process for all three sections will remain the same, as well as the format of the Official Score Report.

Adaptive Nature: The shorter GRE will still be section-level adaptive, meaning the difficulty of the second operational section for each scored measure depends on performance in the first section of that measure.

Accommodations: The accommodations available for the shorter GRE test will be the same as those provided in the current version.

Test Fees: The costs associated with the GRE will stay the same, even with the reduced test duration.

Delivery Mode: The shorter GRE will continue to be available both at test centers and for at-home testing, similar to the current GRE.

Use of Scores: Graduate and professional programs will continue to utilize GRE General Test scores as they always have, regardless of the test length.

Retake Policy: The policy allowing test-takers to retake the GRE General Test once every 21 days and up to five times within a continuous rolling 12-month period remains unchanged.

Score Validity: GRE scores will remain reportable for five years from the test date.

What do these changes mean for GRE test takers?

With the shorter GRE, test takers will have a much shorter test to tackle. This and the smaller number of questions overall means that the new GRE will reward test takers that are more prepared and make fewer mistakes. 

In summary, the shorter GRE is a positive change. It is a more efficient test that rewards strong test-takers and produces the same evaluation in roughly half the time. 

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