Would-be grad students face longer, revised GRE

An expert predicts 'some initial shock' from students about the revised GRE.

Graduate school applicants will soon face a new hurdle in their bids for admission: a longer and revamped GRE that test administrators say more accurately assesses the skills needed to earn advanced degrees.

The revised Graduate Record Examination will be given at test sites across the country beginning Aug. 1.

Taken by about 675,000 people last year, the GRE general test is used for admission to U.S. graduate schools and, increasingly, business schools as well.

The latest version includes new types of questions in the verbal and math sections in addition to a different scoring system — collectively, the biggest changes to the test in 60 years, officials said.

“We really wanted the test to better reflect the kinds of thinking that students do in business and graduate school,” said Dawn Piacentino, a spokeswoman for Education Testing Services, which developed and administers the exam.

The changes come following a 57 percent boom in fall enrollment in graduate, medical and law schools — from 1.7 million in 1988 to 2.7 million in 2008, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The new GRE stresses real-life scenarios, reading comprehension and data interpretation, Piacentino said. The writing portion will remain largely the same, but changes in the rest of the computerized test include:

—Eliminating the verbal section on antonyms and analogies, which officials felt presented words out of context;

—A longer testing period, at nearly four hours instead of three;