The GRE is changing!: what students need to know about the new test

Davis: Hey, everybody! Welcome back. This is GRE Bites. I’m Davis, an educator with over 10 years of experience.

Orion: And I’m Orion, the founder of StellarGRE.

Davis: We’re here to bring you your weekly bite-sized episode on GRE prep and grad school admissions. Check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at You can use the code “BITES” for 10% off all memberships.

Alright, let’s get into today’s topic. Hot topic. Big news. Anyone who’s following GRE news will know this: the GRE is changing. Ooh, boy. Effective September of this year, at least one thing that’s changing is that it will be significantly shorter: half the length, roughly, as what it is now. So, Orion, thoughts on how this will effect the StellarGRE study program? I mean, we got to cram a lot in here. What’s going on?

Orion: Yeah, this is big news. I just learned about it recently. You are correct: the new version of the GRE will go into effect starting September 22nd of this year. Students right now can book a testing experience after that date with the new version of the test. If you want to take the test before that date, you can still take the test in its current, four-hour format. But there’s going to be some significant changes.

So, as you mentioned, the most important – and probably the happiest – shift for most people is that the test is going to be half as long as it used to be. The current version is nearly four hours long. The next version will be two hours long. This is incredible. So how are they doing this? Well, they had to make some significant cuts. The writing section is going to be halved: they’re just throwing out the argument essay prompt. So students will begin the testing experience with the issue essay, and that’s the only essay they’ll have to write. So their writing score will simply be the scaled score of that one essay, as opposed to the average of the two.

Next, the test will still be adaptive. So students will move into what we assume to be four timed problem sets. The full details haven’t been released, but I assume they’re still going to alternate, and the first set will probably still be presented randomly. So it’ll either be verbal, quant, verbal, quant; or, quant, verbal, quant, verbal. Though, again, I’m not 100% sure about this.

All told, between the two scored sections in each half of the test, there will be 27 problems. Now ETS still hasn’t released the actual breakdown with respect to how many problems are in each section. Obviously, it’s an odd number, so it can’t be evenly split. But we can potentially say that there’s going to be 14 questions in the first section, and 13 questions in the second section. So that is a significant reduction: about a third of the questions are going away.

The test will still be adaptive. So how you perform on the first scored verbal section will determine the relative difficulty of the second scored verbal section. I assume there’s still going to be three different second sections – easy, medium, and hard – but, again, those details have not yet been released by ETS. The scoring, according to ETS, will be exactly the same, because they’re trying to create continuity with the previous scoring system. So scaled scores will still range from 130 to 170, in 1-point increments, and the conversion of raw to scaled scores, according ETS, will be normalized. That way, there will be a seamless continuity in the interpretation of scoring for universities.

This is huge: what ETS has said is that it’s not changing the content or the question types, which as a content creator was extremely relieving for me. Everything that the GRE currently tests, it will continue to assess. There won’t be any new content. They’re not deleting any content domains, and there’s not going to be any new question types. We’re still going to have sentence equivalences, text completions, multiple answers, etc. And they’re not introducing any new question types. So diagnosis will remain the same as in the current Stellar System, as far as we’re aware. That means that all the strategies and techniques that are currently applicable to the version of the test that we have today will continue to be applicable in the new version of the test.

Obviously, the shorter test will mean a different balance in, let’s say, efficiency versus accuracy. ETS has said that, even with the shorter sections, there’s not going to be more time per question. So based on the number of questions in the set, the total time will be prorated relative to the current pro rata: which is 90 seconds for each verbal question, and a minute and 45 seconds for each quant question. So the sections will be shorter, but they’ll be shorter proportionally. What this means, however, is that – because there’s going to be fewer questions and the scoring will remain the same – each question is kind of more important.

In the current version of the test, a student could conceivably even miss a question or two, at least on the verbal section and still get a perfect scaled score. That will likely no longer be the case. We’ve seen, in the current version of the test, really steep drop-offs. On the quant section, you have to get them all right to get a perfect score. If you miss one, you’re probably already down to a 167. It’s a really steep drop. And so there’s probably going to be an even steeper drop relative to the ceiling of the test on a quant section with fewer questions. Efficiency will remain important – because, like I said, the prorate per question will remain constant – but accuracy will be even more important than it currently is, because you will have even less wiggle room than you did before. So my hunch here is that it’s going to be even more important for students to track their carelessness and come up with appropriate fail-safes.

Davis: Now, that’s a lot of good information. And it is a relief: not just for you, but for everyone who’s been studying or preparing. The longer version of the test will stop being available, as of September?

Orion: Yeah, as far as I’m aware, you wouldn’t be able to take the test after September 22nd in its current form.

Davis: So why would a student take this current version?

Orion: Well, it depends. It could be that this summer is when the student has to prepare for the test. And even though it might be more beneficial, in some respects, to wait: there’s no time like the present. If you have the availability and the willingness, sometimes it makes sense to make use of that window, because life can throw you curve balls. Further down the road, some unforeseen circumstances could arise – this happens all the time – that mislay your best-intended plans.

If you have deadlines that don’t accommodate the new test’s release date, then you’ll probably have to take the current version of the test. All of the testing conditions remain the same: you still have to wait three weeks between subsequent administrations, and you can only take the test five times in each 365 day period. So if you, let’s say, took the test in late September, and you wanted to be able to have a buffer to take a second test – in, let’s say, mid-October – and then you want to wait a couple of weeks to ensure they release your official scores to your programs: then, if your test date is before November 1st, that’s going to get a little tight in terms of the timeline. You’d have to take the test, like, exactly when it’s released, exactly at the three-week point, and hope that everything goes right with the dissemination of your scores. Though ETS does say that, in this new version, it hopes to release scores more quickly than two weeks. But the word is still out on just how quick that’s actually going to be. So that’s one reason why you might want to take the current version.

And if you’re doing very well in your prep, and you like the idea of having a greater question buffer, then it makes sense to take the current version of the test. When I earned my perfect score, it was in an in-between period between the old version of the test and its current version. And even though I could have taken the newer version, I actually decided to take the older version, because that’s what I had been trained on. And I thought that, given the question types and the structure, I had a slightly better chance of acing that test than the new version. And it was a gamble that paid off. So this is going to be a good thing for a lot of people, but – like any change – there’s no such thing as a unilateral positive. It’s going to come with, you know, a suite of pros and cons.

Davis: Well, thanks a lot for giving us that introductory material to the change. We’ll do another episode on why it’s changing and on some of the other effects. Big news, but also good news: content is the same, question types are the same. So all prep that has been done so far is mostly translatable – if not all translatable – to the new testing experience, which will begin September 22nd of 2023.

Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with another bite-sized episode of GRE Bites. If you have a topic you’d like discussed on a future episode, let us know at And if you’re ready to take your prep to the next level, check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at, which is still relevant and will adapt with the changes coming. You can use the code “BITES” for 10% off all memberships there. Talk to you soon.

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