What GRE changes mean to you: new ways of thinking about scores
by Bob Verini, 30-year Kaplan veteran teacher, trainer, and curriculum developer
If you are on the road to business school and are considering taking the GRE in addition to, or instead of, the GMAT, it’s crucial that you be up-to-date on what, exactly, you’ll face on a particular Test Day. And what you may have heard is true: As rumored for a long time (along with announcements and cancellations over the past five years), the GRE will indeed be changing in 2011.
What has been trumpeted as the largest, most significant overhaul of the GRE in its 59 year history is also one of the most comprehensive revisions in the entire realm of standardized testing. Scoring scale, content, length, and navigation will all be different – some, radically so.
Moreover, the testmakers’ express intent of the revision is to bring the GRE to a place where all, or at least the best, business schools are willing to accept either GRE or GMAT scores for applicant consideration.
I’ll be exploring these changes with you in this series of articles, so that you are fully prepared when the changes are implemented – and so that you can make the best use of this period of time before the changes kick in.
The first thing to consider is the altered scoring scale. The GRE will be moving from its current 200-800 point scale (comparable, of course, to the GMAT) to a 130-170 point scale. This seemingly cosmetic issue has significant implications for test takers.
First of all, the change to the scoring scale is a not-so-veiled hint that the content is in fact changing as radically as rumored. When a standardized test retains its old scoring scale, it means that the changes are in fact superficial. But a new scale means: “Pay attention! Things will be different inside.”
Second, there will be fewer discrete GRE scores available. This makes sense if you consider that the current GRE and GMAT scores are all 10 points apart – that is, you can score a 200, 210, 220, etc. – whereas the new scale will offer scales in one-point increments, e.g. 130, 131, 132, etc. Thus, where currently there are 71 discrete scores up for grabs, on the new test there will only be 41, meaning more examinees clumped together in each score group. Differentiation among those who have earned a particular GRE score on the new scale will be difficult, and should put extra emphasis on other differentiating components of applications, such as essays and letters of recommendation.
(Don’t be surprised, incidentally, if ETS publishes more comparison tools to equate old and new GRE scores, not to mention comparing new GRE with status-quo GMAT. The testmakers have already created a tool for comparing GMAT scores to GRE scores; they are always eager to provide aid and guidance to admissions committees, especially when the creators of the latter are eager to rival or, indeed, supplant the former.)
Watch this space for more information on the new GRE’s content and format changes, and some thoughts on whether ETS’s professed goal of rivalling the GMAT may be within shouting distance. – Bob V.