Planning for Applications and the Revised GRE

July 23, 2010

You should follow me on Twitter. While you're at it, take a moment to subscribe to GMAT Hacks via RSS or Email.


An increasing number of business schools accept the GRE. I still do not recommend that you prepare for the GRE, or (worst of all) prepare for both the GRE and GMAT.

Here's some background you may want to be aware of. To some extent, the companies that adminster the GRE and GMAT--ETS and GMAC, respectively--are in competition with each other. The GMAT isn't going to be dislodged anytime soon as the primary test used in business school admissions, and the GMAC wants to make sure that's the case.

With that in mind, both organizations want to convince b-schools that their exam is the most valid way to evaluate incoming students. (The GRE has other advantages: A student considering a PhD in economics, for instance, might prefer to take the GRE, which allows her to apply to business schools and PhD programs.)

Both tests are always changing, but each one has an even bigger change than usual on the horizon. The GRE is transitioning first. The "new" GRE is set to begin in August of 2011.

The Revised GRE and You

If you're applying to grad school this year with an eye toward matriculating in spring or fall 2011, you can completely ignore the new GRE. It doesn't matter to you.

If you are thinking longer-term, things get more complicated. According to the ETS website:

If you take the GRE revised General Test during our special discount period of August September 2011, your scores will be sent by mid-November. However, if you need your scores before November 2011, take the current test before August 2011.

In other words, if you have your eye on fall 2011 applications, you need to pay close attention to detail.

Old or New?

"New" is generally good ... except for the iPhone 4 and standardized tests. The key word is "standardized." When a test makes a radical shift like this, it isn't all that standardized.

It's bad enough that some business schools are choosing to compare candidates on the basis of different exams. The confusion will only get worse when, in December 2011, admissions committees have to compare the GMAT, the old GRE, and the new GRE. They'll figure it out, I'm sure, but it will be impossible for them to have an intuitive sense of what the scores mean.

A new standardized test may be bad news for you, as well. For any exam, you are likely relying on some kind of test preparation. I've been able to develop high-quality GMAT resources because the test has been consistent for the decade I've been working with it. For a new test, it takes time before quality prep resources are available.

As I said at the outset: I don't recommend taking the GRE for your business school application. The mix of two types of GRE scores in applications a year from now only makes me more emphatic: Admissions committees will know better how to interpret your GMAT score.

If for some reason you must take the GRE for fall 2011 application deadlines, take the old GRE. That is, sit for the exam before August 2011. Your results will make more sense to those evaluating them, and you'll have an easier time preparing.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Verbal

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Verbal section. Recognize, dissect, and master every question type you'll face on the test. Everything you need, all in one place, including 100+ realistic practice questions.
Click to read more.