- During the peak testing period from August through December, the greatest increase in test administrations was in international markets – China and India saw a 30% increase in test volume over the same period in 2011. The article speculates that “This trend may impact upcoming admissions cycles as the globally diverse GRE test-taker population applies to graduate and business schools in 2013.”
- More schools outside of the United States are using GRE scores. According to the press release, 2012 brought a 14% increase in the number of schools that use the GRE, and “[m]any of these new score users were Asian and European institutions”. What does this mean for you? If you’re considering attending graduate school abroad, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge, as this piece of the admissions process becomes increasingly standardized.
- As more and more business schools accept GRE scores, they like what they’re seeing. Says an admissions officer at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, “The candidates who take the [GRE] are extremely diverse which provides the opportunity for us, as an institution, to work with candidates from a wide array of backgrounds and undergraduate focus areas”. Clearly, the GRE is continuing to grow in prominence as an alternative to the GMAT for b-school admissions.
- Overall test administrations decreased from 2011, and are at their lowest point since 2008. The number of GRE administrations dropped from more than 800,000 in 2011 to about 655,000, in 2012. The article does note, though, that the 2012 peak testing period of August through December was the second-heaviest in the GRE’s history, which could potentially signal a surge in grad school applications this year.
What does this last data point mean? Well, everything and nothing, depending on how you look at it. Given the overarching changes made to the GRE in 2011, many people naturally decided to take advantage of the last opportunity to take the old version of the test and have those scores available for use for 5 years from Test Day. However, overall testing volume isn’t nearly as important to you as are the numbers of applicants in your target field and programs.
While for some programs, the drop in GRE takers may lead to a less competitive applicant pool, what we’ve heard from admissions officers from top Graduate programs is that they expect this admissions cycle to be as competitive as ever, with more highly qualified international applicants.
To begin researching the stats of schools in your field, check out our recent entry on U.S. News’s Graduate School Road Map. And, of course, check back here regularly for updates on how to best tackle your GRE prep!
Prepping for the GRE requires you to keep track of a lot: A GRE study schedule, practice tests, vocabulary work, and the litany of other things that are necessary components of your Test Day success. In fact, it’s so easy to get caught up in getting ready for the GRE that you don’t even think about the test-center experience until a couple of days beforehand. Here’s what you need to know about the testing center, both before and after you get there:
- Visit the center once before your test day, so that you know the route and parking situation. This is not the day on which you want to get lost or stuck in traffic – chances are that you’ll already be a bit on-edge that morning, and there’s no need to add any additional stress.
- Make sure that the name on your ID exactly matches the name that you used when you registered with ETS – if they’re not identical, then you won’t be allowed into the testing room. If you need to change the name on your registration to match the name on your ID, you can get more information here about how to do so.
- Limit what you bring with you: All of your belongings (except for your ID) will go into a locker before you enter the testing room, and space is limited. Do, however, make sure that you dress in layers to be prepared for whatever temperature the testing room is, and bring a good snack to eat during the break – beef jerky is my personal recommendation for a GRE Test Day snack; you can’t go wrong with protein! And if you’re a Kaplan student or have our math or verbal workbooks, you can bring the strategy sheets with you to review while you’re waiting to sign in.
- The only items that you are allowed to take into the testing room with you are your ID and locker key. The proctor will give you scratch paper and pencils, which you can trade in as-needed. If you were hoping to bring your TI-83 calculator in with you, you’re out of luck: You only get the test’s on-screen calculator.
Forewarned is forearmed – you now know everything that you need to about how to prepare for the test-center experience. Now get back to studying, and check back regularly for more tips on how to prepare for Test Day!
Almost every student I have, in every class that I teach, asks, “What is a good score on the GRE?”
Most students don’t understand just how complex that answer can be. Sure, I could tell everyone, “You know, you really want to aim for a 165 or higher on both sections of the GRE.” That would be a completely truthful answer—anything at 165 or higher is an excellent score—but it may not be an appropriate goal for every student. Quite simply, it’s just not that simple.
For starters, here is what you need to know:
The GRE is scored on, essentially, a 41-point scale. That means that small improvements in performance can increase your score quite a bit. It also means that small improvements in your score can make a big difference in your percentile ranking (sometimes, a one point increase in your score can boost your percentile ranking by 5 points—check it out here).
The percentile ranking on the GRE forms a classic Bell curve. Here is a generic Bell curve, in case you’ve forgotten what one looks like:
Because it falls on a Bell curve, your percentile tells the friendly admissions folks how well you did on the GRE compared with the students who have taken it over the last three years. (You can find that information here – But–fair warning–it’s pretty dry reading.)
Also, your GRE score does not stand alone. Whether or not you are admitted into a graduate program (and whether or not you receive scholarship money) depends on several factors, not your GRE score alone. Do not put all of your eggs in the GRE basket. You can put 4-6 eggs there, but divide the remaining 6-8 between obtaining the best GPA possible, writing a spectacular personal statement, flattering professors and professionals into writing outstanding letters of recommendation, and rounding out your resume.
I imagine you’re a bit frustrated with me. Because you still want me to give you a number and say, “THIS is a good GRE score.” (I did that already, remember? 165….look back to the beginning of this blog entry if you’ve forgotten.)
The absolute best way I can help you is to provide some general guidelines on how to set a good GRE score goal for YOU:
- Do your research! This is important. What is the average GRE score of accepted students at the schools you’re interested in? What are the average scores for your specific programs? What do the admissions departments have to say about required minimum scores? Once you’ve done your research, use these numbers in your goal-setting process. Remember also the meaning of an average score—students are accepted with higher AND lower scores than the average. Your entire application is important. Don’t become so focused on one number that you fail to present yourself in the best manner possible.
- Know that a good GRE score for YOU is the highest score you can possibly achieve after a reasonable amount of prep time (about 100 hours). Take a diagnostic test as you begin your studies (http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep2). If that diagnostic test places you in the 80th percentile or higher, you may be good to continue studying on your own. If you’re below the 80th percentile on either the Quantitative or Verbal section, consider signing up for a prep course. Kaplan has some great ones!
- When you begin studying, set your goal score at 20 points above your diagnostic score. Try to break that 20 point barrier in your studies. Raise your goal again—depending on how easy the first 20-point improvement was, raise your next goal by 5-20 points. Continue to raise your goal until about 2 weeks before your GRE test date. For those last 2 weeks, focus on holding steady and not losing ground.
- You want to get a score that places you in the 50th-99th percentile range (higher is better, of course). That means that your goal score should be somewhere between 151 and 170 on both portions of the test. (Notice how you could bomb the diagnostic, raise your score by 20 points as you study, and still get into the 50th percentile? Pretty cool, huh?)
Above all, study hard. Learn the test strategies. And walk out of Test Day knowing that there was no way you could have done any better!
Many Kaplan students start out intimidated by the GRE, and with good reason: the GRE is designed to challenge even the most adept test takers by customizing sets of questions to match a test taker’s level of performance.
The “new” GRE, launched in August 2011, assesses your critical reasoning skills and is used by graduate schools—and many business schools—as a key factor in admissions.
Split into verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections and delivered on the computer, the GRE takes about 4 hours to complete and measures your reasoning, writing, time management, and stress management skills—the same skills that you will need to succeed in graduate school.
Here are some ways for you to start familiarizing yourself with the test:
- Sign up for our GRE Question of the Day
- Watch video-based instruction and explanations featuring some
of our top GRE teachers
- Learn more about the timing, breakdown, and scoring of the GRE
We’ve been working on mastering the GRE for decades—more than anyone else out there. Learn with us, and you’ll go into Test Day ready to score your best.
Have any questions about the new exam structure or about prep resources? Ask below!
It’s not another test change, but ETS has made a few newsworthy announcements about changes to the GRE program that you need to know about.
Our team of GRE experts recently attended a virtual conference held by ETS and we are eager to share the full implications and timeline of these changes and how they will affect the graduate school admissions process.
- ScoreSelect. Starting in July 2012 (exact date to be announced in June at www.ets.org/gre – we’ll report as soon as we hear), ScoreSelect will allow GRE test takers to choose—after viewing their scores—to report to schools their scores from only the most recent test they took, or from all of the GRE tests they have taken in the past 5 years. Additionally, if a student sends score reports after Test Day, the student can have full freedom over which scores to report: from any testing administration(s), not just the most recent. Test takers cannot report only Quantitative Reasoning scores or only Verbal Reasoning scores from a given test—results from any testing administration must be reported intact. For more on the ScoreSelect option, go to: ets.org/gre/scoreselect
- Taking a GRE test again. Since the launch of the revised GRE in August 2011, test takers have only been able to take the GRE once per 60 days. Effective July 1, 2012, individuals may take the new GRE once every 30 days, which is a big win for test takers, especially if they are late in the admissions cycle and are brushing up against application deadlines. For more on the retake policy, go to: www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register
- Another free practice test from ETS. When PowerPrep II was released in July 2010, it contained only 1 full-length practice Multi-Stage Test. In July 2012, PowerPrep II version 2.0 will be released, and it will contain 2 free full-length MSTs. This software will be available for download from www.gre.org and will only work on a PC. (Our realistic practice tests can be taken on a Mac or PC.) There will also be an updated Official Guide coming out in August 2012 containing 2 additional practice tests (TBD if the 2 additional tests are paper-based or computer-based.)