Taking the GRE? Now May Be Better Than Later

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 4, 2011

The new and improved Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is on its way, and for those who are taking the test either in addition to or as an alternative to the GMAT for b-school admissions, timing will be everything.

Christine Betaneli, a spokesperson for ETS, which administers the GRE, says that students who need their GRE scores before November should take the old-style GRE no later than July, which means they should probably start getting ready now.

If they take the newer version in August, September, or October, they won’t receive their scores until mid-November, she said. That could make it difficult to retake the test (if you’re unhappy with your scores) and meet 2012 application deadlines. In order to ensure score accuracy ETS needs to collect a statistically significant sample of completed tests and analyze the tests before releasing the scores.

Starting in December, Betaneli says, GRE will return to its current practice of reporting scores within 10-15 days of the test date (six weeks for paper tests).

Kaplan Test Prep is advising applicants to take the old-style test. Says Liza Weale, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs at Kaplan: “Our advice to students: if you can take the current GRE do so—it’s to your advantage.”

Currently more than 400 full-time MBA programs accept the GRE , including many top schools. Starting Aug. 1, the GRE will include many modifications, including a new scoring scale, a more difficult quantitative section, an on-screen calculator for complex math problems, and a verbal section that tests reasoning skills in addition to vocabulary. Kaplan estimates that it will take about an hour longer than the old-style test.

Reader Comments

John Rood

February 4, 2011 9:43 AM

As the owner of a very different kind of prep company, I think it's terrible advice to be in some kind of hurry to take the old GRE. There's no reason given by the Kaplan rep here. Every time any test changes, the big prep companies give this advice. My suspicion is that it is always in their interest to have students enroll in prep courses sooner rather than later.

The truth for business students is that the current/old GRE isn't a very good MBA admissions test. That's why ETS is changing it, and to ETS's credit the new test will be much better. MBA applicants are 1) better off taking the GMAT and 2) if they choose the GRE, better off waiting for a test that will be taken more seriously by admissions directors.

John Rood
Next Step Test Preparation

BW's Louis Lavelle

February 4, 2011 11:54 AM

John, the advice is coming from ETS too, and it applies only to test-takers who need their scores before November.This isn't a question about which test is better. And this isn't some giant conspiracy. It's the equivalent of saying "if you want to eat before 7 you should call in your take-out order before 6 because we're real busy." That's all. Louis Lavelle Associate Editor Bloomberg Businessweek

Anshuman Saksena

February 22, 2011 2:49 PM

Louis, as an owner of GRE Test Preparation website, I agree with the general consensus that it is wise to write the current GRE than wait for the old one. The reasons are simple:

1. Content

- The current GRE is more predictable and there is more GRE preparation content available to study with.

- The new GRE will have a more challenging math section, which is similar to the GMAT examination (since ETS has pushed the GRE to be accepted by Business schools).

- The new GRE has more reading comprehension questions, which are more challenging than the current Verbal section.

2. Timing / Length of Test

- Current GRE test is 3 hrs, while the new GRE will be 4 hrs

- New GRE test interface allows a test taker to review and mark questions, but this can also make test pacing harder.

3. Test Type

-Current GRE adapts to each question you answer (computer adaptive testing), while the new GRE adapts to each section (multi-stage adaptive testing). Thus, you must perform well on the entire section and it can be possibly harder to move up in score

5. Essay Section

- The current GRE allows a test taker to answer an essay question in 45 min, the new GRE only allows for 30 min

- New GRE will have more focused question prompts, thus test takers will NOT be able to prepare prompts in advance like the current GRE.

This is why I strongly believe that waiting to write the new GRE can hurt an applicants grad school admission chances.


A. Saksena

Hugues Marie

April 17, 2011 8:38 PM

I'm not sure if I should take the new gre or the old one. My vocabulary is not all that good, so any advice.


August 8, 2011 4:02 PM

Any advice for someone whe needs to take the GRE but has been out of the test-taking game for a few years?

BW's Louis Lavelle

August 8, 2011 4:47 PM

Two words: test prep. Whether you study on your own, take a class, or go online, you probably need some help getting back up to speed. Even if you're solid on the fundamentals, you can probably use a little help with test-taking strategies. Check out our primer on the big GMAT test prep outfits (http://www.businessweek.com/business-schools/gmat-test-prep-a-primer-07112011.html). The story focuses on the GMAT, but most or all of these places also offer GRE prep. Good luck!

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

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