GRE changes draw mixed reaction from students

St. Thomas senior Mary Ballard, a psychology major, is concerned that changes to the Graduate Record Examination will make the exam more difficult.

“It will be and has been a nerve-wracking experience,” Ballard said.

Educational Testing Services has made changes to the Graduate Record Examination. Some St. Thomas students were frustrated with the changes, but others thought they were beneficial. (Rita Kovtun/TommieMedia)

Educational Testing Services, the creator of the GRE, has made changes to the exam. This includes new question formats that are more “test-taker friendly,” said Dawn Piacentino, an ETS representative.

A new scoring system will make the range of scores lower so there will be a better overall picture of student proficiency, Piancentino said. These changes go into effect Aug. 1.

“We are very excited about the new revised version,” Piacentino said. “Our intent with the new test was to have it mirror the content that students will see in graduate school.”

Piacentino added, “We have new questions and the test will have more of an emphasis on data interpretation in the quantitative reasoning section.”

Previously, students were not able to use a calculator, but now calculators will be allowed on both written and computer versions of the test.

“The addition of on-screen calculators will take the emphasis off of computation and put it on quantitative reasoning, the real intent of the exam,” Piacentino said.

Changes also have been made to the verbal reasoning section to make it a “much friendlier test,” Piacentino said.

However, some students are skeptical about the changes.

“If it’s different, I’m not sure if I will have access to the same sort of books and help,” Ballard said.

These new changes will force some students, such as Ballard, who are currently studying for the test to look for different study sources.

“The book I bought is useful, but it is for the old test,” Ballard said.

Paul Armstrong, a St. Thomas senior and economics major who took the current version, agrees with Ballard.

“I feel that I was better able to review, because the review books were based on the old test,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he sees taking the old test as an advantage because students will be “measured against” people who took the same exam.

“I’m glad I took the old version,” he said.

But senior Sean Hagen, who has already taken the GRE and is planning to take it again soon, said he sees advantages to the new exam.

“It made me happier to hear that the analytical writing section was not going to be on there,” Hagen said.

One potential problem is that students who take the exam after Aug. 1 can expect to wait until as late as mid-November for their scores.

“For people who are going to take it, I would say plan accordingly,” Hagen said. “It’s a long process and I think this will make it more difficult.”

Piacentino said students who need scores before November should take the current GRE test so they will have their scores earlier when applying to schools in the late summer or early fall.

Students can access GRE practice tests online with the new changes and find revised GRE information on Facebok, ETS representative Mark McNutt said.

Drew Landon can be reached at