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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2011
Revisions in Graduate Record Exam Bring Good News
Trey Asbury, PhD, Texas Woman's University

Preparing for the Graduate Record Exam® (GRE)? A revised version of the exam awaits test-takers, and that’s good news. The GRE revised General Test, initiated Aug. 1, 2011, provides new features for a better test-taking experience. Not only is the test more user-friendly, but it does a better job of tapping into the skills required for success in graduate school.

In the past, many students were worried about recalling Pythagorean Theorem and memorizing GRE vocabulary lists, while others were concerned about the design of the exam. For example, in the older version, the test-taker had to answer each question as it appeared on the computer screen. As a result, the test did not allow skipping a difficult question with the strategy of coming back later, nor did it allow checking work before the final submission. Both are reasonable strategies that most students have been using as test-takers since the third grade.

At last, the GRE revised version allows free navigation within a section of the exam. In other words, students will be able to skip items, mark them by clicking a button on the screen, and time permitting, return later to answer and check their work.

Paper and pencil version of the revised test is only offered in locations where computer testing is not available.

Verbal Section
Many students will be pleased that Antonyms and Analogies have been removed from the revised exam, promoting "less reliance on vocabulary out of context” (ETS, 2011). In turn, there will be much more emphasis on reading passages and answering questions about themes, identifying literal and figurative content, and highlighting important passages. It is now possible for students to use the mouse and curser to highlight a specific line of text within the narrative on the screen.

in addition to the Reading Comprehension questions, Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence subsections comprise the Verbal section of the revised exam. Text Completion questions provide a short narrative with certain words omitted from the passage. Students are presented with multiple options of target words, and the task requires selecting the specific word that best fits the targeted omission. One of the trickiest parts of this task is finding the word that best fits each omission, as more than one word is sometimes acceptable for an omission blank.

Similarly, the Sentence Completion section provides the challenge of selecting two target words (i.e., two answer choices) that "when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole, and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning” (ETS, 2011). This type of question format is another big change to the Verbal and Quantitative sections, because some questions have more than one correct response.

Quantitative Section
While the authors of the revised exam tout the creation of questions that will place an "increased emphasis on data interpretation and real-life scenarios,” the same mathematical knowledge set of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and probability and statistics remains unchanged (ETS, 2011). The most noticeable differences are the addition of a virtual calculator and a subset of numerical entry test items rather than multiple choice questions.

Numerical entry is relatively self- descriptive because there are no answer choices for this subset of questions, and students must use their keypad (or the Transfer Display option) to enter the correct numerical result in a target box.

The Transfer Display is available by simply clicking on the calculator option at the top of the screen for every item in the Quantitative Section. The Transfer Display option allows the user to avoid typing the numeric entry into the target box. However, proceed cautiously with this feature, because a question that asks for a whole number answer will be scored as incorrect if the transferred display includes a decimal point.

Analytical Writing Section
The Analytical Writing Section with two writing tasks contains the least amount of change. Students will no longer be given the choice of which topic to write about on the revised exam. The time for each writing task is 30 minutes. Directions for completing the two writing tasks remain virtually the same: "articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion” (ETS, 2011). In both the old and revised versions of the GRE, students are asked to analyze an argument and analyze an issue. At least two trained scorers will grade each student response, and scores are generally reported to test-takers within two to four weeks. Scoring for this section remains on a 5-point scale.

New Scoring Scale
Along with a revised exam, comes a revised scoring scale. Revised scores for the Verbal and Quantitative sections range from 130 to 170 points compared to the previous 200 to 800 scale, and the Analytical Writing subsection score is now reported as an average of the two writing tasks.

Go to for more information about the test, registration, or for free official test prep materials.

Educational Testing Service. (2011). The GRE revised general test is here! Retrieved from

Dr. Trey Asbury is an assistant professor of psychology at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, TX. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee and his PhD from Texas Christian University. He teaches applied statistics, physiological psychology, behavior therapy, and neuropsychopharmacology. Prior to his tenure at TWU, he worked as a family therapist and a research analyst for a public school district. His research interests center around family systems, stress and coping. He is a member of the Association of Psychological Science and a reviewer for the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Dr. Asbury serves as a faculty advisor for Psi Chi and conducts GRE workshops on his campus. He has attended two GRE national workshops held by Educational Testing Services and currently serves as a GRE Campus Educator.

He is married with two children and currently resides in Fort Worth, TX.

Trey Asbury has been a GRE Campus Educator since 2003.

Copyright 2011 (Volume 16, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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