The GRE® revised General Test: Easier or Harder Than the “Old” GRE?

What follows are the thoughts of one of our Toronto GRE tutors. After having read this post, you might want to participate in our GRE poll: Will the Revised GRE be harder?

“So, is the revised GRE easier or harder than the “old” GRE?

And how will this be reflected in your score?

And how is your score on the new GRE going to be compared to the scores of other applicants who wrote the “old” GRE? (Remember that GRE results are valid for 5 years.)

First, consider the measuring stick.

The “old” GRE has a score scale of 200 to 800. When the GRE was first developed it was probably intended that the means and medians would be around 500 with a normal (bell curve) distribution of scores. At present the median for the Verbal section is about 450 (yes, that is low) and for the Quantitative section it is about 610 (yes, that is high).

Both the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the revised GRE will have a score scale from 130 to 170. I would expect that the revised GRE results which are due to be first released in mid-November will have Verbal and Quantitative medians to be about 150 – right in the middle of the scale.

So how can you compare old and new results? Well, the same way Verbal and Quantitative scores should be viewed when you are looking at the scores required by the schools you are applying to.

You’ve heard “it’s not the heat it’s the humidity?” For the GRE it’s not your score it’s your percentile ranking – how does your score compare with all of the other test writers.

View all scores old and new, verbal and quantitative as percentiles for purposes of comparison.

That said how will you fare on the test?  As I said in my last posting the revised GRE test is more test-taker friendly. But it will probably be for the vast majority of test-takers.  While some may do better on one version than on the other, most test-takers will probably stay in relatively the same position on the curve – i.e. same percentile ranking.

So remember, it’s not your score it’s your percentile.

Wayne Barkel – GRE Prep  Courses Canada

Toronto GRE  Tutor Teacher”

Note: Whether the Revised GRE is harder or easier it is still vital that you prepare with the best GRE books. Did you enjoy this post? Read more of our best GRE blog posts.

Update August 2011: The Revised GRE is now in effect.  Read or add comments about the Revised GRE.

15 thoughts on “The GRE® revised General Test: Easier or Harder Than the “Old” GRE?

  1. Pingback: Best GRE blog posts : GRE Courses – Toronto, Canada

    1. newgre Post author

      The intention of the Revised GRE is to create a test that is test of “reasoning” and not the memorization of vocabulary. As such the Revised GRE is not intended to be a specific test of vocabulary. So, no you will not have to “cram vocabulary.” That said, the reading comprehension passages will remain.

  2. Bharti

    but still in text completion there are high vocab words. So I think revised test is harder than general.

    1. newgre Post author

      Thanks for an interesting comment/suggestion. Just replied to a similar comment here:

      The current GRE does have questions that test the specific knowledge of vocabulary. The antonyms are an obvious example of testing knowledge of vocabulary.

      The Revised GRE assumes knowledge of a base level of vocabulary. The “assumption” that test takers know the vocabulary (rather than testing vocabulary directly) may make certain questions harder. For example (thinking back to high school math): the harder questions were those that assumed knowledge of a specific concept, rather than testing knowledge of that concept directly. (That’s why Math Tutoring is such a growth business – see for example

      What level of vocabulary will the GRE assume? Remember that there are two Verbal sections and that the test is “section adaptive” (meaning that the second verbal section you get will depend on your score on the first verbal section). It stands to reason that the GRE will assume a level of vocabulary that is necessary to get through graduate or MBA programs. (Remember that both the GMAT and GRE are now used for MBA admissions.

      If Globish becomes the new standard for the English language, we will be getting more utility out of a fewer number of words. See:

      It’s possible that the Revised GRE will be harder even though it assumes a lower level of vocabulary.

      Please post a comment when you have taken the Revised GRE!

      1. Brian Barker (@Brian_Barker)

        Globish reminds me of another failed project called “Basic English” which failed, because native English speakers could not remember which words not to use 🙂

        So it’s time to move forward and adopt a neutral non-national language, taught universally in schools worldwide,in all nations. As a native English speaker, I would prefer Esperanto.

        Your readers may be interested in the following video at Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

        The study course is now receiving 125,000 hits per month. That can’t be bad 🙂

      2. Adnan

        For anyone giving the GRE, always do the vocab. Study the words like a holy scripture or something! it will obviously help you in answering the sentence completion fill-in-the-blank type questions and also it helps in understanding the Reading Comps! very often they use esoteric words at very crucial places in the Rc’s, and if you don understand the word at that point, you’re done for. So don give the vocab a miss, it is quite honestly the backbone of the GRE. it even helps you to write better essays.

  3. sanjay

    There is nothing tougher than the 30 minute hell hole gre verbal exam! The passages are mind blowingly hard with 100 lines of passage with just 3 to 4 questions and lengthy choice answers( you cant eliminate just by skimming!). Not to mention mastering 10000 words at least with their first and second meaning antonyms( reading synonyms itself will land you in hospital). On an average it takes 5 minutes to master a word with its perfect first and second meaning and the concept it is used, its pictorical and than first and second antonyms. With all this you will still get one estoteric unread word( so you can at most get 7/8 verbal right and also hope to get analogy right which is easier based on prometric sample format. And a tougher text completion which is easy in all other so called expert books from baron,nova at all!
    The only way to ace the exam is finish all the passage question in under 10 minutes and spend some solid time on one passage( 3 questions). skip one all together and get others right!
    In that way you can still get 27/30 to ace the exam!

    Also math questions are ridiculously nonsensical and you are more likely to do mistake due to its 12 th standard nature rather than the knowledge needed to do so! So maths practice, practice and more practice like a kid( which is very hard to do). And also improve the speed like, indian iitians will finish the math questions in 25 minutes rather than 45 minutes!

    I am a 1400 candidate even during bad day but due to arduous process of registering for the exam and the travel needed to take the exam and lack of sleep. I had my worst verbal performance on test day rather than all the practices I took.
    Otherwise for any decent hard worker like I mentioned above 1400 to 1450 must be hittable.

    The vocabulary of GRE enjoyed cult status and I took the exam just for nostalgia more than anything else( it takes 1000 man hours to master those 10000 words and even than you are not sure of knowing words like rein,aubade and deracinate!

    The math part is full of tricks more than knowledge of maths test and time is terribly short to test skills of some one going to masters degree.

    The new format should have kept the status of vocabulary with just more added time to ensure fare reading chance( it is not clear how will the real ETS gre guru will read the passage and answer the question. Unless I time him I could not tell).

    Because the way it is looking it takes 20 solid minutes just to do justice to passage read and you hope to nail everything else in 10 minutes( but the power prep sentence completion is tougher than regular books).

    The old gre exam with analytical, quantitative and verbal ( 3 sections was the real deal and superior to GMAT exam on any given day).

    They have introduced essay and critical writing section where schools care a hoot about those scores are waste of time. The entrance is judged purely on verbal and math score and nothing else!

    In fact, back in the days the written test of GRE was the best deal where you had 2 decent crack at all the 3 sections mentioned above and during those time a score of around 2000/2400 was considered magical( these days 1300 out of 1600 which I have got on not my best days is considered junk). And there was time to move around questions and I think had a better time!

    It is very rare to see score around 1500 plus on gre, while it is very common to see score above 700 or even 720 in gmat!

    Even the current format is not bad if they get rid of the essay and critical section and include one of the best sections which was around( the analytical section with 5 minutes added to both verbal and analytical section and also have 30 to 35 questions with close to an hour time would have been a better new format.

    Now with verbal antonyms and analogy removed the aura of invincibility is gone!
    The new gre format is no different than the gmat format more or less with power of voca reduced! And you lost the opportunity to say that I conquered fighting in the arena like the real gladiator!
    I rest my case!

  4. Brian Barker

    There are two urban myths which need to be exploded. Firstly that “everyone speaks English” and secondly “no-one speaks Esperanto” . Neither of these are true and need to be challenged.

    Consider also that the failure of English in air traffic control caused the biggest-ever air crash in aviation history in Tenerife. See as well as

  5. yos

    Does anybody know what the score range given after the end of the new gre means. After you finish they tell you your score but it is given in the old gre scoring (200-800) for both verbal and quant and has a dash which I take to mean a range. My score was 750-800 verbal and 740-800 quant.(yeah did pretty good – worked my brains out on the math). Does anybody know what the # – # means and how it will correspond to your final score in the new format?


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