Post-GRE Observations

I took the GRE last monday and now having taken both the \”old\” GRE and the \”new\” GRE I can say for certain that I prefer the newer rendition for a few reasons. 

  1. It\’s no long a CAT.  The CAT, or Computer Adaptive Test was a neat idea at first.  The concept was that it would \”adapt\” to the tester\’s answers to provide a more accurate read.  For example, if I answer a question right the next answer will be harder.  If I get one wrong, the next will be easier.  This is good in theory, but it wasn\’t quite how it worked.  To provide a more accurate result, the GRE weighed the first 5-7 questions (out of 20) far more then the rest of the questions combined.  Of course, this was soon learned. And GRE testing manuals told you to spend the greatest amount of time on the first few questions because how you did after that didn\’t really matter.  In other words, doing well on the test became less about what you know, and more about what you know about the test.  The new test is still somewhat adaptive, but based on how you do over the entire section.  
  2. It allows test revision within a section. The new GRE also allows you to move around inside of the section to review or correct previous answers.  The old GRE, because of the way the CAT worked, did not allow test takers to return to questions after they were passed over.  This meant that if a question was taking too much test time, it must be answered (at times with a guess).  This dynamic made it difficult to gauge how much time should be given to difficult questions.  Should I try to get this question right and waste my time, or should I move one since I must answer all of the questions? 
  3. A better test question mix.  While the new GRE loses the antonyms section, it allows for multiple answer questions, fill in the blanks,  and all that apply questions.  I think that over all the additions and diversity provide a better chance of estimating true student ability. 
These changes have made some pretty significant changes to the test, and even though most of the sources I consulted (including ETS) think that the new test is harder than the old one, I think that the changes made make it a more accurate indicator of student ability.  
Having taken the test for my second time, I can also compare my experiences on a personal level.  
  1. Study pays off.  The first time I took the GRE it was in the middle of finals week my senior year of undergrad.  I hadn\’t studied for the test at all and I didn\’t even know the structure of the test.  I certainly didn\’t know about the \”tricks\” that the CAT emphasized (as mentioned above).  I went in; I took the test; I did well enough to get into my MA program; I didn\’t do great.  Before I took the GRE last week I actually studied: I reviewed math I hadn\’t looked at in years, I brushed up on little-used vocabulary, and I familiarized myself with the types of questions that the GRE included.  I went in; I took the test; I did much better this time.  
  2. Composure pays off.  The first time I took the test I was a nervous wreck.  I hadn\’t studied for it at all, I had no clue what would happen, and I didn\’t realize I couldn\’t go back to check answers until halfway through my first section.  The second time I was far more composed: I didn\’t make the same mistakes, I didn\’t make stupid mistakes on the test due to my nervousness. 
  3. Knowing the test pays off.  This time, I didn\’t just study the material.  I studied the test:  I got a GRE book (Kaplan, in my case); I took practice tests; I studied GRE-specific vocabulary; I reviewed test strategies. 
From my personal experience, I saw a huge increase in my score thanks to the above strategies.  For better or worse, the GRE seems here to stay and, like it or not, it\’s going to be a part of grad school applications.  So, you can either approach it unenthusiastically and unprepared (like  I did the first time), or confident and ready (like I did the second time), that\’s your choice.  I can tell you one thing, though–the GRE was a lot more fun the second time around. 
(Note: I have not been paid, supported, or helped in any way by Kaplan.)

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

One thought on “Post-GRE Observations

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