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Young Black woman with long braids wearing a red plaid shirt taking a test at a laptop

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The Educational Testing Service is today announcing a new Graduate Record Examination that will take less than two hours to complete. The test will last roughly half of the time compared to the current GRE.

The new test is:

  • Removing the “analyze an argument” task in the analytical writing section.
  • Reducing the number of questions in the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections.
  • Removing the unscored section, which was given to help ETS prepare the test.

The announcement comes today at the annual meeting of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, but will also be important to many colleges in the U.S. that recruit American students to graduate schools.

In addition to the changes in the tests, test takers can expect to receive their official scores in just eight to 10 days. Previously, ETS promised scores in 10 to 15 days. The three main sections of the GRE—verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing—will remain the same.

“The changes we’re announcing today underscore the emphasis we place on keeping our customers at the center of all that we do,” said ETS CEO Amit Sevak. “As we continue to introduce product innovations, we’re committed to balancing two things—maintaining rigor and validity, while improving the test-taker experience.”

The ETS strategy is similar to one it announced last month for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. The TOEFL will lose an hour of time, becoming a two-hour test, starting in July.

The new, shorter GRE will not cost any less. It costs $220 in the United States, with different fees for those who take the test in China and India.

“The GRE General Test will continue to be a reliable and valid measure of graduate-level readiness, and offer the same measure of verbal, quantitative and analytical skills in less time. In addition, scores will be reported to students faster, which is valuable,” said a spokeswoman for ETS.

ETS has gained test takers in recent years as the GRE has attracted those who want to go to law school and who have seen the GRE as an alternative to the Law School Admissions Test.

But ETS has also lost test takers as some academic departments have dropped the exam requirement, which was once considered de rigueur for applying to graduate school. The decision to require the GRE or not is typically made at the departmental level.

When Cornell University’s English department dropped the GRE as an admissions requirement, it issued this statement: “GRE scores are not good predictors of success or failure in a Ph.D. program in English, and the uncertain predictive value of the GRE exam is far outweighed by the toll it takes on student diversity. For many applicants the cost of preparing for and taking the exam is prohibitively expensive, and the exam is not globally accessible. Requiring the exam narrows our applicant pool at precisely the moment we should be creating bigger pipelines into higher education. We need the strength of a diverse community in order to pursue the English department’s larger mission: to direct the force of language toward large and small acts of learning, alliance, imagination and justice.”

Craig Harman, senior manager of content and curriculum for Kaplan’s GRE test prep programs. said, "One really interesting thing to point out is the timing of the test launch. ETS, the test maker, says that the new GRE will launch in September, just ahead of when the new GMAT Focus exam from the Graduate Management Admission Council is set to launch. Over the last 15 years or so, the two exams have been fierce rivals among business school applicants, as both the GRE and GMAT are accepted by MBA programs. Twenty years ago, almost no business school accepted the GRE, but now almost all of them do. Additionally, the GRE is increasingly a significant player in the law school admissions process, with around half of law schools allowing applicants to submit a GRE score instead of an LSAT score."

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