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The New GRE Math Section

  • by John
  • Jun 10, 2011
  • GRE Blog

The GRE is changing! The new test is coming on August 1, 2011. If you need your scores before November, you’ll have to take the old test, but if you don’t need them until later you may want to take the new one.

What has changed on the GRE math section? Superficially, quite a bit– but really, not too much. Here’s the deal:

  1. They give you a calculator! There will be a calculator on the screen when you take the test, so the GRE no longer tests whether you know your times tables! This will likely be quite significant for strategy on certain question types, since it will become much quicker and easier to test various responses.
  2. Less basic math, more data interpretation and word problems. Instead of giving you an algebraic equation to solve, the GRE is now more likely to give you a word problem which cleverly disguises an algebra problem. So you’ll still have to know the math, but you’ll also need to know how to apply it.
  3. Weird answer formats. The revised GRE is doing very strange things with its question types. On the new test, you’ll see multiple-answer multiple-choice questions, where more than one answer may be right. You’ll have to choose all the right answers and only those to get the question right. You’ll also see numerical entry questions, where you have to type a number in instead of choosing from among several answer choices–so educated guessing won’t help you on these questions.

What does this mean for you?

As far as we can tell, the new GRE math section will test the same skills as the old one: remembering and creatively applying the math you learned in high school. However, the changes will make the section more difficult overall; more word problems and less multiple-choice will make it a tougher test. It will likely be tougher to get a perfect score on the GRE in the future. But don’t worry– this doesn’t affect you! When you take the GRE you’re being judged relative to other test-takers; what matters is not how many questions you get right in absolute terms, but where you rank compared to everyone else who takes the test. Since the new GRE math section tests the same skills as the old one, it shouldn’t matter too much whether you take the new or the current GRE.

Read the official description of the changes here.

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Photo credit Martin Lu under a Creative Commons license.

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