Old vs. New GRE Scoring: What’s The Difference?

Worried about how the new GRE scoring would affect your old score?


The new scoring system took effect after August 1, 2011 and if you sat for the exams before that, you’re understandably worried. But there is no need to! You just need to understand how the new GRE scoring works so you could compare your old score to the new. Colleges and universities will still accept old GRE scores as long as they’re valid (within five years, so make sure to count!).


gre scoring


Why the new GRE scoring?


The problem with the old scoring system was, it didn’t allow for much differentiation between highest score earners. The increments were every 10 points, and that didn’t allow much comparison for those who did well and those who’ve done exceptionally well. For example, someone who’s earned 740 (out of 800) on the old scoring would still belong to the 99th percentile. In the new GRE scoring system, the scores are much more precise, and the difference between scores seen much more clearly.


The new scoring system isn’t as bad as it sounds. It actually works in your favor. Another way of looking at it is like this: If you scored 740 on the old GRE and your friend scored 750, it seems like you’re 10 points apart when in reality there’s just really a one-point difference. So in the new GRE scoring, you’d score about 158 and your friend’s score is 159. This way, the score difference is much more comparable and to the point.


The Revised GRE and scoring


With the revised GRE, came the new GRE scoring. The registration for the test is pretty much the same: it can still be done online, by phone or by mail. The same fees still apply. However, there are differences in the design, structure, time, test details and the scoring.


A few things to note: The time limit is now approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. For the verbal reasoning part, analogies and antonyms were  replaced by text completion and sentence equivalence. For the quantitative reasoning part, numeric entry questions and quantitative comparison questions are now included. The analytical writing details remain the same. It’s also interesting that you’re allowed to change answers; you can mark answers and go back to change them later. Unscored and research sections are still included in the test. Calculators are also allowed.


GRE scoring: The old versus the new


1. For the verbal and quantitative reasoning, the old score was 200 to 800 in increments of 10 while the new score is 130 to 170 in increments of 1. That means that the highest possible score for both tests then was 1600 and now it’s 340 for the revised test.


2. For analytical writing the scores remain the same at 0 to 6 in increments of ½ points with 6 as the highest possible score.


3. Good GRE scores. In the old format, these are good GRE scores: 456 for Verbal, 590 for Quantitative and 3.8 for Analytical Writing. For the revised format, it’s 150.8 for Verbal, 151.3 for Quantitative and for Analytical Writing it’s 3.7.


Admissions and GRE scoring


Colleges and universities will still accept old GRE scores, so there’s no need to worry. If you were among the last ones who took the GRE on June 2011, then your scores are still valid up to June 2016. If you have the old score and would like an idea of how much you’d have scored on the new GRE, ETS has a concordance table for reference.


Tip: It’s also important that you know what current GRE scores schools are looking for. Get information from the school you intend to attend about the minimum GRE scores that they require and use the table to find out if you meet these scores.


In conclusion


As the ETS has provided the concordance table for reference, it’s a clue that there isn’t a huge difference in terms of test score quality. The new GRE scoring was implemented to prevent confusion with SAT scores and as discussed in the introduction, to make the score comparison more precise. Other than that, your old GRE scores should still be good (if they’re valid).

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