The GRE, the nearly four-hour marathon of a test that has been the bane of many aspiring graduate students, is being cut in half. It will now take less than two hours.
The Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit organization that owns and administers the test, announced the changes Wednesday, tacitly acknowledging the test’s declining importance in graduate school admissions.
Changes to the test, the organization said, will include the removal of an analytical writing task, 46 fewer questions on the test’s quantitative and verbal reasoning sections and the elimination of an unscored section.
“These changes are intended to provide test takers with a better experience that values their time and reduces anxiety and fatigue,” said the organization, which is planning to implement the changes beginning with tests administered in September.
Other changes will include the faster release of scores.
Why it matters: Admissions tests are ebbing in popularity.
The changes reflect a general decline in the use of standardized tests, partly because of concerns among university administrators that the tests fail to predict success and that they may deter applicants from underrepresented groups.
Some studies have found that the tests handicap low-income and minority students, partly because wealthy students can improve their scores by taking expensive test prep courses. What’s more, the GRE test itself is expensive — $220 in most locations.
Boston University’s School of Public Health said that after it removed its GRE requirement in 2019, the number of Black and Hispanic applicants had increased, with no decline in student performance.
Background: They call it a GRExit.
A growing number of graduate programs have moved to make the GRE optional or to eliminate it altogether as part of their admission requirements.
Duke University, a prestigious private institution in North Carolina, announced last year that it would not require the GRE for most of its graduate programs, extending a test-optional policy that began during the pandemic.
Calling the phenomenon the GRExit, the academic journal Science conducted a survey of 50 top-ranked graduate programs in 2019 and found that 44 percent of molecular biology Ph.D. programs had stopped requiring the scores.
At the same time, some law schools now accept GRE scores in place of the standard Law School Admission Test, or LSAT.
Even so, the number of GRE tests taken declined to 341,574 in 2021 from 541,750 in 2017.
The decline mirrors similar declines in the use of the SAT and the ACT after hundreds of colleges moved to test-optional admissions for undergraduates.
The College Board, which controls the SAT, will also move to a shorter, online test, beginning in 2024 in the United States, following its introduction in other countries in 2023. The new SAT will take two hours rather than three and will feature shorter reading passages with one or two questions, requiring fewer responses.
In a decision to be announced by the end of its term, the Supreme Court is widely expected to eliminate or limit the consideration of race in college admissions, meaning that undergraduate and graduate programs will no longer be permitted to give preferential treatment to underserved minority students in an effort to increase the diversity of their classes.
The decision is likely to place additional pressure on universities to limit or eliminate the use of standardized admissions exams as they move to more holistic admissions policies.