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FAQ — Will the New GRE be Adaptive?

The short answer? Yes. And no.

Currently, the Computer Adaptive Test changes based on how you do on each question. If you answer a question correctly, then typically (though by no means always) the test spits out a more difficult question. Another idiosyncrasy of the CAT landscape is the test is weighted: the first five questions count for a lot more than the last five questions, with the questions in the middle (10-15) having an importance somewhere in the middle.

On the new GRE, there will be no adaptation within the section (if you are not taking the current GRE discount the information above). The test will adapt between sections. So, if you do well on your first math section, then you will get a more difficult section. If you do not do so well, then you will get an easier section. Exactly how many problems a test-taker must answer correctly to move on to the more difficult section is unknown.

Within the new sections there will still be order of difficulty, i.e. the higher the number in the section, the more difficult the question is likely to be.

The takeaway from all this? Well, on the Revised GRE there will be less reason to try and game the system. Do your best, and if you end up getting a section that doesn’t seem difficult, don’t despair. Doing well on an easier section can still help you out. Just how much? Well, these are the questions we’ll only be able to answer once those first intrepid souls take the test in August.

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6 Responses to FAQ — Will the New GRE be Adaptive?

  1. HS February 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    If the sections are adaptive, then a student who performed poor in 1st section will get an easy section and the other student will get difficult section. And questions carry the same weightage and the formal student in the end can score same as the latter. How it benefited the later who performed well in the medium section.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 6, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

      Hi there,

      Doing well in the first section matters quite a bit because depending on whether you’re in the easier or harder section, your scoring potential is different. If your second section is easy, the highest your score can be is limited. On the other hand, if your second section is hard, you can get a much higher score. It’s true that you can get the same score from both sections, but they are on different sides of the spectrum. On one end, you have to do well on the easy section. On the other, you have to do somewhat poorly on the harder section. Although this isn’t a perfect example, you get the point. So, definitely try your best to do well in the first section! 🙂

  2. Gen July 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    In the video about section adaptive testing, you mention that moving onto the easier section of quant or verbal will put a ceiling on your score for that section. Can you give me an idea of what that might be for math?

  3. Jonathan May 28, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Are questions on hard sections worth more points than those in easy questions? what is the point of this adaptive testing? to discourage you from doing well in the first section?

  4. Hao Sun September 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Are the sections adaptive only within verbal and math separately or does getting a bad math score make you get an easy verbal section and vice versa?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      Good question! The sections are only adaptive within the specific topic. So a bad verbal score on your first section will only affect the next verbal section you get. That bad score will have no bearing on math.

      Hope that help!


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