Is the Revised GRE Adaptive?

This is a great question, whether you’ve taken the old GRE or are just embarking on your GRE journey.

The short answer is that the new GRE test is still adaptive, but in a very different way.


The Adaptive Nature of the Revised GRE

On the old GRE, the test adapted within each section. The computer would assume that every test taker was equal and would start with a mid-range question. If the test taker answered a few questions correctly, the test would become progressively difficult. And if the test taker answered the questions incorrectly, the test would become easier.

The old GRE algorithm is slightly more nuanced than this, but really the details, at this point, are moot. We only care about the revised GRE.


The Revised GRE adapts between sections

A salient difference between the old and revised GRE is that the revised GRE has two sections for math and two sections verbal. The old GRE had one section for each.

That the revised GRE has two sections for each subject is significant – this allowed ETS to make the test make the test adapt between sections.


There is no adaptation within section

The section adaptation is the only adaptation that happens on the new GRE. What this means is that the questions do not change depending on whether you answer them correctly. You can think of it this way – each section is static. Your performance on the first section will determine whether you get an easy section or a difficult section. The easy section is static and the difficult section is static. Again, this means the questions in the section do not change. You could miss the first ten and question 11 will still be question 11. You could work backwards from the last question, nailing all of them, and question 11 is still question 11.


The level of difficulty of questions is random

Even though a section is static it doesn’t mean that, theoretically, it couldn’t become progressively harder. After all, this is what the old old GRE, meaning the paper-based 1990 GRE was like. However, there is no order of difficulty on the Revised GRE. The first question can be the hardest and the last question the easiest. Most likely, the first and last question will be medium ones.


Each question is weighted the same

Do not spend 5 minutes trying to answer the question in which four circles are wedged inside some octagon (actually, that would make an interesting question – but another time!). Each question is weighed the same. So the question that gives you the radius of a circle and asks for the area, which should take no more than 15 seconds, is worth the same as the one about the monstrous polygon.


Can you let up at the end?

Again, each question is weighted the same – and the computer hasn’t “figured you out” the way it supposedly did with the old GRE. Your score on the new GRE is based on how many questions you miss. The point here is that you do not reach a certain level in which the computer “thinks” you are doing very well (à la the old GRE). So do not slack off at the end, thinking you answered most questions correctly and now you’re set.

The only reason I even mention this – as it is counterintuitive – is because many are still operating under the conception of the old GRE, in which you could, at least somewhat, slack off at the end without hurting your score too much.



  • The Revised GRE does not adapt within a section, only between sections
  • Each question is weighted the same
  • Difficult questions and easy questions are randomly mixed throughout the section

if you want to know more about the test check out the Ultimate GRE Guide!


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75 Responses to Is the Revised GRE Adaptive?

  1. Bishal Baaniya September 12, 2020 at 9:39 pm #

    The questions are weighted. So, you might need to update this blog
    From GRE official site “”

    For each of the two measures, a raw score is computed. The raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly.

    The raw score is converted to a scaled score through a process known as equating. The equating process accounts for minor variations in difficulty among the different test editions as well as the differences in difficulty introduced by the section-level adaptation. Thus, a given scaled score for a particular measure reflects the same level of performance regardless of which second section was selected and when the test was taken.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 27, 2020 at 2:08 pm #

      Hi Bishal,

      There’s an important distinction between individually weighted questions and the scaling process used by ETS. The scaling process that ETS uses takes the overall difficulty level of a particular test into consideration in order to convert the raw score into a scaled score. So, if the test as a whole is generally more difficult than normal, a lower raw score may be scaled into a higher scaled score. The opposite would happen for a test that is generally easier than normal. So if two people took the same test and got the same raw score, they would also get the same scaled score. The difficult level of individual questions that they get right or wrong isn’t taken into consideration in that scaling process.

  2. Shayna N Lewis October 28, 2018 at 3:37 pm #

    for the Quantitative section, if I do well on the first section, so my second section is harder, but then i end up missing more points on the harder second section, won’t that hurt my score more than if i just do average on the first section and well on the second section if it is easier?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 28, 2018 at 5:15 pm #

      Hi Shayna, good question! The difficulty level of the questions contributes to the equating process, so your final score recognizes that you answered harder questions, too. 🙂

  3. CHINMOY NATH SAHA July 12, 2017 at 10:48 pm #


    Suppose one student got 3 quantitative sections on GRE. 1st quant section was not experimental. He did very well in there. so according to new GRE, the 2nd section will be very hard. But 2nd section was experimental.

    So does it mean that the level of difficulty in the experimental section depends on the accuracy of an examinee in the previous section? or experimental section is just of random difficulty since it won’t be counted.

    if the mentioned student does very well again in the 2nd section(experimental), the 3rd section will be very hard, is it right?

    My question is that will be the level of difficulty in the 3rd section be the same if the student got only 2 quant section and did very good on 1st section(in that case 2nd section will be equally hard)? So, how I did on the experimental section plays any part in the subsequent sections?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

      Hi Chinmoy,

      The experimental section does not affect your score, it does not affect the difficulty of subsequent sections, and it is not used to evaluate you in any way. So nothing you are given or do relies on the experimental section in any way. Doing great on the experimental section doesn’t help you, and doing poorly on the experimental section doesn’t hurt you.

      It’s difficult to say what the factors go into the level of difficulty for the experimental section, but it’s likely similar to the first sections of the exam, in which it’s not leaning towards either extremes of difficulty. Rather, it’s an opportunity for the test makers to experiment with a number of questions of all difficulty levels. Regardless, this section won’t be counted. At the end of the day, you don’t know which section is the experimental, so it’s important to just do your best throughout the whole test 🙂

  4. Aaruci Agarwalla November 13, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    Will there be negative marking for wrong answers or unanswered answers. Will it effect my score.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 15, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

      Hi Arruci,

      No–unlike some tests like the SAT, there are no negative marks for wrong answers on the GRE. There is absolutely no penalty for guessing–if you get the question wrong, you won’t be penalized with subtracted points, you just won’t get the points for that question! It’s always better to put an answer for every question, even if you have no idea what the correct answer is.

  5. Kingsley September 18, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    I understand that the gre is adaptive , but my question is , does the scores are affected with the difficulty level? Like with easy level 10 equals 8 and in difficult level 10 equals 12 ????? Help

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 21, 2016 at 6:51 am #

      Hi Kingsley,

      Let’s dive right in. Within each section, all questions contribute equally to your raw score, which is the number of questions you answered correctly. Your raw score is then converted to a scaled score through equating. Here’s what ETS has to say about “equating”:

      “The equating process accounts for minor variations in difficulty among the different test editions as well as the differences in difficulty introduced by the section-level adaptation. Thus a given scaled score for a particular measure reflects the same level of performance regardless of which second section was selected and when the test was taken.”

      The score is not based on a % correct, but rather on the raw score and then that scaling process mentioned above. Many students assume the raw to equated score conversion will simply mean mapping the raw score onto this new scale, but the process is not so transparent. Imagine a student got got a total of 30 correct, which is a raw score of 30/40. This does not mean that the scaled score should be 160, however. I have seem as much as +/-5 point difference between the approximation (adding raw score to the 130-170 scale) and the actual equated scale. This is because of the relative difficulty of the questions you got and how they scale according to average difficulty.

      If we use the rule of thumb above, 65% accuracy across 40 verbal questions (there is no estimate for just half of the verbal questions you would face) would be 26/40 as a raw score, so we could probably reasonably expect the true score to be between 154 and 159 depending on the difficulty of the questions missed and answered correctly. This estimate is true for quant and verbal performance. This means that exactly 30 right could but probably will not result in a 150. I hope this helps illustrate! 🙂

  6. Cartoondiablo August 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    Do you know what the cut-off for getting the more difficult second section is?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 16, 2016 at 4:00 am #

      Hello! Unfortunately, we don’t have specifics to this degree because ETS’ scoring and underlying statistics are secret. The best you can find online is anecdotal evidence from individual students.

  7. Bhumik August 14, 2016 at 5:23 am #

    i used a kaplan sofware for practice and in quantitive section my 27 ans are right but score shows 151 =21 mark hows this possible and what the trick behind it let me know pls the day after tommorow i appear for Gre revised test pls .

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 14, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

      Hi Bhumik,

      While I can’t comment on the accuracy of the Kaplan tests, getting 27 answers right doesn’t guarantee a score of 157. Remember, the scale from 130-170 has 41 possible scores, first of all. Second, the scaling that happens during equating means that the difficulty level of the questions you answered correctly will play into the score you ultimately get. I typically see a difference of +/- 5 points from the estimate of [questions answered right] + 130.

      I hope this helps a little, and good luck on your test! 🙂

  8. Akhil June 28, 2016 at 7:23 am #

    1. If we perform extremely well on the very first quant section, does that have any impact on the next verbal section?
    2. If we perform very poor on the very first verbal section, will the next verbal section be easier than the previous one?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 29, 2016 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Akhil 🙂

      Good questions! Firstly, your performance on the first quant section does not impact the next verbal section. Your performance on the first quant section only affects the subsequent quant section, while your performance on the verbal section only impacts the subsequent verbal section. Also, if you do not perform very well on the first verbal section, yes, the other verbal section will most likely have a higher percentage of easier questions.

      It’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll have an experimental section on the exam, which is not graded. It may be verbal or math and will probably be at the same difficulty level as the hard second section. The experimental section may appear at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of your exam.

      Hope this clears up your doubts 🙂

  9. Shim June 24, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    Is powerprep software section adaptive?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 29, 2016 at 2:15 am #

      Hi Shim 🙂

      Good question! Because of the limited size of the PowerPrep software’s question pool, no, it is not really section-adaptive. If you take the same practice exam more than once, you’ll see the same questions, although the order of the questions (and which questions are in a given section) may vary. It’s also good to keep in mind that the PowerPrep exams use the same material as the CD that comes with the ETS GRE Official Guide.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  10. Izaak June 21, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

    Hi Magoosh Team,

    I’m pretty confused about the limits when one ends up with a lower difficulty (Easy, Med.) second section; strictly speaking quantitative.

    Assume that I get the maximal score in the first section that limits me to the boundary of the second section (i.e, if the boundary to get 2nd:Easy is a score on 1st of < 10, and I get 9).
    Further, lets say that on the second section I get all questions correct.

    In such a case I get:

    2nd: Hard – Upper bound is 170
    2nd: Med – Upper bound is ?
    2nd: Easy – Upper bound is ?

    I understand that the first section limits my score, so, given I ended up with 2nd: Easy, I have to have gotten a bunch wrong on 1st. However, does a 20/20 score on 2nd:Hard contribute as many points as 20/20 score on 2nd:Easy?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 29, 2016 at 6:43 am #

      Hi Izaak,

      This is a tough question! And only ETS would have a definite answer. Honestly, even if this were an easy question to answer, it would not help you to do any better on the test. Let’s take a look at why:

      For one, when you are taking the test, you need to use all of your mental energy to answer questions. You should not waste precious resources on things that will not help you to answer questions or things that you can’t know. You should think about pacing and timing, and you should think about question types and common wrong answers. But you should not worry about the difficulty level of questions you are answering, how many questions you have answer correctly, or how many questions you need to answer correctly to get a “hard” section.

      This brings up another point: students aren’t given “easy” sections or “hard” sections. It will be a sprinkling of different difficulty levels. There are not just three categories of difficulty on the test; it is more nuanced and complex than simply a “hard” section or “medium” section. Due to the adaptive nature of the test, each section will have a range of difficulties that are based on your performance on previous sections.

      Lastly, you have no way to know for sure what questions you got right and what questions you got wrong. You can guess and estimate, but none of this is a guarantee for knowing. So even if I could answer your question, you would still have the added barrier of trying to determine how many questions you have answered correctly. Again, this is just a waste of your brain power. Use as much of your mental energy for answering questions—not trying to figure out how many questions you answered correctly. Ultimately, your study time will be better spent focusing on strategies and practice.

      I hope this helps, at least a little!

  11. Joanne April 15, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Maybe a little off-topic, but is there a way to skip the multiple choice and do the numerical entry questions first since its much harder to “guess” on those?
    I’d rather have 5 multiple choice questions left when I’m down to say 1 minute than 5 numerical entry questions with 1 minute left.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 18, 2016 at 9:33 am #

      Hi Joanne,

      I haven’t personally used this strategy before, but the reasoning makes sense to me. If you want to focus on what feels like the more labor-intensive work and leave the guessable questions for the end, that could work! (Of course, ideally there will be no guessing involved.) 🙂

  12. Sarah March 30, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    I don’t really understand the purpose of the adaptive nature of the computerized test. Also, if someone takes the paper version, how does that compare regarding score since the paper version is static?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 11, 2016 at 6:20 am #

      The adaptive nature of the GRE is one of the stranger features of the exam, to be sure. The purpose relates to scoring. On the electronic version of the exam, scores are determined partly based on the difficulty level a student progresses to, instead of just being based on the amount of correct answers. The exact algorithm for adaptive scoring is a bit complicated, and ETS doesn’t reveal much specific information on how questions of different difficulty are factored in. Rachel Wisuri gives a little bit of insight into this here.

      Since there’s no adaptive component to the paper test, GRE paper-based test scores have fewer adjustments for the relative difficulty of the questions you answer. There will still be some adjustments to your score based on difficulty, because different paper-based tests have a different mix of questions, and you may be randomly given some questions that are either easier or more difficult than average.

      Also note that there is one significant format difference between the electronic and paper GREs. The paper GRE has 25 questions per Verbal and Quant section, while the electronic one has only 20 questions a section.

  13. Karen March 11, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    Hi, I know this post is similar to many others’ questions, but I am still very unsure of the answer. I have been doing very well on the first math section of the test (generally getting 2-5 incorrect). The next section is much more difficult, and I end up doing the reverse, getting about 5 right! I feel much more rushed in that section, whereas for the first section I have about 7 extra minutes at the end to check my questions. Can you advise the best strategy for this situation?

    Thank you for all your work at magoosh. The site have been a life saver!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 15, 2016 at 4:29 am #

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for reaching out! 🙂

      Just to be clear–are you saying on the real GRE this is your experience? If so, that makes sense if you do very well on the first section that your second section will be harder. This is the direct result of that adaptive nature we are talking about. You will need to work on your understanding and efficiency related to those harder, less common concepts to combat the issue–both time and accuracy. Do you have any insight into which types of questions specifically cause you trouble? That could give you a starting point as you try to decide where to focus your energies!

      I hope that helps a little. 🙂

  14. Ray October 9, 2015 at 3:38 pm #


    I’m a little confused about order of difficulty on the Math section of the GRE. You say there is no order of difficulty within a section here.

    But in the link below, you ask a question:

    “Would #5 in the Quantitative Comparison actually show up as a #5, which is presumably in the medium range?”

    How can you predict that #5 is in the medium range of difficulty if there is no established order of difficulty? Just want a clarification whether there is or isn’t order of difficulty within a section as this does effect my mentality when taking the exam in regards to time. Thanks in advance!

  15. Kiana September 20, 2015 at 4:00 pm #


    So I’ve been searching everywhere trying to find an answer to this scoring question…

    The score is from 130-170, right? which means 40 is for grabs.

    And there are 40 questions for Verbal and quantitative sections.

    So how is it that the second section, if harder, bears more points/scores??

    If we say that each question is 1 point, and there are 40 points and 40 questions in total, how can the second section give you more points?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 23, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

      Hi Kiana,

      That’s a good question. The thing is there is not a 1:1 correspondence the number of questions you miss and the number of points, from 170, you drop. For example, you can miss two questions and still receive a perfect verbal score. As to how the tests weighs questions from the more difficult section, I am not sure. Indeed, I don’t think anybody is sure outside of ETS–it’s their secret formula.

      You can play around with this algorithm by taking the powerprep test and then comparing your score with the number of questions you miss. Of course, you’d have to know the answers to these questions. You can find most of them in the paper-based practice test:

      Hope that helps 🙂

  16. Ebin August 11, 2015 at 10:51 pm #


    I have been preparing for GRE since last month.But as I am working I am not able to completely focus on GRE. And will not be able to take up GRE in the next couple of months.Is it alright to write GRE in January 2016?

    I would like to get admission in a German university.Kindly suggest some German universities that offer courses in embedded computing.


  17. Tushar July 25, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    Going by the thread of discussions, does it mean that everyone gets an easy section to begin with and the 2nd section is adaptive?

  18. Zachary Ervin July 23, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    Let’s say I get about 15/20 questions correct on the first medium level test right and a little more than half of the hard section questions right. What would my score be in the quantitative section if this were the case? Thanks!

  19. Vatsal Bajpai May 22, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Hi ! Chris first of all I will like to thank you for excellent discussions that you do along with your post. They are extremely helpful. What I got from this discussion is that GRE adapts between section and not within a section. If I am getting this correct, once I start a section the set of questions which I have to answer will not change if I — (1) Get a question wrong (2) Skip a question .

    Is it a good strategy to skip difficult or time consuming questions in order to attempt more question ?

  20. Amy November 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Assuming a person does well on the first section of verbal and therefore receives a harder section next, what happens if that person misses too many questions on the second section? Say if a person gets 18 out of 20 correct in the first section, and then 12 out of 20 correct in the second section. Will this person still receive a decent score because his/her excellent performance on the first section creates a floor? Meaning his/her score cannot fall under a certain score?

    If this logic is true, I understand if a person doesn’t do so well on the first section and subsequently score improve on the next easy section wouldn’t be able to anticipate a stellar score since the mediocre performance in the first section would’ve created a ceiling, a score the applicant cannot surpass.

    Of course, the bottom line is we should try our best on every single section but I just wanted to clarify that I’m understanding this correctly. Thank you!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 3, 2014 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Amy,

      That’s the gist of it. Not getting the harder section put a ceiling on your score. Apparently, there is also a medium section as the second section of math or verbal. So not getting the hard section does not mean you get the easy section; you’ll get a second medium section. The ceiling won’t be as low as it will be with the easy section.

      Hope that helps!

      • Simon August 16, 2015 at 2:22 am #

        Hi Chris,
        many thanks for that explanation. I have also been wondering what the section adaptiveness implies in terms of test strategy (have not found any clear recommendations on this at Magoosh or anywhere else).

        Is there any general rule and what the score ceilings on the different section difficulties are? For example, if I get 15/20 correct on the first quantitative, medium section and based on that get a second quantiative, medium difficulty section: what would my maximum score be?

        I am just wondering, if my goal is to get 165 on the quantitative, whether it would be a better strategy to get two medium sections (and e.g. score 15/20 on the first and 19/20 on the second); rather then aiming high on the first section and then failing on the difficult one (e.g. score 19/20 on the first and then 10/20 on the hard section)? Maybe the hard sections are only for people aiming for the 170 range?

        Any insights on this?


  21. Samarth July 11, 2014 at 3:46 am #

    Hi Chris.
    I took my GRE Today and I really felt the adaptive feature makes it too hard.
    I have been giving my practice tests for a while now.
    I usually get 2-3 questions wrong in the first quant and 1 in the second. Today on my actual test I had 10 minutes left after first section so I had the time to make sure that everything was correct and most probably all of them are correct. When I reached the second section the difficulty increased like anything. I don’t knoa how it’s possible but at least 10 out of 20 questions were challenging. 3-4 being exceptionally hard. My practice test average was 168 ( Kaplan, Powerprep II , Manhattan Review ) and I ended up getting 164 today.

  22. Joe June 17, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    How adaptive is the GRE? If, for example, I got every question right on the first math section, what would my average question look like on the second section?

    I’ve been doing well on the paper ETS practice tests, but am worried I’m just not seeing the level of difficulty I’ll see on the exam.


  23. swastik March 1, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    hey chris 🙂
    Just wanted to thank you for your all the good work you have put in:)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

      You are welcome 🙂

  24. Peter Tosh January 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    Does the GRE choose the second section based on the number you get right (say 17/20), or based which questions you get right? For example if a student answers 15 right including all of the difficult questions, is that the same as answering 15 right but getting all of the difficult questions wrong?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi Peter,

      I don’t think anyone–besides ETS–is completely sure how they figure out how the section adapts. But from what ETS has said and from my own tinkering with the Power Prep software, each question is worth the same. It is the number of questions you answer correctly that determines the following related section, math or verbal.

      Hope that helps!

  25. Nursultan September 11, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    Hi Chris,
    Do you think it would be a good strategy to intentionally do mediocre on the first section in order to get easier problems in the second section?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 11, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Nursultan,

      Oh no! Don’t do that :). Your score on the GRE is based on your performance on one of the sections. If you end up getting the easier section, you put a ceiling on your score. In other words, even if you get every question right on the easy section you may not get over 150. Do your best on every section.

      Hope that helps clear things up!

      • Valentin September 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

        I know this is an old post, but can you please clarify that? What do you mean by having a ceiling on my score if I get the easy section? That’s what happened to me yesterday(got the easy section), and I got a 150 even though I think I answered most questions in the easy(last) section right. How exactly is my final score determined by my performance on one section? What if I got all questions wrong on the easy section, what will happen to my score?

        My plan was to get 15-17 questions right on each scored section, ending up with a total of 160-164. But looks like I’m really missing some important details about the scoring policy.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele September 15, 2014 at 11:33 am #

          Hi Valentin,

          The ceiling refers to the fact that even if you get every question right on the easy section, you can still only max out at a certain, somewhere in the low-150s, provided you don’t get everything wrong on the very first math section.

          To get 160-164, you’d have to get at least 14 out of 20 right on the first section of math or verbal. The number may change a little, and there is also a medium section, so it can get kind of complicated. My advice: don’t overly fixate on the scoring nuances; just do your best on the first section of either math or verbal.

          Hope that helps!

          • Valentin September 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

            Alright, thank you for the reply. I just don’t understand what went wrong that day. My practice test scores are always in the upper 150s to the lower 160s, but I got such a horrible score on the actual test. Probably went through the questions too fast.

            And btw, I signed-up for Magoosh and I really like it. Hopefully I’ll get a better score next time.

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele September 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

              Yes, test day things can definitely get a little stressful so that we end up making careless mistakes we wouldn’t otherwise. I’m glad you’re enjoying Magoosh! Let me know if you have any questions along the way :).

          • Scott October 6, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

            Hi Chris!

            I was aware that the first section dictates the difficulty of the future sections but was unaware that first section places your final score in a sort of grouping where the final score has a defined minimum and maximum. I was always under the impression, that if you did poorly on the first section that it was possible to “make up” in future sections. Thank you very much for clarifying this important point!

            You mentioned in a previous post that in order to score above a 160 on quantitative or verbal, a person would need to score of at least 14 out of 20 on the first section. Is there a rubric for how many you have to get right on the first section in order to receive a 150-155 or a 155-160? I understand its good not get score fixated. But I am just curious as I am sure others are as well 🙂

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele October 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

              Hi Scott,

              You know there isn’t an exact rubric. I gleaned these numbers from tinkering around with the PowerPrep software. Who knows, maybe ETS has even tinkered around with them a little. So it’s hard to say exactly what the cutoff would be for 160 but it may be as low as 12, provided you get most of the questions on the second section of the corresponding section–which seems unlikely, given that that section would be as hard (the medium section) or harder (hard section).

              At the same time, I know it’s nice to have a sense of a cut off, so if you are going through questions at the end and you want to get as many right as possible, you better off going over a couple of answers rather than try to knock off that one really difficult question.

              Hope that helps 🙂

  26. Cait June 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    Hey Chris,
    I understand that the test is adaptive. But I am wondering if it is best to guess on a question that you aren’t sure of or leave it blank? Is there a penalty for guessing?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      Hi Cait,

      Yes, no matter what, guess. There is absolutely no penalty for guessing. I guess the big piece of advice is never leave a question unanswered.

      Hope that helps!

  27. Farah June 1, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    hey Chris! well, you have mentioned here that each question carries 1 mark but i think its not entirely correct. I have taken couple of powerprep tests where I have got to experience something really confounding. I corrected around 15 questions in the verbal section and 7 in the next part of the same section, so I should have got a total of 152 in verbal section but i got 159 when I hit on ‘report scores’ ! then i corrected 26 maths questions but it showed that I got 154! When I asked an expertise like yourself, he said it depends on the difficulty level ! now, how on earth am I going to determine which question carries how much marks?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 3, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      I think the issue here is that the scale is different for math and verbal. So you can miss the same number of questions in math and verbal but end up getting the same score. At an official level–meaning what ETS says–each question is worth the same. I too sometimes think that may be slightly misleading because if you get the “harder” section and end up missing more questions than someone who gets the “easier” section than do you get the same score?

      I’ll have a look and play around with the PowerPrep test. I would be surprised if the tough questions were given more weight than the easy ones. Not sure why ETS would tell a flat out lie…also, I haven’t heard from anyone citing discrepancies in scores based on the number of questions answered correctly.

      Thanks though for letting me know what’s going on, and I’ll get back to you via this thread :).

  28. Vaz March 9, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Can I choose between the sections in the revised GRE?That is, can I select which section I should answer first and which one next, like that?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi Vaz,

      Actually the section you get depends on how well you do on the first section. For instance, if you miss more than half the questions you will get an easy section as your second section. Also of note, the first math section and the first verbal section will be of medium difficulty. So if you do well, you will never see an easy section on the GRE.

      Hope that clears things up :).

  29. Paola May 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi Chris, so just to get this straight, what this is saying is that if I begin with the first section of the verbal and do awesome, the second section of the verbal will be “tougher”? Then if I do bad in the first section of the quantitative the second part of the quantitative will be “easier”?[and vice versa]… AND the analytical writing is obviously not adaptive.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 11, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Hi Paola,

      Yes, that is EXACTLY correct. Incidentally, there appears to be a medium-difficulty section as a second section. Meaning if you did average on the first section, the test adapts, and for the second section you get an average-difficulty section.

      Hope that helps

      • Raj October 4, 2013 at 8:40 am #

        Hi Chris,

        If I’ve understood correctly, the system determines the difficulty level for the second section based on how the first section was performed. If this is the case, what would be the procedure for paper-based test?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele October 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

          Yes, that is correct, Raj. For the paper-based test, there is no such system. Your score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly.

          Hope that helps!

  30. James March 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Chris, what is the largest score increase you’ve ever seen for a student you’ve tutored?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

      Hi James,

      With the new GRE, I’ve just started tutoring so the pool of students who’ve taken the test is very small.

      On the old GRE, the largest point increase was from 800 (mock test to about 1350/60 (actual exam). So that’s almost 600 points!

      Another student increased by 250 points on the Quant alone after only a handful of sessions.

      Of course such successes are by no means solely attributable to me. Both students were very driven and focused.

      Let me know if you have any more questions :).

  31. Julia Campos February 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    The PhD program requires a 70 percentile or higher. What is the numerical score for a 70 percentile? Thank you so much for your info.

  32. Julia Campos February 19, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    Does that mean that if you do well in one section and they give you a more difficult section that you are not good for, that means you are doing worse becasue you did well in the ifrst? if they give you something more difficult your score is going down.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Hi Julia,

      No one is 100% sure how it works – except ETS, of course. My guess is that you are given a harder section, there is some minimum score you cannot fall below. If that minimum score is greater than the score you would get if you answered every question on the easy section, I can’t say for sure.

      It is also important to note that not every single question on the difficult section is difficult, and not every question on the easy section is easy. Each section will have a mix of difficulty-levels.

      Hope that made sense 🙂

      • Ashay July 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

        Hi Chris,

        This was the exact doubt which came to my mind when I read that the second section would be more difficult if you did well in the first one.

        Currently my accuracy for ‘Hard’ questions (in Magoosh practice questions) in verbal is not good 🙁 Was wondering what should be the accuracy for ‘Hard’ questions to get 160 in verbal.


        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele July 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

          Hi Ashay,

          That’s a hard question to answer — and many Magoosh users who’ve recently taken the GRE (and scored really well) say that the Magoosh questions are even more difficult than those that they saw on the test. It seems that most of these students who went on to break 160 V were getting at least 60% of the Magoosh TC/RC right. There is, however, no breakdown between easy/medium/ and difficult questions. So even if you miss more than half of the difficult and very difficult Magoosh questions that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to break 160.

          I know that was not an exact answer to your question, but I hope that helps :).

          • Ashay July 26, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

            Thanks Chris ! I was just apprehensive as the predicted score currently says 151-156. But I do have a month to do. Hope I improve on that.

            Thanks a lot though, you guys rock !

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele July 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

              Hi Ashay,

              Keep up the studying and you should be able to inch towards 160. Let me know if you have any questions along the way :).

          • Ashay July 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

            Hi Chris,

            I see what you are saying. I was just apprehensive because my current predicted score is 151-156. But I do have a month to go, so hope to improve on that 😀

            Thanks a lot though ! You guys rock !

  33. carol February 18, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    the manhattan revised gre practice book says a big difference is that you can answer questions in any order, which, they say, is different than the old gre.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      Hi Carol,

      True, that is a big difference. I will add that to the text above. Thanks for the heads up!

  34. soumya February 18, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Wow! you guys are quick!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm #


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