Slow Train Coming
The GRE has never been the belle of the standardized test ball. While Educational Testing Service has conducted substantial revisions to the GRE both in content and format, its role as a "default" graduate school admissions exam has rendered it ubiquitous but somewhat bland. As opposed to the GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT, which for their respective programs command both prestige and a degree of awe among business, law, and med school applicants, the GRE has persisted as a necessary but less-glamorous hurdle to cross for admission to a plenitude of different graduate programs.
When the GRE made the switch to a computer adaptive format (worldwide in 2001), ETS developed a practice test software program, PowerPrep, to assist GRE students. At the time ETS also administered the GMAT and introduced a similar computer-based format for both tests. Both used software algorithms that adapted question difficulty following correct or incorrect responses.
While the GMAT switched vendors to ACT, inc., in 2006 and made subsequent changes both to its test content and interface, the GRE has remained with ETS. Even though ETS also overhauled GRE content in 2011, the PowerPrep and test-center interface remained remarkably similar to the preceding version. The PowerPrep II software is available as a free download from ETS. It requires users to download the software and then to use a browser to launch a java applet to administer the tests. Needless to say, this somewhat byzantine system is not cutting-edge.
The PowerPrep software has undergone few changes (aside from the addition of a calculator), but the GRE itself has experienced dramatic growth and developments in its uses and significance. Since 2011, the GRE has become a key player in MBA program admissions, reaching in 2016 universal acceptance as an alternative to the GMAT at all major business schools. Likewise, Harvard Law has now joined the University of Arizona in accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT, and other law schools will likely follow.
Subsequent to these substantial developments, ETS is unveiling a somewhat updated interface for the GRE. Recently, the PowerPrep download page has indicated that a new PowerPrep Online tool is available for students registered to take the GRE on or after July 30, 2017. Read below to get the basic facts you need to know about this new software program and what it means for GRE preparation.