ETS Unveils New PowerPrep Online Interface

GRE prep

Slow Train Coming

CC SA 3.0 Mduchnowski via Wikimedia Commons

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.

An Incremental Improvement

Unlike previous GRE revisions, while the computer interface is changing, the test content is not. Some key facts:

  • PowerPrep Online includes exactly the same questions, sections, and essay topics as PowerPrep II.
  • The new software is available only online. Unlike the old software, it operates directly within your browser and appears compatible with many leading browsers, though ETS recommends Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for PCs and Safari for Macs.
  • To access the software, students must register and pay for a GRE exam to be administered on or after July 30, 2017. 
  • The PowerPrep Online software is available for only ninety days after it is initially accessed.
  • The website includes a new feature that allows students to download a score report in spreadsheet format for ease of review.
  • Students are permitted to retake the practice exams within the ninety day window.
Are there any differences in the appearance or functionality of the software itself? The answer is largely no; while PowerPrep Online has a cleaner look and more modern feel, beneath the surface, it's the same GRE with the same features and drawbacks. There's no fancy new calculator, unfortunately. 

Game changer?

PowerPrep Online is not going to be turning any heads or making a splash above the fold on the New York Times. However, it's a welcome update to a dated system. Its primary significance might be that it gives students a preview of what to expect in the testing center on their actual GRE tests. Should a prospective GRE student choose to take the test after July 30 to take advantage of this update? Probably not. This incremental software change is a positive development but not significant enough to warrant any change in your plans. 

If you have further questions, please comment below or visit us on Twitter and Facebook or on our free GRE Forums, PowerScore offers many outstanding GRE prep options, and we would like to encourage you to attend one of our free GRE Webinars, the first of which, GRE 101, is tonight!