GRE PowerPrep Plus Tests 1 and 2 Analyzed

GRE prep

New GRE Prep Material?Shock CC-0

Yes, the rumors are true! ETS has finally unveiled two new GRE PowerPrep Computer-Based Tests (CBT). In a GRE-wide refresh that started last spring, ETS started by revamping the PowerPrep (and GRE General Test) interface (first noted here). Instead of the java/active x applet that had powered the old interface, the new GRE switched to a strictly web-based interface. Advantages include a more streamlined, less convoluted prep test process; disadvantages include the requirement to register for a GRE account to download the software and less software portability—if you're not online, you're out of luck.

A couple months later, ETS followed up these changes with two new PowerPrep exams, dubbed PowerPrep Plus, each available for purchase for $40 from ETS

As the first new CBT material ETS has released in six years, these tests are quite welcome (and perhaps long overdue). However, there are a few marked disadvantages with these new tests compared to the previous PowerPrep II tests. 

  1. These tests are a one-off deal. With the PowerPrep II software (and with the online versions) you can reset the test to attempt it again. Even though you will repeat previous questions, this redo process allows you to improve your performance and unlock more difficult (and rewarding) second sections. 
    • For example: since the GRE includes two Quant and two Verbal sections, imagine that you get 9 out of 20 right on the first Quant section.  This slots you into the mid-range second Quant section. In your second Quant section, you get on-average medium-difficulty questions.

    • Perhaps you want to try out the harder questions in the high-level second Quant section. No problem. Attempt the PowerPrep test again; do better on the first Quant section—this time you get 16 out of 20 right—and now you get a whole different set of 20 harder-difficulty questions in your second Quant section. 
    • This is an excellent and important way to challenge yourself to attempt more difficult problems that can help you improve your score. You can no longer do this on the new PowerPrep Plus tests. Once you pay your $40, you get one shot at the test. If you want to retake it to see if you can get the harder questions, too bad. You have to shell out another $40.
  2. There are far-fewer third party resources available to help review these new PowerPrep Plus exams. On our GRE forums, we have every PowerPrep II Quant question covered and documented such that students can consult existing explanations or ask their own questions. With these new tests, we get a whole different set of problems to deal with. As we get our explanations together for these new problems, we invite you to dive in with your questions about the PowerPrep Plus exams. We have created forums for all of them here:

Let's now get down to business and analyze these 320 new GRE PowerPrep Plus questions.


PowerPrep Plus Test 1 Quantitative Reasoning

 Question Category

Total Number on 1st Quant Section 

Total on 2nd Quant Section, Easier 

Total on 2nd Quant Section, Medium

Total on 2nd Quant Section, Harder

Quant Comp  8  7  7  7
Mult. Choice, 1 correct  8  10  10  10
Mult. Choice, >1 possible  2  2  2  2
Numeric Entry 2  1  1  1
Arithmetic 4 5 3 2
Algebra 9  6  9  9
Inequalities 2  2  2  2
Geometry 5  3  5  5
Number Properties 1    1  3
Exponents  1  2  2  2
Statistics 2  4  2  4
Percent 3  2  3  3
Probability 1    1  1
Data Interpretation 3  4  3  3
Ratio 1      
Functions   1   1
Overlapping Groups   1    
Sequences   1   1
Quadratics     1 1
Simple Interest     1 1
Absolute Value       1
Notes: "Mult. Choice, 1 correct" means there is exactly one credited response. "Mult. Choice, >1 possible" means one or more responses are correct.

PowerPrep Plus Test 1 Verbal Reasoning

 Question Category

Total Number on 1st Verbal Section 

Total on 2nd Verbal Section, Easier 

Total on 2nd Verbal Section, Medium

Total on 2nd Verbal Section, Harder

1 Blank Text Completion 2 2  2 2
2 Blank Text Completion 3 2  2
3 Blank Text Completion 1 2  2
Sentence Equivalence 4 4  4
Short Passage RC 1 1  1
Medium Passage RC  5 9  9
Long Passage RC  4      
Mult. Choice, 1 correct 9  10  9  9
Mult. Choice, >1 possible      1  1
Select in Passage 1      
GR Primary Purpose 2    
GR Main Point       
GR Author's Perspective     1
GR Subject's Perspective       1
CR/SR Purpose 
Must Be True 2 7 5 3
Weaken 1      
Strengthen     1  
Assumption       1
Vocab in Context       1
Evaluate the Argument        
Method of Reasoning        
Notes: "RC" stands for Reading Comprehension. "Short Passage RC" means one question per passage. "Medium Passage RC" means two to three questions per passage. "Long Passage RC" means four or more questions per passage. "GR" stands for Global Reference. "CR" stands for Concept Reference. "SR" stands for Specific Reference.

PowerPrep Plus Test 2 Quantitative Reasoning

 Question Category

Total Number on 1st Quant Section 

Total on 2nd Quant Section, Easier 

Total on 2nd Quant Section, Medium

Total on 2nd Quant Section, Harder

Quant Comp 8 7 7 7
Mult. Choice, 1 correct 8 10 10 10
Mult. Choice, >1 possible 1 2 2 2
Numeric Entry 3 1 1 1
Arithmetic 1 5 2 1
Algebra 10 6 11 10
Inequalities 2   4 1
Geometry 4 3 4 4
Number Properties   4 2 1
Exponents  1 1 4 3
Statistics 3 1 2 3
Percent 4 3 3 1
Probability   1 1 2
Data Interpretation 6 3 3 3
Ratio 1 1 2 3
Functions 1 1    
Overlapping Groups        
Sequences     1 1
Quadratics     1 1
Simple Interest 1      
Absolute Value 1 1   1
Rate   1 2 1

PowerPrep Plus Test 2 Verbal Reasoning

 Question Category

Total Number on 1st Verbal Section 

Total on 2nd Verbal Section, Easier 

Total on 2nd Verbal Section, Medium

Total on 2nd Verbal Section, Harder

1 Blank Text Completion 2 1 1 2
2 Blank Text Completion 3 2 4 2
3 Blank Text Completion 1 3 1 2
Sentence Equivalence 4 4 4 4
Short Passage RC 1 1 1 1
Medium Passage RC  5 9 9 9
Long Passage RC  4      
Mult. Choice, 1 correct 9 8 8 10
Mult. Choice, >1 possible 1 2 2  
Select in Passage        
GR Primary Purpose 2 1 1  
GR Main Point         
GR Author's Perspective        1
GR Subject's Perspective 1     1
CR/SR Purpose  2 2 2 3
Must Be True 3 4 5 4
Weaken   1 1  
Strengthen     1  
Assumption        
Vocab in Context   1    
Evaluate the Argument 2      
Method of Reasoning   1   1


Key Observations and Conclusions

Now that we have the raw numbers, let's do some analysis.

Quantitative Reasoning

  • "Backdoor" Data Sufficiency problems, an adaptation of a GMAT question type.
  • On average, ratio of arithmetic to algebra problems decreases as sections get harder. In other words, there are more arithmetic questions on easier Quant sections and fewer arithmetic questions on harder quant sections.
  • Harder Quant problems and sections tend to combine multiple math concepts. For instance, a hard math question might combine data interpretation, statistics, and percents.
  • Fixed number of Quant Comp, Multiple Choice, and Numeric Entry problems on second Quant Sections. The numbers of these questions were the same across all six second QR sections. While there are no guarantees, this fixed number occurred frequently enough likely not to be a coincidence.
  • Increased importance of basic financial calculations, not only on simple interest problems but also on investment/merchandise prices, etc. One might suppose this is a result of the GRE's competition with the GMAT for business school applicants.

Verbal Reasoning

  • Important distinction within Must-Be-True (MBT) tasks: easier Verbal Reasoning MBT questions emphasize identifying and paraphrasing information from the passage, while more difficult MBT questions emphasize combining information to make inferences.
  • On the first PowerPrep Plus practice test, the second, easier Verbal section was weighted very heavily towards MBT tasks. However, the easier Verbal section on the second PowerPrep test included a variety of question tasks that included more argument analysis. Bottom line: you must be prepared to analyze argumentation on any permutation of GRE Verbal. 
  • With that fact established, the runaway winners among question tasks on GRE Verbal Reading Comp are Must-Be-True and Concept Reference/Specific Reference–Purpose. Must-Be-True tasks include all basic comprehension-check questions ("What does the passage say about this?") and inference-style questions ("Based on the information in the passage, which of the following statements is best supported?"). CR/SR–Purpose tasks ask what role a specific part of the passage plays in the overall scheme of things. They often elicit the question "why," e.g. "Why did the author bring up the example of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the highlighted portion of the passage?"
  • Since there are no line numbers on the GRE, all Specific Reference questions refer to highlighted sections of the passage.
  • Easier Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence Questions tend primarily to test vocabulary knowledge. More difficult TC and SE problems test both vocabulary and complex syntax/difficult sentence constructions.
  • There is no fixed ratio of one-blank, two-blank, and three-blank Text Completion problems.
  • Heretofore unseen Evaluate the Argument question task appeared on two Verbal questions.

Next Steps

While you might be tempted to jump straight into the new PowerPrep plus practice exams, it remains advisable to start with the free PowerPrep II practice tests, and not just because they're free. Because of the overall paucity of official GRE practice material, students have to be judicious in how they approach practice tests. While we have analyzed all 160 questions on each of the new PowerPrep Plus practice tests, the steep price tag of doing so ($40 per test times 6) is likely prohibitive. Instead, get started with a PowerPrep II practice test to get a baseline diagnostic score and familiarize yourself with the GRE experience. Then jump in with directed preparation. Use the second PowerPrep II exam as a mid-preparation milestone; then finish with one or both of the PowerPrep Plus tests as a way to prime yourself for the real thing. 

In the mean time, we encourage you to take advantage of all the resources PowerScore has available, not least of which is the PowerScore GRE Forum, where you can get responses to all your GRE preparation questions, including questions about these new PowerPrep exams. Registration and posting are completely free.

Register now for free!