The new GRE is section adaptive. This fact has a couple of implications I wonder if anyone could shed some light.

1) Firstly, is there a minimum of questions that a test-taker needs to get right to get to the harder section? Is there a difference between having say 17 questions correct instead of 20 on the first section?

2) Another idea floating in my mind is: is it worth it to get to a harder section? For instance, in my case with verbal, I’m guessing that if I get a hard section on the verbal, this new section will have verbose passages and very esoteric words in text completion. This means I’ll probably get very few questions right. If I had received a moderate difficulty section then I would have got a majority of the questions right.


Certainly there are some factors that are unknown about just how the new GRE works, but I think I can answer your questions.

First, yes, your performance on the first section determines which second section you get, which does imply that there must be a cutoff in terms of how many questions you have to get right. I don’t think we have confirmation on how many questions that is, though, nor would you have any idea how many you got right while you were taking the test. (I think 17 or 20 correct, as in your example, would both get you to the hard second section.)

Secondly, you’re right that if you did better on the first section, you’d get a harder second section, but you NEED the hard second section to get a top score. What we know, in part from playing around with the PowerPrep II software, is that a person who gets the medium second section and aces it could actually score the same or a little better than a person who gets the hard second section and bombs it — but only the person who got the hard second section even has the potential to get a top score.

Similarly, a person who gets the easy second section could still score “average” if that person aces the easy section.

So, there is score overlap between the scores of those who get the easy, medium, and hard second sections, but you definitely want the hard one!