A Kaplan Test Expert Took The New GRE. Here’s What He Had To Say

A Kaplan Test Expert Took The New GRE. Here’s What He Had To Say

Stuart Kovinsky, a seasoned Kaplan test prep expert with over 35 years of experience, recently shared his experience with the revamped GRE, touching on the challenges, changes, and what remained the same.

Kovinsky has been a test prep expert since 1989, and has prepared thousands of students for exams like GMAT, GRE, and GED. Raised in Toronto, he pursued law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He landed a perfect score on his first standardized test, the LSAT, back in December 1988. Kovinsky initially took the GRE in the 90s for instructional purposes, which he says was in a notably different format from today’s GRE.

The first sitting for the new GRE was a bit over a month ago on September 22nd, and Kovinsky took it on the 29th – a week after it was unveiled.


In a conversation, Poets&Quants sought Kovinsky’s take on the new adjustments to the GRE.

“The biggest change is the time,” says Kovinsky. “The test is half the length it used to be. It’s cut down in a number of ways. There used to be two essays: an argument essay and an issue essay, and now there’s only the issue essay. The time length is still the same, but instead of two thirty-minute essays it’s one thirty-minute essay.”

There also used to be an experimental section, but Kovinsky says they nixed it. Now there are two verbal sections and two quant sections intermingled.

“The other thing they cut out is the break during the test. You used to have ten minute breaks,” says Kovinsky.

How can those who were preparing for the old version of the GRE prepare for this new version?

A Kaplan Test Expert Took The New GRE. Here’s What He Had To Say

Stuart Kovinsky


“The one thing that has remained constant is that there is the same average time per question,” notes Kovinsky. “So even though there’s fewer questions in less time, the average time per question is the same. Those who are already preparing for the older version of the test don’t have to worry about creating new strategies on a question by question basis, because it’s still the same amount of time per question.”

The question content has also remained the same. In terms of questions, Kovinsky shares, “There wasn’t anything there that I didn’t expect to see – no new content that wasn’t on the old exam. Since there are fewer questions, there were some math problems that I was expecting to see that I didn’t end up seeing, but I’m just a sample size of one. It’s a smaller question pool, so just because I didn’t see them on my exam doesn’t mean other people won’t.”

His results were 170 in both quant and verbal – a perfect score, but it didn’t come without preparation. That is what he was hoping for, and that’s what he got.

“Students should take this test seriously. Even someone like me with 35 years of experience with standardized tests, you can’t blow it off,” urges Kovinsky. “You have to take it seriously. For students looking to differentiate themselves and give themselves a competitive advantage, or gain extra benefits like scholarships, TA-ships, and tuition discounts, it really is important to be prepared and put your best foot forward.”


The test is half the time, but Kovinsky says it takes just as much energy.

“Something that students may think is that because it is only two hours, there’s less endurance required, less stamina, but because there are no breaks, it really is just as draining as the four hour version. It’s two hours of uninterrupted focus and concentration.”

Where did the push for change come from?

“This seems funny to anyone who is not in the test prep industry, but it is really about competitive advantage between exams like the GRE, GMAT and the LSAT. Even though they’re all nonprofits, they’re all still in competition with each other. They’re each looking to attract the most students as possible.”

The toughest part overall for Kovinsky who took the at-home version of the test was navigating the logistics. “For the at home test, registration is simple, but you also have to make sure you meet all of the tech requirements,” he says. “You have to download two different browsers – one that allows a proctor access to oversee your exam, and you need a completely silent space.”

He noticed that there was a lot of information for the at-home test available, but it wasn’t well synthesized on the site.

“If I could make one huge suggestion, I would have one flow through document for before and during the test that lists step by step what you need to do – one that clearly lays out the regulations – what you can and can’t have on your desk. I was surprised when I looked at the ETS website – there’s no FAQ there. That’s the one thing that is missing that would really improve the student experience,” says Kovinsky.

If you do have a question, ProctorU seems pretty efficient in their response time. Kovinsky commended ProcterU on answering promptly when he wanted to ask whether or not he could have a drink on his desk.

“My experience with the proctor at ProctorU was excellent. They were professional, friendly, and wished me good luck before and after. You give the proctor permission to have control of your computer. They can run a system search. It’s a little intimidating to be handing over control of your computer, but in terms of the proctor experience, it was an excellent experience,” says Kovinsky.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.