A New Look for Graduate Entrance Test
(By Tamar Lewin, New York Times, December 5, 2009)
After two false starts, the Graduate Record Exam, the graduate school entrance test, will be revamped and slightly lengthened in 2011 and graded on a new scale of 130 to 170.
Skip to next paragraph The Educational Testing Service, which administers the G.R.E., described its plans Friday at the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools in San Francisco, calling the changes “the largest revisions” in the history of the test.
Although the exam will still include sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing, each section is being revised. The new verbal section, for example, will eliminate questions on antonyms and analogies. On the quantitative section, the biggest change will be the addition of an online calculator. The writing section will still have two parts, one asking for a logical analysis and the other seeking an expression of the student’s own views.
“The biggest difference is that the prompts the students will receive will be more focused, meaning that our human raters will know unambiguously that the answer was written in response to the question, not memorized,” said David G. Payne, who heads the G.R.E. program for the testing service.
For security reasons, he said, new content would be introduced and the sequence of questions scrambled every two hours. The new test will be three and a half hours.
The G.R.E., required for admission to a range of graduate programs, is a “computer adaptive” test, so that a correct answer to one question leads to a more difficult subsequent question, while a wrong answer leads to a simpler one. Another change is that the computer adaptively will no longer be question by question but section by section, so that, within a section, students can skip a question and return to it.
“That’s going to be a real boon to test takers because once you see a question wrong, it’s almost impossible to unsee it, but if you skip and come back a few questions later, it’s more likely that you’ll get it right,” said Neill Seltzer, who is in charge of G.R.E. for Princeton Review.
Generally, Mr. Seltzer said he saw the changes mostly as a marketing effort, to compete with the GMAT test, used for admission to business schools. The Educational Testing Service lost the contract for administering the GMAT in 2006 to Pearson. Since then, E.T.S. has been increasingly successful marketing the G.R.E. to business schools as an alternative admissions test.
The current G.R.E. scoring scale runs from 200 to 800, with 10-point increments that may represent only one additional correct answer. The new scoring scale will have one-point increments.
“We know that some faculty saw a 20- or 30-point difference on the 200-800 scale as more significant than it really was, and we hope that the new scale will make things clearer,” Dr. Payne said.
The service first announced in 2005 that it would revise the G.R.E. and lengthen it to four hours, to take effect in October 2006. In early 2006, it put off the changes until the fall of 2007 because of delays in setting up enough Internet-based test centers. Then in 2007, it canceled the planned changes.
More than 600,000 students take the G.R.E. each year. In areas of the world where Internet-based testing is easily available, the G.R.E. lasts three hours. A paper version of the test, lasting about 3 hours 45 minutes, is offered in other places.