Graduate Record Exam Will Be Extended and Overhauled
October 27, 2005 8:22 PM
The Graduate Record Exam (G.R.E.), a nationwide test used for graduate school admissions, will be extended and overhauled in hopes that the new format will provide a more accurate gauge of student’s abilities.
The test is taken by approximately 500,000 students every year, and is used to measure analytical writing, and verbal and quantitative reasoning skills. It will expand from two and a half hours to four hours.
Currently, students taking the exam are given questions that are customized to their abilities. With the new format, students taking the test on each given day will receive the same questions regardless of their skills, and questions will never be reused.
While directors of the G.R.E. program believe these changes will give graduate schools a more precise judgment of student’s abilities, some education watchdog groups believe the changes won’t provide significant enough benefits to justify the costs of implementing the new test.
Robert Schaeffer, public education director of Fairtest, an organization working to correct flaws in national standardized testing, said the renovations will be expensive and superficial. He said the new test will frustrate students, while not providing more help to educators trying to decide whether students are qualified for graduate school.
“The new format will cause a backlash among students. And it’s likely the changes will be more expensive and not more predictive,” said Schaeffer. “There’s no evidence indicating that the new test will be a better predictor.”
Tom Ewing is the director of external communications at Education Testing Service (ETS), the company that designs the G.R.E. Ewing said ETS is halfway through conducting a month-long study on the new exam, and he was confident the format change would better prepare students for graduate level studies.
“The new test will reflect real-life scenarios, measure critical reasoning, and will be less based on memorization and vocabulary,” said Ewing. “We’re pretty much convinced it will be more valuable.”
Schaeffer said he believed ETS may be changing the test in an effort to hold on to their market share. The company has recently lost two contracts, including the Graduate Management Admission Test (used to evaluate students applying to business management school), and is also the target of a class-action lawsuit. 1,000 students who took the GMAT in 2000 are preparing to file a case against ETS because the company scored the students mistakenly low, and did not admit the error until 10 months later.
And with the G.R.E. facing widespread criticism from the academic world, Schaeffer said the company is overhauling the test to keep the contract.
“The G.R.E. and the company that produces it have been subject to a lot of criticism lately, and if your other products are being rejected, there’s pressure to hold on to what you have left,” Schaeffer said.
“Tests evolve and it’s time for the G.R.E. to evolve. We’re responding to the needs of graduate schools.”
While SF State does not administer the G.R.E., certain colleges at this school require students to take specialized G.R.E. subject-tests that will not be changed.
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