- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), a test taken by a half-million graduate school applicants worldwide, is being made longer and is scrapping its computer-adaptive format, with the revamped exam being offered for the first time in October.

Officials of the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service, which also is modifying the GRE’s content and scoring, say the changes are designed to increase security and the exam’s validity. They noted that education officials have said for years that the GRE does not test skills required for success in graduate school.

Leaders of the Princeton Review, which offers preparation and private tutoring to help students improve their scores on university admissions tests, said they recognize that the GRE has limitations but think the changes will make it worse.

“The new GRE will be more difficult for many people. … It’s appalling that students will be the guinea pigs when they roll this test out in October,” said Liz Wands, director of national marketing for the Princeton Review.

The length of the GRE will be increased from 2 hours to more than four hours.

Ms. Wands said the current test can be taken on an ongoing basis any day of the week except Sunday. “But now there will only be 29 or 30 test dates,” she said, which will make it harder for people to take it.

However, the Educational Testing Service says it will raise the number of test sites.

At the GRE Web site (www.gre.org), David Payne, executive director of the GRE Program in the testing service’s Higher Education Division, said the changes will make the test more relevant.

“The new test will emphasize complex reasoning skills that are closely aligned with graduate work” and will “include more real-life scenarios … and new, more focused writing questions,” he said.

Ms. Wands noted that the test will have fewer geometry questions and “more data interpretation questions,” and that scoring scales will change on both the verbal and quantitative sections.

Because of its concerns about the proposed new examination, the Princeton Review recommends that “anyone planning to go to graduate school in the next few years take the GRE before the new version is introduced” this fall.

The “computer-adaptive” format will be changed to a “computer-based” format, the testing service and Princeton Review said.

Computer-adaptive tests presented questions that depended on whether the previous question was answered correctly. A computer-based test is merely one taken on a computer.

In a report last month in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ETS officials said they are scrapping the computer-adaptive format because it gave some test takers an unfair advantage. They said some students posted questions from the GRE on Web sites after taking the examination.

“In that format, anyone who took the test could have the same questions as someone else who took the test on an earlier date,” said the report in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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