GRE to replace reasoning test with essay section

As high school students anticipate a possible new writing section on the SAT, college students taking the GRE will soon face a similar change.

The Graduate Record Examination General Test currently includes 93 multiple-choice questions that test students’ verbal, quantitative and analytical skills. But beginning Oct. 1, the 35-question analytical section will be replaced by two required essays.

“We are really excited about adding this writing section to the general test,” said Thomas Rochon, executive director of the GRE program.

Forty-five minutes will be allotted for one of the essays, in which students will be required to state a position on a given issue of general interest and then support it with evidence and examples. For the second essay, students will have 30 minutes to critique a given claim and evidence.

Instead of being graded on the 200 to 800 scale used for the multiple choice sections, the essays will be graded on a one to six scale, with six being the strongest.

“Skills of general writing are really important to graduate school success,” Rochon said.

He added that the multiple-choice problems in the currently administered test are “logical” problems that lose some of their effectiveness because students cannot expand on their answers.

Jill Sison ’03 said she agreed that essays would measure students’ aptitude more accurately.

“An essay would probably be a better judge of one’s ability because it allows one to go more in depth,” she said.

Rochon also said many of the conditions in the multiple choice problems are “pretty far removed from any real graduate school scenario.” He said an essay will not only highlight a student’s writing ability, but will also allow the student to write about more realistic situations.

Rochon said that while the grading of the essays has a “subjective aspect,” the scoring system is designed to promote fairness. Each essay will be graded by two readers, and a third “master reader” will be called in if there is a significant discrepancy.

Students should be aware that all of the possible questions are already posted online at www.gre.org and can be seen before the test day. There are 120 different “Present Your Perspective” questions and 120 “Analyze an Argument” questions on the Web site, any of which might appear on the actual test. Therefore, a student could potentially go through all 240 questions and know what will be on the test.

“I think that someone who is willing to put that much work into it deserves the score they get,” Lejla Hadzic ’03 said.

So-yeon Paek ’05 said she agreed, but said the presence of questions on the Web site might be unfair to some students.

“It’s a disadvantage to those who don’t have the time or resources to prepare like the others,” she said.

Hadzic said a written essay might inaccurately represent the abilities of students whose first language is not English.

Rochon said he advises future test takers to visit the Web site in order to view the different test tips and strategies.

“The scorers are not looking for a single formula, but there are always better ways to tackle problems,” he said.

The GRE organization is presently in the process of recruiting university teachers and professors as readers for the test, Rochon said.

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