The Educational Testing Service decided not to implement a new version of the Graduate Record Exam this fall, after four years of research on what would have been the largest revision to the test in its history.
The newly designed GRE — the standardized test required for admission to most doctoral programs — would have revamped the analytical writing and verbal and quantitative reasoning portions of the test. The changes would have increased its total length from two-and-a-half to four hours, which would have made the administration of the test more expensive. ETS spent about $12 million on research in order to create 35 unique versions of the test, each of which would be offered once per year in a written format in order to reduce cases of cheating. ETS officials have said it would have been too expensive and logistically difficult to secure enough testing sites around the world to enact this plan.
The current, computer-based test is administered year-round.
Yale Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said the cancellation of the revised GRE is disappointing, particularly for students who had been preparing for the new exam. He also said a more evolved version of the test would have proven useful in assessing applicants — both by better evaluating a student’s academic abilities and by reducing the amount of cheating.
“A more sophisticated GRE might have produced more reliable results in predicting graduate school success, which is the purpose of the GRE,” Butler said. “[In addition], the security issues with the old exam appear to be increasing, and this is a threat to everyone — those who take the exam and those who use the GRE to assess applicants.”
Concern about the security of the test stems from an incident in 2002 when the ETS found that students in China, Taiwan and South Korea memorized questions and answers while taking the GRE and posted them on Web sites, which other students could view prior to taking the same version of the test.
Mark Hanin ’07, who recently took the GRE, said he thinks the current computer-based test is an effective indicator of a student’s capability because each question is based on whether or not the previous question was answered correctly. This serves to separate the average from exceptional students, he said, by naturally tailoring the test to individual test takers. While he said he is glad he did not have to take a longer test, he would not have been opposed to the increased difficulty and length of the test if it actually reflected students’ abilities more accurately.
About 500,000 students take the GRE every year. The ETS has been offering the test for the past 60 years.