Unless they crack the books a little earlier than planned, Yalies hoping to go to graduate school in the next few years may face a very different entrance exam.
The Educational Testing Services announced that beginning in the fall of 2011, the GRE, a standardized test required for admission to many arts and sciences graduate schools in the U.S., will feature a different grading scale, 30 to 45 minutes of added time and a new option allowing test-takers to move between questions within sections of the test. While a majority of the 10 Yale graduate students interviewed who have taken the GRE in its current form said the changes will improve the test, some said that the new test will be too long.
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One test preparation expert, Andrew Mitchell, director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, advised students interested in graduate school to take the test before the changes take effect. Mitchell noted that test results are accepted by graduate school admissions offices for up to five years.
“It’s better to take it now when they know what they’re getting,” he said, noting that changes in standardized tests like the GRE typically lead to lower scores for a few years.
Those scores themselves will take an unfamiliar form, as ETS changed the current GRE grading scale of 200 to 800 points with 10-point increments to a scale of 130 to 170 points with 1-point increments.
“The difference is that the one-point increments allow tighter view of a test taker’s competency,” ETS spokesman Mark McNutt said. “You’re really narrowing down on that scale.”
McNutt said ETS has been planning for these revisions for several years in order to more accurately test for skills required of contemporary students in graduate schools. The test will be a better assessment of students analytical skills, not their ability to memorize formulas, McNutt added.
Neill Seltzer, who was the lead author of Princeton Review’s “1,014 GRE Practice Questions,” said he sees the revisions as a much-need improvement.
“The GRE is just old,” he said. “Content-wise it really looks like what the SAT used to be. The SAT has evolved. The GRE has never evolved — it’s a fairly archaic test.”
Out of 10 Yale graduate students interviewed, seven said they preferred the revised exam over the one they had taken. Most said they appreciated the new computer feature that allows test-takers to skip questions and go back to them. The GRE, taken on a computer, previously required test-takers to answer a question before they could see the next question.
“I like the way they are making more like a paper test,” Justin Khoo GRD ’13 said.
But not all students said they like the changes. International and Development Economics student Anusha Misra GRD ’10 said the test-makers should have kept the analogy questions because they tested analytical thinking. She said she also dislikes the increased length of the exam, which already takes up to three hours.
“I think three hours is enough — the attention span of a person is not that long,” she said. “[The revised exam] is stretching mental limits.”
McNutt said the revised GRE will be launched around August or September 2011.