New GRE planned, impact unclear

When the entrance examination for graduate school changes next year, students will be able to choose between taking the new test and the old one, but most universities have not yet figured out how they will deal with the transition.

The 2010 Graduate School Admissions Officers Survey recently released by Kaplan found that 81 percent of the 108 graduate programs surveyed have not developed a policy for comparing scores from the current Graduate Record Exam and the new GRE that will be implemented next August, or how to evaluate scores from the new test. Next year, students can take the old version of the exam before August, or the new one after the change, and Associate Dean of the Graduate School Pamela Schirmeister GRD ’88 said she thinks applicants are better off sticking with the old test.

“Admissions committees are familiar with the old version of the test and understand something about what the scores mean,” she said. “It may take several years before they reach the same comfort level with the new test.”

Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, is holding information sessions at universities, including Yale, to make sure they are ready for the switch, said Christine Betaneli, manager of government and external relations for ETS.

But Yale administrators said they have not begun to seriously consider the new test because they are focusing on the current application cycle.

The new GRE will place less emphasis on vocabulary than the old and is designed to be friendlier for test-takers, Betaneli said. The computerized test currently directs students to questions based how they answered previous questions, she said, but the new GRE will have fixed questions, and will permit students to skip and return to problems. She said this will allow students to use their own test-taking strategies.

Director of Graduate Studies in Economics Truman Bewley, who attended such an event at Yale, said the new GRE does not improve the test’s usefulness as a tool to evaluate applicants.

“I don’t think they addressed the problem,” he said. “The test is just too easy.”

He said the economics department has a minimum score that applicants must meet in order to be considered, and they will simply adjust the threshold for the new GRE.

Schirmeister, who reads applications in the humanities and social sciences, said prospective students should read online about the differences between the two tests and determine which suits them best. She added that the importance of the GRE varies by department.

Associate Dean of the Graduate School Richard Sleight, who reads applications to science programs, said the GRE does not have a huge bearing on acceptance in those departments, and research experience matters more. He said it will not matter to him which exam students take because the new test, like the old one, will place students in percentiles.

Jared Bard ’12 said he plans to take both the new and the current GRE and see which score is better, especially since the ETS is charging only half of the normal cost to take the new test during August and September of next year. Joe O’Rourke ’12 said he is not too concerned about which test he will take, so the reduced cost could sway his decision.

“Those changes won’t affect my decision about when to take the test,” he said. “The half-price discount, however, is an attractive incentive.”

Students who take the new GRE next August or September will have to wait until the middle of November to learn how they did, because the ETS needs a significant sample of scores to calibrate students’ performance, said Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep and a teacher for Kaplan.

Students normally receive their scores within 10 to 15 business days.

Comments

  • rr22

    It’s about time they make a new GRE. The old one is embarrassing in how poorly it is written and administered. I can’t believe that the major universities of the world ever accepted it as a standard.

  • pablum

    Do top departments even take the GRE into consideration?

    Recommendations and GPAs are more important than anything in graduate school applications.