GREs to Stay the Same
The Educational Testing Service has abandoned plans for a major overhaul of the Graduate Record Examination, catching the testing industry by surprise and requiring students to change their preparation strategies for the exam, an update to which was scheduled to be introduced this September.
“It came to us as a complete surprise,” GRE Program Manager for Kaplan Admissions and Test Prep Jung Lee said of the decision announced last week by ETS. According to a press release issued by the test maker, the update was canceled because of logistical complications.
Lee said that while ETS’s move was unexpected, he believes that the change is good for students taking the GRE.
“We feel that this is good news for students,” Lee said. Under ETS’s original plan, Lee explained that test takers this fall “were facing a test that was longer, more expensive and also more challenging.”
A statement issued by ETS suggested that changes may be gradually introduced in the coming years, but that a major, one-time overhaul was no longer being pursued, and that the test would remain unchanged through next year.
Associate Director of Career Services Erin Corwin said that Oberlin in particular should welcome this news. According to Corwin, students will now avoid the logistical problems that might have resulted from ETS’s update, as the company was planning to significantly reduce the number of GRE test days. This would have compounded the perennial problem Oberlin students face of getting to a test site, the nearest of which is 20 miles away.
“Had they instituted the changes, the access would have been even harder for Oberlin students,” said Corwin.
The GRE, which is given yearly to 500,000 prospective graduate school students worldwide, was slated to undergo security and format enhancements meant to increase the rigor and validity of the exam, as well as make cheating more difficult. The decision to increase ETS’s deterrence to cheaters came after an incident in 2002, when it was discovered that a few students had memorized test questions and posted them on the Internet for others to view.
As part of the security enhancements, ETS was significantly decreasing the number of days the GRE would be administered, so that it could create new sets of questions for every exam day. This meant, however, that testing sites would be required to accommodate significantly more test takers, as the number of exam days was planned to drop from over 200 each year to just 35.
While ETS blamed its decision on a lack of acceptable testing sites, many experts in the testing industry have found this an unsatisfactory explanation. When asked about why ETS nixed its update, Public Education Director for FairTest Robert Schaeffer responded, “I don’t think we’ll ever know.”
Shaeffer went on to criticize ETS’s handling of the GRE update, which he said “[has created] a confusing situation, in which the security situation is not resolved.”
Both Lee and Schaeffer said that it is unclear how ETS’s decision will affect the attitudes of graduate schools toward the test. However, Schaeffer did comment that ETS’s actions are likely to have a negative impact.
“I think it will increase the cynicism in graduate school admissions offices about whether it is a useful tool or just a money making [instrument for ETS,]” Schaeffer said.
An ETS spokesperson could not be reached for an interview.