LSAT, GRE tests to change

by Elizabeth Cook

Standardized tests are a requirement to get into many graduate schools and programs around the country and two of them will introduce new editions next year.

According to the Educational Testing Service, the Graduate Record Examination will become hours longer starting September 2007. The Law School Admission Test writing section will be more predictable and thus easier to prepare for as of June 2007, according to the Law School Admission Council.

Graduate Record Examination

The Graduate Record Examination, which is required to get into some programs at the University’s Graduate School, will change in format, content, length and scoring.

Susan Kaplan, director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, said the test will be about two-and-a-half hours longer.

The test is longer because it is not going to be “adaptive” anymore, she said. Currently, test-takers answer questions of equal difficulty in the beginning, and questions get easier or harder based on initial performance.

The test will now contain more questions to gauge the difficulty level appropriate for each individual instead.

The verbal reasoning section will be longer and emphasize higher cognitive skills, instead of vocabulary.

The quantitative section will also be longer, with more attention on real-life scenarios and data interpretation, and less on geometry.

The scoring scale is also adjusting, Kaplan said. Right now it goes from 200 to 800 per section; next year it will go from 130 to 170.

Test scores are good for up to five years, Kaplan said, so she encouraged students to take the test before it requires more “stamina.”

She said the test in its current form will be easier, leading to higher scores and, consequently, more merit-based financial aid.

But Andrea Scott, the director of the office of admissions for the Graduate School, said the test scores are “only one measure” schools use when determining financial aid in the form of assistantships.

She said grade point averages, recommendations, goals and undergraduate research are all factors in receiving an assistantship.

Also, not all programs in the graduate school require a Graduate Record Examination score, she said.

Scott said the test prep company’s claim that a higher test results in more financial aid is “misleading.”

Nohsung Myung, a first-year electrical engineering graduate student, said he took the test last fall and summer.

“It was very, very difficult,” he said.

He said the limited amount of time for the test made it harder.

“It’s a very short time,” he said. “Especially in the reading part.”

Myung said he thinks the test will still be challenging, but more time might actually help a student.

“It’d be easier if there was more time,” he said. “More time for analysis.”

Law School Admission Test

Steven Marietti, director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, said the change will affect two parts of the Law School Admission Test, which is required for admittance into law school.

Test-takers are randomly assigned a writing prompt out of two possibilities. Under the new format, the test will only measure the ability to support a decision in writing, instead of the possibility of either supporting a decision or an argument.

“You don’t have to prepare for two now,” he said.

Also, the reading comprehension multiple choice section will now gauge comparative reading, Marietti said.

The difference is that instead of questions based on one longer passage, questions will be based on two shorter passages.

Some questions will be about one of the sections, but most will ask test-takers to compare the two.

Harriet Strasberg, the program director for test administration at the University, said the change will be minor and ordinary.

“This kind of change is made all the time,” she said. “That will really have no effect.”

Scott Johnson, a second-year law student, said the Law School Admission Test was the hardest test he’s ever taken and the changes could affect the difficulty level.

Now, students will not have to worry about studying for a section they’ll never be tested on, Johnson said.

“I think, in a lot of ways, it will make it easier,” he said. “I didn’t see the need to make it easier.”