Revamped, longer GRE effective this September

Karlee Weinmann

The process for entering graduate school will become lengthier and more difficult

this fall.

Beginning Sept. 10, the estimated 550,000 people worldwide who take the Graduate Record Examination each year can expect a revamped test to replace the current one.

The new test will be administered less frequently and differently, creating a longer and more difficult test to deter skewed results from repeated exposure to the same questions.

To phase in the new system and ensure an adequate amount of students will take the first exams offered, no tests will be given after July 31 until the new test’s September release date.

Since a new scoring scale has to be calibrated based on this group, test results for those taking the new GRE will not be released until November.

Following a breach of security in Asia four years ago where test questions were posted online, the Educational Testing Service, which manages the GRE, began evaluating ways the test could be modified to virtually eliminate any opportunity to cheat.

The test will be given at less frequent intervals, so identical questions will no longer be posed at different test sessions.

Instead of being offered almost daily, its administration will be cut back to around 30 times per year.

Still computerized, instead of automatically assessing the test-taker’s ability and adjusting questions’ difficulty levels accordingly, the new test will present the same set of questions to each individual.

Since the test will need to be more comprehensive, covering all levels of difficulty, the length of the exam will be extended from two-and-a-half hours to more than four.

While the near doubling of the test length might seem like a drawback, Dawn Piacentino, associate director of the GRE program at ETS, said there are certain parts of the new system that are more test-taker friendly.

“The reason the test will be longer is because (the current test) hones in on a test-taker’s ability level quickly, and it looks at how they are responding to the questions,” she said. “The test will be longer, however, with (the current) test, you have to answer each question in the order you receive it, so you can’t omit questions or go back and change an answer.”

Questions will be changed to reflect typical graduate program studies, focusing more on cognitive skills and thereby making the test a more accurate assessment of the student’s ability to thrive in such programs.

Analogies and antonyms will be replaced by critical reading and complex sentence completion in the verbal section of the test, while the quantitative portion will deal less with geometry and more with data interpretation and intricate word problems.

The analytical writing portion will still be graded on a zero to six scale, but essay prompts will be more specific. The actual essays will also be released along with writing scores.

Overall scores will fall in a range of 130 to 170 instead of the current 200 to 800.

About two-thirds of University graduate programs require prospective students to report GRE scores.

Andrea Scott, director of the graduate school office of admissions, said those who assess applicants might face challenges as the new system is integrated.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for the users, because of the change in the score scale, especially to interpret what it means,” she said.

ETS will offer admissions staff correlation tables to determine what score values are equivalent between new and old scales.

The comprehensiveness of the refurbished exam means students will need to set aside more study time, according to Susan Kaplan, director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

“What test-takers should think about is the content will be more challenging and the test will be longer,” she said. “They need to practice a lot to make sure they’re going to be comfortable.”

Since the current test will be in place until July 31, Kaplan encouraged those planning to take the exam to do so before the deadline.

GRE scores are valid for five years and those taking the current exam could likely avoid the new one.

“Everybody who’s planning to take it before it changes (should) sign up and register now because test days will fill up,” she said.

Child psychology senior Heidi Flessert said she is not bothered by the GRE modifications, since the test is mandatory for the child psychology graduate program she plans to enter.

Flessert opted to wait and take the new test to ensure adequate preparation time.

“I thought about trying to take it earlier in the summer,” she said. “But as soon as the semester got underway, I was so busy that I would’ve had no time to study for it.”

Kaplan recommends students allow themselves at least three months to prepare for the exam and utilize resources like practice tests, especially considering format changes.

“The practice test is a great first step in getting to know your strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “It helps you identify what you need to work on most to be successful.”