January 27, 2006

Test Takers to Face New GRE in October

Print More

There is still time.

Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions recommends that students prepare for the Graduate Record Examination for at least three months. With eight months until the newly designed GRE exam is given, students have ample opportunity to avoid last minute cramming.

Last fall, Educational Testing Services announced plans to alter the current GRE. Last week, ETS released more detailed information about the exam’s modifications, all of which will impact test takers, graduate admission officials and test prep services.

David Payne, executive director of the GRE program in ETS’s Higher Education Division, said, “These changes are intended to make the GRE General Test a more accurate gauge of how qualified prospective students are to do graduate-level work.”

When the new exam is first offered in October, it will have a scoring delay and a higher cost.

In the past, GRE test takers received scores upon exam completion. The new scoring scale will not be finalized until after the first three exam administrations.

Matt Filder, head of GRE programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, explained, “They are keeping the scores back to utilize admissions to nail down the scoring scale. If you are working on a specific timeline, there might be a bit of lag.”

Filder urges students planning to take one of the first three exams to examine graduate school policies regarding the changes.

As for the rising costs, the ETS has yet to release solid figures; it has been confirmed, however, that fees will increase.

Exam content will change too, with the addition of question types never before seen on the GRE. Test takers will face sentence completion questions asking them to select two of six answer choices that best represent the same meaning.

The quantitative section will also change. With the addition of complex word-based problems, students will be tested on math literacy in the form of quantitative word problems. This skill may be difficult for test takers who speak English as a second language.

To answer these math literacy problems, test takers must display a “mastery of the math concept and an understanding of the verbal vehicle that the math is describing,” Filder said. “You have to be able to understand the word problem itself so that you can translate it into math skills.”

With a new scoring scale, admissions departments will undergo an initial period of confusion. Graduate schools, forced to compare new test scores with old test scores, will inevitably have questions.

“How will they treat an old versus new score? How much weight will they give the new test versus the old test?” Filder asked. ETS hopes to release answers to these questions sometime during the next month.

The new GRE will also nearly double in length to four hours and exams will be administered less frequently. Analogies and antonyms will be eliminated, while critical reading problems emphasized. As for the quantitative section, geometry problems will be removed to make room for data interpretation questions that present students with real-life scenarios.

“The new test will emphasize complex reasoning skills that are closely aligned to graduate work,” Payne said. “We’ll include more real-life scenarios and data interpretation questions, and new, more focused writing questions