Educational Testing Services will postpone changes to the Graduate Record Exam that were originally set to take effect next fall and will instead launch the new exam in October 2007, the organization announced last month.
Tom Ewing, an spokesman for ETS – the nonprofit group that designs the test – said the decision was due to the logistics of implementing Internet-based testing. ETS currently has 557 computer-based testing sites, but by the time of the launch of the new test, ETS wants to have more than 25,000 computer-based testing centers worldwide. Under the changes, any university computer lab with an Internet connection can be converted into a testing center.
Ewing added more time is needed to expand the number of Internet testing centers and to gain experience administering a test over the Internet. ETS’s Test of English as a Foreign Language exam and GRE are the first standardized tests to be administered over the Internet.
“We were waiting for the technology to catch up with us. If anyone could deliver a largescale test over the Internet, it would be us,” Ewing said.
Ewing said there will be no further changes made to the content of the exam beyond those that were first announced this fall. The verbal section of the new test emphasizes analytical writing and critical reading, and the quantitative section emphasizes word problems and data interpretation.
While the current form of the GRE is administered daily, the new exam will be offered only 30 times a year. The new test will be four hours long – up from two and a half hours long.
The ETS Web site said the new GRE is designed to increase the test’s validity, improve test security and increase worldwide access to the test.
Kristin Williams, GW’s director of Graduate Student Enrollment Management, said she supports ETS’s decision to delay the changes. Williams said ETS’s problems with administering the TOEFL exam over the Internet raised concerns over an Internet-based GRE and made a delay advisable.
Although she said the new scoring system will make the exam an administrative hassle, Williams said she does not yet know if the exam will better measure how qualified a student is for graduate school.
Williams de-emphasized the test’s importance to GW graduate schools and stressed that the uncertainty surrounding a new exam will only decrease the importance of the GREs in admissions decisions.
“We look at the whole package,” she said. “Because it will be a new test score, I think even more than before faculty will look at the whole person more closely.”
Liz Wands, Princeton Review’s national director of graduate programs, said the Princeton Review does not believe the new test is a better measure of a student’s qualifications. The Princeton Review is advising students to take the exam before the changes are implemented in October 2007.
Wands said the Princeton Review thinks the changes are being postponed because ETS has not been able to collect data affirming the test’s increased validity..
Some GW students avoided the changes altogether by taking the exam earlier than they would normally. Junior Kristin Weis said many of her friends decided to take the exam during their junior year.
Weis said, “The old GRE has more multiple choice questions and is more straightforward, so we thought it was easier to prepare for.”