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Changes in store for the 2011 GRE

   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Educational Testing Service, which administers the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the graduate school entrance test, announced earlier this month that the exam will be revamped and slightly lengthened in 2011 and graded on a new scale of 130 to 170. The changes are reportedly “the largest revisions” in the history of the test according to the Council of Graduate Schools.

More than 600,000 potential graduate students, worldwide, take the GRE each year.

The reformatted exam will still include sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing, but each section is being revised. The new verbal section will eliminate antonym and analogy questions. On the quantitative section, there will be an online calculator added to the screen and test. The writing section will still have two parts, one asking for a logical analysis and the other seeking an expression of the student’s own views.

“The biggest difference is that the prompts the students will receive will be more focused, meaning that our human raters will know unambiguously that the answer was written in response to the question, not memorized,” David G. Payne, who heads the GRE program for the ETS stated in a recent New York Times piece.

Payne also clarified security measures to be incorporated into the new format. Every two hours, new content will be introduced and the order of the questions will scramble every two hours.

Also, the new test will be three and a half hours. This is a 30-minute extension from the current format.

The exam is a “computer adaptive” test, so that a correct answer to one question leads to a more difficult question in follow up. An incorrect answer shifts the sequence to a simpler question. In 2011, the computer adaptive element will not occur on a question-by-question basis, rather section by section. This change will allow students to skip around in answering questions in a given section, compared to the current linear model used.

The current GRE scale runs from 200 to 800, with 10-point increments that may represent only one additional correct answer. The new scoring scale will have one-point increments.

Neil Seltzer, head of the GRE program for the Princeton Review, believes the changes are a marketing effort, to compete with the GMAT test, used for admission to business schools. The ETS lost the contract for administering the GMAT in 2006 to Pearson. Since then, ETS has been increasingly successful marketing the G.R.E. to business schools as an alternative admissions test, and currently 20 percent of business schools are accepting the GRE as a substitute for the GMAT.

The ETS has previous announced revisions twice. First, in 2005, a revision and lengthening to four hours was expected in 2006. Due to technical issues the implementation was delayed until 2007 before it was canceled altogether.

For more information about topics of interest to graduate students, check out:

What is the GRE?

What is the GMAT?

There is more to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 than student loan changes

Janelle Jalbert is the founder of Edusistance and the creator of the Race to College Success program. She has been an educator and advisor for more than a decade. You can reach Janelle by email, follow her on Twitter @RacetoCollege or @edusistance, and add yourself as a fan of the Race to College Success Facebook page.




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