Students to take a new GRE exam

The Educational Testing Service’s Graduate Record Examination will now be four hours long, and there will be changes in each section to increase the accuracy of percentile rankings. The changes will affect anyone who takes the test after Aug. 1.

The current test, which is three hours long, will be changed to a four hour long test to assess one’s endurance and stamina. The types of questions on the verbal and quantitative sections have changed.

Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep, said the new test corrects many flaws with the current version.

Weiss said the biggest reason for the changes is an issue with the scoring scale. Currently, a perfect score on the math section only puts a student in the 94th percentile, while a 730 out of 800 on the verbal section puts a student in the 99th percentile.

Weiss said students should sign up for the GRE soon if they wish to take the current version before the test changes.

“This is the only time in the history of the test where you have an option between which version you want to take, so we want to make sure students know about that,” Weiss said. “If they want to take the current test, time is running out to do so.”

The verbal section will include in-context vocabulary questions to test reasoning as opposed to questions on analogies and antonyms. The quantitative section will include less geometry, but more data analysis and a short answer section.

Students will also be allowed to skip questions and return to them later on during the test. Cara Murayama, a senior majoring in public policy, planning and management who took the GREs in November 2010, said she wished she had this option.

“Sometimes I would just guess because I would think I didn’t have enough time,” Murayama said.  “You never know if the next ones were going to be harder and if I needed to spend more time on them.”

Currently, the test is set on a 200- to 800-point scoring scale in 10-point increments. The revised test will be on a 130- to 170-point scale in one-point increments.

According to Shayna Kessel, a pre-graduate school adviser at the USC Office of College Advising, graduate schools are relying on test scores for admission more than ever.

“It concerns me that the days of being able to seriously consider and admit the total student seem to be coming to an end in many programs,” Kessel wrote in an e-mail. “I’m also concerned that genuinely talented, qualified students will find themselves essentially locked out of good graduate programs if they can’t manage to do very well on the GRE.”

Robert Rueda, a professor at the Rossier School of Education, said he does not think standardized tests evaluate everyone fairly.

“We get some people whose first language isn’t English that are otherwise competent students, and they tend not to do as well on standardized tests,” Rueda said. “In general, it’s just not predictive.”

Instead, Rueda said he would be in favor of tests that evaluate writing ability like reacting to research articles.

According to Weiss, many schools do not yet have a transition plan for comparing scores of the new test to the old one. When the new test scores are released in November 2011, ETS will provide a concordance table to compare the scores between both versions.

There will be a free version of the current GRE offered online at today at 4 p.m. Anyone who takes this will be e-mailed links to practice for the new GRE.