Those planning on taking the Graduate Record Examinations in fall 2011 will have to study for a whole new test, as the Educational Testing Service has announced plans to dramatically change the format of the 59-year-old exam.
These changes include a reworking of both the math and English sections of the exam, a narrower scoring range and the ability for test takers to now skip and return to questions.
Anthony Ahn, a director for graduate programs for Kaplan and an instructor for the GRE exam, said these changes were the “most significant changes since the exam was introduced.”
ETS’s main motivations for the change, according to Ahn, were to give a test that better evaluates students and to improve overall test security. This security lies in the hope that the acceptance of the more difficult GRE will become an alternative to the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), and spread to further graduate schools, as well as increase the overall number of students taking the exam.
The math portion of the electronic exam will see the addition of an online calculator for the test-takers’ use, enabling the test to have math problems more complex than the formerly straightforward ones.
In addition, the English section of the exam will no longer have antonym and analogy questions.
According to Ahn, the idea is to be less vocabulary intensive and place a higher emphasis on reading comprehension.
Scoring on the exam will also narrow from 10-point intervals in the 200-800 scoring range to the one-point intervals of 130-170. This will mean that the new exam will have a closer scoring range between the possible lowest and highest scores achieved on the exam, narrowing it by 20 points.
This will make it “a little bit more challenging for a student to make a stand-out score,” Ahn said about the point changes. In addition, students will now be able to skip questions and return to them later on, and change their answers after already responding.
The new changes were “something we have been brewing for a long time,” Ahn said.
Meredith Nussbaum, a junior at Binghamton University who plans to take the GRE next year, sees the changes in the GRE as beneficial.
“OK, I like that,” she said, regarding the availability of an online calculator. “In the practical world you’re not going to be stuck without a calculator if you’re in a job that requires you to do math regularly, and the use of a calculator will hopefully help students to avoid making stupid mistakes in their basic arithmetic.”
She also thought the changes in the English portion of the exam would make it more practical.
“You could know all the big fancy words in the dictionary,” she said, “but if you don’t know what a sentence is trying to convey to you, knowing the meaning of superfluous is well … superfluous.”