Plans for Revamped G.R.E. Are Abandoned
After spending four years and $12 million on research, the Educational Testing Service has abandoned plans to introduce a revamped Graduate Record Exam this fall.
The new version, planned to be the biggest overhaul in the test’s history, was designed to prevent cheating and to produce a more accurate measure of students’ ability. But it would have been longer, more expensive and more difficult to administer.
It included revised sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing, totaling four hours in length. The current version is two and a half hours.
“The fundamental obstacle that we ran into was finding enough testing sites that we could ensure access for test takers around the world,” said David Payne, executive director of the G.R.E. program at the Educational Testing Service, in a telephone interview. “We know now that we simply can’t provide access for all the G.R.E. test-takers using that approach.”
The Educational Testing Service had wanted to administer the test on only 35 days a year. That would have allowed E.T.S. to create original tests for each day in the hopes of preventing cheating. In 2002, for instance, the testing service discovered that some people in China, Taiwan and South Korea had taken the test, memorized questions and answers and posted them on Web sites, allowing other students to log on and see the questions in advance.
E.T.S. ruled out increasing the number of testing days from 35, Mr. Payne said, because it would have been prohibitively expensive. “We simply can’t produce enough tests so that we have, say, 70 testing days,” he said.
Each year, some 500,000 students, 20 percent of them foreigners, take the G.R.E., a required entrance test to most graduate school programs in the arts and sciences. It has been offered for 60 years by E.T.S., a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and other tests.
The revamped test has been repeatedly delayed. E.T.S. first announced its plan in October 2005, estimating that new test would be administered beginning in October 2006. But in February 2006, the company revised the plan, saying that the test would begin in fall 2007.
The announcement yesterday caught many in the education establishment off guard. U.S. News & World Report published its widely read annual “America’s Best Graduate Schools” issue this week and included an article warning graduate students about the updated test set to make its debut in the fall.
Susan Kaplan, the director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, said Kaplan had been advising its clients to take the current version of the G.R.E. before the new version was put in place.
“We do think the new test would have been more challenging,” Ms. Kaplan said, adding that she welcomed the announcement. “It’s a positive thing that E.T.S. realized that the change would do more harm than good,” she said.
Robert Schaeffer, public education director at FairTest, a group that opposes the broad use of standardized testing, said E.T.S. had still left the security problems of its test unsolved.
“They’re now using a system that they’ve admitted is a security risk,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “It certainly is a further chink in their armor and undermines the credibility of their product.”
While the risk still remains, Mr. Payne said, he believes it has so far been limited to four countries in Asia.
“If that same behavior spread to the English-speaking world, that would pose a very serious security risk for us,” Mr. Payne said. “We monitor our G.R.E. scores regularly, and we see no evidence that there’s this type of organized sharing of memorized items. We consider it a threat that we’re constantly vigilant about.”