Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

GRE to undergo revisions for next class of graduate students

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the standardized test which many graduate programs use in admissions similarly to the way colleges use the SAT in evaluating applicants, is undergoing a series of changes which will go into effect Aug. 1.

According to its site, the exam, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), will be designed in a more user-friendly manner and will provide test-takers a more comfortable, aesthetically-straightforward presentation. The Web-based exam will seek to provide would-be grad students “a friendlier, more flexible test design that gives [students] the freedom to use more of [their] own test-taking style and strategies.”

In addition, the revised test will incorporate a variety of new features including an on-screen calculator intended to assist students with the quantitative reasoning section of the exam, preview and review functions in each section of the test meant to allow students to review their responses before they submit, a “mark and review” function allowing exam-takers to tag and come back to questions giving them trouble, the ability to edit answers they’ve already marked and new sets of questions intended to “better reflect the skills [students will] need for graduate and business school.”

The changes will also encompass a newly-designed format for responses, “including tasks such as numeric entry and highlighting a sentence in a passage to answer a question,” and a final change intended to force students to rely less on vocabulary on its own, out of context in passages, longer passages intended to provide greater clarity, and the elimination of antonyms and analogies.

Beyond the elimination of vocabulary out of context, the GRE will now feature text completion questions examining students’ “ability to interpret, evaluate and reason from what [they]’ve read,” new sentence equivalence questions testing students’ aptitude at reaching conclusions on “how a sentence should be completed while focusing on the meaning of the whole sentence,” and more reading comprehension questions, including new kinds of such questions, “such as selecting multiple correct answer choices instead of just one, or highlighting a sentence within a reading passage to answer the question.”

The quantitative reasoning section of the exam will remain largely the same, but will place “increased emphasis on data interpretation and real-life scenarios.”

In anticipation of some potential complications stemming from the revision, ETS has launched a new free test-prep program, POWERPREP II, which gives students background on each section of the test, a test preview tool and a practice test. POWERPREP is available at the GRE’s website,

In terms of the actual structure of the exam, little is changing. The computer-based revised GRE will be comprised of six sections and, according to the ETS, should take about three hours, 45 minutes to complete, not including several brief breaks. The test is composed of one analytical writing section composed of two individually timed writing exercises, two verbal reasoning sections, two quantitative reasoning sections and one un-scored section, which ETS’ site says tends to be a verbal reasoning or quantitative reasoning section. The un-scored portion may appear at any time throughout the course of the exam.

Last, some test-takers may receive an “identified research section” which will not be scored. The analytical writing section will always be first; while the remainder of the sections will appear in no particular order, and an “analyze an issue,” segment will be shortened to 30 minutes in duration from 45. In addition to the issue-analysis, students will be complete a 30-minute “analyze an argument” task, two 30-minute verbal reasoning sections composed of about 20 questions per section and two quantitative reasoning sections of 20 questions per section, each lasting about half-an-hour. There will be a 10-minute break following the third section and one-minute breaks between the other sections. To be sure the changes are fair for all, the ETS states on its site that, before making changes, the organization sought the “involvement of minority educators and representative committees in every phase of the development and scoring processes,” put the test through “multiple fairness evaluations by trained reviewers,” and ensured that they provided “rigorous training for all persons involved in the development or scoring of test questions to ensure that all examinees have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities.”

To encourage students to take the revised exam quickly, the ETS is offering students who take the new version between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30 savings of 50 percent off the normal cost of the test. For those who need their scores before Nov. 1, the ETS recommends taking the old version. However, for students looking to save $80 off the normal cost of $160 to take the exam, signing up soon may be the best way to save.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected].


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    Waldemar GuteFeb 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Rather than worrying about changes to the GRE, this might be a good time to ask yourself if going to grad school is such a good idea.

    Here are 100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School: