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New-look GRE braces innovation

July 21, 2011 13:06 IST
Proposed format to have real-life scenarios that mirror the kind of thinking students need at graduate-level work

Shed the crammers tag and move beyond mugging up text books to merely score big, instead understand the subject and come up with something innovative.

Realising the significance of out-of-the box thinking, Educational Testing Service (ETS), the developer and administrator of the Graduation Record Examination (GRE), has decided to get rid of the 'Chaturs' — of the 3 Idiots fame — and have opened the doors for the Ranchos.

ETS believes the new test will be more user friendly and flexible providing the test takers the freedom to use more of their own test-taking style and strategies.

"This is the most significant change the test is going through. Test takers will find new types of questions and more real-life scenarios that mirror the kind of thinking they will do with graduate-level work. It will be more focused on skills students will need for admission to graduate and business schools," says Dawn S Piacentino, Director, Communications and Services, GRE programme.

The new format of the computer-based GRE general test will allow students to move back and forth throughout an entire section to change or edit responses, even skip questions and attempt them later — a feature not available earlier.

"The emphasis is on complex reasoning skills. We are removing antonyms and analogies from the test and adding more text-based material. We are also adding some new question types and some new computer-enabled tests," he added.

But, what made ETS change the format?

In 2006, Graduate Management Admission council (GMAC), the administrators of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), severed its decade-long partnership with ETS and joined hands with a new testing administrator, Pearson VUE.

Soon after, ETS entered the B-school market selling the product as an alternative to GMAT, as it no longer had to abide by a non-compete clause with its former partner. When ETS approached B-schools, the management institutions wanted GRE to be along the lines of an MBA aptitude test. "The earlier format tested the memory of the student more than their capability of reasoning. That is when GRE must have thought of bringing about the changes," says Ashish Sinha, Course Director, TIME, Hyderabad.

With MBA programmes across the world looking for a diverse and excellent pool of candidates, B-schools have begun accepting GRE scores too. GRE was traditionally required to pursue Masters of Science degrees in the US, and graduate and fellowship programmes across the globe.

"We believe using GRE scores allows us to tap into a market of students who already plan to take the GRE and may see the GMAT as a hindrance four or five years after graduating from college," says Christine E Sneva, acting director of admissions and financial aid at the Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University.

So far 600 B-schools are accepting GRE scores, including five Indian B-schools. In 2010, the GRE General Test was taken by around 6,75,000 candidates from across 230 countries. There has been a 13 per cent increase in GRE General Test volume from 2009, with a very significant growth in number of test takers from India and China.

According to the revised format, the overall testing time is about three hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections in the revised test — one analytical writing section with two separately-timed writing tasks; two verbal reasoning sections; two quantitative reasoning sections and one unscored section.

The analytical writing section will always appear first, while the other five sections may appear in a random order. Test takers will get a 10-minute break following the third section and a one-minute break between the remaining sections.

A key change to the quantitative section is that an on-screen calculator will be available to help students with the quantitative reasoning test. "This will reduce the emphasis on computation and focus the test takers attention to quantitative reasoning skills," adds Piacentino.

The analytical writing section has undergone the least amount of change. Here, the test takers will be asked to provide much more focussed responses against what was the case earlier. There is also a change in the scoring methodology. Both verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning scores will be reported on a new 130-170 score scale, in one-point increments (against the 200-800 in 10-point increments of the existing GRE General Test).
Kalpana Pathak Mumbai
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