Students who are applying for graduate school may feel more pressure after 2011, when the Educational Testing Service will revitalize the old Graduate Record Exam with the largest update in 59 years.
The GRE is a nationwide test used in graduate school admissions, and it includes four sections generally administered on a computer. The update will adjust the assessment’s scoring scale, content, navigation abilities and tools.
“Rather than being scaled from 200 to 800 [points], the GRE will be scaled from 130 to 170,” said Andrew Mitchell, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions’ director of graduate programs. “With smaller increments, ETS intends to represent applicants’ scores more concisely, as opposed to larger, vaguer numbers.”
While the new test could serve as a better indicator of students’ abilities to graduate schools, it will also present student applicants with many new obstacles, Mitchell added.
A new challenge on the GRE includes the addition of a calculator, which the ETS says will realistically illustrate students’ abilities, as if they would be computing in a graduate school setting, according to Mitchell.
Data interpretation and critical thinking skills will also be emphasized over geometric skills because the GRE is becoming increasingly popular as a replacement test offered instead of the Graduate Management Admission Test for business schools.
“[Kaplan] surveyed 260 schools this summer, and we found that one-quarter of business schools are accepting the GRE,” Mitchell said. “The nature of math questions will change and focus more on higher-level skills. It’s going to make this test harder.”
In addition, the verbal section will phase out from the current antonym and analogy questions. Instead, reading comprehension and critical thinking will be assessed to a greater extent, Mitchell added.
At the graduate school in the University of Wisconsin, the GRE is required for applying to only a portion of the departments. However, scores hold varying levels of significance depending on the department.
In the graduate school for microbiology, the GRE is required, but not the most emphasized piece of the application.
“[The test is] significant to a point, but we are much more concerned with research experience and training to evaluate the student’s ability and desire to do research,” said professor of microbiology Diana Downs.
The revised GRE will also serve as a better indicator for comprehension of data analysis to the department.
The School of Nursing requires the GRE only in its Ph.D. department, according to Gale Barber, assistant dean for academic programs in the school. Barber indicated the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE best reveal the applicant’s experience in nursing — sections that will increase in rigor on the new exam.
She also noted the majority of applicants are accepted based on their reasons for studying, references, experience, test scores and compatibility between students’ interests and professors’ areas of expertise.
Mitchell added the length of the test is likely to increase. A new feature of the GRE will let students skip between questions.