Friday, October 21, 2005

GREater Than

Next October ETS is rolling out a new and improved GRE (via).  Allow me to break it down for you.

The press release tells us this: Old GRE < New GRE

The soon-to-be-former GRE ran 2.5 hours split out like so:
Verbal 30 minutes
Quantitative 45 minutes
Writing 75 minutes
(These are approximations pieced together from what few clues I could gather.)

The new and improved GRE will run just about 4 hours split out this way:
Verbal 80 minutes (2x40)
Quantitative 80 minutes (2x40)
Writing 60 minutes (2x30)

The new test will move completely online; it will be offered just 29 times per year with fresh content, nothing duplicated from previous tests, and so on.  Thursday's press release credits David Payne, ETS's Director of the GRE Program, with this: "The new test will emphasize complex reasoning skills that are closely aligned to graduate work."  How should we read the justificatory filling of the release against the redistributed minutes-on-task?  And how will the 70+ doctorate-granting programs in rhetoric and composition respond?  Will the GRE continue to play its time-honored role in admission to any of these programs?  What other questions?

Notably, the 30-minute analytical "essays" will now be visible to the graduate admissions side.  How will these writing samples be understood/interpreted/used by various programs?  And when will the writing opportunity come up in the 4 hour examination? 

I'm not trying to begrudge the GRE its overhaul, but I am interested in the way these changes--changes explained as "a more accurate gauge"--imply unaddressed shifts in what is being assessed.  The first time I took the GRE in 1996, writing wasn't a part of the test.  Instead there was a logic and analytical reasoning section and I fared pretty well on that section--better, in fact, than on any other section of the exam.  When I took the GRE again in 2004, ETS was using the analytical writing section, but the scores were irregular, according to the results, because the sample of test-takers was yet too insignificant to normalize the scale.  Whether my score was relatively normal or not, the writing section was memorably challenging.  It capped the exam; after more than an hour of verbal and quantitative items: fizzle.  And now, to think of writing a pair of 30-minute analytical mini-essays after nearly three hours of verbal and quantitative problems.  Is this the part most "closely aligned to graduate work"?

Bookmark and Share Posted by at October 21, 2005 8:45 AM to Academe

hey man, this is bad news... i am done with all my prep for gre and i certainly don want the pattern to be changed... guess i will havn to go through the rigours once again... now that sucks.

Posted by: tanuj at October 27, 2005 6:28 AM

You've got a year before the changes take effect.

Posted by: Derek at October 27, 2005 9:06 PM