Greeting the new GRE revisions

It should be said up front that I never took the Graduate Record Exam. MFA programs are not, I think, noted for their insistence on past academic rigor; and in any event I was grateful for the University of San Francisco graduate school’s willingness to consider 45 years’ writing experience in lieu of my less than stellar undergraduate record. In the interest of higher education in general, though, I try to keep up with such things as this, just reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

After two false starts, the Graduate Record Exam, the graduate school entrance test, will be revamped and slightly lengthened in 2011 and graded on a new scale of 130 to 170.

On the quantitative section, the biggest change will be the addition of an online calculator. The writing section will still have two parts, one asking for a logical analysis and the other seeking an expression of the student’s own views.

One has to worry about that online calculator. I did indeed study math about the time of the abacus, but what’s the matter with adding and subtracting in the head? Maybe they just mean that some mysterious online genie will immediately calculate results.  Still, I am heartened that expressions of students’ own views will be sought.

The Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, described its plans Friday at the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools in San Francisco, calling the changes ‘the largest revisions’ in the history of the test.

Although the exam will still include sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing, each section is being revised. The new verbal section, for example, will eliminate questions on antonyms and analogies. The section will focus more on reasoning than on individual words, all of which will be used in context.

Personally, I think I could shine on antonyms and analogies, not to mention individual words, and hate to see them go. But reasoning is good.

‘The biggest difference is that the prompts the students will receive will be more focused, meaning that our human raters will know unambiguously that the answer was written in response to the question, not memorized,’ said David Payne, who heads the GRE program for the testing service.

If one worries about online calculators, one can only rejoice over the presence of human raters. Best, however, that one who is possessed of a perfectly respectable BA in Art and a fairly impressive MFA in short fiction, stay away from the GRE altogether.

GRE undergoes major revisions, gets new scale.

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