Amelia Carpenter

Miami University students headed for graduate school after completing undergraduate degrees will likely face major historical changes to the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) planned for 2011.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the administrator for the GRE, has proposed several changes to the test that would be the most drastic changes the GRE has seen in its 59 years.

Andrew Mitchell, director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions explained that the GRE is required for admission to most graduate schools other than business, medicine or law, which have their own standardized tests.

According to GRE’s Web site, “The GRE is designed to provide graduate schools with a common measure for comparing the qualifications of applicants. Schools also use GRE scores to determine eligibility for merit-based grants and fellowships, as well as teaching and research assistantships. The test is taken on the computer and scores are effective for five years.”

Mark McNutt, ETS spokesman, said it was time for change with the GRE.

“It was time to freshen it up so to speak,” McNutt said.

McNutt said ETS wanted to give fair warning for test takers and administrators, and decided to begin distributing the new exam in 2011.

Currently the GRE is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale with verbal, quantitative and analytical writing sections. One major proposed change is narrowing the scoring to a 130 to 170 point scale. Mitchell said this change will make it harder for students to stand out, but the reason for the scale change was to prevent people from “over-interpreting the scores.”

The revised GRE is going to be longer, and although still computer adapted, test takers will be able to skip and revisit questions within a section, according to Mitchell.

Ann Frymier, associate dean of graduate school at Miami University, said she thought this was a positive change.

“That change I think really will be beneficial to students,” Frymier said.

According to the Dec. 7 GRE press release, an online calculator will be added to the quantitative section that “will likely mean more straightforward math problems will be replaced by more complex ones.”

The quantitative section will also see less geometry and more data analysis.

“For a lot of people the quantitative section is intimidating, so in a way (the calculator) is another tool, but also it might mean the questions are more intimidating than they used to be,” Mitchell said.

Changes to the verbal section will include replacing antonym and analogy questions with reading comprehension questions, according to the press release.

Mitchell said the material would be hard to prepare for because it will focus on analyzing arguments and critical reasoning.

“It’s harder to cram for but takes preparation to get your high score,” Mitchell said.

Frymier and Bruce Cochrane, dean of the graduate school at Miami, said the analytical writing would see more focused topics, as there were problems with students memorizing essays before taking the exam.

McNutt said the time limit would increase from three hours to three and a half or three hours and 45 minutes with the changes.

Mitchell’s advice for students’ preparation and taking the exam was to beat the change.

“Students considering graduate school should take (the GRE) now before the change happens,” Mitchell.

In 2007, ETS had planned a substantial revision but decided to delay a vast array, only adding two question types, according to Mitchell.

“Some changes are like the ones to change in 2007,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said there is a possibility for a delay in the planned 2011 changes as well.

Students wanting to attend graduate school typically take the GRE their senior year, according to Mitchell.

Mitchell said preparing a year in advance and taking the exam senior year, while still in test taking and critical thinking mode, would be ideal.

One expected outcome of the changes to the GRE, according to Mitchell, was lower scores, as they saw after the addition of analytical writing in 2002.

“Scores tend to go down after a test change,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also said applicants might see test scores become more competitive making it harder to get ahead, and the test might be used more for admission to graduate business schools.

Currently, one-fourth of graduate business schools have been accepting the GRE for admission in addition to, or replacing the GMAT exam (a standardized test for graduate business programs), Mitchell said.

McNutt said approximately 300 MBA programs are accepting the GRE, and he believes that number will increase with the changes.

The GRE will not be the only means for admission into graduate school, however. Frymier cited several other criteria.

“GPA, letters of recommendation and personal statements will play a big part in the application process,” Frymier said.