GRE held until 2007 to inhibit cheating

By Bridget Maiellaro

The Educational Testing Service has postponed the introduction of their revised Graduate Record Examination General Test, better known as the GRE, until Fall 2007 in order to ensure that enough testing facilities are available to students.

“Because we are moving to an Internet-based test, we need to make absolutely sure that we have enough seats for testees,” said David Payne, executive director of the GRE.

The Educational Testing Service, a nonprofit institution, chose to revise the test after increased security concern due to reusing test questions.

Some of these major security issues took place in Taiwan, China and Korea, where some students posted answers on the Internet after taking the exams, giving unfair advantages to those who had seen the questions on the Internet.

“Their scores started to improve, so we stopped giving them the computerized test,” Payne said. “We began to use the paper test and administered it two times a year, and the countries went back to their historical scores.”

The current GRE questions are tailored to each student’s performance on previous questions. The updated test will be linear and have the same questions for every test taker on a given day. The questions will not be reused, and tests will be administered at different times in different time zones so that questions can not be passed on to those testing later in the day.

“Not reusing questions will enhance test security,” said Abbie Broga, director of the University’s Testing Center. “The challenge, I think, for trying to do it all at the same time, globally, is that it’s very difficult to select times that are truly convenient worldwide.”

Students like Micaela Smith, junior in ALS, who plans to take the revised GRE in Fall 2007, feel that the changes in format will prevent students from cheating on the exam.

“It’s a great way to rid the test of cheating and make it more challenging,” she said. “People won’t try finding ways to get around it as easily.”

The Internet-based test will also have increased security. The Educational Testing Service will send encrypted questions to computer centers nationwide that can only be unencrypted when they arrive at the other end, Payne said.

“Our security over the Internet is higher than financial transactions made over the Internet,” he said. “It exceeds all expectations.”

Another important change is that the administration of the test will be changed from dates personally chosen by students to set days chosen by the service.

“For students, the challenge will be taking the test when it’s offered, not when it’s convenient,” Broga said. “It remains to be seen how convenient it will be to do it just on certain days and times.”

Each section of the revised exam will also undergo changes. The verbal reasoning section will consist of two 40-minute sessions, instead of one 30-minute session. The quantitative reasoning section will change from a 45-minute session into two 40-minute sessions. The analytical writing measure will shorten from one 45-minute essay and one 30-minute essay into two 30-minute essays. With these changes, the test will extend in length from about two and a half hours to almost four hours.

“It seems like the length will make students study harder,” Smith said. “Students might not even want to take it.”

The new GRE is designed to increase test validity, provide faculty with better information regarding applicants’ performance, address security concerns, increase worldwide access to the test, and make better use of advances in technology and psychometric design, according to the Educational Testing Service’s Web site.

“The test hopefully will give students an opportunity to really display their knowledge and their abilities,” Broga said.