Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Facelift for the GRE

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Facelift for the GRE

Article excerpt

Updated exam, along with new Personal Potential Index assessment, expected to help close the achievement gap for minority graduate school applicants.

When the Educational Testing Service next summer launches its new GRE - the standardized test required for admission to many graduate schools in the U.S. - it will be more user-friendly. It will provide a different grading scale, 30 to 45 minutes of added time and a new option allowing test takers to move between questions within sections of the test.

ETS officials say the changes, which debut in August, have been in the works for several years and were made to ensure that the exam assesses the skills required of contemporary graduate students. Approximately 600,000 people take the GRE each year. The new test, officials say, will be a better assessment of students' analytical skills, not just their ability to memorize formulas.

"We want students to have a friendlier test-taking experience," says Dr. David G. Payne, vice president and chief operating officer for college and graduate programs at Princeton, N.J.-based ETS. "The current test is a little intimidating, in part because students can only answer the questions in front of them."

The new computer-generated exam allows students to move between sections and allows the use of onscreen calculators to answer math questions, a practice that was prohibited in the past.

"Our overall goal was to have test questions that were closer to the kind of questions graduate and MBA students were expected to do every day," Payne says.

The new exam may benefit minorities, especially when coupled with the Personal Potential Index (PPI), a new ETS web-based evaluation system that rates graduate applicants on specific personal attributes. Together, the two assessments could close the achievement gap between minority and nonminority graduate school applicants, ETS officials say. When officials piloted the new exam, minorities scored comparable to nonminorities.

According to ETS, White males score 100 points higher, on average, than minority men and both minority and nonminority women.

According to Payne, the GRE tests critical thinking skills and reasoning, which "are necessary but not sufficient" to achieving success in graduate school. The PPI, he says, captures other critical attributes, such as ethics, teamwork, resilience and lifelong work experience.

When schools use the PPI, the achievement gap is "significantly reduced compared (with) what you see on standardized test scores," he says. …

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