Paper, Pencil Becoming Passe at Exams: Graduate School Aspirants Rush to Avoiid Computer Tests

By Billups, Andrea | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 10, 1999 | Go to article overview

Paper, Pencil Becoming Passe at Exams: Graduate School Aspirants Rush to Avoiid Computer Tests


Billups, Andrea, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The No. 2 pencil is no longer No. 1 with test-takers.

Today marks the last time the Graduate Record Exam will be offered on paper. The exam, which is required by most colleges and universities for entrance into graduate school, is following a series of well-known standardized tests that have switched to the computer.

"It's a new medium, and other than a few people who have had to take driver's licensing exams on computer, it's unfamiliar to everyone," says Trent Anderson, the executive director for graduate programs at Kaplan, the nation's largest test-preparation company. "We're going on to the next evolution where more tests will be computer-based."

Many aspiring graduate students have had a few years to get used to the GRE's computer test format. The test has been offered on computer since 1994 as an option to the traditional paper version, he said.

Two students who are registered for today's GRE exam - and who work with computers in their jobs - say they are glad to be able to take the test the old-fashioned way, filling in their answers by hand rather than clicking them on screen with a mouse.

"I think it's more fair," said Erik Barrows, a 27-year-old computer programmer from Bristol, Conn., who plans to study neuroscience in graduate school. "On the paper test, you can skip questions and go back or go back and change your answers - think about it for a while. On the computer test, you can't go back. You have to do what they say."

Yara Stevens, who works at a San Diego computer software company, says she rushed to make sure she could take the last paper GRE because that format is more familiar. If it were up to her, that option would not be taken away.

"With a computer test, it seems like there are more variables other than how much time you studied or prepared," said Miss Stevens, 23, who plans to work on a master's degree in economics at San Diego State University this fall. "Doing well will become a matter of how quick you are on the computer, how well you read on a screen. I would especially fear taking the reading comprehension section because I like to take notes and circle words. You can't do that with a computer."

About 400,000 students take the GRE each year. It is not the first standardized admissions or licensing test to make the switch.

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, required for admission to business schools, was last taken on paper in June 1997. …

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