New grad school exam gets tested

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 9, 2011 - 9:10 PM

Add a calculator, a new scoring system and a half-hour. Subtract the section on antonyms and analogies.

The revised Graduate Record Examination -- better known as the GRE -- debuted last week.

The changes come after eight years of study and, as a whole, constitute the biggest revamp to the graduate school entrance test in decades.

The new test is meant to better "reflect the skills that students are going to use in graduate and business school," said Dawn Piacentino, director of communications and client services for Education Testing Services, the nonprofit that develops and administers the exam.

Take the on-screen calculator, for example. With it, the "quantitative reasoning" section becomes less about computation, she said, and more about reasoning. Other changes include the ability to go back and change answers within a section, more questions that require multiple correct answers and the elimination of antonyms and analogies.

Emily Combs is happy to hear that the test is now antonym-free. The third-year Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota is "very good at vocabulary in context," she said. "Out of context, it's a lot harder."

Combs is president of the Council of Graduate Students at the U. She's heard about lots of people -- including her sister -- rushing to take the old GRE before the new one came out. "It's just an unknown quantity," she said.

The test has new scoring. Before Aug. 1, verbal and math scores were given on a scale of 200 to 800. Now it's 130 to 170.

To accurately compare test-takers' scores, Education Testing Services is trying to get a big sample. Through September, the test is half-price.

"We need to set the scale with a very large group of people," Piacentino said.

Combs hopes that over the years, the revised GRE can prove that it predicts success.

"The current test is pretty predictive of student performance," she said. "Hopefully, this next one will be even better -- or at least the same."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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