Test preparation representatives are advising students to take the Graduate Records Examination and the Law School Admission Test before they change format in 2007.
Scores on the GRE and the LSAT are a large factor in acceptance to universities, sometimes counting towards 50 percent of admission board decisions.
Changes to the GRE
The Education Testing Service, which administers the GRE, announced that a new version of the examination will be introduced beginning in September 2007.
The GRE is currently a computer adaptive test, meaning that the level of difficulty of each question asked is based on the test-taker’s performance on the previous question. This method of questioning makes each test unique to the individual who takes it.
Due to security concerns and Internet postings of test questions, the new version of the GRE will no longer be adaptive, but will ask a larger assortment of questions at varying levels of difficulty.
“Everyone takes the same test now, so there’s no incentive to cheat,” said Shawn Lynch, assistant director for marketing at Princeton Review, a company whose services include test preparation.
In addition to changes in format, ETS said that the content of the GRE will change in order to become a more accurate predictor of student performance in graduate school. The quantitative section will shift its focus from geometry to more questions involving data interpretation and real-life scenarios, and the verbal section will be geared more towards assessing a student’s critical reading skills rather than his or her vocabulary
“The change is good,” said Mehmet Akincilar, a graduate student who already took the GRE. “I am a foreigner, so the vocabulary was the hardest part for a person planning on studying abroad in the U.S.”
In light of these changes, Princeton Review and Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions are advising students to take the test before it changes.
“We would certainly recommend that people take [the GRE] before it changes,” said Susan Kaplan, director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. “The new exam is longer and with the new content will be more difficult.”
Changes to the LSAT
The LSAT is made up of six different parts, which include analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, an experimental section, reading comprehension and a writing sample. The changes to the LSAT will impact the reading comprehension and writing sections.
“Not only will the test become harder but law school is becoming harder, so the test has to change,” Lynch said.
The modification to the reading comprehension section includes the introduction of comparative reading, which consists of two short passages that test takers will have to relate in order to answer questions. Currently the reading comprehension section consists of four passages and test takers are not required to make comparisons between them.
“[The LSAT] is already very difficult to understand, so to have to read and compare is too much to ask from students that have not yet been trained in legal reasoning,” said Jonathan Wright, a first year law student.
The writing section of the exam will also undergo a change in format. The current LSAT asks students to respond to a randomly assigned argument prompt, which asks the student to construct a legal argument, or a decision prompt, in which the student must evaluate a given argument. The new version of the exam will only include a decision prompt.
“So that’s good news, because students will only have to prepare for one type of question,” said Ben Baron, vice president of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. “The bad news is that students that are better at preparing an argument question will lose that opportunity.”
Princeton Review and Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions recommend that students take advantage of the current LSAT while it lasts.
“At Kaplan we are advising that students, as long as they have the time to fully prepare for the test, should take the test before it changes,” Baron said. “When you’re taking a standardized test, you don’t want any surprises. When the test changes it creates uncertainty.”
For more information, visit www.lsac.org for the LSAT and www.ets.org/gre for the GRE.
Score range will change from 200-800 to 130-170
Scale will change from 10-point
to 1-point increments
Will be administered about 30
times per year
Test time will jump from two to
New comparative reading
Argument writing prompt to be eliminated
Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.