I had posted couple of articles on why students should register to take current GRE format. Since then I received many emails from prospective student to help them decide about which GRE pattern will be easier to get high score.
So, I requested Daniel to give his thoughts. This article will clear most of your dilemma. In case if you have missed those 2 articles, here is the link to them
Following is Guest post by Daniel Chatham is Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences.
Standardized test changes
Whenever a standardized test changes format, delivery, or scoring, applicants can feel uncertain about how the changes affect them, which version to take (if they have a choice), and how the information will be used by adcoms (admission committee). This uncertainty and confusion can be frustrating and is unnecessary.
The GRE General Test is being revised and will change in August 2011. Changes include changed question types, more flexibility for the test taker, and a new scoring scale, among others. Educational Testing Service does a nice job describing the changes online at http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/know.
From the admissions committee perspective, there are several positive effects brought about by the changes.
Preview and Review
Preview and review within a section, “mark and review”, and change / edit answers within a section should end the occasional when an applicant tries to explain weak scores by saying something like “I missed one question early on and it messed me up for the rest of the section”.
Verbal Reasoning Section
Changes to this section provide better mechanisms to assess ability according to how language is used and challenges you can expect to face as a student after enrollment. Adcoms may develop an increased sense of validity in this part of the test, when compared to the older version. This section is more true to life so we will likely have more confidence in these scores.
Quantitative Reasoning Section
On-screen calculator – it’s 2010 and when do we ever get into a situation where we have to do math using only a pen and paper? This change allows the test environment to more closely mimic the regular environment you face during school and in your career. It is a good change but will take practice for candidates to get used to using the user interface. Adcoms will not want to hear applicants say they had trouble with the on-screen calculator. Practice, practice, practice.
The question format changes also portend an increased difficulty level and may help spread out the score cluster we see at the top of the current GRE Q section. Adcoms would expect to see fewer perfect scores on this section. I personally believe this section will be a better indicator of one’s true ability than it is now.
Analytical Writing Measure
This section replaces the former AWA section and will take some use by adcoms to develop stronger sense of how much weight to put into the scores. Some adcoms disregard this section entirely, while others consider it vital, and yet others use it in conjunction with other required application materials to develop understanding of a candidate’s communication skills.
When standardized tests change score scales there is usually a concordance table created that allows comparison across versions (Google “TOEFL score conversion” for an example). While these are helpful tools, there is already a mechanism that allows easy comparison: the percentile scores. Over time, the scaled scores move, but the comparison with all other test takers in a given year remains valid and is conveyed via the percentile scores. Adcoms sometimes look at older scores according to the percentiles rather than the raw score.
Adcoms will not likely recommend candidates take a particular version and will likely leave the decision to applicants. For their part, adcoms must ensure that all candidates have a fair chance of earning admission and will strive to give the scores appropriate consideration, regardless of format.
Take the test you think you will do better at. It sounds simple, but that strategy will help you score best. If you feel most comfortable with the current version, take it. If you feel that you would be rushed and have inadequate time to prepare for the current version, consider preparing for the revised GRE.
Applicants should put forward their very strongest application, regardless of test or test format.
Daniel Chatham is Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences and a member of the board of directors of the National Professional Science Masters Association. He has been in graduate and business school admissions since 2001 and is on twitter at @danielchatham and blogs at insidetheadcom.com.