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Attention Prospective Grad School Students: the GRE's a Changin'

Applying to graduate school is totally en vogue these days for those seeking refuge from the current, inhospitable job market. If you count...

Applying to graduate school is totally en vogue these days for those seeking refuge from the current, inhospitable job market. If you count yourself in that number, here's some standardized test-related news that might interest you: The SAT of even higher learning, the Graduate Record Examination, is getting a makeover.Pesky question sets believed to prize memorization over reasoning-analogies and the oft-dreaded antonyms-are set to disappear. In their place, the verbal section will contain more reading comprehension. Similarly the quantitative section will deemphasize geometry, meaning you may not have to relearn that the sides of a 30-60-90 right triangle are in a ratio of 1: root 3:2. Also, math questions on the computer-adaptive version of the test will allow you to use an onscreen calculator to crunch numbers.No one likes a person who brags about his or her test scores, and beginning in the fall of 2011, GRE test takers who do so will be confronted with quizzical looks. Among the more global changes the test will undergo is a revised grading scale for its verbal and quantitative sections: from 130 to 170 (as opposed to 200 to 800). The overall length of the test will increase a bit, from three hours to nearly four. And lastly, and probably most importantly, test takers will be able to skip questions and come back to them. That's a huge perk from a time management perspective since there is a penalty for leaving questions unanswered.David Payne, who heads up the GRE program for the Educational Testing Service, says the scoring of the test needed to change so that admissions officers didn't attach too much significance to 20- to 30-point differences in students' test scores. He told Inside Higher Ed that the test would be "much friendlier" to those taking it, and that the changes would make it more competitive with the GMAT, which is typically necessary for admission into MBA programs.As someone who recently flexed my rusty standardized testing skills on the GRE, I am a little jealous that I can't take the 2011 version. Not having to relearn long-lost formulas or a whole set of vocabulary words not used in common English (even by journalists) means the test will more accurately measure a person's ability to reason. Also, because the current version doesn't allow for optimal time management-since you cannot skip questions-I think the testmakers are correct to worry about its precision at scores within 20 or 30 points.Overall, it seems like the test may actually turn out to be something admission officers can use to make relatively fair comparisons in the future, rather than as a general measure of competence.Which test would you rather take?

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