Computerized GRE Scoring Errors

University Testing

After years of denial, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has acknowledged that the computerized format of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) mis-assesses some test-takers. ETS now admits that scores for students who carefully answer questions at the beginning of the exam but guess quickly at the end as they run out of time may be inaccurate. The same problem exists for those who answer difficult questions correctly but get generally easier ones wrong.


Flaws in the computer adaptive GRE were revealed by the case of Amy Cuddy, who challenged her score on the "Analytic" portion of the exam which was much lower than on a pencil-and-paper version of the test (see Examiner, Spring 1999 and Fall 1999). With assistance from FairTest and the Princeton Review Foundation, Ms. Cuddy won a cancellation of the erroneous score and compensation for her time and expenses.


ETS says that it is notifying others who might also have received incorrect scores and offering them free retests. In addition, new warnings in the GRE registration booklet and on ETS's website explain the impact of answer pacing on exam scores.


Of course, ETS still claims the GRE is a valid measure of skills needed in graduate school, not just mastery of test-taking strategy. It is not clear whether similar problems exist on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), ETS exams based on similar computer-adaptive methodologies.