ETS Closes Computer Testing Sites

University Testing

Faced with ongoing problems in its international computerized adaptive testing network, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) is shutting nearly half the overseas centers that administered exams such as the Graduate Management Admissions Test, the Graduate Record Examination, and the Test of English as a Foreign Language.


Overall, 84 of 195 facilities operated for ETS under a contract with Prometric will close in the next year. Students from those areas will either travel to centers in other countries which still offer the computerized exams or take pencil-and-paper versions of the test, an option that is not offered to applicants in the U.S.


ETS President Kurt Landgraf, a former international pharmaceutical marketing executive, said the centers “were not at all viable from an economic point of view.” Losses from computerized testing had led to layoffs and salary reductions at ETS (see Examiner, Summer 1999).


In fact, an internal ETS newsletter made public by FairTest reveals that the firm had rushed computerized exams into the marketplace before the products were technically ready for widespread use in an effort to preempt potential competitors (see Examiner, Spring 1997). As a result, many test-takers were forced to cope with disruptions such as “the black screen of death” in which large portions of the global testing network crashed simultaneously (see Examiner, Winter 1997-98). Others had their scores miscalculated and misreported due to flaws in ETS’ secret, computerized scoring system (see Examiner, Spring 1999, Fall 1999, Fall 2000, and Summer 2001).


The return to pencil-and-paper graduate admissions exams in some parts of the world is tacit recognition that computer adaptive testing is still an experimental technology that raises many unanswered concerns.