Experimental Items Added to GRE

University Testing

FairTest Examiner - December 2007

After being forced to cancel the long-delayed introduction of a comprehensively redesigned Graduate Record Exam (GRE) earlier this year, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) will administer two new GRE question types on an experimental basis beginning this fall. The announcement reflects a decision to revise the exam gradually over time rather than make risky, wholesale changes.

ETS remains gun-shy after attempts to roll out a new version of its Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) generated serious problems around the globe (see Examiner, April 2007). The company lost the contract to administer the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) after admitting scoring errors (see Examiner, Winter 2004)

A new "text completion" item will require test-takers to complete reading passages by selecting two or three words or phrases from separate multiple-choice lists. Currently, some GRE "Verbal Reasoning" questions have one blank to fill-in. On the "Quantitative Reasoning" portion of the exam, the new mathematical questions will be open ended: test-takers will have to type-in an answer rather than select one from a set of alternatives.

The incremental approach does offer a low-stakes opportunity to de-bug new items. But the proposed changes fail to address long term concerns about the GRE's biases and weak predictive validity (see GRE fact sheet)


Only one of the revised question types will appear on each test. ETS executives indicated that the "text completion" and open-ended quantitative items will begin to count in test scores once sufficient data about their performance has been gathered. There is no definite target date for that transition.